Written and Illustrated by De Dorman
© 2005 All Rights Reserved
John 8:36 “ If the Son shall therefore make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
You couldn’t tell by the weather, but it was Christmas Eve. The sun was shining brightly as many people were doing some last minute Christmas shopping in this Texas border town.
But just across the Rio Bravo and down many bumpy, dirty roads, the atmosphere wasn’t as festive; at the end of this road was an old Mexican prison where many children were going to spend another Christmas!
With no other family members available to care for the children, the government allows the mothers to care for them during their stay in prison. Although the children are happy to be with their parent, it’s a sad and dark place for any child to have to live.
Through the efforts of some Sunday School teachers and children from a small nearby church, as well as volunteers who visit the prison on a regular basis, they hoped to make a difference this Christmas. Perhaps the children that live there could see the hope that Jesus brings. This was their prayer as they prepared gift boxes to be taken to the prison on Christmas Eve. Each box contained some socks, candy, a toy, toothpaste and a toothbrush and a beautifully illustrated Spanish gospel tract. The Sunday School class also made each child at the prison a glittery Christmas card with a Bible verse hand written inside.
Finally, the boxes were all ready! Each box top had to wrapped separately from the bottom so the guards could inspect them without tearing the pretty paper off. There were 60 boxes in all! Would that be enough? That was the number Miss Shirley had given to the teacher, so that was the amount taken to the volunteers who would be leaving in just a while to make their weekly visit. As the teachers arrived, they noticed that the group was loading blankets and coats for the children and the prisoners, too. “What compassionate people!” they thought. A prayer of thanksgiving was said before everyone helped load the gifts into the van. They asked The Lord to speak to some hearts today as they ministered and to allow all the boxes to get safely through inspection. With a hearty “amen, “ they buckled up and were on their way across the river and down many dirty, bumpy roads to the prison.
Meanwhile, at the prison, the children heard about the special fiesta planned. Of course, they couldn’t have a piñata, but they were told that there would be singing, a story time and a present for the children. They were so excited!
“Ana Maria, Querida…” Mamá said, “it sounds like the party will be fun! Try to have a good time and not be so sad!”
This would a hard request for Ana Maria to fulfill for her mother. She had been unhappy every since she came to this gloomy place three months ago. There just wasn’t much for a lively nine year old to do here and seldom did anyone come to visit, not even her father. How little Ana Maria needed a Friend! (Matthew 25:34-36)
As she headed out to the fence to get her freshly washed clothes, she wondered what to wear to the party. “I think I’ll wear my blue sweatshirt and jeans.” She concluded as she removed the now dry clothes from the fence. She returned to the cell that was now “home” and quickly folded the clothes. In the tiny cell were two cots, one for Ana Maria and her mother and one for the other prisoner and her three children! There was no closet space, so their belongings were either hung on the wall or stored under the cots. After tossing the clothes under her cot, Ana Maria cleaned up as best she could and went out to meet Mamá, who was working on some crafts that she hoped to sell to the volunteers.
“You look so pretty in blue!” her mother said as she continued working. The atmosphere in the prison was cold and uncaring for the most part, but there were a few people there who gave Ana Maria and the other children hugs and kisses. It was almost as if they didn’t understand what love was or where it came from. (I John 4:8, 16 and 19) Mamá was realizing more and more that her bad choices weren’t just hurting her, they were also hurting her daughter. Ana Maria was suffering for crimes that she didn’t commit. (Romans 14:7) Although her mother often tried to change her lifestyle, she would always return to her old, bad habits. She felt hopeless and trapped, but more than that, she didn’t want her daughter to grow up making those same decisions. Do you think that God could help her? Can God set free those who are trapped in sin?
“Please try to have a good time today, Querida.” Mamá pleaded as tears filled her eyes.
“OK, Mamá, I will.” promised Ana Maria as she gave her mom a little smile.
Finally the van load of volunteers and gifts made their way to the prison! With their ID’s in hand, they brought all the boxes to the guards at the front gate for inspection. They all waited patiently as each of the 60 boxed went through the inspection. The guards were very gracious and allowed everything that was in the gift boxes to be taken into the prison; an answered prayer! With whispers of thanks to the Lord, they made their way to the prison chapel. Word had gotten around that Los Americanos were at the gate, so the prisoners and children were already at the chapel when the volunteers arrived. Every chair and anything that could be used as a chair, was filled!
As Miss Trudy, one of the volunteers who would be telling the Bible story, and the others gathered inside the chapel, their hearts were touched to see al the people waiting. Would there be any that chose to turn away from their sinful lifestyle and turn to Jesus, God's gift to mankind? As they looked around the room they saw no festive decorations of lights on a tree or red bows on a wreath, only cold, dark walls and cement floors. The ladies silently prayed for strength and started the celebration with singing. "Jesus Loves Me" was a favorite! The balloon games were especially fun for Ana Maria and the other older children. Running with a balloon between your knees can be quite a challenge!
