Thursday, December 27, 2012

Still Going Strong

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You might remember these two from HERE and HERE

Ayana was so happy that she was literally crying.  We delivered a sticker bag to her & her younger siblings several days before Christmas.  I gave extra stickers to Ayana because I knew how special stickers were to her.  The next day, she gave me the sweetest note that I know I’ll save forever.  She told me that she had been worried about waking up on Christmas morning and not receiving anything, but she wasn’t worried anymore because ‘her Christmas was full.’

Their little sister, Gabana:

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True love:

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When we returned from our adventures up north, we only had one day to prepare 100 sticker bags for MANA.  Jared stayed up with me until a late hour in the night (I will not disclose)…trying to get these bags ready. :)  I am so thankful for him.

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Every Christmas, MANA delivers a box of food and eating utensils to 50 different families in Venado Tuerto.  They have never been able to include something for the children of these families.  The sticker bags were “heaven sent” and the perfect contribution to their cause.  Ziplock bags are non-existent here, but luckily, we had a Costco stash on hand that we decided to use; they fit into the boxes like a glove.

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To finish off each box, Rut (the lady with the papers) would call out something like, “3 girls, 1 boy!” or “5 boys!”  AnnMarie was in charge of taking her the correct number of bags (with corresponding gender) for each family’s box.  It was incredible to watch her take this job so seriously.  She was really getting what was going on, and I was touched knowing that she had helped create something so big.

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We had a little label prepared for each bag that said, “Jesus loves you.”  I put Carlie & this cute little Argentine girl in charge of putting the label on each bag.  It was a great system. 

Here’s one more sweet face you might recognize before I must dash:

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

A touching turn of events, Part II

Although we found some of the students, it was impossible to find them all.  There were a few roads that we knew were out of the question.  Once we made it off the muddy roads, we had a handful of sticker bags left, so once again, we prayed that we could somehow find the children who would benefit the most from our little offering.

We headed to the closest town, Federal, which was about 30 minutes away.  While passing through, I noticed a small neighborhood from a distance.  It was rough.  I saw barefoot children playing in the dirt.  We took the closest exit and started looking for recipients. 

In Argentina, especially in the more poor areas, the only way to essentially ‘knock’ or ‘ring the bell’ is to stand from a distance and clap as loud as you can.  I remember hearing stories about my older brother doing this as a missionary in northern Argentina 10 years ago.  It was surreal for me to be standing in front of these homes doing that very thing. 

We found this little house and started clapping.   

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An emotional father approached us as my girls and I shouted “Santa’s elves!”  AnnMarie was still clapping, but faster now while she laughed with a sticker bag in her hands.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  He hugged me and simply said, “Gracias.” 

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Sweet little Julieta, 3 years old

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Their next door neighbors were a little hesitant to greet us, but once they found out what we were doing, they were appreciative and receptive. 

Roman, age 3

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This little boy was absolutely overjoyed with the stickers.  He made my heart swell a hundred times; he was so stinkin’ cute!!  Look at him in this next picture with his two older sisters, Tiara (age 5) and Joanna (age 9).  He’s like, ‘best gift ever!’ He kissed my girls which caught them off guard, but he was pretty pumped up about this whole thing.

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We saw these next two little girls watching us from a distance.  They were so humble.  I partly expected girls that young to run towards us for a gift bag, but they just watched and waited to see if they might get one, too.  I could hardly get them to look me in the eye.  Simply precious.

Mili and Acelina (ages 2 & 4)

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More children we found:

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Great power comes when offering gifts with love.  At times it has been so difficult to be away from the loved ones we cherish and the scenes we well know, but we are grateful for this opportunity to give. 

We’re looking forward to the next few days as we continue to work with the LDS missionaries.  We met with MANA earlier this week and distributed almost 100 ziplock bags chuck full of sticker goodness.  It was awesome.  I’ll share soon. 

Have a wonderful, tradition-filled, Merry Christmas Eve full of love, good food, and hopefully, service.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A touching turn of events

Last Friday our family drove to Entre Rios with a mission. 

We drove the 6 hours (the last 40 minutes on a dirt road).  We found the schoolhouse.  We had made it. 

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We were literally out in the middle of nowhere in a guest house next to the school.  We faced mosquitos like I’ve never seen and the power was sketchy. 

We finished our final preparations for the Sunday night program where we would be distributing the sticker bags. 

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Some examples of what was inside…

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We threw a few of these little American treats in, too.

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Everything was good to go,

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and then it started to rain…

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and it wouldn’t stop.

