Month: January 2022

Pilar’s baby

Beautiful baby Pilar Carmen

We got to partake in a beautiful small ministry this Christmas. Our friends, Francisco and Pilar were having a baby and she was due very close to Christmas. As Pilar’s pregnancy progressed, these friends of ours, who live about a 40-minute drive away from us, began to visit us more, as the nearest hospital is very close to us. They are very poor, and they do not own a car, but they would take the bus to Ciudad Quesada for their appointments, and often times Brad would be their taxi. Many times they would kill time at our house while they waited for appointments, to go to work, or in between school times. Usually when they stop by, we make coffee or breakfast for them, give a drink of water, and try our best to understand their Nicaraguan accent as we continue to make friends with the whole family. 

One evening we had invited their whole family over for dinner and I made tacos. I had asked them what their favorite food to eat was and they stared at me like I was an alien. They answered rice and beans and shrugged. I then realized what a crazy question that must have been for them. It’s not like they get to choose what they want for dinner every night like we do. They don’t have electricity in their one room house, so they go to bed close to sunset and wake up with the sun. The sun sets here around 5:00 pm. They must’ve been very tired when it was after supper, and I was trying to help their teenagers with their English homework. We were trying to rush, using our internet, because they don’t have it. They need to use a neighbor’s house to charge their phones, and if the kids need to study, they need to do it at school. 

One day they had been visiting with us at our house in regard to their Costa Rican visa situation. They both never learned to read or write, and there was a mistake on their residency card that was going to cost a lot of time and money to fix. People have two last names here, and she had gotten hers reversed on her card, so it didn’t match the two last names of her husband. This hurdle led to a bunch of late fees they needed to pay in order to update it, but didn’t have the money to, and we had agreed to pay those fees for them. We’d also been trying to help them get their childrens’ birth certificates from Nicaragua so the family could officially convert to Catholicism, but it’s so complicated we haven’t yet been able to fully help with that.

We have been discipling alongside this family, and I can echo (from what so many other missionaries have said) that we have learned far more from their pure faith and simple joy than they from us. On that day they were visiting us, Pilar was very pregnant and I took note that she had walked from the school, about a half mile away. Francisco had gone to play soccer with Brad and the boys. Do you want to rest in my bed? I asked her. She gratefully took me up on it and I brought her back to my room, put the fan on and closed the door behind me. I can’t describe the way I felt… like I had just heard the verse “whatever you do to the least of these you do for me.” Not that I think she’s the least, but that I think she’s the most. That I think she is Jesus. I was just thinking about how I was complaining that we had outgrown our house and were tripping over each other. I imagined what it was like for her to go from her small, dark hut where she shares a room with the whole family, to taking a nap in a window-fresh, fan-sounded cozy-bedded room with the door shut for privacy. And a completely finished (although not pretty by American standards) bathroom. A second one at that! Our house must’ve felt luxurious to her. I felt so silly for complaining. Foolish and silly. 

Pilar didn’t have any baby things and I knew she didn’t have enough money to buy anything for her baby, so we wanted to bless her.  When I reached out to family and friends, I was amazed at the generosity of all who donated! We were able to buy her all the things on the baby list and more! She was very gracious and humble to receive the items. But I was very struck by how simple her life seemed. I know we think we need all of these baby things in the US, but she is proof that in reality, all we need is warmth, shelter, food and love. 

When we went to drop off the items, she was sitting there, holding adoringly her precious new baby in her arms, in her simple house with zero clutter, and I thought how similar it must have been like for the Holy Family, and it was such a joy to witness this blessed family in this way, so close to when baby Jesus was born.

The best Christmas party

Every now and then, God spontaneously works something out better than you could plan it. In this case, we were planning a Christmas party for eleven poor children and their single mothers who’d heard very little about Jesus, never had visited a church, and never had celebrated a Christmas before. We were throwing this party with some local friends and their family, however we ran out of time to work out the details of who would do what. God ended up orchestrating a party I will never forget.

We’d loosly planned to sing songs, read the Christmas story from the bible, give gifts and have a pizza and ice-cream party (pizza is expensive here, and these families had never had it before, so this was a special treat). Thanks to the donations of many of our family and friends from far away (thank you so much!), we were able to throw a party for these kids that I’m pretty sure blessed us more than them.

We had everything packed for the party and were ready to head off, when Brad ran into our friend Gerardo. Gerardo is alone a lot of the time and always asking us for things, and although I know he is in need, I believe this is his way of asking for love. Brad invited him to come along, and even though it is a 40-minute drive away, he came! 

Miraculously, without talking, here is how the party worked out: Zach and I led the group singing Away in a Manger in English and Silent Night in Spanish. Gerardo’s voice is something else, and he took over as the lead singer. We then handed him our guitar and he played more Christmas songs. After this, Brad led us in prayer and he and a few others read the Christmas story out of the children’s bible in Spanish. All of this took place at our friend Anna’s house, who decorated and arranged the gifts ahead of time.

Then our friend Eliomar had prepared a reflection that included two gifts, one wrapped like garbage and scribbled on, and the other wrapped beautifully with glittery ribbon. He asked two kid volunteers which one they wanted, and they both chose the beautiful one. He gave them the gifts and asked them to open them. Inside the beautiful one was nasty old fruit peels and garbage. Inside the scribbled package was chocolate and candy. He asked again which present they wanted. Everyone laughed, and Eliomar explained that the son of God came as an insignificant looking baby, born in a poor stable, and laid in a manger and didn’t look like much, but that the best and most beautiful things come from the inside, and often come in humble packages. In contrast, the beautiful present looks so admirable on the outside, like so many material wonders in our world; so many that we get attached to, such as comfort, beauty, expensive tastes, etc., but on the inside, these things are shallow and ugly, and you can’t take them with you when you die.

Eliomar presenting the gifts for his story

This reflection was so beautiful, some of us were teary-eyed. The kids were loving it! After the pizza party, Elizabeth and her friend, Mary Paz handed out the gifts as they called each name. Each kid had three gifts and a little party favor bag of candy. The excitement was palpable. Then they all had ice cream and ran around outside playing soccer, tried on their new dresses and shoes, and played with their toy cars. It was the best Christmas party I’d ever been to. Praise God!