Our Operation Christmas Child shoe box distribution this morning was in a storefront church named Iglesia Cuadrangular San Pablo (a Foursquare church.) Pastor Geraldo and his wife Deanna have this sweet little girl (pictured above) named Hadie and I had a blast hanging out with her and blowing bubbles. She loved the TWO stuffed animals she got in her box.
The gospel presentation was done by some of the teens from the church and it was simply excellent--well-practiced and well-acted. Most of the 80 children at the distribution don't regularly attend church services so it was a good opportunity to share the gospel.
Another special cutie was this little guy named Matteo who is almost three years old and stole our hearts.
Matteo's mother is in prison and he lives with her there. Some members of the church went to do ministry at the prison when Matteo was only four months old, and since that time one woman has sort of adopted Matteo. She takes him to church and takes him out of the prison on outings. She said he loves to lift his arms and praise the Lord in church. Please pray that this little guy will become a mighty man of God.
We had a marvelous lunch at La Gran Casa, the local restaurant right next to the church. There is never any shortage of great food at any Operation Christmas Child event. The flat corn bread is called arepa but was kind of tasteless and not worth the investment of carbs.
We climbed back into the van and headed up (always UP) the windy roads to our next distribution where Pastors Eliseo and Marta Coronado (who also pastor at the church we were at in the morning) had arranged a distribution in a local public school yard. A total of 309 mostly unchurched children from the community came to hear the gospel.
The children were neat and well-dressed, with their hair neatly fixed, but the homes their homes in the surrounding area were pretty crude.
Of course it was wonderful to distribute the boxes and watch the joy they always bring. I spent some time with the littlest children who seemed a bit overwhelmed and not all that excited about their boxes. They did, however, enjoy blowing bubbles. One little sweetie was so tired she could barely stay upright, let alone open her box.
I was most touched to be given the opportunity to pray for the team after the distribution was over. When I asked if they had prayer requests they asked for nothing for themselves--only prayer for the children of the community. After I prayed and gave Marta the bag of children's ministry tools we'd brought as a gift, we hugged. We hugged a long time, and Marta sobbed--the kind of tears you cry when you're tired and just need a shoulder. That hug was honestly the highlight of my day.
On our bus ride home (our driver is adventurous to say the least with a close call about every ten seconds) our team leader Phil Barks remarked how these national churches just see the need in their communities and work to meet those needs. They don't have budget meetings or make long-range plans, they just trust God and step out in faith to do what He is calling them to do.
They really are on a grand adventure.