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Hope Church Christmas Party 2013

Merry Christmas from Engage Africa and Hope Church in Freedom Park!

This year, our Hope Church Christmas party took place on Sunday, December 8.  We have come to LOVE the HC Christmas party, and many of our family, friends, and ministry partners look forward to hearing about it each year as well.  The Christmas party affords us (Engage Africa, the HC Ministry Team, and us personally) the opportunity to breathe life and blessing into a dismal community in a very tangible way.  Because it is known that we give good gifts, people from the community, who do not regularly attend, come to check out what's happening when they see us arrive with the big trailer.  To be completely honest, that always makes us just a little nervous as we wonder if we will have enough food and gifts for everyone.  However, on the other hand, it also excites us because we know that all those who come for the gifts will also be offered the biggest, most important gift: salvation and the hope that comes from the "life to the full" that Jesus offers.  Everyone who attends Hope Church, regardless of their motivation for attending, hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is offered an opportunity to know Him.  This is the most precious Christmas (or anytime) gift that we can offer!

We want to THANK all of you who pitched in to bring the party together and help us offer this opportunity to our Freedom Park community.  Our friends and church family in Freedom Park are so grateful!  They appreciate knowing that they can invite an unsaved neighbor to church and know that they will be welcomed and cared for.  You all are such a blessing to us and to so many of our South African friends here.  THANK YOU.  Those are such simple words, but I hope that you can read our hearts as you read the words and know that we appreciate you.  Thank you for making Freedom Park a part of your answer to Jesus' call to "go into all the world and make disciples."

For those of you who like details, keep reading.  Here is a little more about our party day!  For those of you who like the bottom line, let me sum it up by saying 235 kids and 39 adults had an awesome Christmas this year!!

As we were planning the party this year, we considered the number of people who attended in 2011 and the number who attended last year in 2012.  We considered that increase and assumed that we would see a slightly greater increase in numbers this year.  So, our plan was for children to receive stockings, adults to receive food parcels, and everyone to receive lunch.  Our team assembled earlier in the week and packed 185 stockings and 15 bags of candy (in case we had extra kids -the babies and toddlers would receive candy rather than stockings).  Jeff and Justice (our preacher for the adults) purchased 40 food parcels and arranged for McDonalds to prepare 225 Happy Meals.  We were ready!

Of course, things always change just a little when we actually arrive!  We arrived to find 200 kids already singing songs and waiting for us.  The shipping container where the adults meet already contained more people that we are used to seeing as we pull up.  We got a little nervous, but refused to allow ourselves to worry.  We would just change the plan a little to accommodate these numbers.  By the time we were ready to serve the children, we made the quick decision that we would not be able to offer the adults Happy Meals!  We had just enough food for the children -McDonalds had given us a couple of extra meals, and a couple of the babies that would not eat a full meal had to share, but every child was fed!  Whew!!  After the service, when it was time for gifts, we started with the oldest kids.  The oldest 185 kids got stockings, the preschoolers got bags of candy, and the toddlers received the Happy Meal toys!  Although the adults didn't get McDonalds, they were very grateful for their food parcels. They each received a bucket of non-perishable food, some practical and some just for fun, and a bag of cornmeal (the staple food in most homes). What a blessing to each of their families!

It wasn't the way we initially pictured things happening, but everyone received something from Hope Church; everyone left feeling "merry" and cared for; and, most importantly, everyone left knowing the real reason for the Christmas season!

Thanks, again, to all of you who helped to bring this party about!