WASHINGTON – The oldest rescue mission on the east coast bustled with hundreds of eager little Hispanic children and their parents over the weekend for the Hispanic Christmas bag event.
Some 600 children on Saturday received bags filled with presents at Central Union Mission a day before Christmas Eve.
"This event means a lot to me," said the Rev. Dr. Jorge deCasanova, director of Hispanic Ministry at Central Union Mission. "Spiritually it is very nice to share with kids who are underprivileged and it is interesting to see the crossing of boundaries through Christ."
DeCasanova said Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Va. – which he described as affluent and consisting people of medium to high social class - donated about 500 Christmas bags to "kids that are not even from their own race but poor Hispanics."
"I think the love of God doesn’t recognize boundary especially during Christmas time," reflected deCasanova.
Since 1917, the mission has worked with less fortunate children beginning with its Children Emergency Shelter. The Hispanic Christmas bag event combines both the mission’s goal to minister to underprivileged children and to reach out to D.C.’s Hispanic community.
"One of the first things I learned when I came to this city to work is that the Spanish population was growing rampantly and there were very few outreaches that spoke Spanish," recalled David Treadwell, executive director of Central Union Mission.
Both Treadwell and deCasanova attend Immanuel Bible Church and deCasanova was formerly the pastor at the church. The mission’s executive director had invited deCasanova to help out initially with the men ministry, but eventually as the Hispanic outreach grew deCasanova took over that leadership role.
"For me, being a Christian is being always willing to help others," said deCasanova. "It is difficult to talk to people about the love of God when they don’t have a decent means to live and food to eat. But when you try to help and you are willing to help in the best way you can they are more willing to listen to you."
First-time Christmas bag recipient Wendy Bonilla may be one such example. She was eager to share her joy in receiving the presents for her child.
"I feel happy because I know that my child will be able to open it tomorrow and he will be happy to see that he got a lot of presents," said Bonilla, smiling as she held the toy filled Christmas bags.
On Dec. 16, Central Union Mission held a similar event for English speakers in the Washington, D.C. community where 800 bags were given to needy families.