We are assigned by our district a certain number of gifts to buy, based on the size of our church. We are told which church, and how many men, women, teens, toddlers, infants, etc. to buy for.
Every year, as chair of our mission program, I try to find a new way to advertise and raise interest. This was what I did this year:
Everyone who wanted to participate took one of the little gift boxes with a sticker telling them who to buy for. There was a list of gift ideas, but many buy something they would like to receive, with a limit of $10-$12. We had 35 to buy for this year.
As couple of weeks ago, after church on Sunday night, we had "Christmas in November." We brought Christmas goodies, I had decorated the gym, we had music and hot spiced cider, and brought our gifts. It gives everyone a head start on "getting into the mood" for Christmas, and we get our project completed before the Christmas shopping rush.
We also gather used clothing, and this year people really went all out cleaning out their closets and drawers. We also have a trucker in our church who was given hundreds of brand new, never worn men's sweaters. They were going to be thrown away, and he rescued them and gave them to the guys on the reservation. Thirteen Boxes!
The pastor's on sabbatical leave, so we took over his space for storage until the next step in the process:
We sorted them into piles, according to church, gender, and age:
We boxed up the gifts and the clothing, labeling them and getting them ready to go on the next lap of the journey. They'll be taken to a church about 50 miles south where all of the northern part of the state will gather their packages. The good soul in our church who offered to take them decided it would take his pick-up AND his trailer when he saw the bounty.
The next lap will take all of the northern gifts to the southern half of the state, where they'll be transported in this truck. The truck will be full to overflowing. The driver is a member of a church in the eastern part of the state, who considers this his ministry. He loves this project.
The teacher of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in our church (including my grandson) is taking them on this trip. They've been holding fund raisers and are getting very excited. They will be in on unloading and distributing the gifts, and will be involved with meeting the recipients. They will never be the same.
One year, while I was still on the district missions council, the folks down there wanted to show just a bit of their appreciation and love and sent back hand-made gifts for each of us on the council. That was such a blessing to us - a tangible show of reciprocation with what they could do. It isn't all one-sided!
I haven't had a chance to go on this trip yet, but I hope to before many more years!
I just read an e-mail, asking for help from World Vision for help feeding children in drought-ridden areas of Africa. I trust World Vision. We can feed 12 children for a gift of $25.00. You can do it on line with a credit card. And the bonus - you receive a Josh Groban Christmas album. It's a win/win situation all the way around. I apologize for the long link, but here it is: http://www.worldvision.org/worldvision/eappeal.nsf/egift_feedhungrychildren_noel?OpenForm&campaign=124608137&cmp=EMC-124608137&ppi=50410456.
(Thanks, Kristen, for my festive new look!)