Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Puerto Ricans Do Christmas Different

First of all, Christmas is so loooong here! From the week-end after Thanksgiving till the Sunday following Jan 6 is Christmas! 

The main Puerto Rican holiday is not Christmas, but Three Kings day, on January 6th. To celebrate, the kids keep shoe boxes under their beds filled with grass for the horses of the wise men. In Puerto Rico, the wise men always ride horses, never camels.

Then their parents sneak in at night and take the grass out and put the presents in the shoe boxes. In the morning the kids find the grass gone, proof that the wise men came and fed their horses the grass. The presents left behind are in gratitude for the kindness of the children for feeding their horses. 

I like this because at least it is more from the Bible than many of our traditions..

But because the United States now governs Puerto Rico, they celebrate Dec 25th with American customs besides just the January 6th festival. Christmas here now comes complete with inflatable snowmen and reindeer in the yards. Of course all the kids want presents on BOTH Christmas AND Reyes (Three Kings Day)! 

We have an unusual custom called Matutinos (Ma too TEEN ohs). It involves sneaking up on houses in the middle of the night and singing until they invite you in for a snack. Our church people do it every year and it is a lot of fun. We used to do it till 4 AM some weekends, but I guess I am getting older, because I am ready to head for home after midnight! 

Of course, if you stay at home, they may sneak up on you! Nothing like having 25 or so surprise guests drop by in the middle of the night for coffee and snacks! Of course we read the bible story of Christmas and sing Christmas hymns. It is a lot of fun, but it does take a little getting used to! Fortunately for us, that didn't take too long.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Our Daughter Bethany & Husband Abe Begin Adoption Fundraiser

Bethany (our daughter) and her husband Abe serve in the youth ministry of Southgate Baptist Church, in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

While they minister to the youth of this mission field, they have no children of their own.

They have been approved by the adoption agency, but are just beginning the long and expensive journey of the adoption process. Please be an encouragement to them and give them some help. Your prayers and financial support would be a great blessing to them.

They just started a blog and have kicked off a 10 day fundraising drive. Get a t-shirt, send a note or make a contribution. The link below will tell you how.

Here is their address and email: 

Abe and Bethany Kennedy
P.O. Box 24248
Christiansted, VI 00824

The Kennedy's Adoption Journey: Hope is my Anchor Fundraiser: "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast..." Heb. 6:19a Our first adoption fundraiser starts t...

Monday, December 09, 2013

A Death Notice and a Birthday Party in one Sunday Morning

(Note the man at 0.01 sec, on the left, in the orange shirt and white coat with the gray and black stripes. This is Juan, and this story is about a tragedy and a celebration involving him and me.)

Last Sunday, I was proud to let one of our deacons preach. He studied hard for a class on sermon preparation and wanted to give one of his sermons for our church. So I got comfortable and was enjoying the sermon when one of our ladies called me to the back. I saw the same deacon's wife sobbing and a few people clustered around her praying.

"Juan died" I was told.

Juan was her brother. Tina and I had just visited Juan in the hospital, where he received Christ as his Saviour. He attended 2 services after returning home and asked us to hold a special afternoon service in his home, which we did.

Juan was in his mid-fifties I believe. He had a great sense of humor and was usually the life of the party. He had started chemo therapy and we were expecting him to be around for a few more years at least.

Well, after this sad turn of events, Tina said someone wanted me in the back of the church. I expected to hear more of the same kind of news, but I walked into a birthday celebration, complete with a cake with my name on it and 1 candle.

That is quite a range of emotion for one Sunday morning church service.

What was especially poignant about this was this: I had prostate cancer surgery in June and celebrated my birthday last Sunday. My doctor wrote "Cancer free" on my last exam. Juan found out about his cancer a few months after I discovered mine. The same Sunday I celebrated another year of life was the day he died.

Because of my own struggle with cancer, I was able to witness to Juan with some good results. Please continue your prayers for our family. Our struggles have been rewarded, but they are still struggles and we need your prayers and support to stay healthy and remain fruitful in the work of missions.