It’s the middle of December, a midmorning in the middle of the week. Most people are working, but at this hour of the day the church is full. What’s going on?
Wind carries the sounds of songs and shouts of joy from the Hermon Baptist Church that can be heard from a block away.
Once inside the building, happy faces, balloons and nice decorations complement the sounds heard from the distance. There is a celebration, a Christmas celebration for children of the Fe y Esperanza Student Center located in Managua, Nicaragua.
Activity begins with a devotional time where the word of God is shared with the audience to emphasize the real meaning of Christmas.
The event also includes a fine display of talents from children who sing, perform drama, and other activities. Parents are proud of their children’s performances and applause follows each presentation.
All the plans for this final activity of the year are a great success. The time spent in planning, preparing the budget and organizing everything is well worth the final result.
The Christmas excitement began a few weeks ago when each registered child attended a toy and clothes exposition where children could select from among a variety of items to indicate what they wanted for Christmas. Once selected, presents were marked with children’s names and codes to be set aside for the day of giving the presents.
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Weeks passed and the big day is finally here. This morning is Christmas for the children. They will soon have in their hands the long-awaited toy or clothes they chose.
The older ones might wait until Christmas day to open or wear their gift, but the little ones will open their presents as soon as they leave the center. Either way, all registered children, sponsored and unsponsored, are pleased with what they receive.
After the devotional time, children stand in lines by age to receive the presents, a little snack and candies. All of them go home happy.
Development center director Lidia shares,
“Traditionally, the church celebrates Christmas with a special service on Christmas day. Dinner is served for all families that want to stay at church after the service and everyone fellowships until midnight.
For children in general there is a toy fair. The church gives children play money starting in September. This is given for attendance at church services, participation in class, good behavior, bringing a guest and other requirements.
In December the collected play money will serve to ‘buy’ toys, imitation jewelry, clothes, etc., that church leaders have gathered from donations in the previous months. Children who attended church regularly have more ‘money’ to ‘buy’ at the toy fair.”
It’s a fun activity for the children and their parents. Children can get as many things as they can afford with the amount of play money they have. Whatever children get from the toy fair becomes a new item for their Christmas.
No matter how difficult their situations might be at home, children can always expect their present.
While adults are immersed in problems and crises, for children there is no crisis that can take away their joy for the arrival of Christmas.
“Christmas is a special date for children when they expect a gift, something very important for them because they know it comes from their sponsors.”
Taking into consideration the living conditions of these children, none of them could get a nice present like the one received at the center; that is why older children understand and value the help received from the student center and church.
Parents are also aware of the benefits and value the support received from the center.
Many of them are self-employed and do not have enough income to cover the weekly family expenses.
That’s the case of Thelma, mother of a registered child. She is sometimes employed washing and ironing, and her income changes from week to week.
Although she only has one child under her care, hardships come her way.
“An average of what I make a week is $13.00 dollars. This is not enough to cover all of the expenses of my son and me.”
People in the community are mostly self-employed (selling tortillas, street vendors, small grocery store owners), or are domestic service or factory workers. Lidia tells us,
“There are many homes of registered children that have a very difficult economic situation, which cannot afford to buy all products of basic need, neither a gift like the one they received today.”
This year is not the exception for families who cannot buy a present for their children; however they find relief with the student center. Thelma shares more,
“They do an efficient job. I am thankful with God for giving us the opportunity to have our children here. It’s a great help and all children of the community are benefited with the center.”
In the middle of it all, the meaning of Christmas is of great importance. The child development center staff and church leaders make sure that each child understands the reason behind the presents.
Thelma’s son Kevin wants us to know,
“Christmas is a family time and also a celebration that Jesus was born.
I am also more than thankful with my sponsors for all they have done for me, because of the support they send me, because they write to me.”
This joyful time is made possible because of the generosity of many people around the world that have the willingness in their heart to share with others a little of what they have.
To them, Lidia expresses,
“Thank you to all the men and women who bring joy to many homes. This blessing means something great for us.”
The morning ends with a sense of satisfaction; everything went well. Our child development center staff begin cleaning the work area as soon as each one finishes giving out presents. The place looks as if nothing has happened; it becomes quiet, nice and clean.
There are no more sounds of music or children shouting. Little by little the staff begin to take a seat; this year’s joyful Christmas celebration has finished.