In 2016, we began the new tradition of giving an annual limited edition GAP Christmas ornament to each family who came to the Christmas Store. Each ornament was presented in a box with a story attached describing the true gift of Christmas. It was our hope that they would read the story to their entire family as they hung the ornament on their tree. It was exciting this year to hear the countless stories of how God used the ornament. Several families told us that before any presents were opened, they hung the ornament on the tree and read the Christmas Story aloud to their whole family Christmas morning. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever done that. Needless to say, our families were thrilled to receive this year’s ornament “Star of Wonder” (Matthew 2:2). This is yet another tool used to share the greatest gift given to all mankind – Jesus Christ!
GAP’s Christmas Stores are always such a blessing to many in our community and to all of us who have the privilege of serving in them. This year God blessed 749 children through the Christmas Store with $42,568.00 worth of presents! Each family also received a beautiful fleece blanket that a partnering church had made. It was amazing to see how each blanket pattern or character was perfectly suited to each child who would receive it. My heart rejoices to know that I serve an almighty God who knew how much a Paw Patrol blanket would mean to a child and how He guided someone in another part of the state to make it. New families and families who have been there before, were in awe of all that God had provided. One young couple was moved to tears as they heard for the first time that God provided these toys just for them and their family because He loves them. This past Tuesday, at distribution, one father even brought in pictures of his children opening the gifts they had received to show how thankful they were that God would do something like this for them. It is such an honor to share the hope of Jesus Christ during Christmas with the families here in the mountains of Appalachia.
On December 11th, we held our annual Parents’ Store ministering to 165 children, grades K through 5th, and their parents. This is an exciting night of ministry as children come with their parents to pick out Christmas gifts for two adults. During this ministry event, the family hears the Christmas Story and children are taught that Christmas is not just about receiving gifts but also about giving. God gave the greatest gift on Christmas morning so that we could have eternal life. It is such a blessing to help the children shop and to fellowship with parents as they wait.
I would also like to say a special “thank you,” to all the volunteers who served alongside us at the Christmas Store, Parents’ Store, and to those who provided food. We are also so grateful for the many sponsors who gave so generously and for those who partnered through prayer. I cannot express in words my gratitude for your faithfulness and your value in ministry. This ministry event is so much more than Christmas toys for kids. It gives families hope during a time of year when it is easy to be overwhelmed with all that one doesn’t have. Christmas Project reminds us all that Jesus Christ is our Hope! (Click here to view more images of this ministry event.)