Extreme Response: A Christmas Party for 2000 People
Until now, most of our ministry work in Ecuador has either been at the school or at our local church, but last Saturday we had the chance to give our time to another worthwhile cause. For most of the day, we partnered with Extreme Response to throw a Christmas party for Ecuadorean families living in extreme poverty. But this wasn’t an ordinary party – this was a Christmas party for more than 2000 people and it was held at the city dump!
Why host a party at a city dump? Many of the people attending the party actually work at the dump, not as employees, but as scavengers. These people spend their days digging through other people’s garbage in the hopes that they’ll find some scraps of food or clothing that will be useful to their families.
Extreme Response ministers here on a daily basis, but once a year they throw a massive Christmas party to give the community a time of joy and celebration, and to share the Gospel with people who may never hear it otherwise. There are live bands, games, dance troupes, puppet shows, face painting, and all sorts of other activities for both kids and adults. It’s a huge event that requires more than 300 volunteers, but since Extreme Response has been throwing this party for nearly 15 years, it’s an impressively well-oiled machine.
Angela and I were assigned to one of 30+ games that had been set up for people to play. Our game was a cross between tabletop shuffleboard and bowling where players would slide (or sometimes throw) wooden pucks at several bowling pins we had set up at the opposite end of the table.
Here’s a photo of Francisco (a boy we befriended) who helped us test our game before the party began.
Once the gates opened at around 9am, we had a steady flow of people wanting to play our game. And by “a steady flow”, I mean that we consistently had a line of 10+ people at our game. It would’ve been pretty exhausting work if it weren’t for the huge smiles we saw on everyone who approached our little table.
It was a joy to see people of all ages playing our game. Some of the adults were more excited than the kids. After each person played (whether they knocked over all the pins or not), we would hand them a few pieces of candy. Once again, a smile would erupt from their faces as they took their treat and moved on to the next game.
At one point, we almost had a riot from kids who wanted to play multiple times for more candy (below), but Angela was quick to smooth things over and make sure everyone got a turn.
At the end of the day, as everyone was leaving, each attendee was given bags of food (rice, flour, and other essentials) and a few gifts to take with them to their homes or to whatever shelter they would find that evening.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that the people we met last Saturday are our neighbors. We live in the same country, the same city, within a couple miles of each other. And as any cordial neighbors would, we greeted one another with smiles, we shared laughs, and we spent a little time together. But behind the infectious smiles and joyful attitudes, there were also clear human needs. Food, clothing, medicine. Things that most of us take for granted. As we continue our time here in Ecuador, I hope that we have even more opportunities to connect with these new neighbors of ours and to serve them in a meaningful way, in light of eternity.
And, Angela wouldn’t want you to know this, but it was also her birthday. Don’t worry, we had a nice little celebration that evening.
December 6, 2012 Ecuador