Weeks ago we started praying for this little girl named Karina. The youth at church visit and do ministry at a children's home downtown. Anyone at church could offer to "adopt" one of the children to pray for, to visit, and to get a little Christmas present for. We raised our hand and they assigned us Karina.
All we have is a picture that she drew hanging on the fridge. We didn't know how old she is, her story, or anything. All we knew was the size of her hand that she traced on the paper, and that she lives in a home for abused, neglected, and abandoned kids.
Since we have arrived in Neuquen, never having been here before in our lives, we weren't sure what the street kid situation was. God has put it on our hearts to work with kids, amongst many other things we want to do, but getting connected while in essence being stranded at home without a car, has been challenging. So we have been waiting to see how God would work this out.
We'd like to work with street kids, but it doesn't look like there are street kids in Neuquen. We could be wrong - not like we've seen much here so far - but we haven't seen any. In Buenos Aires there are many. Other parts of Argentina as well. Here, not so much. We think it may be in part due to the fact that there is oil in this area. Oil means money. Money means less street kids... maybe? Money in the province also means children's homes instead of streets for homes.
So last week Tony was able to go with the youth to visit the kids and Karina for Christmas (sorry, no pics, he wasn't allowed to take any). The kids and I weren't allowed to go, only one person could visit at a time. Sigh. I feel like I am doing absolutely no ministry here. It's getting kind of frustrating! But there is a time for everything...right? At least that's what my Bible says. I have had my own work here at home so far, I guess - taking care of the kids, supporting Tony in all the ministry stuff he gets to do, and wasting my life away washing dishes by hand and hanging clothes on a clothes line and cleaning cleanig cleaning (I like none of these activities and I find them dreadfully boring. I would love house help. Then I could go out and do something else. But I'm not bitter. Nope. Not a hair.). Maybe we'll be healthy and mobile and be able to come up for a breath of air soon one of these days so Mommy can get out there, too... for now I'll just sit at home and feel frustrated.
So back to Karina.
He said she was about 13 and autisitic.
I got a text message from Tony mid-afternoon which said, "This reminds me of Ecuador. Very hard."
A few years ago we went on a short term mission trip to an orphanage in Ecuador. 100 kids, all abused, neglected, and abandoned. They all come to the home out of tragedy. All their stories are sad, all of them. Sexually abused, beaten, abandoned to the streets to eat trash, neglected, babies literally thrown in the trash. The children's home here is no different.
Tony said that the kids just threw themselves at him and their visitors, wrapping their needy little arms around his neck for hugs and hanging on them, refusing to let go. You have to peel them off. Starved for love. Starved for affection. Starved for attention. What did Jesus say about children...? Tony had to hold back the tears many times during the afternoon. A lot of the kids either seemed to be autistic, or appeared to have mental problems. Tony seemed to think that more than a few are that way because of the abuse they've lived through, not because they were born that way. He was pretty sure of it.
About mid-way through their visit (which lasted 5 or 6 hours), they handed out Christmas presents. We got Karina some nail polish, a bracelet and some candy. Not much, but the kids were so happy and so appreciative. Tony noticed a boy, about 12 or 13, who didn't get anything. He was new to the home, so wasn't on the list for presents. When he saw he didn't get a present, he went off to a corner and burst into tears. Tony saw it and ran out to the nearest store to buy him a present. He came back and gave him a hat, a necklace, some chocolate, and some candy. He said he brightened right up.
Then they played soccer in whatever ratty shoes they had and did some activities. I'm not sure if they shared the gospel so much in words as they did in action.
For years I've wanted to do away with Christmas presents at our house. Just a personal conviction. I hate the materialism of Christmas. I hate that my kids (well, not all of them, but at least one that I can think of) think that Christmas is about "Me, Me, Me" and "What am I getting for Christmas??" and, "What are you buying me for Christmas??" - instead of - "What can we GIVE for Christmas? What can we give to JESUS, who gave everything for us??"
I wholeheartedly agree with THIS POST. All I can say is, Yes, yes, and YES! That about sums up how I feel regarding Christmas, and Christmas presents.
So, the next day after visiting the kids at the home, and because we finally have a car (wll, semi-sort of... it actually doesn't have plates yet...even though it's been released from customs... so it's a little sketchy driving it until the registration goes through: Welcome to Argentina... :)), we went to the store to buy something for the kids for Christmas.
We started and ended our Christmas shopping in about an hour, a week before Christmas. It was fabulous. And an hour more than I like to do for Christmas shopping. I confess, I can't stand Christmas shopping.
Mom-mom and Grandpa sent some Christmas money for the kids with instructions to buy something for each, from them. They each picked two things out, one from each grandparent, and that was it. Tony looked at me in the middle of the isle and said, "So, one thing each from each, and nothing from us, right?"
We get it! We're getting it! We're really, really getting it. An answer to prayer. I've wanted it this way for years. I'm so happy.
Christmas is about giving, not getting. Harder to do than it sounds. It's HARD to fight against the flesh and our wants and our greed and our supposed "needs". Even against the natural desire we have to give our kids the best. Sometimes the best is less, not more. Or in our case, nothing, yet everything.
Little by little we are stepping closer heavenward. With our feeble feet, tripping along the way, little by little we are getting there... I think we are getting there.
[By the way, if you give your kids tons of Christmas presents, I don't think that's bad or wrong or evil. We've certainly done it. This is just something I'VE always wanted for Christmas. And I guess we'll see if my husband feels this way next year. Like a good Father, he likes to give gifts, too.]