Tag: Christmas

Dec 14 2010

Unique Christmas tree ornaments gain CFCA sponsors

Want to share the good news of CFCA this Christmas season?

CFCA volunteers Stan and Dorothy Hubbard did just that at an alternative gift fair recently. They used a red tablecloth and sign provided by CFCA, but they also went one step further.

After scanning photos of children from the folders we sent them, they made the photo into a matching Christmas tree ornament, which was hung from a tabletop Christmas tree on their table.

Whenever someone signed up for sponsorship, the new sponsor got to take the matching ornament home to hang on their family’s Christmas tree.

CFCA Christmas ornaments

Stan Hubbard operates the gift fair table promoting CFCA.

The children who were sponsored at that fair have just received an awesome gift this Christmas ñ food, clothing and access to education!

Here are Dorothy’s instructions for making your own ornaments featuring your sponsored friend:

1) Purchase inexpensive, clear plastic acrylic ornaments from a local craft store.
2) Remove (carefully) each picture from the respective folder.
3) Duplicate each picture using the “copy” function on a printer (she did 6 pictures to a page).
4) Laminate the pages. (This step may be unnecessary; Dorothy did it to preserve the photo.)
5) Cut out each photo in the shape of a circle.
6) Roll the cut photo into a cylinder shape and insert inside ornament. A bamboo stick can be used to straighten the picture.
7) Tie a red ribbon in a bow and add a small silver bell.

CFCA sponsors, we appreciate your comments! How do you remember your sponsored friends during the Christmas season?

Nov 24 2010

Advent reflection: Discover Christ in your daily life

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ìTherefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.î (Matthew 24:42)

The season of Advent begins this year with an apparently somber Gospel warning to remain alert in preparation for the coming of Christ (Matthew 24:37-44).

In tone it doesnít seem to differ much from readings we are accustomed to hearing at the end of a Church year ó readings that portend doom for those caught napping on the Day of Judgment.

But while alertness is a virtue, the alertness that God asks of us in this new Church year is not the terror of one afraid to blink for fear of a cosmic reprimand.

Rather, it is the heightened awareness of one wise enough to know that life is short and wondrous and that if you donít pay attention you could miss the good stuff.

It helps to think of Christís coming not just as a future event but as a joyful gift in the present. In truth, Christ comes to us often and in surprising ways through the people and happenings of life, but it takes alertness to see these moments of grace for what they are.

Laya Annamaynolu, Hyderabad, India, and her family.

Laya Annamaynolu, CFCA-sponsored child in Hyderabad, India, and her family.

Do we recognize the blessings that come our way or are we so wrapped up in our hurts and anxieties that we let them pass unnoticed? Do we embrace the Christ who dwells in other people, or do we focus only on their weaknesses and failings?

The attitude with which we approach each day and each person ñ as either a gift to cherish or obstacle to overcome ñ is also the lens through which we view God.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many people see God only as a stern judge? God does hold us accountable, but to focus only on accountability is to miss the point.

More than anything, God wants each of us to be happy. Our faith teaches that true happiness is the natural consequence of living in loving relationship with God and other people.

If we take care of our relationships, the rest will take care of itself. That is one of the underlying principles of CFCAís Hope for a Family sponsorship program.

We believe in building relationships across divides of poverty, culture, language, race and all the other conditions that separate human beings from one another.

When we have the grace to reach across those divides, the face of Christ becomes visible to us in the faces of other people.

This Advent, may we be awake to the opportunities that God places before us ñ opportunities to discover his Son in wondrous and surprising ways every day.

Sep 3 2010

When should I send a Christmas greeting to my sponsored friend?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. When should I send a Christmas greeting to my sponsored friend?

A. If you would like to send your friend a Christmas greeting, we recommend sending your greeting card early because mail can be slow during the holiday season. It usually takes six to eight weeks for a letter to arrive at the project.

Although Christmas is a time for giving in the U.S., sending a gift to your friend overseas is problematic.

Packages can accrue customs fees in your friendís country, and items can be lost or stolen in the mail. Instead of a package, we encourage you to send a letter or card. Your friend will be thrilled to hear from you.

(You can also send an eLetter once you’re logged in to your online sponsorship account!)

In addition, please consider donating to the CFCA Christmas Fund. Your donation is used by your friendís project to plan culturally appropriate celebrations and provide practical and fun gifts for every child and aging member, so no one is left out. Family members often participate.

