“Come see, signora. You have to come see!” A fist pounded against our metal gate in the small Mexican town where our family lived.
I ran to the gate.
Juan pointed to the South. “Look!”
Popocatepetl, the volcano that I had looked at through windows for years, had started to erupt. We lived in a town called San Mateo Cuanala in the state of Puebla, about 20 miles from the volcano.
I stood mesmerized by the flashing lights reflected across the sky. Smoke, fire, and red lava careened down the slopes toward the villages. “Juan! People live along the path of the volcano! Can they escape in time?”
Later we learned that a man named Francisco, who lived in the village below the erupting path, heard the rumbling. He did nothing until the foundation of his Adobe home began to shake. He gathered his family in his truck and drove away. He remembered my husband, Eduardo, who had visited him years before to buy wood to build our home. My husband had played with the children and talk to him about God’s love. Because of that, Francisco knew where he could take his family.
After Francisco drove up to our gate, we asked about his home and others in the pathway of the volcano. Instead of answering, he motioned for us to follow him to his truck. A tarp covered the rickety wooden sides. He threw back the covering. Inside were 30 people—men, women, and children — and one lamb. Not one of them made a sound. They stared at us, but their faces seemed to plead with us for help.
“This is my family,” Francisco said. “They are my cousins, my aunts, uncles, and a few neighbors.”
Eduardo didn’t hesitate. He turned to me. “What would you say if we took them in until the volcano thing blows over?”
Before I could answer, Francisco yelled to them in Spanish, “everyone get out!”
Noisily and hurriedly, the stronger and younger ones Jump to the ground and help the older, weaker ones.
I stared at them. I wanted to help them but where could I put 30 homeless people this Christmas?
As if I had spoken aloud, Francisco pointed to a deteriorating brick building where we had lived before we built our house.
My husband nodded his approval. Francisco organized them and everyone seemed to have a task. Some swept the building, others gathered firewood. Before long, outdoor cooking fires provided warmth and it was obvious the women were ready to cook.
We had to provide the food for them, of course. But how could we? What would we feed them? And would there be enough old trees to provide heat for them at night? Where would we get enough drinking water?
All kinds of practical questions troubled me, from needing rolls of toilet paper to getting mats for them to sleep on. How much food would we need? And for how long?
None of us had any idea how long it would be before they could return and rebuild their homes. As I watched them cleaning up and excitedly making the best of an old building, I wondered how long we’d have to take care of them.
Just then, I thought of the words of Jesus: “I tell you not to worry about everyday life —whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable to Him than they are?” (Matthew 6: 25- 26).
I read those words many times but hadn’t thought about them a great deal. This would be a test of my faith and my obedience to what I said I believed.
We shared what food we had and it seemed to be enough. We made it through the first night with blankets on cement floors for warmth. Families huddled together to sleep. The next morning I went from person to person pouring them hot coffee.
I stared at the people. I was sure there had been only 30 people, but as I looked around, I was certain that there must be twice that number. Each of them looked up at me and smiled.
“Last night about 35 more relatives arrived,” Francisco said. “We didn’t want to wake you. Not to worry. We told them that you believed in God and that we would all be taken care of because of God.”
What could I say to that?
Just then, my teenage daughter, Alexa, came up to me. “don’t worry, mom. I’ll find help for us.” She decided to go to all of our neighbors and ask for help for the “volcano people.”
Our neighbors responded. As others heard, they sent food, clothing, and cooking utensils. Even a drug rehab center sent gifts from their meager resources. The person who brought food and clothes from the center said, “we know what it is like to be in need.”
Compassionate doctors set up a clinic in our front room. A young family, who had produced a bumper crop of blue corn, sent burlap bags of corn. I witnessed the constant making of tortillas by the displaced women and they smiled and laughed the entire time. Some people we hardly knew came, bringing 30 small mattresses and blankets.
With the help of others we had bikes, soccer balls, and other playground equipment.
Despite the depravation, our visitors endured, they seem to be filled with a joyous spirit of gratitude. Just before Christmas Eve, I didn’t know what to do. I hoped for some kind of traditional festive meal, but that seemed impossible. I mentioned it to my family.
Alexa again spoke out, “don’t worry.” She and her teenage friends went out again. They found a warm- hearted businesswoman who supplied a complete, colorful Christmas meal. We even had the traditional Christmas punch prepared by a kind chef.
My biggest surprise is that we had leftover food. I had worried about not having enough. God had touched hearts of people who provided with abundance. It was almost like the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 in the Bible. Except God used people to provide for the multitude.
Christmas Day, as soon as we finished eating, on donated tables that dotted the whole yard, Eduardo stood up and opened his Bible. A hush came over the crowd. My husband spoke to them about God loving us and providing for us. He brought out the Christmas message of Jesus coming into the world as a man to save humanity. “Jesus didn’t have a home here on earth,” he said. He applied that to them and went on to say how God had provided for them.
I don’t know what went on inside their hearts and minds, but I think they grasped the reality that God provided for them in their great time of need.
After Eduardo finished, someone brought in colorful pinatas and we watched the children playing.
A few minutes later, Francisco came up to my husband and me. “You saw the lamb we brought with us?”
“We ask you to receive the lamb as a humble gift—truly the only gift we have to give. Allow us to give the lamb to prepare a meal for you because this Christmas you gave all of us a home when we could not be in our own.”
Through my tears I nodded. I think my husband’s eyes teared up as well.
Somehow—and I couldn’t begin to explain how—we were able to provide for those 65 people for three weeks. After that, the Mexican government gave them permission to return home. My eyes misted again the day they left. They carried back donated clothes, food, blankets, and mattresses. The government provided trucks for them. As they drove away, they called out thanks and waved.
I cried with sadness to see them leave, I cried with joy because Jesus had done for us exactly what he had promised 2000 years earlier. We didn’t have just one miracle, but one after another. It had turned out to be the most miraculous Christmas I ever experienced.
As I watched the last truck drive down the dusty road, inside my head I heard the words that I think Jesus spoke to me: “I told you not to worry.”
Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphy & Marley Gibson, story by Denise Obulie
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