We are blessed to have a home this Christmas. After living in Colorado (1 mo.), Costa Rica (12 mo.), California (1 mo), and the church building in Uruguay (1.5 mo), we were all ready to stop moving. The children and I actually felt a wave of homesick depression sweep over us when we realized that we would be settling down here for an extended time so far from family and all that is familiar. We realized that it's not just another stop along the way. But there is another reason we feel blessed to have a place to call home.
Daily, we walk by homes in our neighborhood that have curtains covering gaping holes in a propped up wall. The strips of cloth are hung in the place of glass windows and wooden doors. We watch people dive into the dumpster across the street looking for anything edible. When it's propped open, we know someone is sleeping in it. Even now, at 12:19am, I can hear someone tossing things out of it as he searches through the garbage or clears it out to make a place to sleep.
If we walk home from the park at twilight, we may see people setting up cardboard shelters. And if we leave our house too early in the morning, we have to walk by people who are still sleeping on the sidewalk.
Last week I saw a lean, wiry man dragging a large, heavy wooden cart meant for a horse. There were others in his entourage. A three year old boy sat in the back whining until the man yelled at him to stop. A teenage girl left the group and sat on the curb near our house. And a woman helped the man search through the garbage for items to recycle. They left without finding anything, slowly walking down the street, headed for the next dumpster.
The poverty here in this barrio is very visible. For this reason, our realtor seemed surprised that we wanted to rent a house here. Even our neighbors guess that we are from "Brazil" or "Switzerland." A family from the USA wouldn't live here!
But Mark and I believe we have been called to live and minister here in this part of the city. We are a short bus ride from the church and live in the midst of the Uruguayans and their big city problems. We are praying about how God may use us to minister to the needs of the poor.
One advantage of living here close to the street is that we have a more visible presence in the neighborhood. We are hoping to meet more neighbors this week. All we have to do is grab a mate cup and sit out front on the sidewalk with a few extra plastic chairs.
I plan to start my mate ministry tomorrow. I met a few neighbors and will call them up to sit outside and talk.
And yet another reason to be thankful that we have a home this Christmas: Hospitality is not just a suggestion in the Bible. And we are glad to obey.
We invited the youth group over to our house for a Christmas Party. One of the young men gave his testimony. In a clear voice, he shared that what he was learning in the Bible at the Friday youth group and on Sundays is a great encouragement to him and his parents.
We also invited their parents! The men sat inside sipping mate.
The woman in lavendar is a missionary from Brazil, The woman on the right grew up in Rivera, a rural part of Uruguay, and the woman on the left has always lived here in Montevideo.
I think this is my favorite little patio. It's actually an extension of the living room where the men are sitting. I love outdoor living areas!
This patio has the parrillero and a beautiful bougainvillea plant. It's also where our washer is located. Conveniently there are also stairs to the roof where I hang out the laundry on sunny days.
Later, Mark learned from a Uruguayan friend that the firewood sold on the streets has to be seasoned for three months before it can be used! That's why the wood in this photo never did anything but smolder.
After we sang, I passed around traditional Christmas cookies, iced in various designs. Jana and the kids had all helped decorate them in white, green and red icings. It was obviously not Uruguayan, (no dulce de leche), but no one refused when I offered seconds.