In a recent poll people were asked what Christmas meant to them. Some answers were very cynical and negative, but most had a much more positive ring to them. Very few, however, mentioned Christ. Most people seemed to respond something like this: ‘I love Christmas…to me it means: family, food and fun – time with loved ones, great food and giving and getting gifts.’
We have had a very, very busy month or so celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas and continuing to help grow and nourish a community of maturing believers. But though our celebration has had a lot of family, food and fun – and even lots of presents – the focus and motive has been much more. We love Jesus. We worship Him. Our only motive and aim is to glorify Him and help as many people as possible know Him. Thank you for praying with us that Jesus might continue to break through the darkness and hurt that so many are carrying – especially in a time where this hurt, for some, seems even more magnified.
A few days later, our church Thanksgiving potluck was a powerful time of testimonies and giving God the glory for what He has done in our lives this year. We were all encouraged and built-up in our faith. This year has not been an easy one for many people in our church, but they recognize that Jesus is still the same and has given them strength and been close to them through these tough times.
Christmas Banquet & Toy Store
This year because of budget cuts in various ministries we were not able to do some of the fun and special Christmas traditions that we have done in the past years, but God provided something even better. With the help of a lot of generous toy donations and a team of volunteers we were able to put on an amazing Christmas Banquet with a Toy Store!
We had a scrumptious three course meal – special Christmas cookies – a photo booth and family pictures being taken – activities and worship for the children – a special Christmas message – a toy store and gift wrapping and such a festively decorated space. They were lavished with God's love.
Why the Toy Store? By offering deeply discounted toys (most were 75% off) parents are able choose and then buy something special for their children – rather than just have somebody hand them something to give to their kid. While we all like to receive gifts the toy store gave parents who would not be able to buy these gifts for their children an opportunity to ‘shop’ and pick out something special without breaking their bank account. Our goal is to empower the poor and not just give them handouts.
What about the money that was raised?
Part of the challenge of planting a church amongst the urban poor is the lack of funds because families are already struggling to pay rent and get food on their tables. In providing parents an opportunity to buy gifts we were able to raise some funds as well, which re-invested into the local church planting efforts is yet another gift allowing our church to be able to do more with its limited resources. So parents are not only being blessed, but get to be a blessing too. We are so appreciative for all the generous donations – there were some great toys at our store!
It is not too late, if you still want to give a special gift (financial or from the list below). We removed a couple items that we have already received. Thank you so much for your generosity!
· Christian children’s music (Spanish or Eng.)
· DVDs (appropriate for children or toddlers)
· Video games for XBOX 360 (Kinect ok)
· Video games for Wii
· Large pull down screen (for projector)
· Piano tuning
· Craft supplies for our children’s ministry
· Bass amplifier
· Books. In our intern program we have the leaders in training read lots of books. We would like to create a scholarship to help them purchase these books and a library with at least one copy of each book that could be checked out.
Family UpdateWe are grateful for all the prayers and those of you that checked in with us about our baby’s health. We have been to the doctor a lot because they are calling this pregnancy ‘high risk’ due to some screening tests they gave Fabiola. Fabiola is feeling better (most of the time) and as far as all the ultrasounds and other tests can tell nothing is wrong with the baby. We do ask for continued prayer for both baby and mommy’s health for the 3 months that remain.
ü Week of Seeking the Lord January 5-12Our church will be setting aside extra time to seek the Lord for guidance and practice pressing into His presence with greater prayer, fasting and personal study during the first week of 2014.
ü Youth Winter Retreat January 18-20
ü Marriage Conference
We had a really successful marriage conference in August and many people have asked that we bring it back so that they can invite friends, neighbors and relatives to be a part of it. This year we have invited several other nearby churches to be a part of this event so that we can bless their ministries as well. Pray for all the details to be worked out as we set the date for late January or early February and that many marriages will be saved and strengthened.
May you be filled with great food and have wonderful memorable fun with your family and loved ones this Christmas! But most importantly we desire that Christ be with you and overflow in you as you celebrate His birth and the life, hope and love we experience in Him.
Merry Christmas from all of us in Los Angeles!Chad, Fabiola, Rebecca, Justice and baby boy