Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pure joy

Do you know what pure joy looks like?  It looks like this:

This is a picture I took during one of our holiday celebrations.  Keep reading to find out how we celebrate the holidays in Honduras...and who this joyous young lady is...

Christmas (full disclosure:  I wasn't in HN for Honduras so this won't be an eye witness account!)

Did you know that real Christmas trees are illegal in Honduras so everyone has an artificial tree.  Hondurans are known for their housekeeping (they mop the floors three times a day at the Children's Home.  Berlyn burst out laughing when I told her we only mop once a week in the US.  Of course, I really meant only once or twice a month but didn't have the nerve to confess that.)  My neighbors washed and hung their tree out to dry before putting it up! 

A lovely tradition is to build a "nacimiento" or Nativity scene which includes a whole village.
In the Chapel
At Suzy's house

Everyone gets a new outfit!  Santa Clause isn't really a big player here but all the children received gifts.  Also, there are lots of firecrackers!  Hondurans (and Guatemalans) LOVE fireworks and firecrackers.  Any excuse will do!  All the cottages were decorated and all had Christmas trees.  The children were so excited to show us their trees!  

I think the most special tree was the real one (maybe the only real tree in HN?) decorated by the family living in about the worst living conditions that I have ever seen.  

New Year's Eve  (I spent New Year's Eve at the Children's Home with 2 former interns, Mary Crawford James and Jen Clarke) 

All the children were abuzz with excitement about New Year's Eve.  First we had a church service.  Suzy offered up the opportunity to tell what we were thankful for.  Dania, our newest young lady, expressed her thanksgiving for being rescued and being in a beautiful and safe home.  Several of the staff members went to the front to pray for anyone who wanted prayers.  This was another moving moment as various children, including some of our youngest, asked for prayers.  Of course we all sang, thanked God for a good 2013 and prayed for a blessed 2014.

After the service was a big dinner.  Somehow we managed to get everyone in the Big Girl's cottage!  We had all looked forward to the dinner all day.  It was quite a feast!   There was no bedtime so everyone took advantage of the opportunity!  Some kids watched movies, some played hockey (with new foam hockey sticks sent down by Bruce Markley) on the soccer court.  I was informed that I would not sleep that night because "EVERYONE" in Honduras stays up all night.  "Everyone?  Even the babies in Sala Cuna?" I asked.  "Well, the littlest ones go to sleep at 2AM!" was the reply.  By 10PM all the toddlers, little boys and little girls were sound asleep.  When I went to the soccer field at 11:45, only a handful of older kids were there.  The rest?  You guessed it...sound asleep!

Another interesting tradition is to create an "un año viejo." It is an effigy, filled with firecrackers, representing the old year.  Sometimes they are made to look like politicians!  At midnight, the fireworks, sparklers are lit up and the año viejo is set on fire...with lots of internal explosions!

The little kids got to do their sparklers early!
New Year's Day

The big event on New Year's Day was the "fogata" or bonfire.  We roasted marshmallows, or did our best given the extreme heat of the fire.  Alex and Moises perfected the roasting position, backing up to the fire and roasting the marshmallows behind them and between their legs!  
Roasting marshmallows backwards

This celebration was my favorite.  We had a short service at the Chapel during which Suzy explained what Epiphany is, including the wise men bringing gifts to the Christ Child.  Next, we all streamed down the hill to deliver some gifts of food and a blanket to our neighbors at the gate and another family down the road a bit.  Prayers and hugs included!

Next we headed to a Children's Home way on the other side of Tegucigalpa.  Our caravan included the Big Blue Bus filled with the SBV kids, Suzy's truck, and my car with Mari and 7 of the toddlers, so excited to be riding in Amanda's carro!  After a long drive we arrived at Casa Hogar Bencaleth - a home for severely disabled children.   Our children had picked out one of their toys or prized possessions to give as gifts to the Bencaleth children.

I don't know what our kids expected,  if they were prepared to meet the Bencaleth children who are severely disabled.  I think it would be hard for kids to anticipate this.  However, our kids are exceptional and didn't blink an eye.  They immediately began greeting the children, wheeling them around the grounds, and playing with them.  It was particularly sweet to see the older boys so sincerely engaged.  Soon it was time for the Bencaleth children's dinner.  Without any instruction or prodding, our kids stepped in and helped wash their hands and feed the children!  

The most beautiful and poignant moments were watching our own Elias Hernandez, severely disabled himself.   Although I can't know for sure what he was thinking (he doesn't speak) I can imagine he felt a special bond with the Bancaleth children.  

The most tear inducing moment was, when dinner was served, someone asked, "Who is going to pray?"  Elias Hernandez' hand shot right up.

Everyone bowed their head as he prayed (with help from Menguin.)  So beautiful.   

So, the lovely young lady at the beginning of this blog is, along with some of her Bencaleth friends are the embodiment of pure joy!

 Happy Epiphany!  Go!  Be a blessing!