Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Great Toy Giveaway part 1

What did you do for Christmas? We had a great time, but probably one of the best the things that happened was the joy of giving. I have mentioned before the challenge of living among the truly poor, and how do you decide who and what to give to them. This was particularly pressing at Christmas, but our church answered the dilemna for us. Now, we go to a 'small' church if you use North American standards to judge it...there are only about 150 adults in attendance. However, this church has a great vision for helping the poor, and impacting the community for Christ. Therefore, we had a goal this year. We wanted to do something for Jesus, and for those who could not give back. Our goal...we wanted to purchase 2500 new toys and give them to the kids that live on the streets, in the orphanages, and/or in poor families. The idea was to give at least one toy to a child that probably would not receive any others. Can you imagine how that would feel as a parent? Having a child that, for Christmas, will get and give absolutely nothing? Wow.

Well...we did not meet our goal. Our church of 150 adults were only able to provide toys for about 2300 kids!!!! If you aim for the stars, you just may hit the moon!

The toy giveaway was more fun for us than the kids. We all met at the church at 9:00 in the morning to get ready. For those of you that know me, you know that this is not the way I usually do things...but, this is Bolivia and they get things done when they need to be done. So, we met and got the toys ready to giveaway at 10. This meant opening the boxes that had multiple action figures and putting one spiderman in a bag, and superman in another meant separating some toys, combining others, and then putting them in small bags with information about the church, and an invitation to come on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the truch that will be our stage is being set up outside the gate. Kids are already lining up at 9:15, while we are running sound cables, extension cords, microphones, and putting up speakers. The buses from the orphanages started coming, and the timing was getting tight. But we kept plugging away. Everytime one task was done, we would ask our pastor, who was coordinating things, ¿Como puedo ayundar? "How can I help?" and go do something else.

Then it was time. The pastor took the truck/stage, and gave the gospel to the over 2000 people standing in the street! Following the gospel, and an invitation to become part of our church (imagine just for a moment, inviting 2000 homeless people to join your church---a little bit different than we are used to isn't it?). We had two ladies that jumped up on the truck and started teaching the kids fun songs about Jesus complete with hand motions (Jesus is my super-hero, mejor que Spiderman, mejor que Batman, mejor que anyone....Life without Jesus is like living with a donut in your heart...and other songs). The kids loved thier enthusiasm and the hand motions.

We then prayed, and formed the mob/line at the gate. One by one the children walked into the West Gate, they were greeted by the Pastor and his wife, handed a toy, and then walked down the sidewalk out the East Gate, being told 'Que Dios te bendiga' (God bless you), and 'Feliz Navidad' by about 10 people as they left. Toys were grouped together and given to the leaders of orphanages, children were hugged and patted, and smiles were passed out to everyone.

After we had passed out toys to those that were there, we then cleaned up. I want to be honest with you. There was something holy about a 44 year old former pastor and his wife picking up the trash left on the street by homeless kids. It was just right, an act of service that to me looked more like Jesus than a lot of other 'spiritual' things that I have done. :) So, we cleaned up the neighborhood, and straightened up the church.

Then, another neat thing happened. I needed to purchase a Christmas present for Denise, so I drove downtown and parked. I took about 20-25 Bolivianos in my pocket, and as I walked down the street I gave money to the poor. We give money to beggars everyday, but today was different. Person after person had one of our toys! Here was a mom with three kids...and her kids were playing with our toys! Today was a special day, so with a smile on my face I walked up to one lady with three children and gave her 10 Bolivianos (this is about $1.40...the average gift to a beggar is 6 cents). I told her God loved her. I gave another lady a 20 B. Then, until I was out of money, I walked up to the poor on the street and before they could ask I told them 'Que Dios Le Bendiga' and gave them money.

It was one of the funnest things I have ever done for Christmas!

On the post below, I have photos of the toy giveaway.

It was a great CHRISTmas!



Carter Farley said...

God bless you Joe!
That is the best modern day Christmas story of the year.