This year even Santa Claus is being asked to scale back kids' holiday gift expectations. According to a New York Times story mall Santas across the nation are being asked to "not promise anything" this Christmas. With the econimic slump continuing and many parents struggling to get by this Christmas it could be said that this holiday holds less promise than years' past.
Despite the downturn LINC's mission ministries and partners went above and beyond this year to deliver Christmas wishes to kids across Houston and, more importantly, bring the Good News of Jesus' birth to families struggling to make ends meet.
This year, through LINC Houston's Toys for Joy Christmas program over 3,200 toys were distributed to families and children in need. For six years now the Toys for Joy program has brough Christmas joy to kids and families, helping to hand out over 10,000 toys since its inception. This is the program's biggest year yet, going above and beyond our goal of 1,500 toys, and LINC has many partners and mission outposts to thank for their efforts in making this Christmas bright.
Rev. David Kim, director of LINC's Missions Department, shared about several of the programs connected to Christmas and the Toys for Joy initiative that took place recently.
"Over the past two weeks LINC mission partners and churches have been busy" said Kim, "almost too many activities were going on to count!"
Following the wonderful success of LINC's partnership with the Deacons of Deadwood and the Houston Police Department through which 400 kids received toys and got a picture with a "Blue Santa" while enjoying food and fun in the carnival like atmosphere at LINC's Greenspoint Mission Center the weekend of December 17 was jam packed with LINC Christmas programs across Houston.
One such event was the Hamara Desi Christmas program put on December 17 for area Asian Indians to share and celebrate in the Good News, and the realized promise, of Jesus Christ's birth. In particular Indian flair the Christmas story was retold in song, dance and drama. Over 400 people were in attendance at the University of Houston this year and at the close of the program attendees not only enjoyed some tantalizing tandoori, but kids got a visit from Santa as Toys for Joy gifts were handed out.
"It's neat to see Christ shared in so many ways" said one of the event organizers, Johnson Petta, "from songs to fellowship to Christmas presents, I think these people know how much God loves them."
Partnering together the three ministries offered families toys, a meal, complimetary flu shots, Bibles, a nativity drama and a Christmas message. Over 330 plates of food were served, 390 toys passed out and 400 Spanish and English Bibles distributed. There were also craft activites for the kids and a children's choir performance led by Deaconess Noemi Guerra. Pastor Nelson Hernandez of Iglesia Cristiano Emanuel and Rev. Lincon Guerra of Centro Familiar Cristiano shared Christmas messages with the gathered group.
During one of the messages the crowd of hundreds shouted with joy, "Jesus is our Savior!"
"That was the highlight of the event" said Pastor Kim, "while the food and presents were important, the promise of Jesus Christ is of prime importance!"
Knowing the importance of sharing Jesus with the community another LINC mission church, Santaurio de Poder, pastored by Duglas Ayala and mission partner Epiphany Lutheran Church worked together to make kids' Christmas wishes come true. For 75 kids in northwest Houston Christmas was exactly what they hoped for. Instead of giving children gifts based on their age Santaurio de Poder took the next step and asked them what they really wanted. What came back were requests for bikes, iPods and games. Santaurio de Poder made the promise that these wishes would be granted and they were.
"Wow" said Pastor Kim, "while not every church can do this, it was such a special gift and it reflects the love and generosity of God."
While the Christmas season might be mired for many because of meager funds the missionaries and partners at LINC know that the holidays is about more than games and gifts, food and fun. Although this Christmas was special for us as we handed out presents, put on Christmas shows and partnered with the likes of the Deacons of Deadwood and the Houston Police Department's Blue Santa program the best part was sharing the promise of Christ and his birth throughout Houston.
Our hope and prayer is that you too would know the love of God, the wonderful gift that is Jesus, his Son and the promise that is met in his birth.