The Delgado Family consisted of a 60-year-old, arthritic, woman named Perfecta, and her two granddaughters, Lydia and Jenny. Together, they owned less than would fit into one suitcase and lived in a two-room rundown apartment on Chicago’s West Side that was more akin to a refugee camp than a home.
But their poverty would shed light on a young journalist’s materialism and change his eternity forever.
When their “roach-infested” apartment burned down earlier that winter, Perfecta and her young girls were forced to move to an even more dreadful and cramped existence in the two-room dwelling. It was there that a young journalist from The Chicago Tribune named Lee found them and did a story on them.
One month later, Lee found himself at his desk on Christmas Eve, twiddling his thumbs across a strangely slow news day. His mind drifted back to the Delgado Family and the condition in which he’d found them. They were almost completely devoid of personal possessions. Their “apartment” was stark in its emptiness; no furniture, no rugs, and nothing hanging on the walls. There was one small table in the kitchen, and on it, a tiny handful of rice. The two young girls walked a half-mile to school in the blistering cold. On the first part of the walk, Lydia would wear the only sweater the family owned, an old gray pullover, and at the halfway mark, take it off and give it to her shivering sister to wear the remainder of the way.
In spite of their crushing poverty, the family had told Lee about their unflinching faith in God and the hope they had in Him. Their faith, especially in light of their circumstances, struck the young journalist, a confessed atheist, as ironic.
Since nothing seemed to be happening in the world that day, Lee decided to sign out a company car, drive over to West Homer Street, and visit the Delgado Family to see how they’d been doing since his article ran in the paper a few weeks earlier.
As Jenny opened the door in excitement, the journalist’s mouth fell open in disbelief. Tribune readers had responded to his article by showering the Delgados with a load of gifts: furniture, appliances, decorations, box after box of food, warm clothes, thousands of dollars in cash, and even a Christmas tree with wrapped gifts underneath.
As shocked as he was to see the evidence of his readers’ generosity and compassion, he was just as surprised to learn what Perfecta, Lydia, and Jenny were doing with the loot. In broken English, Perfecta explained that they were dividing up the gifts to share with others. “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.”
Knowing how he would have hoarded the treasure to himself in such a perilous situation, Lee was amazed at the willingness of the Delgados to share with others. Always a man with a question on his mind, Lee asked the elderly and crippled grandmother what she thought about the people who generously gave so many gifts.
“This is wonderful; this is very good,” she said, gesturing toward the blessings scattered around the two-room apartment. “We did nothing to deserve this – it’s a gift from God. But it is not His greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.”
To that family, the Baby in the manger was the most undeserved Gift of them all. To them, He was more than material possessions, more than comfort, and more than security.
At that moment, something deep inside of Lee desperately wanted to know Jesus in the same way. Much time would pass, but that young, atheistic journalist would eventually find faith in Jesus after an in-depth investigation of the claims of Christianity. Lee Strobel would then write several books about Jesus, helping thousands and thousands of others find the same hope in Jesus he’d witnessed in a two-room shack on the wrong side of the tracks in Chicago.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)