Thursday, December 26, 2019

Leading up to the big day

Since the beginning of Casa de Esperanza, we have had a special dinner to celebrate Christmas.  This year we would be combining two houses, so we decided to hold our feast a few days early.  We began Christmas here Dec. 23 and kept it going right through the 25th.  What a great three days.

The ladies from Hijas del Rey came to the men's house to share the meal together, and we needed three long tables put together to accommodate all of us.

Believe it or not, Dick Rutgers was home to celebrate with us.

We feasted on turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, ambrosia salad (the all time favorite) and the ever present tortillas.  No dinner at Casa de Esperanza is complete without plenty of Coca-cola.

We had a good time teasing Osmi who devoured a whole turkey leg when we were all just starting to eat.  Hard to believe we worried about malnutrition when he first came to live with us!  

While I did all the cooking, these three dear ladies did serving and all the clean-up. 
Don't tell anyone, but I'd much rather cook!

One of our goals is to teach our residents to serve as well as be served; to think of the needs of others, not just their own.  To support this effort, we adopt a family each Christmas to give gifts to show the love of Christ as we reach out to those who need a bit of help.

This year God led us to Angelica's family, who the ladies and I met at a medical clinic in Santo Tomas.  The mom, dad and special needs daughter had been in a traffic accident.  Dad had a broken leg and was out of work for quite a while, and mom lost her right hand in the accident.  Since mom was not longer able to carry Angelica she desperately needed a wheelchair.

Angelica at the medical clinic.

Thanks to Cesar Sirin, who had been one of our companion-caregivers,
Angelica received a wheelchair in short order, with the help of Dick Rutgers.

Christmas Eve, I took a turn as caregiver to our women, and one of our first activities was to make the trip to a nearby town to bring gifts to this family.  We were on our way to the men's house, so didn't stay long, but took time for a picture with Ericka, Angelica's mother, as we dropped of presents for each of the family members.  We will stay in contact with this family throughout the next year.

After playing "Secret Santa" Chepa, Caty and I (Griselda had gone home to spend Christmas with her family) headed over to Casa de Esperanza to have pizza and watch the movie Polar Express, which, unbelievably, none of them had ever seen.

Even Fidel enjoyed the movie and stayed with the group for the whole show.

The girls had decided that, since there were just two of them, they wanted to have a sleep-over at my house.  The tradition here is to stay up to midnight, set off fireworks, and eat tamales.  Caty and Chepa, though, only made it until about 9:30 and then were fast asleep. They even slept through the midnight explosion of fireworks which lasted almost a half-hour.

Not so at the men's house, however, were the guys were only too happy to contribute to the bedlam which accompanies the arrival of Christmas Day.  Here Roberto is ready to roll!

Since they had gone to bed early, the ladies awoke bright and early Christmas morning and enjoyed their tamales for breakfast, which they failed to eat them the night before.

Then they opened their gifts and we just hung out until it was time to go to dinner with Naomi Heye and her girls.

Both ladies decided that they wanted to dress up for dinner, and looked lovely.

 After another wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings (where I failed to take any pictures),  I dropped the the ladies and Maria, their companion-caregiver for the evening, off at their house and came home to a much needed quiet cup of coffee and video chats with my own kids and grandsons.

The Forster grandsons and cousins.
The four in the middle are my grand joys,
the two little guys on both ends are my son and daughter-in-loves nephews.

It was a busy and wonderful and fattening three days, and now I'm ready for a diet and a nap!

Hoping your Christmas was as marvelous as ours, and blessing you with all God's best in the New Year.

It looks like Christmas

Decorating is a big part of our preparation for Christmas.  It might seem insignificant, but it becomes much more important when you realize our residents may not have had the opportunity to do this before coming to live with us.  Some, because of their family's economic conditions, never had a tree. Others, living in institutions, could only enjoy trees others had decorated.  So we decorate together.

This year I was in the US when the trees went up at Casa de Esperanza and Hijas del Rey women's home.  The staff kept me well informed through pictures.  While I missed being present for these activities, I am so very pleased that they were able to carry on themselves to make the house look festive.

After years together, the men have this decorating thing down to a slick process.

With the support of our companion-caregivers, Fidel is able to fully participate, despite his physical limitations.

Now they can enjoy the fruit of their labor.

The ladies enjoyed putting together their first tree in our women's home.

Opening the large box of ornaments felt like an early Christmas morning to our women as they explored their treasures.

This is our whole crew at Hijas del Rey, ready to relax and enjoy their tree in their new home.

When I returned to Guatemala Dec. 11, one of the first things I did was to decorate my little house.  They nutcrackers are very special to me.  When I left the States to move here, one of the things I left behind was my large nutcracker collection (now in the possession of my oldest son and his family).  I am slowly rebuilding my collection, adding one new nutcracker each year.  It is a link between my two worlds that is a great comfort at Christmas-time.

While it may seem like this is a secular focus as we prepare for the Lord's coming, I recognize more each year that these traditions, repeated each Christmas, help to mold us into a family and bind us together by our common experience.  I treasure these moments.

Cookies point to Christ

Decorating Christmas cookies has become a tradition of our ministry here in Guatemala.  Since our ministry has grown, we hosted three separate parties this year, and made LOTS of sugar cookies and frosting.

Our first party was at Hijas de Rey women's home. The ladies hosted some of the girls from Naomi Heye's Treasures of God children's home.  I'm not sure who had more fun, but it is safe to say we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

They all worked so hard to make their cookies beautiful.

Griselda has infinte patience, which is good as she is so very particular!

Lupita wanted to show off her work.  She's quite the artist.

Chepa, who could barely use her hand when she came to us,
did a remarkable job with her cookies.

Our second party was at our therapy center in Santo Tomas.  We invited our clients, as well as their parents and siblings.  This was a great community building event.

Not a great picture, but it gives you a glimpse of some of the children with whom we work at the Santo Tomas center.

Working together cooperatively and sharing resources is a major goal of our program.  Many of our children are isolated in their classrooms because of their disabilities.  
Providing a place where they belong is important to us.

They all worked so hard to get their cookies "just right."

We encouraged the moms to participate with their children.

Of course, we had to sample our work.  Extras were boxed and taken home to enjoy later.

We were especially pleased that Jose Raul could join us after returning from a four month stay in a malnutrition program.  

No Christmas activity is complete without hearing of Jesus' birth.
Today we make collages so the children could go home and tell their families the Christmas story.

Eddy, a young man with autism, often isolates himself.  
Today he was part of the group.

Even our littlest guys participated and learned about the coming of Christ.

And, of course, we couldn't leave out our men at Casa de Esperanza.  They wouldn't let us!

In past years, it was mostly the staff who participated.
This year, everyone got involved.

Osmi is quite artistic, and his cookies reflected this.

Fidel, who cannot decorate by himself due to his physical limitations, still participated by directing Brenda as to how he wanted his cookies to look.  Here he is "wearing" one of his creations.

Mario, in particular, enjoys this activity.

The best part, to be sure, is tasting their creations.

And the finished products.
Not bad for a bunch of amateurs.

Are you hungry yet?