Ana Maria leaned over to her Mom and said, " Mamá, this is fun!" Her mother was so happy to hear those words!
The games were over and Miss Trudy was getting the pictures out to tell the story. She held one up and asked the children if they knew what it was. Of course they did, it was a present, with a beautiful bow on top!
"I know that a lot of you are here today to receive one of these gifts, and we are happy to give each of you one. But did you know that there is a much better gift that what's in these boxes waiting for you?
"Hmm… two gifts? Mamá, what could the other gift be?" asked a curious girl.
"I'm not sure, but let's listen and find out!" Mother answered, being just as curious as her daughter.
Then Miss Trudy began with God's creation and the attempts of the devil to deceive people into thinking that God's was is too hard to follow…he'll tell you to just live for yourself. But when Adam and Eve did just that, they sinned against a Holy God, and because of that sin, we are all born sinners. (Romans 3:23) She continued by saying, "The cost that is required for sin is death." (Romans 6:23)
Mamá was carefully listening and knew that what the lady said was true. She's should have to die for the bad things that she has done. "I was hoping for some good news!" she thought to herself.
Just then, Miss Trudy said, "That's what this gift is all about!" as she held up the picture of the gifts. "God saw our situation and where we were heading. He loves us so much that He gave His Greatest Treasure to bring us back into fellowship with Him. He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus laid all His royalty aside and came down to this dirty old earth to be born. As HE grew, He never sinned! He always made the right decisions.
Ana Maria was thinking of some bad things that she had done and wondered how He could grow up without sinning.
Miss Trudy continued by saying that his reason for coming to Earth was to die on the cross…becoming the sinless sacrifice…taking our place. The cost was now paid for all our sins, but it is up to us to turn to The Savior, confessing our sins, and, then, turning away from our sins. (Romans 10:9-13) This is the free gift that I bring to you today. You can have a new start in life, having all the sins that you've ever committed and ever will commit, forgiven and forgotten by a Wonderful Father in Heaven, because of what His Son did on the cross. You cannot do this by yourself. There's only one way to heaven and it's through god's Son, Jesus. (John 14:6) God will help you learn to love, learn to make good decisions and learn to forgive. Is there anyone here today that is tired of their way of life and would like a new start?
Miss Trudy asked all the people to quietly bow their heads and close their eyes. "If there is anyone who would like to receive this free gift of salvation, please quietly come down to the front and someone will help you."
Several got up from where they were sitting and came forward. Among the group was Ana Maria, and to her delight, her mother! With tears in her eyes, Mamá accepted the payment that Jesus made on the cross for her sins, by confessing her sins and asking Him into her life. She knew that she had tried before to do right, but now she wouldn't be trying alone. God was with her and would help her. She had never known such peace and joy! The guilt of her sins was all gone and she never had to worry, again, about where she would spend eternity! What a Wonderful Savior!
Ana Maria, too, wanted to know Jesus as her Savior. Although she never committed a crime to have to be imprisoned for, she was well aware of some things in her heart and life that were wrong. After both Mom and daughter had prayed, they each thanked the ladies for coming and telling them about the hope that Jesus brings. They were given a Bible and asked to attend the weekly Bible study at the prison. Mamá promised that they would be there.
"I feel so free!" Mamá said as she wiped away the tears. Ana Maria gave her a big hug as they were being instructed to sit down. It was now time to hand out the gifts!
As Ana Maria received her box, she felt badly because there was nothing for her mother….only the children received the gifts. "Please, Miss," she began as she pulled on the sleeve of Miss Trudy arm. "Do you have anything for my mother."
Her mom quickly replied, "I already have the best gift, Querida! A loving Father!
"Me, too, Mamá!" Ana Maria quickly realized with delight!
As they shared some candy from the gift box, five ladies stood up to speak.
"We thank you for coming." What you said today is true. We each received Jesus into our hearts years ago but have made some very bad decisions. Before we came here, we knew that we should read our Bible and take time to pray, but we never did. Here, we have plenty of time to follow Jesus. We hope never to make the same bad choices again, but we are thankful that He still loves us!" (I John 1:9)
The five ladies stood at the front of the chapel and asked if they could give the volunteers a gift from their hearts…singing about their Savior!
It was difficult to say who was more blessed that day, the prisoners or the volunteers!
The gifts in the shoeboxes were consumed and used up, but the gift of salvation is everlasting. Have you accepted the payment that Jesus made for your sin debt? He died so that you might live with forever in Heaven. If you know Him as Savior, have you been following Him, or are you making decisions that will end up hurting you and those you love?
He's waiting for you, whatever your need may be. Please come.
Sincere thanks go out to Keith Swartzbaugh and the group of volunteers that faithfully visit the prison in Mexico and to Maranatha Baptist Church, who collected Christmas boxes for the children.
May The Lord richly bless you.