There is a Venezuelan family in our apartment complex that we've known almost since the very first day we became a CARES Team. The daughter is fluent in both Spanish and English, and has become a sort of unoffical translator for the office staff, as well as the rest of the apartment community. She and her mother attended my very first English class two years ago, and they've shown up to almost every event we've sponsored since then. We've gotten to know them fairly well, and see them often. The daughter was in Kids' Club up until this year, and even comes some Fridays to help out now that she is in middle school. However, the family has had their share of ups and downs: the youngest child was severely burned about a year ago, but thankfully has since recovered. Recently, they had to downsize to a smaller apartment after some financial difficulty. Just this weekend, their apartment was broken into and they had to move-- the second time they've switched apartments in the past few months.
Around Thanksgiving, the new general manager of our complex, along with the business manager, approached me about helping out this particular family for Christmas. I was surprised and excited that they had initiated the idea.
When I went to ask the family if we could give them presents for Christmas, the mother almost started crying-- and so did I. She said, "El Señor le bendice," and I answered in whatever broken Spanish I could muster. It didn't matter, though, because there was an understanding that day that removed all language barriers.
The staff has been raising money over the past month, and today I got to go shopping for the father, mother, 12 year old daughter, and 2 year old son. I have never had so much fun in Target in all my life! Mothers who were frantically shopping for last minute gifts paused to offer me advice. The girl at the cash register couldn't find a price on one particular toy and rang it up as $.99! And Kroger added an extra $20 bucks to the gift card we bought them. I cannot wait to deliver the presents!
The phrase "incarnational ministry" is thrown around so often these days-- but it is the only way I know to describe what we do with Apartment Life. It is sharing in both sorrow and joy-- crying with someone who has lost a loved one, giving a child a consoling hug after a bad day at school, praying with a mother whose lost her job the same week her son was arrested, and rejoicing with gladness at the goodness of God when he provides for those in need.
This is how Christ is made known among the nations-- one family at a time.