Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Box Outreach: Delivery

The reaction we got from the people was priceless. It was truly a day I will never forget. I was surprised to see blonde hair and light eyes with dark skin. I would find out later that some of the people had come from Van, in Eastern Turkey. The children spoke Kurdish, not Turkish.

This little fellow was eager, not shy like many of the other children.

And he got to open his very own present, a package of cookies. I wonder if he will share with his sister?

The beautiful girls were warm and friendly and all smiles. But for them, a photograph does not involve a smile. They became very serious, and indeed honored, when I took their picture. The gal on the left was named Aynur. She helped me find the other homes and families. We linked arms and hugged goodbye. I hope to meet up with her again.

The people were extremely grateful, asking if they had to pay for the supplies. Some were afraid we might be there to harm them. Some cried when we gave the gift to them. One seemed to be drunk. The children clung to their mom's skirt, just like our kids do. We told them that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, and that He is our gift. Therefore, we want to share gifts with them.

This lady received the gift and was thrilled to have her picture made. Then her (perhaps drunk) husband entered the scene, took the box, and loudly put himself in the center, asking to have his picture made. I watched her back up and blend in to the background, but I wanted to keep her in the picture. It was a good reminder to me to be thankful for my sweet husband, who is not perfect, but honors me in a way that many women will never receive. I have so much for which to be grateful.

This little doll was up for a selfie with me.

This is perhaps my favorite picture. Both sides of the box show much.

This was the field where they sort the trash they bring in each night. I have an immense respect for them. They are not solely relying on hand-outs, though many of them likely are the street beggars we see. They have found a resourceful way to bring in a little bit of income. How can we continue to help them? These are the questions I am pondering now.

There were little bits of joy...smiles on the faces of children who had somehow landed a large stuffed animal in the trash somewhere, a kitten, a puppy (scratching fleas from top to bottom!).

This woman asked us in for tea. Can you imagine asking a stranger in for tea? Can you imagine that she wanted to use what little she had to serve us? We had agreed not to go inside with the kids. However, relationships were forged that day. I hope we can have tea together one day.

This mother with the purple hat called my Firstborn "her baby."

It was a wonderful day, full of hope and joy in giving, just what Christmas should be!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Box Outreach: Heading Out

As this was not something we had done before, and I felt EXTREMELY responsible for everyone's safety, I did quite a bit of checking and organizing help before we went. I talked to all three Turks on staff. They did a little asking around. The consensus was that it would be fine to go, but that we needed to stay in groups and be out by 3PM. I asked 4 adult male Turkish speakers to go along, as well as a couple of Turkish-speaking moms.

Right after lunch and before we left, we took this group picture.

I was fully aware that I would be taking kids down there who would stand out. Africans...Asians...likely a first for the people down there to see. I prepared the kids that we would not blend in. The girls wore their hair up in a hat. We talked about how we are representing Oasis, our families, and God.

And just a few minutes later, we arrived. To this. This area, which used to just be shack homes, is basically a dumping and sorting ground for trash.

Most of my kids told me this was the first time they had ever done anything like this "other side of the tracks" experience.

And some admitted to me they were a little apprehensive.

I felt very sure that God would go with us, and that He was behind and before us. But I will admit, I did not sleep well the week leading up to it. I dreamed I left all my chaperones behind. I dreamed I forgot how many kids I had taken in. I was glad when the day arrived.

And so we began knocking on doors...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Box Outreach: The Challenge

I did something this year I have wanted to do for a very long time. Just around the bend in our own neighborhood lies a shack-home community. Our sweet babysitter, a refugee from Iraq who has now been relocated to America, lived down there. Over the years, this poverty-stricken community has evolved to include refugees from all over. Their livelihood is to go about our neighborhood each night, dig through the trash for anything that can be recycled, and sell it to the recycling companies. It's a hard, dirty job. On any given night, young kids are in trash bins, fighting the wild dogs for what is there. Somehow I wanted to reach out to this community and let them know that someone (Someone) cares for them.

So, I proposed an idea to my middle school Bible class. Earn 20TL ($10) somehow...forego a Christmas present, do an extra chore, fast for a meal. Buy some basic necessities for a family, wrap your gifts into a Christmas box, and deliver it with me on our field trip.

The kids were very excited. They tackled the assignment whole-heartedly. I don't think I've ever had a cleaner car or a more organized, clean house. They earned their money and went to spend it.

Though Firstborn is not in my class, she asked to join us that day, and I let her.

Blankets, food, socks, hats, candy. It all went into a box for someone we had not yet met.

My students began asking if they could do more than one box. Teachers and other students asked if they might send a few things. Soon, my class of 20 had over 35 boxes to deliver.
Next: photos from our delivery day

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Concert #1

Our first Christmas concert of the year was in early December. My four girls would perform in some capacity.

Firstborn was in an afterschool band club, where she picked up her saxophone once again, a girl after her Grandfather C's heart.

Miss Middler has been in a Band class all year, along with the other 8th graders. She plays the flute. Since they have the class daily and practice at school, I had not really heard her play it. One night I was on the phone and heard the most beautiful flute music. I realized it was coming from MY house!

Our staff choir performed beautifully.

Sweet Cheeks was in a junior choir and performed as well.

And these girls were asked to sing a small duet along with the junior choir.

Big Ben's job was to sit quietly and listen. And he performed it perfectly.

As did his entire row. So after the concert, I bought them all a cookie at the bake sale!
And if feels like Christmas is launched!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Crafters' Brunch

This year I was able to host a brunch for the Christmas Fair crafters. I made coffee and tea, some punch, some sausage and potatoes, then ordered a lemon poppy seed bread from a student who has started a baking business. The crafters brought goodies too...hashbrown casserole, cinnamon rolls, muffins, Korean sushi.

My sweet friend G came and served as a bridge gap for the Korean moms who crafted but don't speak a lot of English. They felt better coming, knowing she would be there. She is our school nurse. I keep hoping I'll get sick on one of her days to come in. She's pretty much the nicest person ever. 

It was a small crowd this year, but I hope they felt appreciated!

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