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The Spirit of Christmas

By Cheri Birkey

On Saturday morning, December 14, 2002, Duane and I headed out with a group of HCJB missionaries to help with a childrenís Christmas party at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church of Carmen Bajo.

Now I had never been to the neighborhood of Carmen Bajo before. It was similar to many poor neighborhoods around Quito. We drove down a winding, bumpy dirt road to get there. The buildings we passed were made out of cement block and many were unfinished and/or not even painted.

Cheri paints the face of a little girl at the Christmas party in Carmen Bajo.
What surprised me was that the church was built on the steep side of a mountain. We parked above the church and had to carry our cupcakes and other supplies down a steep embankment badly eroded by water.

The church sits on the side of hill at the edge of Quito.
I was excited to see the church because I knew that HCJB missionaries, Dr. Roy and Marabeth Ringenberg, had literally started the church out of their garage. The church was still in the process of being built and was made out of the gray cement block just like the rest of the neighborhood.

It may have not been much to look at, but I could sense the love of God in that place. I knew that I was among brothers and sisters in Christ. When we entered, we were warmly greeted. The children were seated and well behaved and they remained that way for the hour program.

First there was a time of singing praise and worship songs. The children knew all the songs by heart and enjoyed praising the Lord. Then I helped lead Spanish Christmas carols. Finally, the leaders of the church did an excellent job putting on a skit that was both fun and taught the true meaning of Christmas.

After the program we went out to the dirt road in front of the church to do face painting and play games. The children enjoyed all the activities.

To end the morning, the children were brought back into the church for refreshments and a time of handing out the Operation Child gift boxes (from Samaritanís Purse, run by Franklin Graham).

Children loved competing in sack races.
Before the gifts were handed out, the pastor asked the children if they were going to keep everything in the box for themselves. I thought he was going to encourage them to share them with their family. Imagine my surprise as the one boy answered, "No, we are going to save something for the poor children."

Roy Ringenberg hands out gifts to a room full of boys.
My initial thought was that I was with the poor children! Then the pastor reminded the children that the next weekend they were going to visit the childrenís hospital and each one was suppose to bring something from their gift box to give to a child in the hospital.

My heart leaped for joy. This church was teaching the children to share out of the little they had. They really had the true meaning of Christmas!

Finally as the children were receiving the gifts, one of the women leaders asked me where the gifts had come from. I explained to her how Samaritanís Purse would receive gift boxes from churches all over North America.

I told her in some churches the womenís groups got together to pack the boxes for the children and in others the people would receive the box at church and then as a family they would pack it with gifts and then return it to the church.
Her face lit up and she asked me, "Do you mean to tell me that these are from our brothers and sisters in Christ in North America?" I replied, "Yes," with a big smile.

Then she happily told the children what I had told her and she asked me to lead in a prayer to ask the Lord to bless those who had given the boxes. I was very happy to do so.

I went home very blessed that day. I had gone that morning to try to show Christís love to some poor children. But as is typically true, I walked away very blessed by the people I went to serve. Seeing the love of Christ in that small unfinished church in Carmen Bajo was a blessing to me that Iíll never forget.

One of many children praying to Jesus.

Praise Items: Praise that over 500 children were able to hear the gospel at the Christmas parties in San Lorenzo, Rancho Alto, Atucucho and Carmen Bajo. Praise for the dozens who accepted Christ as their Savior!

Praise that Cheriís parents were able to come visit us at the end of January. It was a treat to see them. Both Rachel and Nicole enjoyed their time with Grandma and Grandpa!

We are thankful for working visitor, Tiffany McIntosh, who is helping Duane in the photography department for two months.

Prayer Items: Pray that the church in Carmen Bajo will continue to be a light to the people in its community.

Pray for more women to attend Cheriís Tuesday afternoon Bible study.

Duane will be participating in the annual Christian Center of Communications retreat with his college students from March 6 - 9. Pray for safety as they travel and for a time of spiritual renewal.

Pray that all would continue to go well with the construction of our new condominium and pray that God would bring along the right buyer for our current place.

Due to the rising cost of living in Ecuador, the amount of financial support we need was raised by 10% as of February 1, 2003. Please pray that God would provide for our needs.

The Christian & Missionary Alliance Church has announced their desire to no longer continue with the administration of Alliance Academy where Rachel attends first grade. Please pray for wisdom and guidance as solutions are sought.

ON LOCATION
The Birkeysí prayer letter

Current Address:
Duane and Cheri Birkey
HCJB World Radio
Casilla 17-17-691
Quito, Ecuador

Home Phone Number:
(593-2) 225-6269

Email addresses:
duanebirkey@yahoo.com
dbirkey@hcjb.org.ec

World Wide Web Sites:
http://www.hcjb.org

These children at Carmen Bajo could hardly wait to get home to see what was inside of their Operation Child gift boxes.
Duaneís Photographs of Ecuador
http://ecuadorphotos.tripod.com

Contributions may be sent to:
HCJB World Radio
P.O. Box 39800
Colorado Springs, CO
80949-9800
Account # 110375

On Location Fall 2001
On Location Winter 2001
On Location Spring 2002
On Location Fall 2002
On Location Winter 2002