Recording artists Jessa and Jordan Anderson have made six trips to Quito to work at ER Christmas celebrations. What inspires them to return every year, while juggling two kids and a hectic touring schedule?
This year my husband Jordan and I took our sixth trip to Quito, Ecuador, for the annual Extreme Response Christmas celebrations. You’d think that after so much exposure to extreme poverty we would feel emotionally prepared to witness it again. Yet each trip brings fresh and unique emotions. It never fails to pierce my heart when I see the contrast between the plenty I live with every day, and the lack of even basic necessities that those we serve during the course of the week live with.
While I always enjoy the celebrations themselves, my favorite time is usually when the party is ending and the guests are leaving. Language is no longer a barrier as we have the opportunity to distribute gifts and food, and to hug, high-five, and fist-bump as we all wish one another a Merry Christmas.
Time after time, I’ve witnessed children joyfully clinging to a stuffed toy, proudly displaying a new comb, or contentedly sitting down just outside the exit to eat a piece of fruit they have received. I see mothers with tiny babies strapped to their backs rearranging their belongings to allow them to carry a bag heavy with pantry staples that will provide meals for weeks and months to come. Some people shyly accept their gifts, while others exuberantly pull you in for a kiss on the cheek, but each of them has had the opportunity to have fun, to play games, to relax, and to set aside their struggles, if only for a few hours.
More than the personal blessing of knowing we were able to provide a few hours of fun, there is the knowledge that we were able to play a small part in providing each person with true and lasting hope. All year, staff and local partners are working with these same people to change their situations, and ultimately, change their lives. We may only see them once a year, but we can leave knowing there are people caring for their needs on a regular basis. I have heard story after story of lives forever changed by the work Extreme Response does. Having the opportunity to be part of that has been instrumental is shifting my life perspective.
Each trip reminds me that there are many people living in extreme situations, not just across the world, but in my own city. I find I am renewed in my passion for serving those in need with the resources I have. I have been encouraged and challenged by the work Extreme Response is doing to change lives, and privileged to play a small part through the Christmas celebrations.
The Andersons live in Nashville, TN, with their two small children. Learn more about their music – including Whole – Jessa’s latest CD, their touring schedule, blogs, volunteer work, and more at www.jessaanderson.com.