Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Quiltmaker's Gift

For any of you who have had the chance to read the children's book, "The Quiltmaker's Gift", you will understand why this posting is thus titled. If you haven't had the chance to read it, get your hands on it as soon as possible. It is a wonderful story about a wealthy King's journey to find true happiness. This Christmas, my family experienced that much sought after 'true spirit of Christmas.' It has been the best Christmas of my adult life, and one that will be remembered for years to come. With the generous donations from friends and family in Utah, we had the unique opportunity to buy, prepare, and disperse packages to many needful families in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Your wholehearted donations, however little or large, made a difference in the lives of others. You brought laughter, surprise, and delight to children. You gave father's relief and mother's hope. You gave a night to remember to our entire branch and investigators, a Christmas meal that will not be forgotten. Pictures weren't always appropriate, but we did our best to snap a few. We hope that you will be able to experience the joy that you brought to the lives of others. Merry Christmas!

Some families were in need of toys and clothes, as they were able, at the time, to provide sufficient food for their needs. Other families, were needful of food packages, as economic hardship has also found it's way to Costa Rica, and work can be difficult to find.

This is an example of a 4 year old girl's gift pack complete with doll, sparkle glue, markers, candy, coloring book, and crown. Every gift pack was a little different, depending on the age and need of the child. Other girls packs also included Barbies, dress-up purses, stickers, and tea sets. The boys gift packs included things like play dough, markers, coloring books, an airplane or helicopter, stuffed animals, soccer balls, remote control cars, and Legos. We also put together clothing packages for families that were especially needful of clothing. We bought clothes specifically for the age and gender of each child. We worked really hard to get the best bang for your buck, and with the Lord guiding us, we made the money go quite a long way.

All together, your donations purchased clothing and/or toys for 50 children, funded several LARGE food bundles for multiple families, purchased a hearing aid for an elderly woman, and provided an unforgettable Fiesta de Navidad for 140 people. Your donations also purchased some gifts for the teenagers including, purses, soccer balls, and watches. Many of the women also received care packages that included dish cloths, body spray, and bracelets. We were also able to purchase some kitchen supplies. Over all, your donations touched the lives of about 200 people this Christmas!

All it took to bring pure delight to this little boy, was this tube of play dough. His excitement alone was enough for me to feel Christmas all year long!

This is a home 'community' for a family made up of about 25 people. A mother with her five children and their spouses, who between them each have about 4 children, live 'together' here. They were the recipients of toys, clothes, and large bags of rice. When I say 'large', we're talking food storage portions. We laughed because one large bag of rice, is about enough to feed the whole lot for a single day. As an indicator of the kind of people they are, on Christmas day when we arrived, it was difficult to find anyone at all. The women were all out back, working together on laundry, their children by their sides. All the men and boys over age 10 were out working for the day. It didn't matter that it was Christmas, because without resources to take you more than one day at a time, it's a another day to work.

After 6 hours of delivering presents, we decided to take a break for food. This was our Christmas dinner and then off we went for another 5 hours. We left our house on Christmas morning at 10am, and returned at 9pm. It was a long day for the kids, but Brody said, 'the best Christmas present is really just to be together.' True that Brody, true that.

THE PAN - A Very Important Part of Your Donations
Tom and I were shopping at the Maxi Bodega, purchasing food, gifts, and trying to put a dent into our huge list! I passed the kitchen isle, and picked up some dishcloths. They came in large packs of 10, and so I thought they would make a good gift for some needful sisters. I passed by the rack of pots and pans hanging on the wall, and thought, 'I should get a pan.' And so I asked Tom if he thought it would be a good idea. He said, 'how would we even know who to give it to?'I thought he made a good point, and so we moved on to another isle. Again we passed the pots and pans on the way to get a pillow. Once again, I though distinctly, 'I should get a pan.' However, Tom and I had already discussed why it might not be a good idea, and I felt very responsible for spending the donations as accurately as possible. After approximately 2 hours roaming the store, we headed at last, with two jammed packed carts, to the check out stand. We passed, one last time, the pans. This time, I felt as if someone was yelling at me, 'Goodness Gracious! There is a sister who needs that pan, so put it in your cart!' I immediately picked up that pan and put it in my cart.
On Christmas Day, when it was time to deliver the packages, I still did not know who the pan was for. I just told Heavenly Father, 'I know this pan is for someone, so please let me give it to the right sister!' The kids and I were wrapping and packing when Tom came in and said he was taking a run to deliver some stuff to a sister nearby. He said, 'who did you decide the pan was for?' I answered, 'I still don't know, but it's in that lady's box.' I pointed to a box that was scheduled for a later delivery. However, Tom decided that he would take it to the sister he was visiting right then. I told him, 'you better have this right, because Heavenly Father has someone in mind for that pan.' He was pretty certain it was the right decision. Of course, when he delivered the pan, the sister exclaimed (this is the translated version) , 'I have been needing a pan for so long. I could not afford it, and I don't have one. I have really wanted one. Thank you, thank you!' I was relieved and humbled once again. How could he think of a pan? He has so much to think of, so many prayers to answer, and yet, he made sure this sister got her pan. It was all of you, your donations and your prayers, her prayers, the spirit speaking to me and my husband, and this sister got her pan! What a lot to put together, for such a seemingly simple petition. Heavenly Father loves us!

This is Tom delivering a toy/clothing package to a needful family. Their names were given to us by members, but they were completely taken aback by Tom's arrival. The gifts were very unexpected and appreciated. Believe it or not, a family of 6 lives in this home, made up of 4 boys ages 6 - 17, and their parents.

This is an example of one of the 'food only' packages. This family had many other needs, but food was the priority. A single mother, undergoing treatment for breast cancer, is raising 4 children, all under the age of 11. She lives off of the kindness of others. Once again, she is not a member of our branch, but a friend of a member. We are grateful to all the members of our branch, who gave us recommendations of families truly in need. I feel humbled, and am going to make an effort NOT to use the words, "I NEED......" I never go long enough without something for it to become a need, and not a luxury.

At the end of the night, Brody was still feeling the spirit of giving. We had bought some extra chips, cookies, and soda to pass out to kids just hanging around. Brody handed out the treats, and then acted like a robot to make the kids laugh. A few more neighborhood girls (around 6 or 7) saw the commotion and came down to get some treats as well. When we drove away Brody stuck his head out the window and as he waved he said, 'Adios Princesas!' (Bye princesses) It was a good way to end the night.

The look on her face says it all!

As the wealthy King in the 'Quiltmaker's Gift', completes his long journey of giving all that he owns away, he is found looking poor and in need himself. He responds to the quiltmaker, "I am not poor. I may look poor, but in truth my heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I've given and received. I'm the richest man I know." I hope we can all keep this Costa Rican Christmas experience and the joy it brought, in our hearts and minds throughout the year. For the King, his gifts were only the beginning of his journey, and from then on he could always be found, "searching out the poor and downhearted, never happier than when he was giving something away." Let us continue to look for opportunities this year to give of ourselves....our time, our talents, and our resources. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am personally humbled and blessed by your generosity. May you all have a Happy New Year!