It’s that time of the year again when the joy of Christmas starts filling the air of each Compassion project.

In a rural community in El Salvador, a church is preparing a special celebration with many surprises.

The project welcomes and serves more than 200 children and their families who live in poverty. Thirty of the children live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.75 per person a day. Yet, despite their circumstances, each person involved in the church's project is loved and welcomed.

Erika Alas was four years old when her mum, Celina, decided to enrol her in the church’s Compassion project after a friend recommended it to her. At the time, Erika’s family was going through a rough season. Celina worked hard at a university cafeteria to provide for the family. Erika’s dad wasn’t around to support them. Celina's income was enough to put food on the table, but when the university closed for the summer holidays, the family struggled. Celina thought the project might help.

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Erika's family.

The first time Erika joined in the fun at the church’s annual Christmas celebration, she was full of anticipation.

“There were so many children that day. I felt lucky to find a seat, but I didn ́t know what the gathering was about because I didn’t know what Christmas was,” recalls Erika.

The Christmas celebration began with a special worship time with singing and dancing. Then, Pastor Marco Torres shared the gospel with everyone and Erika remembers being all ears!

After the preaching, she noticed each child was being called out by name. Then, loud and clear, she heard her name called.

“I looked around and followed the director’s voice. She was standing with something in her hands. She gave me a box wrapped in a special paper. I didn’t know what to do or what to say until she told me that it was my Christmas gift. I had never received a gift before – it took me by surprise,” says Erika, now 15 years old.

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Erika, 11 years after receiving her first gift from the project.

“Inside the box, there were shoes, which was exactly what I needed the most. I cried with thankfulness. It was a wonderful surprise.”

The Project Director, Maria Elias, remembers seeing Erika crying as she hugged her new shoes, and knew she was going through a difficult time. She decided to schedule an urgent visit to Erika’s home and check on her family's wellbeing.

“A tutor and I went to Erika’s home where Celina came to welcome us. As we walked in, we handed over a bag with groceries. Celina was immediately in tears and explained that it was a tremendous blessing for them. At that moment, they had nothing to eat,” Maria says.

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Project Director Maria gives Erika's family a food basket. 

Maria was thankful because she knew they had arrived just in time. Today, Celina and her five children, two of whom are enrolled in the Compassion project, still receive help from the centre.

“They are a family that needs ongoing support,” said Maria. "As a church, we are here for them.”

Erika says, "the project is the best thing that has ever happened to us because we learn so much, we grow spiritually and we feel loved. We receive a gift each Christmas, which is special."


This Christmas, when Erika and her sister once again attend their project's celebration together, they will come with a newfound knowledge of God’s love and a church that truly cares about their needs.

“It is our prayer that Erika and all of the children we serve here will achieve their life goals and enjoy each step of the way, trusting that God is in control of the bright future that awaits them,” says Maria.

 

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