By Ronda Ooms
17 years ago ECC, committed to partnering with other area churches to help families in need during the Christmas season through an outreach called Christmas For Everyone. For 15 years we helped provide gifts for thousands of children. It was a very good thing that we did. A few years ago we sensed that God was leading us in a different direction. We realized that even though we were doing a good thing, we weren't making a lasting difference in anyone's life. Many families would come back year after year. Their circumstances hadn't changed. We saw them once a year and had no other interaction with them. We realized that without a relationship we weren't really able to make a lasting difference in anyone's life. In 2017, after much prayer and discussion, we began a new Christmas Outreach, one that would allow us to deepen relationships and allow us to work with families all throughout the year.
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Luke 10:27
This decision has shaped the way that we do a lot of our outreach efforts. We focus on families in the Miller/Bauer neighborhoods. In particular we work with families whose children are involved with Afterschool JAM, our weekly Afterschool ministry that takes place on Thursdays. 24 children from 11 different families make up our group. We will be hosting a Christmas event for these children and their families on Saturday, December 7.
This party will include lunch, fun activities, family pictures, a time for parents to shop for gifts for their children and gift cards for gas or a bus pass, food, clothing and a special gift card to allow families to experience a fun family outing. This will be our 3rd year of this type of Christmas outreach. We have contact with these families throughout the school year and even through the summer. We are able to have more input into their lives and show them God’s love through walking alongside them as they work to raise their children and make ends meet.
I can tell you that each family has/is experiencing great difficulties. Most are single moms trying to make ends meet. Several have experienced homelessness. They are so blessed by ECC's involvement in their life. Mary, one of “our” moms, said to me recently, “ECC has helped my family so much. We are blessed to be involved with such great people.” She feels like we are family, that we will pray for her, love her children and be an encouragement to her. We desire for each of the families we are blessed to interact with to feel that support and care.
Each year at this time we raise funds to help with our outreach efforts. This year our goal is to raise $12,000 to use throughout the entire year to bless families in need. Some of the money will be used in December for Christmas but a majority of the money will be used to help families throughout the year. We ask that you pray about what God may desire for you to give. Please make this gift above your regular giving. All monetary donations are recorded as part of your giving, just make a check out to ECC with Christmas Outreach in the memo portion.
You also have the opportunity to be involved at the Christmas party on December 7. We need several people to give rides to families without transportation, people to help with food prep, serving, clean up and with crafts and other activities. We also need people that are willing to be a host to a family the day of the party, which means you will eat lunch with the family, do gift shopping with the parents, and do what you can to make the family feel welcome here. We will also be doing an outreach activity where families put together blessing bags for the homeless shelter. There are also several opportunities to help prior to the party by purchasing items and baking cookies we purchase for the families to decorate. You can sign up here. You may also want to visit the East counter to choose an ornament with items you can purchase to help us at the December 7 Christmas party.
I would be happy to talk with anyone that has questions about our outreach ministry and the thought process behind why we do what we do. Feel free to contact me at 474-4842 or firstname.lastname@example.org