December 19, 2012
American children in need face a Christmas without presents
Right here in the United States, families living in poverty simply can’t afford to buy Christmas gifts for their children. World Vision seeks to bring added joy to these struggling Americans during the holiday season — and year-round.
The front room of the Fenstermacher trailer in West Virginia looks festive during the Christmas season — but things aren’t always as they appear.
Underneath the tree, there’s not a single present, even though three children live in the house.
Nearly three years ago, Amanda Fenstermacher, 34, went into the hospital for a simple hernia repair operation. She came out with a life-threatening infection.
“One simple surgery turned into a heaping mess,” says Amanda.
An awful year
Since January 2010, she’s had to go to the hospital every month. The longest period of time she’s been home has been a three-week stretch. Her most recent stay was 19 days in the hospital.
“I’ve missed out on so much,” she says, looking at her three children — twins R.J. and Keana, 11, and her youngest child, Kayley, 8.
The year 2010 was terrible for the family. In February of that year, a fire devastated their home. A World Vision mission team came that summer to help repair the damage.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Amanda’s husband, Kenny, began to have epileptic seizures — so bad that he can no longer work. He’s not even supposed to drive, but he still does in order to take Amanda to the hospital.
Amanda is now resistant to one of the medications she’s been treated with two years. Unfortunately, she’s allergic to the medication doctors want to use.
“They have to desensitize me, so I have to stay in for the full treatment. I can’t come home on it,” she explains.
A pattern of desperate need
This medical torture is now Amanda’s life. She still faces at least two more surgeries. That means more time away from her children.
Amanda’s health isn’t the family’s only problem. Christmas is just around the corner — and there’s no money for things like Christmas presents for the kids.
“Not everybody is fortunate [enough] to get something for Christmas, so our plan is to do what we can do and teach them what the true meaning is — and it’s not all about presents,” says Amanda.
“It’s all about Christ. And it’s okay if sometimes Mommy and Daddy can’t buy them anything,” she adds.
But she begins to cry as she thinks about not having Christmas presents for her children.
“It’s hard on us,” she says. “It’ll be hard on them, but when you can’t do it, you can’t do it.”
The mother of three draws a harsh conclusion. “The main thing we’re focusing on and praying on now is that at least the kids will get something for Christmas. Because we just don’t have the funds for anything,” says Amanda.
A heartbreaking question and answer
While she is talking, her oldest daughter, Keana, 11, comes home from school and asks for money for a yearbook. The cost is $30, but it might as well be $1,000. It’s just as out of reach for Amanda.
She asks when the money is due, hoping that she’ll somehow be able to come up with it. Keana tells her the next day.
“There’s no way Mommy can do it.”
“Please!” begs Keana.
“It breaks my heart,” says Amanda through more tears.
Hope for the Christmas season
Like many parents who struggle with poverty right here in the United States, Amanda and Kenny need to hear words of encouragement. And they need practical assistance.
One of the families that worked on their home as part of the World Vision mission team sent Amanda and Kenny a $50 gift card. Another sent a $25 card that Kenny used to pay for gas when he visited Amanda in the hospital — over an hour drive away from their home.
Yet another family sent a stuffed animal for the youngest daughter, Kayley, who promptly named it Rosie.
Amanda isn’t sure what the future holds for her children. But her faith helps her face each day. She knows that her children are in God’s hands.
“They’re Christian children. They’re God’s kids,” she says. “They know right from wrong and they know that Jesus is in their heart.”
For a mother facing a life-threatening illness and poverty, knowing that there are others who care about the welfare of her children can offer a little peace of mind during the Christmas season.
Read more about World Vision’s mission team opportunities right here in the United States.
Three ways you can help
Please pray for American families who spend the Christmas season burdened with worries about unemployment, disaster, financial insecurity, and homelessness.
Make a one-time donation to help provide Christmas gifts to U.S. children in need. Your contribution will help World Vision ship and deliver gifts from our corporate donors — such as warm clothes, books, toys, and school supplies — to children in greatest need right here in the United States.
Give monthly to support World Vision’s U.S. programs. Your monthly donation will help fund our work with children, families, and communities in need across the United States.