A Rio Christmas, by Hope Maglich, Back2Back Mexico

Fifty rubber balls, eighteen yo-yos, twenty-six dolls, ten baby blankets, 400 tamales, and a partridge in a pear tree!!!  Last weekend, we hosted a Christmas party for the people in the Rio and I felt a little like the “true love” in the Twelve Days of Christmas! We were blessed with a generous donation to be able to bring Christmas to the children who live in the Rio community, an impoverished neighborhood that Back2Back serves.

Days before several of us staff when shopping to purchase gifts for the kids. Because new things are a rare treat for these kids, we really wanted to bless each and every person who came with something new for Christmas. I have never before bought three cart loads of rubber balls plus various other toys and games! Several of us staff spent days buying gifts, wrapping, organizing donations, prepping crafts, and cooking champorado (Mexican hot chocolate) for about 100 people in the Rio.

On Saturday we left bright and early loaded down with gifts, food, and extra hands to help out. We had our normal church service in the soup kitchen with worship and teaching. After the service we served the people hot tamales and champorado. Then the festivities began! On a typical Saturday we will have anywhere from eighteen to twenty-five kids. This day we had well over eighty kids and sixty adults!

We pulled the tables close together, called for attention, and shared the Christmas story. If any of you have ever worked with children, you know that lots of young kids together, excited for gifts and candy are not always the best listeners. As we began teaching, I prayed for focus. While gifts and piñatas are fun, the best part of Christmas is our Savior’s birth. We wanted this to be the focus of the celebration. I marveled at how quiet the soup kitchen became. All seventy pairs of eyes were focused on the speaker and the pictures she showed of the stable and the manger… these images not too far from the kids’ own dwellings. They were captivated by the story…. a little baby born into poverty, but with an eternal destiny. At the close of the lesson we shared with the kids the purpose of that baby born so long ago, and his love and purposes for each and every one of them… it was beautiful.

Then we decorated ornaments, ate candy canes, smashed two piñatas, and handed out gifts to each person. It was a great day, a great adventure, and a great time to show these people how much they are loved. While the fifty rubber balls, the eighteen yo-yos, and the 400 tamales brought many smiles, our prayer is that the real Gift of Jesus brought eternal joy to some hearts that day….that is what our True Love has truly given us.