Missionary Luis de Souza Cardoso (second from left) and a group of students and teachers from Crandon Salto school displaying toys collected for a giving project for children in a nearby neighborhood. (Photo: Courtesy of Crandon Salto school)

They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

Matthew 2:2 (CEB)

SALTO, URUGUAY – one of my responsibilities as a missionary has been coordinating the chaplaincy and Christian education team at the Methodist school in Salto city in Northwestern Uruguay.

Many students at this school come from families with medium and high economic levels. They often do not directly know the needs and difficulties of other children living in poor suburban neighborhoods.

In this context, the Christian education team seeks to help them learn and experience values – such as solidarity, respect, empathy, compassion and mercy toward those in need. We want to encourage children and adolescents to practice love for others as service and worship of God. As it is written in the gospel: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

One way we encourage our students to express solidarity it is to learn to give gifts generously. With this in mind, we coordinate two donation campaigns each year. This year we collected warm clothes for winter.

The joy, commitment and quantity of gifts collected were surprising this year. The clothes for children and teens were enough to clothe 100 children in the care of a social project at the local YMCA. It was still possible to donate many items, including adult clothing and wool blankets, to another project serving lower-income residents in a suburban neighborhood.

In addition, our children and adolescents of the Methodist school had the opportunity to meet, play and eat a lunch together with the children served in the YMCA project. We saw God acting in this meeting and how the feeling of empathy, affection, care and friendship flowed between them.

In the second half of the year, “Children’s Day” is celebrated in Uruguay in August. The same students at our Methodist school are then asked to collect gifts for other children in need. The Crandon Salto community collected hundreds of toys, plush toys and children’s books.

Students from Crandon Salto school in Uruguay sort and fold coats and clothes for their winter clothing drive. (Photo: Courtesy of Crandon Salto school)

Many children brought their favorite plush toys and placed them in the boxes with joy and satisfaction. As in the miracle of the loaves and fish in the gospel, our expectations were exceeded and around 300 children in two suburban received gifts.

Our students also produced cards with messages and Bible verses to share with other children. On the day of the neighborhood party, a group from our school visited and shared with the neighborhood children.

In different ways and all the time, we ask: “Where is he… we have come to worship him.” As expressed in the poetry of a hymn from our Latin American songbook, written by Bishop Mortimer Arias (Uruguay/Bolivia): “Oh God of heaven and earth, I serve you from here, I love you in my brothers, I adore you in the creation.”

We are grateful to God when we see the work in the mission producing results, leading new generations to look toward God and our neighbors with a look full of love, mercy and compassion. May we look around us this Christmas and discover where Christ is, to worship him and serve him with love.

The Rev. Dr. Luis de Souza Cardoso, from Brazil, is a United Methodist missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries serving with the Methodist Church in Uruguay as coordinator of a lay pastoral team and as chaplain at the Crandon Salto School. Cardoso has a master’s in science of religion and a Ph. D. in education. He and his wife, Astrid Dorvani Cardoso, a nurse, have one son.

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