Each year Good Shepherd Ministries endeavors to provide Christmas gifts for the 2,500 students they educate in their schools in Haiti. Special Gathering of Indian River is proud to be a part of their effort. When we decided to do the “Christmas Shoe Box” collections, we opted for a small ministry so that we would be able to have a more personal contact with the children. It’s exciting to get pictures of smiling boys and girls who have our toys and gifts in their eager hands.
For the past five or six years, we have started collecting gifts in September and continue through October. It has become a highlight of the church calendar for our members. Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our members are developmentally disabled. By and large, they exist because of the love and care of others. Our goal is to evangelize and disciple our members. This mission’s effort is a forward step in developing them as loving and giving disciples of Christ.
During the time we are collecting the Christmas gifts, our members bring toys, personal-care items, socks, underwear, towels, washcloths, candy, shampoo. Some people, like Floyd, get creative and bring handmade items such as jewelry. Others save their dollars for months and gleefully fill a whole shopping cart with items that the boys and girls will need. Then there are those members like Eric. He fills a shoe box each year with items for one child. Eric is careful to insure that one child has been blessed by his gift.
We emphasis the needs of the Haitian children each week and make a pretty big show of the items that are brought and the people who bring them. In this way, everyone is a part of the joyful atmosphere that fills our worship services. For the past four years, we have contributed toys and supplies for 45 children. This year we included two adult teachers and an additional child. That means that a total of 48 Haitians will be blessed by the members of Special Gathering. We are told year after year that our small ministry provides many more gifts packages than some much larger churches.
My contribution to this effort is to fill in the gaps, to sort and to pack the gift bags. This week I spent two days and most of two night sorting and packing the bags. Haiti has been hit by four hurricanes this season, leaving many parts of the country devastated. Food is scarce because they don’t have the fruit from the trees that they depend on to maintain their nutritional needs. With this year’s urgent deficient existing in the Haitian food supply , a pound each of rice and beans was added to the bags.
Because the packages we provide were already bulging, it was a five to ten minutes effort to get the commercial-grade, zip-lock bags closed. However, every minute was worthwhile.
One of our most important goals is to teach our members that others must sacrifice for us to able to have as much as we have. How can it be that giving makes us understand how much we have been given? Yet, that is one of the secrets to the Christian life. Are you experiencing a time of giving in your ministry? What are some of the fruits that you have seen grow as a result of teaching your members to give?