The entire month of December seemed to fly by. God provided numerous opportunities to share the Gospel this past Christmas Season. I want to begin by saying thank you to all the generous donors and partners who made Christmas Project 2014 a great ministry event. Thank you to the many, many sponsors and for all who volunteered as personal shoppers and ministered alongside of us.
The Stephenson’s Christmas Store was open for five days this year. Most of the volunteers who worked this store came from different parts of our state and from different cultures than our clients. However, as the 415 client families came into the store this year to shop the walls of difference came down and relationships were built. As parents, we all want to pick a special gift for each of our children to open on Christmas morning. With that goal in mind, volunteers served as personal shoppers for each of our client families.
As soon as parents arrived at the Christmas Store they signed in and then they were greeted with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and homemade cookies. As they waited for their appointment, clients enjoyed these refreshments and were engaged into conversation. Each family had a personal shopper that helped them find just the perfect gift for each child in their family and carried all their gifts out to their vehicle. Some families only had one child but others had as many as 10 children! The time spent with the clients at their vehicles was some of the most meaningful.
It was wonderful to see some of the expressions of excitement on our clients when they came into the Christmas Store. Many clients shared their deepest gratitude for this ministry event. It was an honor to let them know that it was God who provided all these toys for them to choose from because He loves them and cares for their family. We went on to share about the greatest Christmas gift of all – Jesus Christ and the gift of eternal life! When a client named Evelyn was leaving the store, she said through teary eyes, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! All my son wanted for Christmas this year was a bicycle and I had no idea where I was going to get one. Praise God!”
Sometimes we shed tears of joy and at other times it was tears of sorrow. Parents shared prayer request after prayer request and most of the time we felt ill-equipped to deal with all the pain and sorrow that our clients shared. However, we did the one thing we could and we took their request before our Heavenly Father. There were so many parents raising their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren. One client had come to the Christmas Store the very first day it was opened and shopped for her 3 children. The very next day she lost all her material possessions when her trailer caught on fire. Another client had just lost her mother-in-law four days earlier. She needed someone to listen and pray with. This particular lady had already come for her scheduled appointment the week before but she stopped by to let us know about the death of her family member. It was at that moment of trying to minster to this lady that I realized GAP is much more than just a place to get things. GAP had become family to some of the clients. We had become their church family.
On December 18th we had our annual Parent’s Store. This ministry event allows children to choose Christmas gifts for two parents. This year the children were so excited to see some new faces. We added several special Christmas costumes to this ministry event that our volunteers wore. The excitement on their faces when they met back with their parents with two wrapped gifts was priceless! Once again this event focused on the real gift of Christmas. Parents and children watched a drama that informed us all about the true purpose of Christmas.
We added a new event to Christmas Project 2014! In years past, GAP has always delivered toys to parents in several low-income housing apartment complexes in Floyd County. However, this year we took the Christmas Store and Parent’s Store to one of these complexes. In partnership with a mission team from SC, we contacted a one day ministry event at Warco Apartments. In the afternoon, we had scheduled appointments for parents to shop for their children. Later on we set up a Parent’s Store and allowed the children to shop for their parents. In the evening we held a community Christmas party which included games, music, puppets, devotional, and ended with a birthday cake for Jesus!
The purpose of all these events was to share the Gospel message. I would like to ask you to continue praying for all 415 families and 1,117 children touched by Christmas Project 2014. Pray that each time the parents see their children play with these toys and when the parents see the gifts their children gave them that they will be reminded of God’s love and salvation He offers them. Pray that He will use these gifts for His glory and purposes! Once again, many thanks to generous donors and dedicated volunteers who made Christmas Project 2014 such a great success! Thank you for giving a simple gift that could have an eternal value!