by Rynn and Paul
“Hattie and Rynn sighed as the kids ran outside to play with their new toys. All our preparation and very late nights had paid off. “Christmas in January” had been a huge success.
The preparations had begun two days earlier, when the girls sneaked off to wrap the 50+ presents sent by SWIM (Single Women in Ministry) from Tyler, Texas. When the kids asked where the girls were, we told them they were preparing a surprise.
We did lots of sneaking off those two days. Travis disappeared to download sugar cookie and pancake recipes off the internet. Then he and Paul bought flour, sugar, milk and found the only bottle of vanilla in the store.
And with all our sneaking off the whispers among the children grew. What was this surprise? By Friday afternoon, the kids were whispering to us. “We know what the surprise is. It’s a craft.”
“Really!” we answered with a wink.
Friday night, we stayed up until past midnight scrambling to make 150 sugar cookies with only a tablespoon and teaspoon to do our measurements. And then we were up before the crack of dawn to make pancakes for “Christmas” morning.
P.D. scaled the outside of our two story home to retrieve the baking powder we left behind. Baking powder in hand, P.D., Travis and Rynn spent three hours cooking 150 pancakes, while Katie and Areli decorated a Christmas tree we’d brought from America, while Paul, Abe, Hattie and Jen woke the kids.
The boys stumbled downstairs rubbing their sleepy eyes. The look of shock on their faces was priceless.
“This is for us? Where did they all come from?” Joshua asked.
Paul explained that a group of grandmas in Texas had sent the presents. As Paul read the letter from them, Joshua teared up.
The kids sat for breakfast, then made Christmas tree ornaments out of colored paper. Afterwards, we all headed to Empress Botanical Gardens.
The little children laughed as they climbed and swung on all the playground equipment at the park. The older boys taught us how to play Cricket — India’s favorite past-time.
And then our team received our very own surprise Christmas gift!
Jon escorted someone toward our picnic blanket.
“Is that Matt?” Abe shouted. “MATT!!!”
Abe leapt to his feet and embraced our long-lost friend. At the end of our DTS lecture phase, Matt had still needed $3000 to join us in India and he had to stay behind. But God had provided for him miraculously (a story for another time) and he booked his flight. Although Paul and Jen knew Matt was coming, they’d kept it a secret from the team. Now as the girls on our team screamed, giggled and bemoaned that they couldn’t give Matt a hug (men and women don’t touch in public in India), all the secrets were definitely worth it.
As our team swapped stories with Matt, we sat for snack with the kids. The kids stared tentatively at the sugar cookies. But after tasting them, they wolfed down one cookie after another. Five year old James downed seven cookies all by himself.
After the cookies were gone, we headed home for the moment they’d all been waiting for. It was time to open their gifts!
All together, they opened their first gift, then excitedly chatted about what they’d gotten before tearing into their second gift. Although exhaustion lent a dazed glaze to our eyes at the end of the day, we kept watching the children. Their faces constantly turned to ours in hopes of receiving a smile. It was not just the gifts that overwhelmed the children with gratefulness. It was a deeply longed for demonstration of love.