Monday, November 28, 2011

Blessed Thanksgiving

I hope that you all passed a thankful time with friends and family this Nov. 24th.  Abraham and I certainly did.

About a month ago, we invited my mother- and brother-in-law to eat with us.  A little later we decided to also include a friend of Abraham's from childhood and the friend's girlfriend, both of whom had been to our house before.  A few days before Thanksgiving, we also invited another friend from seminary and his girlfriend.  The day before Thanksgiving, we talked over and decided to invite a family here in Huejotzingo that we visit every Thursday.  Several of the children of the Alameda family also come every Sunday afternoon for kids' club.  On the day of Thanksgiving Abraham asked if we could ask another seminary friend to join us as well.

At 9:30 Thursday morning, Abraham and I had just finished breakfast when two ladies who have had considerable difficulties lately knocked at our gate.  They stayed and talked with us for a couple hours and then took their leave.

It was almost 11, and nothing was prepared for the Thanksgiving feast that we had invited 16 people to attend.  Abraham and I went into high gear.  Turkey in the oven, more potatoes bought for the mashed potatoes, stuffing on the stove, lots of apples chopped, pumpkin pies added to the oven, corn...Oh, and the chocolate chip angel food cake as well in case two pies weren't enough.

At four my in-laws arrived, and not long after that several of the Alameda children came.  The turkey was being traditional and not cooking on time, but everything else was ready.  At 4:30ish the two seminary students showed up, and then our last two guests arrived at 5, because they had thought the invitation was for five.

Their timing was just fine, because by that time the turkey was actually ready.  It was time to dig in!  Our feast included salsa and tortillas, since a proper meal can't be without those items here.  Although most of the food was new to several of our guests, they dug in with gusto.

Once we'd finished eating, the Alameda children left to help with chores at home, but the other friends were ready for games.  We had wild rounds of Spoons and other good-naturedly stressful games.  I dropped out of the games for awhile to skype with my family in the States.

By about 10, the play had wound down, and everyone was ready to graze on left-overs.  We all agreed that we should organize another gathering, and soon.  Abraham and I were blessed to introduce the tradition of Thanksgiving to several people who had never had it before.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Single parents' event

Last night the second single parents' event at Dios es Amor took place.  Abraham and I organized the event, but a small army of volunteers helped make it a success. One teacher at Puebla Christian School sent out an email asking for donated items so that she could set up a very low-priced garage sale for the parents with proceeds benefiting a single mom who recently suffered a heart attack.  The PCS director and his wife attended the event to help in many different ways, including driving Abraham and I and three guests from Huejotzingo back home after the event.  The PCS administrator and his wife also attended, helping by playing the piano during the dinner and with set-up, the garage sale, and clean-up afterwards.  Some PCS parents donated money to offset the cost of food for the dinner, and another PCS family provided their chocolate fountain and bought the chocolate.  A group of seminary students and a PCS mom donated their time to give massages, manicures, facials, and light make-overs.  A PCS dad drove Abraham and I to the enormous Central de Abastos to buy most of the ingredients for the dinner and then drove us to the church to leave the food.  Another PCS teacher let us stay the night at her apartment in Puebla so that we could go to the market early on Tuesday.  The elementary students made tissue paper flowers and made vases out of bottles for the decorations at the event.

And then there was the team from the church.  One mother gave her time to take care of the kids brought by single parents.  Many junior high and high school youth group members arrived early Thursday afternoon to begin cleaning and chopping vegetables and fruits for the soup, salad, punch, and chocolate fountain.  They steadily chopped through mountains of onions, carrots, potatoes, apples, and more and then cleaned up to have room to prepare stuffed and breaded chicken breasts assembly-line style.  By the time the food was ready, the parents were seated at the table, ready to eat their dinner.  Now the youth group took up trays and served the tables.

In total, seventeen single parents attended.  When they arrived, Abraham lead some games while the kitchen crew continued to prepare dinner.  About an hour later, the PCS and seminary group arrived and set up the garage sale and beauty parlor.  Soon the parents were enjoying treatments, and then it was time for dinner.  As the parents finished dinner and began their dessert from the chocolate fountain, we held a small raffle, and then the evening had ended for the parents.

There was still plenty of clean-up to do, and again the crew pitched in.  By a little after ten, the last dish was washed and put away, and we left for home.  The team of helpers was larger than the group of parents that were at the event, but everyone stayed busy except for when they took time out to eat.

Until the next single parents' event...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Days of the Dead

It's that time of year again.  Unlike last year, Abraham and I didn't go to a graveyard to investigate how people pass these days, but there are abundant signs just outside our door.

At first glance, the practices and traditions of the Day(s) of the Dead may seem innocent.  Families remember and honor their dead, and children learn from an early age not to fear death.  A closer look, however, shows that the majority don't simply remember the dead.

Cempazuchitl sold at a market  

In front of many gates,  families form a cross from the petals of the marigold flower (called cempazuchitl) and also make a trail of petals leading up to the cross.  The marigold is used to guide the spirit of the dead, either because of its strong smell or because of its bright color. 

On a drive to another state on Saturday, we saw fields upon fields of cempazuchitl flowers being cut by families, and many trucks filled with bundles of the flowers passed on the road.


Small sugar figures for altars
Once the spirit has arrived at the home, guided by the flowers, candles, the smell of food on the altar, and the welcoming call of the families, the family has an altar prepared with food, candles, more flowers, and incense.  The families do not set up altars simply to carry on a tradition.  Most, if not all, truly believe that their loved ones return in spirit form during the days of the dead and that the spirit partakes of the offerings left at the altar.

A drama in the city square

In the schools across the nation, students are required to bring in offerings to the dead.  Those who do not bring offerings lose points on their grades. October 31st is a partial day of school, only for putting out the offerings on the altars.  November 1st and 2nd are non-school days.

Please continue to pray along with us that these practices of calling on spirits and celebrating death can end.  Pray that the people will be steeped in the life-giving power of Jesus.