We have an annual Christmas tradition at Maryland Presbyterian Church of supporting a special mission project. In 2017 we collected funds to help the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. This year we are turning to an often-overlooked program in our sister parish in El Salvador. El Centro del Ancianos, or Center for the Elderly, is an essential component of the church of Maria Madre de los Pobres. Each weekday, elderly people, who are able walk to this center, enjoy time together, have a healthful meal, and create something beautiful to sell. The center attracts mostly women, and they engage in lovely embroidery and weaving as they sit together and chat. The women embroider miles and miles of bright flowers on pillow cases, tablecloths, aprons, blouses, napkins…. there is always a pile of items to sell bearing their delicate handiwork. Others weave very pretty little coin purses. And all these lovely things come from the hands of people who have always worked very hard, and whose beautiful hands are often gnarled and arthritic. The Center for the Elderly is a lifeline to people who might otherwise spend time alone in a dark, cramped home. It is a place where they can depend on a wholesome midday meal, shared with friends. And the center also sends meals out to elderly community members who cannot make the trek to the parish building. There are men who come to the center at times, but there is one who is a constant participant. His name is Rafa. He is physically disabled, has trouble with balance and with walking, and he makes the most marvelous pinatas, which are sold for celebrations in the community. Rafa comes early each day to help with setup and cleaning. His smile and loving ways are sunshine to everyone. A unique aspect of the center is that it regularly attracts several young people from difficult home situations. They probably come to sit at the tables during lunch time, to have what is their main meal of the day and to talk with their elders. Young and old share stories, perhaps wisdom, and enjoy one another’s friendship. A vibrant woman named Milagro (Miracle!) is head of the center. She is often known simply as the maestra, or the teacher. She is aided by a kind assistant named Maria Elena. Throughout December, the images of the wonderful people for whom the Center for the Elderly is a true lifeline will be with us in the narthex and in worship. The mission team asks that you prayerfully consider contributing to this life-giving ministry of kindness. Envelopes are in the pews.