Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 In Review {our family's year-end newsletter...}




We believe in Christmas... 

One merely has to scroll through social media or watch TV or glance at the headlines blaring from the newspaper stands to know that our world is becoming an increasingly dark place. Wars, natural disasters, political unrest, injustice, poverty, deep fissures in faith communities, racial tensions, gender-based violence... and the list goes on and on.

These were the realities of 2017.

As Christ-followers, more so than ever, we urgently need to be "a wick to light hope in the dark."
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. - Matthew 5:14-16, NLT.
As Ann Voskamp writes in The Greatest Gift, "When you are a wick to light hope in the dark, then you believe in Christmas. When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone."

In our own small way, our family desires to be this Jesus-light to our dark world. 


2017 highlights {the top 10, in no particular order}:

1. This year, we saw a couple of our Compassion kids leave the program because their parents are in better positions to support the families. As a result, we've welcomed two new kids to replace them: Taeng-Mo from Thailand and Justine from the Philippines (who is Alyssa's sponsor child). We've also added three children to our Compassion family: Hannah, Krevin and Jethro, who are all from the same Compassion implementing church partner located in my dad's hometown in the Philippines!

2. In the summer, Jon's speed-cubing "career" brought us all the way to London, England and Paris, France! What a treat! Our trip was well documented on Instagram under the hashtag #Esparaz2Europe!

3. Speaking of speed-cubing, Jon achieved two pretty amazing personal best solves this year: a 5.52-second solve of the 3x3 cube, which ranks him at 24th in the world and a 22.40-second solve of the 4x4 cube, which ranks 8th in the world!!!

4. Jon turned 17 this year... just where does the time go?!? He is currently buried deep in university and scholarship applications. He is hoping to go into either engineering or statistics.

5. During the latter half of the summer, we welcomed our church's 2nd Syrian newcomer family to Toronto! It has been such a gift to lead our church's refugee sponsorship committee and to walk alongside this precious family as they navigate the complexities of resettlement to a new country.

6. Alyssa is half-way through her 3rd year of International Development Studies at the University of Toronto. She is currently exploring placement opportunities as she will be embarking on an 8-12 month placement in a developing country next year.

7. In addition to being a full-time student, Alyssa manages to work part-time as Compassion Canada's Advocacy Associate. This year, she worked on the Eyes To See project which was released in September. She is also co-chair of the International Development Conference at her school. As if that's not already a full schedule, she also managed to do 25 speaking engagements over the course of this year!

8. Alyssa turns 21 in the New Year... just where does the time go?!? To celebrate this milestone birthday, she has set this audacious, bold and BIG goal—to see 21 Compassion children connected with sponsors! Family and friends, will you sponsor one of these children? Also, I'm going to be missing Alyssa's birthday this year—first time ever that I'll be missing her birthday—because I will be co-leading a Compassion Canada Pastors' Vision Trip to Nicaragua in February. So, if you choose a child from Nicaragua to sponsor, I'll be more than happy to bring them a gift from YOU! So... what are you waiting for? Click here now and help Alyssa meet her audacious, bold and BIG 21st birthday goal!!!

9. Speaking of Compassion, our family is celebrating 1150 Compassion children connected with loving sponsors here in the Greater Toronto Area in 2017 through various events and church services! We are deeply grateful for the dedicated and committed volunteers who so faithfully serve with us to grow Compassion's ministry here in the GTA. We are truly overwhelmed and incredibly humbled… we truly serve a good, good Father.

10. After more than a year of looking, researching and shopping, Floyd finally found the perfect one—a new-to-us Subaru Forester to replace our 14-year-old family van which gifted us with 307,000+ kilometres of memories starting from when Jon was only 3 years old!

As we look towards 2018, our family will seek to continue lighting this dark world and the unexpected places with a brave flame of joy; warming the cold, hopeless places with the daring joy that God is with us, God is for us, God is in us.  

Because we believe in Christmas.




From our family to yours... 
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

With much love + gratitude,
The Esparaz Family:
Floyd, Aimee, Alyssa and Jon