A close friend asked recently if we would share our favorite story from this week’s adventure. The purpose was to encourage others by speaking kind words or through good deeds. If there is one thing that I have learned in the past four years is that, God can take our small talents and gifts, and bless others in greater ways. All so His glory can be revealed through us. We just have to be willing and obedient to be used by Him.
I Witnessed the Hand of God
This past week I witnessed the Hand of God touch hearts; to give generously through a noble petition that my good friend Jessica had. If you remember from my previous story, we wanted to go visit another orphanage close to where we live in Guatemala. Jessica wanted to bless 105 orphans with Christmas goodies/gifts. She was short some presents and needed to raise more money to cover the cost. In faith she planned, prayed, and trusted God to provide. God answered her prayers remarkably, just like that. In less than a few hours she was able to raise $720. Soon after, presents were purchased by her family to cover the shortage of gifts. After all was said and done, they spent not one dollar more or less. The Lord had provided exactly what she needed to bless these precious children.
We give to bless others, because we are called to love! Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I heard beautiful stories of faith and sacrifice this past week. My good friend, Patti Monk, in faith gave away all of the gifts they had prepared and stored up for their children this Christmas. She trusted that God had something greater planned for her family. She believed she would have the opportunity to spend Christmas with their loved ones in the United States. A need arose during the shortage of presents for the children at the orphanage and she faithfully acted, quickly and without hesitation. She gave because of a greater love for Jesus!
Our good friend and neighbor, Paty Perez, received news that her brother and nephews were in a motorcycle accident. Quickly she began to find ways to help her brother with the medical costs. In Guatemala most people cannot afford health care and even if you can, the hospitals shut down just days before Christmas. Hospital hours will be back to normal after the new year. Thousands of family members die during the Christmas season in Guatemala every year, because of this medical disadvantage. Thankfully, despite it being a dangerous collision involving three motorcycles, her brother and nephews only endured minor, but extremely painful, injuries. The day after receiving news of this she was back in her kitchen working diligently. She was preparing hot and smoky tamales not only for her family, but enough to bless the Holt’s, Monk’s, and the Rule’s! The tamales were super delicious and were delivered right to our front door by her two younger boys, in the evening hours of Christmas Eve. I call that Love! This is true and perfect love for your neighbor.
I remember in the summer of 2012, John worked some overtime at the fire department. We had some extra money on hand and wanted to bless our children by taking them to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA. However, for some reason I didn’t have peace about this trip. Later, I found out my friend Jessica would be going on her first mission trip to Guatemala. She was trying to raise enough money to cover the extensive costs of such a trip. I remember feeling so inspired by her story and willingness to serve Jesus. Not only was I inspired, but I asked God what I could do to help support her mission trip. I immediately thought of hosting a garage sale; this would be my first attempt at organizing one. I knew it would take some planning and time. Not only was I a busy full-time mom, who home schooled our four young children, but at the time our daughter Esperanza had an extensive amount of medical problems that required special attention. Regardless of the labor, God impressed upon my heart to do this and the garage sale was a success. I remember miraculously raising over $600 selling used household items, homemade cheesecake cupcakes, and ice cold lemonade. Not only did God challenge us to give the money from the garage sale as an offering for Jessica’s mission trip, but we were to give the extra money John earned working overtime for that month. This meant we had to forfeit taking our family summer vacation to Busch Gardens. If I’m going to be honest and transparent, this was not easy to do. I know that God commands everyone to joyfully give, because God loves a cheerful giver. This was a huge battle against our flesh verses doing what was just and right in our spirit. God was testing us to see if we were willing to sacrifice our own personal desires, our only family summer vacation, in order to bless someone else. Thankfully, our spirit man won and we faithfully gave towards this good cause. In just six short months, unbeknownst to us, this financial blessing would be returned back to us.
In October of 2012, we were invited by Jessica to go on a mission trip her family had been planning for January 2013. I remember early that spring, weeks before I knew she was going to Guatemala, in the late evening hours having a dream. In my dream, I remember vividly telling Jessica, “If you would have asked me, I would have gone.” At the time, I had forgotten all about this dream, but when she bravely invited us to go on this mission trip to Guatemala the thoughts came flooding back to me like a strong fervent wave. My heart fluttered anxiously with what she was asking me. In my thoughts I fought back with God and said, “Lord, what good can I possibly do in a short seven day trip?” I quickly heard Him say, “If I created the world in seven days, I can most certainly use you for my glory in a short seven day trip.” There goes all my excuses out the window; quickly slammed shut and dismissed by the Almighty God. Now, this meant asking my husband if he would consider going with me; embarking on this God journey together. Deep in my heart I knew it was God calling and inviting us to go. Later, I would draw enough courage to ask my husband. I was an emotional “basket case,” but shared my heart without reservation. Everything happened and moved so quickly after that! John accepted the invitation and soon we were planning on going to Guatemala. There was so much at stake planning this trip. Not only did we have less than two months to come up with a large sum of money, but we needed a kind, brave and responsible person to watch our children while we were gone. Including my little Esperanza who required special medical attention, but God provided in so many ways! My Dad, who was probably the least qualified to care for my children, due to his medical condition, would willingly and lovingly become the full time babysitter for all seven days. There were all sorts of challenges along the way! The story gets better! John and I still needed to come up with $1,000 to cover the cost of the trip. Remember how I mentioned earlier that God would return our financial blessing back to us? We had less that one month to come up with the rest of the money. Just in time, I remember receiving a call from Jessica, her husband Matt miraculously found a scratch lottery ticket on the street corner one day. It was a winning ticket of, yep you guessed it, $1000! Jessica sacrificially gave the value of this lottery ticket as an offering to cover the rest of the money needed for our first mission trip to Guatemala. It was our personal Christmas Story miracle of 2012!
It has been almost five years to the day since this sweet miracle occurred. I have kept silent; waiting for the right time to share this testimony. Let this story be written as a stone of remembrance. As I reflect on all God has done in our lives, I am amazed at how He divinely orchestrated every detail of our lives. From divine friendships, to dreams, tests, and trials. Which have allowed us to reach our divine calling. That summer of 2012 we decided to put into practice that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
I consistently ask God to help me continue to sacrificially give my all to Him. I see it as a daily commitment of heart and soul! It has been my secret ingredient to living a fulfilled life of blessings; even with all of the challenges we face everyday living in a third world country. I do this out of love for my Savior, because He sacrificially loved me first!
The Gift of the Magi
O. Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi” tells of a young couple who are very much in love, but very poor. One Christmas Eve, Della wanted to buy a present for her husband, Jim, but she did not have enough money. She wanted to buy him a platinum fob chain for his precious family heirloom pock watch, the proudest possession he owned. In desperation, she decided to sell her own most proud possession, her long and beautiful hair. It brought in just enough, and she bought the watch fob. When she got home and looked in the mirror, she was shocked at her appearance. But she thought that it was worth it to get Jim this special present.
When Jim came home, he looked at Della and there was a deep, silent shock in his eyes. “Jim, darling,” she cried, “don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without buying you a present.” Then Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket. He handed it to Della to unwrap. Now it was her turn to be in shock, because inside she found a set of combs for her beautiful hair that she had long admired in a Broadway window. To buy them, Jim had sold his precious watch. Both of them had sacrificed the most precious possession out of love for the other.
Were they foolish? O. Henry concludes, “No, of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. They are the Magi.”
May God continue to help us to give wholeheartedly, just as He did by offering up His only Son, so that we may receive the gift of Eternal Life by His side. Lord help me to never hold back! To give, love, and be your faithful servant until the end.