The word “despensa” means “pantry” and thus at this time of year a gift of a “despensa” refers to a basic gift of staple foods and household items which is given to someone in need. [this is a merciful edit to my original post that was based on a misspelling of the word…sorry for the inaccuracy]
Grocery stores, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club etc. sell plastic bins of various sizes with an entire package or “despensa” costing about $20-30. Of course, one can make your own despensa package and choose the things that go into it as well the the bag or box or container that you want to put it all into as well. A plastic bin is something useful and we’ve used those in the past, or some sort of utility bucket or in our case this year, a sturdy “market bag.”
Every December I suspect that each CAM missionary in Mexico gives at least one despensa and some give many of them. This year the boys wanted to give their “Christmas gift to Jesus” money into as many despensas that they could afford. Every week this year they have been saving some of their allowance toward this project. They ended up with enough money to purchase 3 despensas like this one in the photo.
The despensa shown here is going to Gloria, the lady that comes and cleans our home. She is a single mom with two teenage girls and is now a grandmother at age 35…hard to believe, isn’t it?!? She also cleans for the Yingling family and for Beth’s mom who lives in an apartment upstairs. We pay Gloria $200 pesos a week for about 8 hours of work. That’s less than $2 an hour but is considered a good wage here for cleaning homes. We’ll also give her a week’s bonus of $200 pesos this month as well as Christmas week off with her normal $200 peso pay. Can’t beat that! Unfortunately, she’s yet to trust Christ alone as her personal Savior but she has daily opportunities to see and hear the Gospel in our lives.
One of the other two despensas are going to Reyna. She’s a widow in the church who has a daughter living with her as well as two young grandchildren. They live in a shack outside of the city. The roof fell in over her kitchen a few months ago mostly because the walls of the kitchen partially collapsed (well that would do it, wouldn’t it?). The church helped out and did some repairs to that portion of the house but the roof still needs replaced and some other walls need repaired as well. The floor is dirt and there is no running water nor electricity. There is no drivable road to her house. The church announced a special offering to be taken up this month to help with the cost of materials for these repairs. She has no money and what little she’s able to earn goes toward extravagances like food and basic necessities (to borrow a little from Mr. Scrooge’s vocabulary). Beth and I will be putting our “Christmas gift to Jesus” money in that envelope.
The third despensa will go to Yolanda. Another single mom with a teenager and pre-teen at home. She makes a living selling at a stall in the market or wherever she can sell. A few times this year I’ve noticed a new pan or some rather useless-looking object around the house and discovered that Yolanda was unable to pay the rent or buy food so Beth or her mom just happened to “need” something in order to help her out. It’s the best we can do to help her be as self-sufficient as possible without just flat out giving her cash which we avoid except in the rarest occasions. (It’s only happened once in four years.)
The church is also needing a special offering for the new pastor who is planning on moving here from way down in Chiapas sometime soon. I’m sure we’ll help out with that too. Whether he sells his belongings and comes empty-handed or really does move all his stuff up here (with his family), he’s going to need about $1,000 USD to make the move.
Beth and her mom have been making little gift bags for our neighbors…a dip mix, a bag of homemade caramel popcorn and I’m not sure what all else; included is a new Christmas tract that has a peppermint stripe color theme as far as appearance.
Here in Mexico everyone gives (or should!) a financial gift to their postal carrier and the security guards (if your community has one…and ours does), and lots of people come around peddling stuff in order to make a little extra to buy their Christmas gifts. We try to include a good Christmas tract whenever possible.
Whew! It’s a lot of giving but also is a great opportunity to share not just the love of God in meeting a physical need, but the true message of God in sharing the Gospel of grace and salvation in Christ alone. We pray that God will bless someone with this greatest gift of all through these little acts of kindness.
May your acts of kindness and efforts to share the Gospel with others this Christmas season be blessed by God as well.