Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In the Spirit of Christmas

I had planned to post this last week, but preparations for the holiday sort of got in the way.

Last week, the Songbird family was invited by friends to attend a special Christmas celebration at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center, and I am so very glad we did.

After the flood and devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the SotBM Pan African Orthodox Christian Church here in Houston took in more than 40 dislocated Louisiana families, housing them in their on-site missionary training facilities and helping them get back on their feet.

Almost four months later, all but a handful of those families have moved on, most with new jobs and more permanent housing here in the Houston area. With the Christmas season at hand, the Shrine threw a special party for the children of these remaining families. A sister church from the area provided food and two big piles of toys for the festivities along with a fantastic ensemble named Basic that supplied some awesome Christmas music. We even had a visit from "Kente Santa," who handed out the presents to about 30-40 kids.

One of the best parts of the evening was seeing these diverse members of the faith all coming together to meet, mingle and celebrate the birth of our common Lord, Jesus Christ. There were no racial barriers here as black, white and hispanic all joined in sharing the love of the season.

The joy on the faces of these kids and their parents was infectious. I saw one big, bearded bear of a man reduced almost to tears as he played with a little toddler, whose first real memories of Christmas joy were likely saved by these loving brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another highlight of the evening was meeting two of the families -- families who were originally hosted by the church but have since moved on -- who returned to share in the celebration. One of these families, a middle-aged gentleman with a young wife and three kids under the age of five, was joyously celebrating a new permanent job in southwest Houston, proud that they were starting to pay back the church community's generosity by now helping others. The other, a single mother with two teenage daughters, told of a new apartment they were busily making their own, proudly without the assistance of the government or other charity. Both of these families had brought extra toys to the party to share with those still struggling to make their own way.

Here are a few of the pictures Shebird snapped at the party. (Unfortunately, the flash only worked on about one out of every four or five shots, so many were too dark to enjoy.)

"Kente Santa" in full regalia.

"Kente Santa" surrounded by kids who really needed a Christmas smile.

Santa's helpers and all the little elves.

A new bike and toys for a little angel.

UPDATE: This picture came from reader Kyle, who was also at the party and graciously forwarded some additional photos to me. Thanks, Kyle!

Look at these smiles -- that's the reason we were there!


Anonymous mikester said...

Great pictures, Songbird. Thanks for sharing!

12/29/2005 3:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Songbird, what a great write-up! I was at this party, part of the ensemble BASIC (BASIC = Brothers And Sisters In Christ) from West U Baptist that sang that night. I wish I had gotten a chance to meet you -- I read your blog pretty regularly. (Great job, by the way!)

I emailed you a couple of pictures I took at the party, thought you might enjoy them.

One is of a little girl and her sister that just stole my heart. The little one was a precious little sweetheart. She was showing me the little Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls, then when I started talking to her about them she shoved them into my hands and went back for more. I think she brought about three or four handfuls of stuffed animals to share with me before her mom jumped in to help put them all back. She was just so eager to share those toys with somebody that she couldn't contain herself. Absolutely adorable.

The entire evening was a blessing. I wish I had been able to bring the rest of my family to share in the celebration.

Kyle Mc.

12/30/2005 4:19 PM  

Anonymous Kenny said...

T, great picturs! I'm juts glad yuo guys were ablle to come with us. Tehre wasnt as many people there as they had expested, but stiull a good turn out. Not many from the chuch as expected ether. but some of the minsters made it, so taht was good.

Hope you guys had a good Chrismas. Have a safe and happy new year! See you next year.


12/31/2005 4:06 PM  

Anonymous Kenny said...

Dam, I need to learn tipe better. Sorry!

12/31/2005 4:07 PM  

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