"No matter where you are, make it home."
This is one of the many nuggets of wisdom that Genie Summers,
the co-founder of FMC, shared with us during training.
Such a statement encourages one to consider, what makes a house a home?
At Christmas time it seemed to us that our home needed a tree.
Evergreens don't grow in this region of Peru, so we planned on using a banana tree.
"We could just attach extra branches to the main stalk...." I remember someone saying.
I'm sure a banana tree would have been suitable, but we were all super excited to find an artificial evergreen in the big city.
A fireplace also seemed like a nice holiday addition to our home.
It's far too hot to have a real fireplace (even if we could) so we made one out of paper and wood instead.
After hanging the paper stocking that we made, our fireplace felt complete.
The only other thing our home needed was an Advent wreath, which we made as well.
If you look closely you'll notice that our candles are blue and not purple because we couldn't find purple ones anywhere. Also, when the first week's candle became a fire hazard we had to remove it and just enjoy the other three.
Historically, on Christmas Eve, we have bundled up and headed out into the cold, Michigan winter night to spend time with family.
This year, after changing out of our sweaty clothes and coating all exposed skin with bug spray, we piled into our van and drove through the rice fields to have dinner with the folks in a neighboring pueblo.
As we bumped along the dirt road I began feeling a bit homesick. Thankfully, Jesus came to my rescue by lifting my chin and redirecting my attention toward the beautiful sunset. "Snow is beautiful," I felt Him whisper, "but so are the rice fields in Peru." Family is amazing, I thought, but so are the people the Lord has called us here to serve. The emptiness that I was feeling vanished.
For dinner, we enjoyed a freshly slaughtered turkey along with....
rice and yucca of course!!
Our next stop was another pueblo that we minister to regularly.
Michael helped prepare the altar.
Chris assisted with the vigil Liturgy of the Word service.
In this scene, the Angel Gabriel (Anna) announced the Good News of Jesus' birth to the shepherds - and their sheep (Jack, Michael, etc).
After the skit, the youth group led the community in Christmas carols.
Then we headed to the church for their traditional midnight gathering. Everyone welcomes Jesus into the world by singing together while placing the Infant into the manger.
As I placed Jesus into His place of honor, I silently prayed for all those in our community that don't understand the real significance of Christmas.
Around 1:30 AM we made our last stop at our friend Charo's house.
On Christmas morning, after everyone opened their present, we went to church here in San Hilarion. As an official Extraordinary Minister of Communion, Chris was able to offer people the Eucharist. This is the first time ever that the people in our town have been able to receive Jesus on Christmas day. What an amazing gift!!
Still stuffed from the midnight feast of fried pig, we skipped lunch and ventured out into the blazing heat Peruvian style...
...and spent the rest of the afternoon playing at the river.
Jack and Michael quickly found their friends.
Katelyn and Anna taught some locals how to play American football.
Christmas evening we drove into Picota (the slightly larger town about 1/2 hour away) for Holy Mass.
When we returned home the boys and I collapsed from exhaustion.
Chris and the girls dug deep for a bit more energy and headed to the church to celebrate a beautiful, candle-lit Holy Hour.
What an amazing couple of days - Happy Birthday Jesus!!