We have a ministry here at our church called the Angel Tree Program. We solicit names of underprivileged families from local non-profit organizations, and then buy those families presents so that they will have something to open on Christmas. I believe it’s one of the most worthwhile things we do here at CCC; our church helped around 65 people this year.
We often get calls here at church for assistance, and we do what we can to help. One of our regulars is Brenda, a single mom with four kids (one of whom is disabled and another who is pregnant). As is true of so many people in her situation, she struggles to provide for her family, and is always so appreciative of any help the church can give, even if it’s just a $20 gift certificate to a grocery store.
Brenda called recently looking for help, and after I hung up the phone, I wondered if we could include her in our Angel Tree Program. I called her back and got some information on her children, then called our Outreach Chair, who was more than happy to include Brenda and her family.
Yesterday, I took all the presents collected for Brenda and loaded them in my Toyota Camry. The car was absolutely packed with groceries, toiletry items, and endless presents, including thermal underwear for the whole family and a nice space heater (Brenda can’t always afford to pay the heating bill).
Brenda answered the door to her townhouse and immediately gave me a big hug. When I had talked to her on the phone, I told her I couldn’t guarantee what we could do for her, but that we would do our best. When she saw the car full of presents and groceries, she was in shock. “Is this all for me?” she said. We started to unload the gifts, making about a dozen trips to get everything from my car to her townhouse. Brenda repeatedly apologized for the mess in her house; she is trying to pack in order to move because her landlord just raised her rent by $300, and she can’t afford to pay it.
As I was delivering the last of the load, I noticed a girl peeking out of one of the bedrooms. She looked young, with an angelic face and unkempt hair. Brenda called to her, “Come here, Crystal.” The girl came out of the bedroom to shake my hand, and I noticed something astonishing: this person, who I assumed was a little girl, was pregnant.
I asked Crystal about her baby. “Do you know what you’re having?” She looked down at the floor and said, “No, not yet. I have an ultrasound tomorrow.” I asked, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” She answered, still not looking up, “I want a boy. I hear they don’t cry as much.” “Are you excited?” I asked. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Yeah, kinda,” with a voice full of as much fear as joy. I wished Crystal good luck, gave her and Brenda hugs, and got in my car.
It wasn’t until I was on the road that I realized the magnitude of what had just happened. A poor, unwed, young mother, filled with a mixture of fear and excitement, awaiting the unknown the comes with the birth of a new life. As I thought back to my encounter with Crystal, I wondered if God hadn’t just given me a glimpse of what took place in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. I think I met Mary last night.