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The party was cancelled due to the families’ inabilities to travel on muddy roads.

After panicking a little (maybe a lot), we did the only other thing possible. 

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That’s right, we went to them.

Now…

this goes without saying that my husband was definitely NOT gung-ho about this idea like I was.  The roads were bad, really bad, and we were up against some major risks. 

Thankfully, we both felt like the Lord was aware of our efforts, and we put our trust (and faith) in Him. 

After several heart felt prayers and a few serious fishtailing issues, we started to find children.

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Silvina, age 6

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We were not always welcomed with open arms.  Some of the mothers were extremely nervous, and rightly so.  There we were, an American family, pulling up to their house, shouting in Spanish, “Santa’s elves! Santa’s elves!”

The experience was shocking for some of them which is why I didn’t always whip out my camera like some crazy paparazzi lady with an American accent.  We had to be sensitive and careful.  There were some very touching moments that will never be erased from my mind.  This whole process has been an emotional rollercoaster. 

We found a lifeless looking home where an older man lived.  He pointed us down a road that we did not know about.

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We found this sweet mother who now has a Christmas gift for her two daughters, Melina and Soledad, ages 4 & 12.

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Here is another home we found on that same road. 

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Julio and Brisa, ages 2 & 3

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We also found this brother and sister:

Victoria, age 8

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Agustín, age 9

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I have so much more to share.  We are continuing to get mail.  Thank you so much.  Earlier this week we received envelopes from Germany, Canada, Minnesota, Alabama, and the LDS ward in Ohio who had a sticker drive as part of their Christmas party.  We love you all. 

We have also received many envelopes from Connecticut, and our hearts are broken in wake of the Newtown tragedy.  We pray that angels will attend and comfort those in great need of peace and understanding at this time.

“We need to know that in spite of all the troubles and ills which befall us, still the Lord is governing in the affairs of the earth and that if we keep His commandments and are true and faithful to His laws, He will bless us here and now and reward us with eternal life in His kingdom in due course…”   Joseph Fielding Smith

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Week’s Schedule of Events

The Sticker Project is underway.  Here’s the rundown. 

Wednesday (today, Dec. 12th): open the 330 envelopes (2nd group) we got in the mail yesterday and organize stickers.  Amazing.   

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We received envelopes from every state mentioned in the first group in addition to letters from Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, & Wisconsin.  Am I proud to be an American, or am I proud to be an American?!

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Thursday (Dec. 13th): Prepare sticker bags with labels for the 26 students (15 boys, 11 girls) and 5 teachers at the humble schoolhouse in Los Perales (Escuela Primaria Nro. 23 Del Sesquicentenario).  I spoke with the director today.  The reception was rough, but after three phone calls, we finalized details.  She is going to try to e-mail me a list of the student’s names (depending on internet) in order for us to personalize the bags.

Friday (Dec. 14th): Drive to the school (6 hours away) and stay out in the boonies in a little guest house next to the school.  

Saturday (Dec. 15th): Explore.

Sunday (Dec 16th): Present each student and teacher their bag signed “Love, Santa Claus” (in Spanish).  They are having a special program that night – strange that it’s on a Sunday – but that is when we are going to surprise them with Christmas gifts – your gifts.  Parents should be there.

The following week we will be working with MANA and the LDS missionaries to deliver Christmas to approximately 200 more children in need here in Venado Tuerto. 

We can’t wait.  We’ll get to work.

Friday, December 7, 2012

And So It Begins…

Okay, so this is what our dining room table looks like right this very minute,

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and it’s only the first group of letters.

Is this for real?! Today I spoke with Ashley in SLC, the sweet girl in charge of our mail. She’s been amazing, and apparently, we have four more shipments on the way, FOUR! Possibly five after today. Unbelievable.

This group included almost 200 letters from 13 different states - Texas (tons from Texas, thanks y’all!), Washington, Idaho, Ohio, Montana, Indiana, Utah, Iowa, Oregon, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming.

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Last night I told Jared that I was going to write all of you a thank you note; I feel like a simple thank you does not do this justice. I mean, seriously?! Wow.

We are doing everything possible to get these stickers where they need to go, and from the bottom of our hearts…thank you so much. To say we are touched would be an understatement.

I’ve been making a list, checking it twice…(couldn’t help myself), creating labels, and planning our schedule of events, drop-offs, etc.

This is going to be good my friends.

And lucky for me, precious Gabe (‘cutsie boots fatsie woo’ I say in my best Scottish accent) will come along, too.

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