Today is the perfect day to talk about a special holiday tradition my family and I started just this past year- Operation Give Presents Not Receive. The idea behind this operation was to teach our children the real meaning behind Christmas and get away from the concept of it only being a time to receive presents from Santa and family.
Our kids are blessed with so much; loving parents that provide, a roof over their head, food, warm beds, clothes, schools, books, toys, the list could go on and on. They often forget how blessed they are and because they are children it’s our job as their parents to guide them in the right direction, teach them how to be humble and always be grateful for the gifts that God blessed them with.
This year for Christmas we were in Asmara, Eritrea so I decided that instead of getting our children presents we were going to give presents to the poor children of Eritrea- this is where the idea of Operation Give Presents Not Receive came to play. We collected shoes, clothes, books, and toys from our closets and got Isabella and Lorenzo's friends at school to join in. The total amount of collections equaled to 4 suitcases full of items. My original plan was to take the kids to the villages outside of Asmara, Eritrea where light and water are scarce, and the children have to walk miles to attend schools. I changed my mind the minute I met the Daughters of Charity nuns during Novena’s christening. Yes, Novena was baptized Catholic during our trip (pictures will be in a different post). The Daughters of Charity have been working in Asmara for years, and they told me about an orphanage they run in a village called Hebo.
Located 2 hours away from the city, Hebo is one of the most deprived areas of Eritrea. The paved road ended about 45 miles before the orphanage, and the road was curvy and dangerous, but so worth the trip. The nuns that live there raise roughly 40 orphans under the age of 5 while also running a school for the village children and providing meals, shelter, and love to all those that are in need. They manage this all on their own without assistance from the government or foreign entities. When asked how they manage to keep their doors open they simply answered: “God always provides a way!”
Everyone was so welcoming and happy to see us, even before they knew we were there with gifts. They gave us a tour of the church and convent, and they taught us the history behind the orphanage. Saint Giustino de Jacobis- the bishop who brought Catholicism to Ethiopia and Eritrea is buried there, and the church has been there since 1839. We were amazed by the history and beautiful scenery.
Seeing the infants sleeping in their beds so helpless and alone in the world without parents made my heart ache. Then looking in the other room and watching my babies play with the older infants that were just learning how to walk brought tears to my eyes. How dare we complain about our lives? These children have nothing yet they are so happy. The nuns are struggling, and yet they are happy. I wish I could have taken even more clothes, medicine, diapers, toys, books for them. I wanted to give them everything I had because they were so grateful for the little things we gave them. This is how I want my children to be. To feel blessed and thankful for the life they have and understand how lucky they are. To believe that God will always provide if we pray and always remember that he must come first.
Operation Give Presents Not Receive was a huge success, and it is something we will be doing every year from now on. I pray you will join me.
Merry Christmas Again! Enjoy time with your loved ones and always remember those that are less fortunate.