The Best Christmas Gift Ever! by Karen

Christmas can be a challenging time for a variety of different reasons.  Before we became missionaries we would have said that our greatest challenge was figuring out what to get for the people in our lives that already had everything.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that just a couple of months before the Lord called us to missions we bought our kids pogo sticks, stilts, and a unicycle because we couldn't think of anything else that they didn't have.  As a family, we'd talk about the importance of keeping Jesus at the center of all we did during the holiday season, and we tried, but the truth is that we didn't necessarily know how to do that. 
As I think about all the gifts people exchange in attempts to express their love and bless those that they hold dear to their hearts: ghost pepper nuts, mermaid tail blankets, and bearded ski masks, there is a certain heaviness in my heart.  It's not that buying creative, silly gifts is bad; it's just that giving others the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with Jesus is so much better!
Since becoming missionaries we've done various things at Christmastime hoping to help others grow in their faith.  For example, one year we gave away hundreds of bibles, and another year we passed out over 1000 rosaries.  We've given away images of Jesus, and photo montages that tell the story of Jesus' birth.  We've gifted people with nativity sets and children's coloring books that tell the Nativity story with pictures so that kids can begin to understand the miracle of the incarnation.  All of those initiatives were super blessed, but this year's project takes the cake!  

With the VERY, VERY generous support of others, we had the opportunity to help the small outlying community of Santa Cecilia make the necessary preparations to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  They had to (1) install secure exterior doors, (2) affix a tabernacle and red sanctuary light to the wall behind the altar, and establish a reliable source of electricity to power the altar lamp.  With all of these tasks complete, our priest was able to leave Jesus in the tabernacle after celebrating Holy Mass right before Christmas.  Given all of the extremely hard work that was done to renovate this chapel these last six months or so, this was a grand occasion to celebrate! 
Following are some photos that show the renovation process.  In the pictures, you'll see a husband and wife, along with their 3 boys.  This is a new family of FMC missionaries that are here in Costa Rica serving.  They took the lead on the construction aspect of this project, while we hung back a bit and played more of a supportive role.


When we visited Santa Cecilia the other day we were blessed to participate in Holy Mass, 
during which a little boy was baptized.  It also warmed my heart to see folks sitting at the
cement table that we bought (thanks to the incredible generosity of Team Carmody).

The community of Santa Cecilia is small but beautiful.  We look forward to working with Tomas and Neli, the couple who serves as the church leaders in this pueblo, to develop a routine of praise, adoration, and formation so that they can continue to help others to grow in their faith.  Unlike other Christmas presents that eventually get lost in the mix, the gift of Jesus is eternal!

Thanks for taking the time to read about the efforts that have been made to help the community of Santa Cecilia.  In HIM, through HIM, and for HIM ~ Karen

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Thank you and may God bless you and all those you hold dear to your heart!

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