Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:31-40
What an awesome privilege it is to be vessels of blessing for our Lord! We've all heard it said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But when we allow God to do the giving through us...WOW! Last week our family was, once again, reminded of what it's all about. People, relationships, love, and compassion, these are the things that really matter. When our lives on this earth are over, these are the things that will endure.
Probably many of you participate in some sort of charitable giving during the Christmas season. Maybe you take an "angel" from the tree at the mall. Maybe you take food to the soup kitchen. Maybe you volunteer your time and talents in some way. Our family has also tried to help those less fortunate over the years. Most of what we have done has been from a distance. By this I mean that we never actually met the recipients. Whatever donations or gifts we gave were delivered through an organizing group. This year, however, was different!
Our home church in NC organized a shoe box ministry to which our members donated around 500 plastic shoe boxes full of fun and useful gifts for boys and girls. JOY boxes they are called. Various times in the past our family has participated in such programs. It was always a lot of fun gathering items that could fit in the boxes and would thrill some little soul somewhere. We imagined the faces of these children as they opened maybe the only Christmas gift they would receive. This year we were contacted to see if the JOY boxes could be distributed in Reynosa. Of course, we were thrilled. So, after lots of work collecting boxes on their end and planning for places of distribution on our end, last week the time arrived.
Our Pastor, Marcus Redding, associate pastor Bobby Farmer, and fellow church member, Ernie Buecker flew down to Reynosa on December 8th and we spent the better part of the week passing out JOY boxes to needy children. I am going to let the pictures speak for me, but just let me say that it was nothing short of AWESOME! To be on the delivery end of this mission was a privilege we will never forget. We gave out around 400 boxes in three different locations. Our first stop was a pre-school in the neighborhood adjacent to the orphanage. Two girls, fresh from college, are teaching about 30-35 kids in two houses in the neighborhood. They have not been paid yet and they travel over an hour one way, by bus, to get to work each day. Wow! These kids were so thrilled to see us, let alone to receive gifts. We were all reminded of the verse in the Bible that says "Suffer the little children to come unto me."Mark 10:14.
Our next distribution was at one of the colonias. This colonia is a sort of refugee camp for men, women, and children who have tried to get into America and have been sent back. Brother Hector is the leader of the colonia and a man of God! He gathered close to 100 children in the chapel. They sang songs of praise and Brother Hector told them that God had sent them some gifts that their American brothers and sisters were delivering. Amen!
Our third stop was at a small mission church of about 40 members. This church is pastored by a very good friend in Christ, Jose. The members live in a tiny community surrounding the church. Even though it is in the city of Reynosa, they do not have city power or water. The whole community is run off one generator. They are too far out for buses and they are several miles from town. If the children want to go to school, they have to walk to the nearest bus stop which is 2-3 miles away. Despite what we would consider horrendous conditions these people are JOY-FULL!!! After Marcus preached and we gave out the JOY boxes they served us hand-made tamales. YUM!
The next day we still had at least 50 boxes left and we weren't sure where we would distribute them. Brad knew of another colonia with lots of children. He prayed that God would lead us and that He did!! When we pulled up into the colonia we just opened the van door and as the children came out of their homes we gave out the boxes. As we were driving through, another van came behind us giving out heaters. To make this long story short, God introduced us to Bruce. He and his wife Paula moved to Texas about 2 years ago to work full time in the colonia, building houses for the people there. In two years they have built 36 houses! What a privilege it was to meet these people and see the work God is doing through them. We were able to give out all of the remaining boxes and met some gracious brothers and sisters in the Lord.
We have a remaining 100 or so boxes that we will be distributing to the school children at the home during their Christmas party on Friday.
We are so thankful for our church family at Hulls Grove and their donation to the needy souls of Reynosa. Along with each box we gave out gospel pamphlets and many, many Spanish Bibles. We had many opportunities to witness for the Lord and many opportunities to remind these precious people that "Christo te ama!".
Thanks also to our brothers who came down to help us. Having them in our home and sharing Reynosa with them was more of a blessing than we can express. These men love the Lord with all their hearts, and we were encouraged and uplifted greatly by them.
Please pray for all the children who received JOY boxes and their parents as well. Pray that the Lord would work in their hearts and draw them closer to Him. Pray for the teachers of the preschool to give their lives to the Lord if they have not and to be blessed in their work with the children. Pray for Brother Hector as he ministers to the destitute on behalf of the Lord. Pray that the Lord would provide for his ministry physically and spiritually. Pray for Brother Jose as he ministers to God's people and reaches out to the lost of Reynosa. Pray for Bruce and Pam as they minister as the hands and feet of God. Pray that God would bring revival to Reynosa...
Arriving at the preschool! Ann-Marie with some of the preschoolers. Pastor Marcus receives a welcome hug. Bobby, Marcus, and Ernie Pastor Marcus speaking while Brother Hector interprets. Some of the children at Brother Hector's Colonia open their boxes A boy from Brother Jose's church Distributing to the 2nd colonia A mom takes a box for her son. Pancho, one of the young men from the children's home was able to help. No words are necessary. A family walks away happy! Jackson and his buddies, Ernie and Marcus Vaya con Dios to our brothers from Hull's Grove!