A father came through the door. His son was on his weary shoulders. I am sure that his son was not the only burden he carried this overcast morning. The shirt on his back was so worn down in places that his sunburned brown skin showed through. His dark head bent down as he was walking past me.
“Feliz Navidad,” I said as I placed my hand on his shoulder. As he raised his head I made sure to make eye contact with him and his child. An identical broad smile broke out on the faces of both. The boy was clutching the present he had received.
This morning we woke to the rich sound of rain on the window panes. Though the rain lulled me and said I could say in bed a few more minutes the excitement pulsing through me prevailed. I whispered an honest yet slightly desperate prayer, “God, the rain is fine for now; but when we start let there be sun.” The cloud cover and drips gradually dissipated as we went about with the final preparations.
Volunteers began showing up asking how they could help. Some, deemed bus captains, climbed on empty busses and were scattered through the city to fill them. Others took posts in the main sanctuary wrapping up the toys. Others then separated them into huge piles; one for the girls one for the boys.
The neighborhood buzzed with anticipation as the street in front of our church building began to fill with children. They had come because of a flyer, a radio announcement or a personal invitation. The busses began to arrive from the orphanages, prisons and needy neighbor hoods brimming over with children of all ages.
And the sun came out! The program started with fun songs about Jesus. The animated voice of our church’s children leader pumped out over the speakers telling the children about Jesus. Another song was about to start so she invited a few children up on the make shift stage, the flat back of a large truck, to dance with her and do the simple motions.
Then came the thing everyone had been waiting for: the toy give-away. In all 2,207 toys were given to the children of Cochabamba, Bolivia today. Our church, Christ Nation Church, of about 200 members collected some 2,700 toys to give away. We have worked together for the last 7 weeks to be sure we had enough toys. And this was without corporate sponsors; just the members giving of themselves to bless this city. The left over toys will be used for other events and to stock our prize bin in children’s church.
Two years ago we launched this great annual event and gathered together 400 kids and gave them each a toy for Christmas. Last year we raised the bar and challenged the congregation to gather together 1,000. They did it! This year we told them that we were going to bless 2,500 kids with toys. The goal was met and exceeded.
We have coupled this toy give-away with a faith project for the church. These toys were sown as a seed towards having 300 people attending church on a weekly basis in 2008. (Personally, I think that we will exceed this goal too as we work together.) This number will put us in a strategic position for beginning the process of buying property and building. Pastor DaRonn, my husband, is so good about challenging us to grow and reach out to people with the love of Jesus. He says, “If the church is doing what it should be doing the world will take notice.” I wonder what he will tell us is our goal for toy collection in 2008. Whatever it is I know that with God we will reach it.
Here are some pictures from this morning: