Heartwarming January Visit to ACH
4 cars loaded with donations and groceries as well as 21 people made the journey from FBC Alpine to
OJ. Petra had done her 6 week grocery trip while in the San Antonio area so she was almost totally
loaded with the groceries. We divvied up groceries, donations and people while at FBC to equalize the
customs allowance. Someone donated a Home Depot card which Petra was going to pass on to Silvia;
her son is now working in Odessa and the daughter in law will use the card for ACH when she and the
kids go to visit. Both children were born in the USA, and it is the goal of the son and d-i-l to eventually
move to the US permanently.
Petra went to the “declare” line loaded with receipts and letter from Silvia only to find that the Mexican
government had added still one more rule: she needed a letter from the consulate in Mexico to be able
to cross. But she got the green light when she pressed the declare button, so no inspection was required.
If the button had been red, then they would have to unload the truck for customs to inspect all the contents. Fortunately, it was green so on they came. The rest of us went through the “do not declare line” with the prayer for the green light on our lips.
Once there, we found that neither light was working, and we were waved through with no problems.
Noehmi and her son met us at ACH and help unload Petra and our vehicle. Chris and Nina were parked
on the other side of the building and unloaded there. The groceries were stored directly into the new
storeroom and the gifts were taken into the dining area where the Christmas tree was set up in the
corner. The tree had many new unfamiliar decorations and was quite pretty: a far cry from the first
Christmas down there when they had a spray painted tree made of tumble weeds and a few
decorations. They also had a new nativity scene set up by the Christmas tree.
Silvia and Noehmi were happy to see the big boxes of shoes, sox, underwear and other bags of useful
items. The little ones were all in the dorms being dressed for the pastorale so there was no peeking and
oohing and aahing from them.
We did a tour of the dorm and tv area. It was clean and smelled okay; some clothing waslaying about
from the preparations for the pastorale. Clothes were drying on the line and the bathroom areas were
picked up. I would add that no heaters were in operation anywhere, and everyone was dressed in
sweaters and coats for the day; the temps were in the lower 50’s. We went into the old storeroom
which was pretty much empty. Silvia said that J&J was to start next week the remodel of that area to
make an outdoor play area where the children could have shade in the summer when the temperature
is 115+. We also went through the education building which had been modified once again since last
year, taking out some of the partitions, moving the library to the old classroom, and making the new
classroom area much larger. The kitchen area has been totally walled off and is now being used as a
storeroom for school supplies and the treats that are collected for rewards and birthdays. Moving the
stuff there opened up the office in the dorm building for use by the psychologist.
After the tour we went back to the meeting area to await the pastorale. Most of the children are under
the age of 10; so we had many little shepherds and 3 little boy devils this year. It lacked the complexity
of previous years, but both audience and performers enjoyed it. Noehmi’s husband was there with his
keyboard and sound system and played music for the pageant as well as for the songs that the children
Rocio who is now 19 and has been at ACH since she was 3 or 4 had assumed responsibility for a chunky
little girl about 10 or 11 years old. Petra said that the new girl arrived last summer, is autistic, and Rocio
took her under her wing. Rocio clearly had spent a lot of time on her hair and makeup and now looks
more like a young woman than a young girl trying to be a young woman. My heart goes out to her
because she is pretty and so vulnerable.
The children sang a song about a frog which had a lot of movement in it and the speed of the song and
movements escalated with each iteration. Both American and Mexican kids enjoyed it immensely and
Nina suggested that the OJ kids teach the FBC kids the words and movements. That was enjoyed by all.
After the music and performance, the children trooped out and the smells of tamales wafted through
the dining room. We had posole served with the fresh shredded cabbage, limes, cilantro and cut up
chunks of the wonderful Mexican bread that tastes so much like European bread. After that we lined up
for 3 kinds of tamales, refried beans, more shredded cabbage, rice with grains of corn and mashed
Cynta came with a couple of friends from Terlingua. One was a tall lanky excop who clearly liked little
kids. While the kids were at their respective tables, he went over to the little kid table, sat down in one
of the little chairs and said “Hola” to the little 3 year old boy sitting next to him. The boy grinned and
they struck up a friendship; later they and another little boy were out dancing to the music. The little
boys were so happy; probably not often an adult man gives them any time.
Every year I am amazed that the children are not poking and prying into the packages which were clearly
labeled with their names and pictures so even the small ones could see that there was a bag for them.
Chris and Jackson and Hermilla began calling out names and children fetched their bag and began to dig
in. Rocio or one of the other permanent children got a pair of boots that I saw all the other little girls
examining with envy. The children were happy and later I saw some of the little girls coloring with
After a short time period of gift joy, one of the workers had the children clear the stage again and they
all lined up and sang a couple more songs. ACH has a new worker with a good voice and good skills in
handling the children; she was both working in the kitchen as well as leading the songs and moving the
kids about as needed. Looked to be very competent and like the kids and she enjoyed each other. The
FBC kids sang a movement song “Father Abraham” and both groups joined in. Someone said that it was
also a common children’s song in Spanish and that the kids were familiar with it.
Chris Powell then handed out various balls and play toys and all kids trooped out to play outside for
awhile. While they were outside, Cynta and Rocio danced a few minutes. Rocio soaks up the attention
and clearly was happy to receive it.
Then it was time for Kings Cake. Silvia had 3 or 4 large kings cakes which were sliced and handed
around. Petra, Hermilla and I all 3 had the baby in our slices which means that we are supposed to
provide tamales in early February.
For me one of the pleasures was to see old friends. Cony and Yoli both were there and seemed in good
health. Both have gone through brain surgery in the past couple of years. Yoli had her eldest
granddaughter there. Also, Ninfa who was one of the caregivers there in the early days came; she left
ACH to work for the government at one of the special ed schools but will be retiring in May and both she
and Florentino are talking about coming to help part time after retirement.
I don’t know how Silvia and Noehmi could operate the place without the help of their families. Both
spouses were there as well as sons and all were helping as needed.
Silvia and Noehmi both asked that we all pass on their heartfelt thanks to all the many people from
churches and individuals who provided the gifts and clothing and things for the children. Many of the
children would have had essentially nothing if it were not for these donations. Currently, the Mexican
government both local and state is providing almost nothing in support of these children. ACH picks up
some boxes of commodities every 2 months but even that is not enough to feed the children for a week
or keep them clean or clothed. The mayor has not replaced “the man”; for years the mayor has paid for
a city worker who served as maintenance man and chauffeur for the facility. The current regime has
chosen not to honor that long term commitment so Silvia, Noehmi, et al are stepping into the breech.
A good time was had by all. We left about 2:30 and had no problems at the US border which was a
relief. The young ICE man questioned us if we knew who the 3 kings were and after we could name
them, he was amazed and let us through with no questions.
Silvia and Noehmi were so grateful to all of the people from the churches and elsewhere who helped to make Kings Day wonderful for the children. Many of these children would have had no Christmas gifts at all if it were not for the generosity of all of you and your fellow members.