By Michelle Bernard. Article originallly appeard in th Columbia Union Visitor, Dec. 2015Read our interview with Sylvia and see how you can help, too.

Visitor: What gave you the idea to start this project?

Sylvia: I normally love Christmas and, last year, Christmas was even more special to Fredy and I as we planned our pregnancy announcements to family and friends. After the miscarriage, Christmas was not that exciting anymore. I felt like we had lost what we really wanted. When I went out to the mall one evening and saw people bustling around getting presents, it all felt so empty to me. I remembered the conversations that [Fredy and I] had often had about how we wanted to make sure our child would be a giving child as they grew up, and that Christmas would not be about the gifts. We always planned on making sure they would give more than they’d receive, especially at Christmas.

And then I thought, what better way to honor the memory of this baby than by following the example we had wished to show him. I told Fredy not to buy me any gifts for Christmas.I would, instead, use that money to buy gifts for the homeless and we’d hand them out on Christmas morning. It was a way to honor the baby’s memory.

Visitor: How did giving the gifts last year help you heal?

Sylvia: There is just something so healing in blessing others when you’re going through something difficult. Just seeing how grateful and happy they are that someone cared enough to show up on Christmas morning to give them a gift was healing. I felt like the loss of the baby wasn’t in vain and that God was doing something great through the loss, and blessing others in exchange.

Visitor: Has this project and journey taught you anything about spiritual growth (or healing)?

Sylvia: Yes! In hindsight, I see God’s hand working in all of this. It helped me realize that God sees the whole picture and we only see one little piece of it. Sometimes things don’t go as we planned (or want), but they go as God knows is best for us. And He makes sure to guide us to the ways that we will be able to heal and use us for His glory. If we realize this in the midst of going through a trial, we will be able to heal and see how God uses our experience to bless others.

Visitor: How can others help?

Sylvia: We have set up a GoFundMe page where people can donate toward this project [JOY Homeless Christmas Project]. All the money will go toward buying the things we will add to each gift, such as toiletries, blankets, winter hats and gloves, etc.

We also take donations of new things that can be included in the gifts and an updated list of the needed items is on our Facebook page. We will then wrap the gifts and hand them out on Christmas morning to the homeless. Anyone is welcome to join us—and share this information with others!

Visitor: Any plans for next year yet?

This will definitely be a yearly thing! We hope it will grow and we will one day be able to have a gift for each of the almost 12,000 homeless in Washington, D.C.! We always say that we hope that when we have children, they will be able to participate in this and know that even a little baby that lived for 11 weeks and wasn’t even born yet, made this much of a difference. So they can make a huge difference in the lives of many.

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