Sponsored members know that these celebrations and gifts are made possible by the sponsors. Plus, your donation benefits your friendís community because party supplies and Christmas gifts are purchased from local vendors or CFCA livelihood projects.

Jul 24 2009

Generosity will bring joy

By Richard Swan, CFCA sponsor

This will be the fourth year in a row that youth from our parish, Church of the Risen Christ in Denver, Colo., will be going to Guatemala. This year, we opened the trip up to the entire parish, and we have 18 adults joining 14 teens to build a home in Santiago. Each participant sponsors a child or aging person in Guatemala and will get to meet and spend time with their sponsored friend.

Each year, our parish has been very supportive of CFCA sponsorship and generous with financial donations and other items to take to the children and families in San Lucas Toliman.

At all Masses during one weekend in June, we asked for help to cover the cost of building materials for the house, estimated by CFCA to be about $3,500. In that one weekend, we collected more than enough to build the house. As a result of the generosity of fellow parishioners, one family will get to experience the joy of having a new home. The parish staff also approved giving the childrenís collections from all Masses as a gift to the CFCA Birthday and Christmas Fund. The children of our parish gave $800 to that special fund. What joy hundreds of children will experience because of the generosity of the children of our parish.

New Spanish books for children in GuatemalaBut the generosity doesnít end there! One parishioner purchased over $1,200 of new Spanish books for us to give to the school in San Lucas. We hope the joy of having those books will be felt for years to come. Another parishioner donated 35 pairs of new, protective goggles for the work site. A women’s group at our parish made more than 150 rosaries to take on our trip. We also received 35 soccer balls, youth and high school soccer jerseys, shoes and warm-up suits. Those will bring joy to a lot of children who love playing soccer. And, at Vacation Bible School, parish children made little stuffed turtles with notes in Spanish that tell the children in Guatemala that “God loves you.” Joy, pure and simple!

Soccer suppliesGenerosity begets more generosity. As others heard about our trip, more donations kept coming in, and we will be able to help the San Lucas Mission continue many life-giving projects. Some parishioners accepted our invitation to pay for some of the more expensive parts of the home, such as doors and windows. This week we received a donation of 230 new Colorado T-shirts, with sizes ranging from toddler to adult.

The people of San Lucas and Guatemala will see the generosity of their friends in Denver and Colorado. And we will see the joy on their faces. But the greatest gift of all will be just being with the people, or as CFCA says it, walking with the poor. From Colorado to Guatemala, GENEROSITY will bring JOY.

The group from the Church of the Risen Christ leaves today for Guatemala. We wish them a safe and wonderful trip.

Related links:
Two parishes receive 2009 CFCA Pilgrimage of Faith Award
Read an update about their trip to Guatemala here and here

Dec 24 2008

Christmas in Madagascar

The following entry was contributed by the Antsirabe, Madagascar, project. Unbound serves more than 700 children, youth and the aging in Madagascar.


Once, a little child in the countryside was asked, “What is Christmas all about?” The answer was, “Christmas is when we receive little rice cakes in church.”

The child remembered something important about Christmas: the gift of a couple of rice cakes in church. And this happens only on Christmas.

Christmastime is very much a time when families get together, visit each other or go to church together. Food will usually be better than the everyday meal. If they can afford it, parents will buy and prepare chicken or pork as a special meal.

Whoever can will dress in a smart, perhaps even new outfit. Since December is one of the hottest months of the year, women and girls will wear very pretty summer dresses in church.

As in most countries, people like to give each other Christmas gifts. Within families, parents like to give new clothes to their children. Poorer families, however, may not be able to afford buying gifts, so they make do without. Christmas is a time of doing good for others as well.

For many people in Madagascar, Christmas is celebrated over a long period of time, spreading out over several months. It will usually start in the month of December with typical Christmas songs being sung in most churches.

Choirs and youth groups will meet on certain afternoons for practicing Christmas songs, so they will be able to perform well on Christmas Day or at another time. There are translated Western Christmas songs, but also many songs Malagasy people have written.

Many people write their own poems which will be presented at Christmas, on a special afternoon or on an additional Sunday for their specific group. Thus it is possible that each group in a church will celebrate Christmas on a given Sunday, presenting songs, sketches or Bible verses they learned by heart.

You can easily have Christmas celebrations all the way from December through to March. One church could easily have 20 Christmas celebration services, and everyone is welcome to come and enjoy.

