The holy family receives the gifts of the Magi
After the 12th day of Christmas, as the church traditionally celebrates it, the Magi visit Jesus and his family. The warmth and the simplicity of this scene, no matter how or where you imagine it happening, evokes an extraordinary picture of the new holy family. No doubt Mary loved her baby with a fierce love, and Joseph desired to provide for and protect them as a new father.
It must have been an experience of great contrasts. The little family of humble means hosted the exotic Magi and received their opulent gifts for the tiny baby Jesus. The love and adoration of this story impacts me the most: the love of parents for their baby, the extravagant generosity of the Magi, and all of this reflected in the great love of our Father in Heaven for his children by sending the greatest gift ever.
The holiday season is over now, but God’s gift keeps on giving. We don’t know what challenges, joys, heartaches, and victories there will be yet in 2017. But we know that God will use His family to keep expressing the gift of Jesus on earth. At Ciudad Nueva, we believe that God expresses that gift by taking care of family in community.
Our family, our community
Within Ciudad Nueva, each individual family represents relationship and community as a whole. We view family as God’s primary expression of his love, sacrifice, and community values on earth. The caretakers within the family display compassion for one another, desiring to raise kids with empathy and discipline.
Of course this doesn’t always work out perfectly. In our imperfect world, we live with imperfect people in imperfect families. This may be one reason God calls us also to live as families in community.
In our larger community, we are watching out for each other and seeking good for others and not just ourselves. As participants within this community, we serve the community and help one another see the best in each other as well as see the areas in which we need to improve and grow.
Cultivating hope by protecting the family’s ability to provide
Family is the primary place of provision, support, and safety for kids. That is why we work very hard at Ciudad Nueva to protect the family’s ability to provide for themselves. We seek opportunities for empowerment rather than dependency in order to strengthen each family within our community.
Our programs our designed to empower families to help themselves rather than simply giving out food or clothes. There are certainly times of crisis when handouts are a necessary part of a community’s sharing ethic. However, long-term handout programs don’t affect the root causes of need within a community.
We also seek out opportunities for the families to contribute their own gifts and talents to the community. By doing this, we can capitalize on existing assets within our community and build upon them together. It also helps us all to see the resources and abilities that are sometimes hidden. Often, by encouraging a gift or talent in one area of the family and community, more resources are uncovered!
How do we do it?
We are excited about all the programs that we have for families. We are always striving to keep the concept of family in community at the forefront of everything that we do. The most important aspect of our ministry to families is that we are in relationship with them. We care about them, get to know what is important to them, and walk together through the ups and downs of our lives.
Current programs and services include connecting families to resources in the community, supporting families during times of crisis, and doing home visits for families with unique circumstances. When necessary, we provide food and help with bills for families in our community. In times of crisis, such as illness or death, we provide support through prayer and informal counseling. Occasionally we can provide limited transportation when the need arises.
Our Christmas Store is probably the most anticipated family support program of the year. Keep an eye out for our next post this month highlighting families who participated in our most recent store.
To help our families connect with job opportunities, we provide the following services:
- Connecting adults with jobs through our contacts and other resources
- Providing job readiness skills training and writing resumes
- Serving as references
- Support with college applications
So, what’s new for 2017?
We have three exciting new programs on the horizon for families:
- Food co-ops – Though many moms and dads in our community work hard to take good care of their families, many of the families we work with still find themselves under-resourced when it comes to being able to afford healthy, nutritious food. We are building partnerships with local grocers to help meet the nutritional needs of these families. Food nearing its “best by” dates, yet still consumable, that would normally be thrown away, will be distributed once a week through food co-ops comprised of 10-14 community members. Members will be responsible for setting up, dividing the food, and cleaning up after. Each co-op will also select an education topic to pursue jointly and seek ways to serve their neighbors who do not receive assistance or services through Ciudad Nueva by sharing the food they receive.
- Community Connectors – Our neighbors who live within the community are the experts on the community. Women within our community are already leaders of their own community, and they already help each other find the resources they need. Our goal with Community Connectors is to connect with these neighborhood leaders, come alongside them, and affirm the ways that they support families in the Rio Grande District. Our hope is also to help equip them with more skills and resources to better serve one another. We would like to hire women in the community (starting with one) to serve as connectors to resources and supporters in meeting self-identified goals.
- Immigrant legal services – We have plans to open an accredited immigration legal center within our community. This center would have staff who can answer immigration-related questions, file paperwork, and help families navigate the legal process. We will also host informational sessions to help educate families who are in need of immigration legal services.
From our family to yours …
That is a picture of family in community at Ciudad Nueva. We look forward to these new programs and to partnership with you, the larger community, in 2017. We also pray that in this New Year, your family will find richness and blessing in community!
Photo courtesy of Flickr via Waiting For The Word.