Yes, the gifts have all been unwrapped, the tree has been taken down, and the decorations have been packed back into the attic, but the joy of Christmas still lingers within us alongside the faint smell of gingerbread that still hangs in the air.
That joy is still felt in the houses on the Lower Elwha Reservation in Washington's Olympic Peninsula. You will still find ornaments hanging on windows and doorknobs and Christmas books being read - all because of the generosity of people like you, people who care about our Native brothers and sisters and want to share with them the love of Jesus Christ.
The Lower Elwha tribe holds a Christmas party every year for everyone on their rolls (those with Elwha lineage), not just those who live on the reservation. The tribal leadership provides a meal and a present for each child, and for the past few years, Tom and Cathy Benzler, LIM staff, have attended and enjoyed the festivities, food, and fellowship. Becuase everyone is invited, it is a great opportunity for them to get to know new people, especially those who live and work off the reservation.
This year, however, they chose to get more involved.
Life is hard for Native children on and off the reservation, for many of the kids who attend the Christmas party with their families, this one gift may be all they get. But this year, thanks to generous donations, these children also received a Christmas story book and an ornament, and a few also get a new pair of socks!
"All of the parents were so appreciative of the extra gifts for their children," explains Cathy (Cherokee). "The kids were obviously thrilled to get their very own book and ornament, but you could really tell that some of the parents were grateful that their kids could have an extra gift."
One man, in particular, made the trip memorable.
This man, who Cathy and Tom know through their involvement with the Lower Elwha, has had an especially hard life even by Native standards. An accident in his youth left him physically and mentally impaired. He walks with a limp and struggles to provide for his children. Yet, he always has a smile on his face.
"He came to our table with his signature smile," Cathy says, "and asked if he could buy a book for his children. I told him, 'No, but you can have a book and an ornament for each of your children and an ornament for yourself.' The look on his face was priceless; he was thrilled to have two gifts to give each of his children! He spent probably a half an hour at our table reading the descriptions on each of the ornaments and picking out just the right one for each child. When he had finished, he thanked us over and over, and as he walked away, he looked down at the items in his hands with such awe, as though they were precious treasures - I will never forget the look on his face."
It is amazing the way God can work in a person's life. We never know what a small, simple act of love can do to make a huge difference.
If you gave a gift or prayed for Lutheran Indian Ministries last year, you made this possible, and we want to you know how much we appreciate you. We are so grateful for your generosity and passion.