Another custom is the walking around the Christmas tree. If possible, a pine tree will be erected in the front area of the church so that all the people can see it. Colorful ribbons or other decorations, small electric lights and cut-out pictures will give the tree a beautiful appearance.

On Christmas Day, each church group (women, men, choir, young people, Sunday school or children) will come to the front, singing and walking around the tree. Never mind that it takes a very long time. All the other people in church enjoy the songs, the live presentations of the others.

For those who need to stretch their legs or to buy some snacks outside, it is common practice to do so. Therefore, a Christmas service can last the whole morning, up to four or five hours.

Then in the afternoon, more singing and group presentations will continue. It is a local church event where everybody tries to attend or even take part.

Dec 23 2008

A Christmas of coming together

The following blog entry was written by Rev. Kelly Demo, an Episcopal priest who preaches for CFCA. From 1990 to 1991, she served as a volunteer for International Christian Youth Exchange in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Just outside my little house there was a large boulder upon which both lizards and I enjoyed lying. One evening very close to Christmas, I was sprawled out on my rock enjoying conversation with a sweet 8-year-old Sierra Leonean named John. We talked many nights about a great many things, and that night he asked me about Christmas in America. I had been missing my family, so I waxed on about my memories of childhood Christmases at my grandparentsí home, of going to midnight Mass, and of Santa Claus.

We lay silently for several minutes looking up at the stars, and finally John said, ìSanta Claus doesnít come to Africa.î
†I looked at him and was overcome with sadness. He fully believed in Santa Claus. He had heard about this guy who travels around the world bringing gifts to good boys and girls. However, neither John nor any of his friends had ever received anything from Santa. He judged himself and his Christmas by Western standards, and he simply could not measure up.

The irony in this is that most Westerners long for the exact kind of Christmas that John and so many others in developing countries have. Christmas in America is generally a time of frenzied activity, of spending money and feeling tired, guilty, lonely, anxious. Then there are the precious moments of joy, of connection and Christís peace that come and go too soon and leave us yearning for more.†

Just yesterday, three friends and I tried to meet for a cup of coffee before Christmas. We all love each other dearly and draw strength and encouragement from one another. But one had to meet her mom to go shopping for her kids, one had to meet with a contractor who is remodeling her home, one rushed off to work, and I had my own errands. Nothing is more important than our relationships, yet the tyranny of the urgent always supersedes that which is important.

Imagine instead, Christmas where many families come together to cook and eat and sing and play and celebrate. There is no pressure or expectation to buy gifts. There is nothing more urgent in the world than to sit down with your elders and listen to stories. There is no errand that is more important than visiting a friend you have not seen in a long time. And yes, Virginia, a place where there is no Santa Claus. That is the kind of Christmas that my little friend John would have along with billions of others around the world.

That is one of the many gifts the poor have to offer us. They stand as a witness to our Christmases past, the past that we look to with nostalgia. A Christmas when Jesus is truly at the center of the celebration as we welcome him, a homeless child, into our hearts and into our world.

We here at CFCA wish you a peace-filled Christmas. Please keep the children, elderly and their families whom we serve in your prayers, just as you remain in ours.

Dec 16 2008

Residents of Santa Teresita celebrate Christmas

Las Posadas is a Christmas tradition celebrated throughout Latin America commemorating the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Each evening from Dec. 16 ñ Dec. 24, CFCA sponsored members and their families from the community of Santa Teresita, Guatemala, hold a candlelit procession to a different home. They sing songs, pray and end the evening enjoying traditional food and refreshments, such as tamales and fruit punch.

Make your own tamales

Dec 15 2008

Christmas shopping in your slippers

christmas_catalog22Have you had a chance to check out the CFCA Christmas catalog yet? It offers a great opportunity to share the true spirit of Christmas with a friend or family member.

You can choose from five funds that support the†needs of people living in poverty around the world: scholarship program assistance; HIV/AIDS funding; food crisis support; housing support; and Christmas celebrations and gifts for children and the aging.

So instead of standing in long shopping lines for sweaters and picture frames and toys, we invite you to make a cup of hot chocolate, relax in your most comfortable, cozy slippers and avoid the crowds while you make a donation in honor of someone you care about.

You can also take comfort in knowing that 100 percent of your contribution goes to CFCA projects to benefit those assisted by the fund you select.

†We hope you enjoy your CFCA Christmas†gift-giving experience.