I can't remember now which day it was before Christmas Eve but I think it was the Thursday before because I remember thinking that we had one "back up" day to finish our task of buying a new set of clothes for each and every Jericho child just in case we experienced failure in our attempts to clothe the crew in one day. This is tradition here, the buying of new clothes to be worn on Christmas Eve for the first time. It's called "estrenando" and it's very close to the word for constipation (estrenamiento). I actually have a very funny story about how I mixed up those two words once on one of our street visits but I won't go into that now. Even the poorest of families make a big effort to buy new outfits for their children at this time. It's tradition. It's actually a very practical tradition since many children spend the rest of the year in ill-fitting hand-me-downs. For many, it's the only time they will receive clothing that is purchased just for them.
That morning I was the only early riser. The holiday vacation has kind of quashed our getting up together to pray but I remember asking God to help us not only with the task of buying for so many, but to help us be alert to any divine appointments that He might have for us that day. I also thanked Him for providing so faithfully so that we could do this tradition for our Jericho kids.
It seemed good to take the girls with me so that they could try things on and to buy for the boys in absentee. I asked Noe to be our chauffer since I wasn't exactly sure how many stores we would have to visit. Driving is not one of my big joys here and the traffic in Teguc around Christmastime is atrocious. Noe likes to drive so we were both happy with the arrangement. This was our shopping tribe: From my household, Susana (9yrs) Helen (11yrs) Jency (6 yrs) Valerie (6yrs) and from the Villa, Paola (11yrs) and Michelle (17yrs). Six girls, one boy, and the queen-of-buying-cheap. That was us.
The Lord had provided for our purchases for the children through several very generous donations and with a grateful heart I had figured out exactly how much was allotted for each child. We had $34 dollars per child. I decided we would visit a store here that has new clothes on the second floor for $13 each (250 lempiras) and lightly used clothes on the first floor for $3 (50 lempiras)each. We had a plan and we were ready to go when a young boy around 13 years of age appeared at the drivers side of the car. He was holding a tin can covered in Christmas wrapping paper which had become very tattered from his travels by foot. He looked at Noe and then at me and thrust that can towards the window while asking for "Las Pascuas". This is another Christmas tradition here. I have no idea how it started but it's also very practical and can be described as "glorified begging". This young man not only wanted Las Pascuas, but he also asked for a new outfit and shoes. It didn't take much more than a glance to realize that he came from humble circumstances. Very humble. He definitely needed new duds. I looked from him to Noe and gently suggested that maybe he (Noe) could share with this young stranger about the Best Gift. Noe paused and then in what I can only describe as "language that is indecipherable to most non-adolecent Spanish speakers" , he shared the Gospel with Jason, our new found friend. God had made Jason's heart ready and he joyfully prayed with Noe to invite Jesus into his heart. We invited him to Christmas service at our church and I took down his clothing size on the paper with the sizes for my other children. Somehow instead of being irritated with the burden of buying yet another set of clothes, I felt excitement to see how God would provide for Jason too.
When we finally made it to the clothing store, the children went every which way until they made it to the dressing rooms with all kinds of clothing possibilities. Everyone, that is, except Michelle. Michelle is Susana's older sister and she is quite beautiful but her physique is atypical and her self-persception is not particularly good. She could not find anything that she thought would look good on her. To add insult to injury, Susana quickly found all kinds of clothing and she looked fabulous in every single thing she picked out for herself. I knew we were possibly in for a meltdown so I grabbed Michelle's hand and told her we just had to ask Jesus for His help in this. I am a firm believer in asking God for the smallest of needs. He is so into details when it comes to His children. He answered that prayer immediately. I began grabbing all kinds of tops and skirts off the racks for her to try on and the first blouse she tried on looked amazing on her. Then she tried a silky black skirt on which matched perfectly with the blouse, and suddenly she started sobbing. I was hoping that she was just overwhelmed by this blessing of new clothes, but no. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "The last time I wore a skirt a boy tried to........" I didn't let her finish. I just knew we couldn't do an all out counseling session right there in the dressing rooms with all the other girls listening in, so I said, "Fine, no problem, you don't have to wear a skirt.....just go out and find some black dress pants and we'll call it a day." And she did. She miraculously found some pants that went with the shirt and then went on to find several more tops on the $3 each floor that made her look beautiful. After that prayer, she found so many things that made her shine that we had to return some of the clothes to the racks.
(Michelle is pictured here in the back row farthest to the right. I have new wraps on too. I have never really gotten into the "estreno" tradition in all my years here because I am a believer in the little black dress. I have one or two and I have worn them at every special event and am proud of it....if you get my drift. But this year while shopping for something else for the holidays, I came across a sparkly dress that was just my size and the cost: $10. It might as well have had my name on the label. (Elizabeth queen of the bargain basement Hake)
We found pants and shirts for all the boys, including Jason. God had definitely heard our prayers, not only for help with the clothing of His children, but for the privilege of sharing the real meaning of Christmas with a young street boy. Jason not only received his new Christmas clothes but he was clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Truly that is the Best Gift Jesus could have given. He allows us to trade in our filthy rags of unrighteousness for His sparkling robes of righteousness. He clothes us anew according to the Scriptures. Isaiah 61:10 says "I delight greatly in the LORD: my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness."
I pray this finds you enjoying the amazing fact of the Christ child coming to clothe us anew, to remove our sackcloth and clothe us with joy! (Psalm 30:11)