On December 15th, 50 volunteers from Harvest joined together to serve our community by giving away toys, Christmas dinners, and clothes to approximately 25 families at our annual Christmas Mart. And this weekend, at our Rio Rancho campus, we will be serving families in their community with Christmas meals as well. Not to mention, Harvest also partnered with Marie Hughes Elementary School to give away clothing donations. Through this effort, boxes of clothing were given away to 20 families in need at Marie Hughes, which included brand-new clothes for each child in the household.
To get the process started, the counselor at Marie Hughes gave an application to specific families who are struggling financially, and this form asks for specific clothing sizes of all the household children in order to give every child in the home a new shirt, a pair of pants and a pair of shoes. Originally, there were 30 families in need of clothing boxes, but a nearby Catholic church asked to help by taking over 10 of the boxes. Since then, other churches have contacted Marie Hughes Elementary School to help provide for students in need as well.
As for Christmas Mart, the day began with family photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. After family pictures, the children went into the sanctuary to make crafts and play games, while parents walked with our volunteers to collect food for a Christmas meal, clothes for their children, and toys for Christmas morning. As toys were collected, our gift-wrapping team wrapped the gifts before other volunteers helped families load up their cars.
One thing I love about Harvest is that we don’t wait until Sunday morning to show Jesus to others. One lady expressed that she was not a member of the church, but she knew us from our outreach events, like Trunk-or-Treat. People know that Harvest is a place where they can come and be helped, welcomed and loved. See, we’re not always going to get the opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus on Sunday. Sometimes all we have is now, and the people of Harvest take every opportunity to share the love of Jesus every chance they get.
One of my favorite stories of the day happened on accident. Justin and Nannette, ministry leaders at Harvest, arranged to sell a bike to a family and the exchange was supposed to happen during Christmas Mart in the Harvest parking lot. The family they were meeting just bought a bike for their daughter, but it turned out to be too small. Upon arriving at Harvest, the family asked what was going on. After explaining what Christmas Mart was, the family went back to their car and donated the bike that was too small for their daughter, to be given away at Christmas Mart. The children who received the free bike said that all they wanted was for their parents to be together for Christmas, and (praise report) we’ve been told, they will be!
Honestly, the kids weighed on my heart the most. As parents and grandparents shopped around with our volunteers, often they’re asked what their children or grandchildren want for Christmas. One family responded, “Our kids said they would be happy with anything.” Today, kids write letters to Santa giving a long list of gifts they wish to receive for Christmas. So when kids say they would be happy with anything, they don’t say that because they don’t have something in mind, they say that because they know receiving a gift is a huge weight for their guardian to take on. And when I heard that, my heart broke.
There are people in this world who complain that they couldn’t find that shirt in the right shade, or the newest version of that game sold out, and then there are kids who say that they would be happy with anything. Those kids know if they get anything, it is a huge deal, because they’re expecting nothing. I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum, but I must say how humbling it is to hear that coming from a child.
Why are we so picky when there are children who would be happy with literally anything? You have a phone, computer, or tablet to read this post on, and yet you complain when you are gifted something in the wrong color, when there are kids who would be happy receiving something as simple as a chapter book. Sometimes we forget just how blessed we are. I challenge you and your family to be extra grateful this holiday season.
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One of the best moments of the day is seeing families get to pick out the exact toys their kids wanted. Isn’t it amazing how God led people to buy specific toys for kids who wanted that exact toy for Christmas? It is just amazing how God works like that. Working at Christmas Mart, however, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the heaviness of the situations that walk through the door. Even though it can be easy to focus on the heartache you receive from hearing these stories, God is a God of restoration.
Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. —Acts 3:21
Many of these families, especially the single guardians, just needed to talk to other adults who cared about what was going on in their lives and our amazing volunteers were happy to lend a listening ear. Simply pushing a cart and walking people out to their cars provided a safe space for these families to talk about their struggles. Many of these guardians do not have other adults they can talk to, so having volunteers to listen was a blessing in itself. This provided not only a free moment to talk without kids around, but emotional support as well.
This one theme was clear during Christmas Mart: Thankfulness. Many volunteers shared about how grateful each family was. Throughout the day, we were constantly reminded of how much this event meant to them. So many families were so overwhelmed that a church would do something like this for them. Every family we encountered was filled with joy and gratefulness. Even though these deserving families were on the receiving end that day, I truly feel like they gave us so much more than we gave them.
When you volunteer you know you are going to get back, but I didn’t know I was going to get back this much. Of all my volunteer experiences, this has probably been the most emotional one, but it’s been beautiful. —Angela Najar
Love Jesus. Love each other. Love your city.
Harvest, Go be the Church!
If you have any ideas for a good blog post consisting of stories within our church family, we would love to hear from you. Send your idea, along with your contact info to: [email protected]