Giving the Gift of Giving
Mary was found begging on the streets of India 4-5 years ago after she’d lost both of her parents. This was the only life she knew until she was rescued and brought to Berachah Children’s Home, where she still lives today. The life of a child beggar is one filled with fear, loneliness, filth and often abandonment. Mary knew nothing other than begging, so when she was given the opportunity to visit the nearby slum and bring gifts to kids there, she was humbled and so very excited. Not only was she able to empathize with them in their struggle, but she is also of the same tribe as most of the kids in that slum. Her time with them reminded her that it hasn’t been that long since she was in their shoes, begging for her next meal.
This giving experience opened Mary’s eyes and heart to this way of life, the way of giving. Which is really the way of Jesus. Those in India are very aware of the fact that for most, receiving a proper education is the only means of elevating yourself out of poverty. Mary is now determined to do well in school so that she can pursue higher education, make a living and give back to those less fortunate in her community. She is already a very bright student, a natural leader and aspires to become a doctor!
“Gift of Giving was so emotional, powerful and meaningful,” said Pastor Kiran in India, “encouraging my kids for a promising future to help others in need. We have two more outreaches to do and I don’t know what miracles these will make.”
The Christmas Gift of Giving outreaches and exchanges in Romania, India, Uganda and Ukraine were so beautiful, yet so different in each country. It was amazing to see the ways that each ministry carried out this idea and sought to teach their kids about what it means to give.
Sophia in Ukraine is 9 years old and participated in Gift of Giving this year. The experience meant so much to her and she said, “It was easy for me and my sister to choose a gift for mom, since we love her very much and know what she likes. When we gave our mother a present, she really liked it, she hugged us all and even burst into tears.” This was such a special moment for this sweet family as Sophia’s mom has endured trauma, battled cancer and is raising three girls on her own. It’s such a blessing that her daughters were able to surprise her with a gift!
Most of the children involved in Future for Children come from broken homes where abuse, neglect and/or poor living conditions mark their daily lives. It was powerful for the kids in Ukraine to be able to give presents to their family – family who may continue to mistreat them or neglect them. We pray that this experience restores and strengthens bonds and is a memory that the families will carry with them forever.
Christmas in Uganda is celebrated by eating a very nice meal, so the kids from Mercy Childcare Ministry (MCCM) chose to package meals that they could bring to those in their community. They packaged together sugar, rice and bread and carried hens as they set out on their journeys. Unlike in the United States, chicken and bread are delicacies in Uganda, food that only the wealthy can afford (KFC is a fancy restaurant there!). In most poor families, they eat leftover food for breakfast or simply don’t eat breakfast. Pastor Wilfred, Director of MCCM, recalls when he was a child growing up in the slums. “I remember the few Christmases when we ate beans because my mother could not afford chicken and that as a child would crush you.”
What a blessing for the kids at Mercy Childcare to be able to show dignity and honor towards those in their community through the giving of a delicious Christmas meal. Before the kids set out, they gathered together with MCCM staff to talk about what they were about to do and why it was important and then spent some time in prayer over the people they were about to visit. The impact that this had on the children and their community will stay with them.
“It is extraordinary to be able to teach the kids to discover the joy of offering gifts, love and appreciation words to people around them,” said Bogdan Mehedintu, Director of CTL Romania. “It was also wonderful to see what emotions and eagerness they had to offer their gifts.”
CTL Romania engaged the kids in a gift exchange where they had the chance to shop for a friend and present them with the gift. The children were beaming with pride and joy as they gave their gifts and the love they have for one another was so evident!
Lucian and Robert are the best of friends and Lucian was so excited to be able to surprise his friend with a special gift. After the gift exchange, Robert called Lucian several days in a row to thank him for the surprise!
We never could have dreamed up the amazing ways that our partner ministries would carry out this initiative. The children were empowered to GIVE, some for the first time ever, and their smiles tell the story. In Acts, Paul tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but many are only accustomed to receiving and have never had the opportunity or means to give to another. Our mission was simple: raise funds for the kids to not only receive a present but to have the means to buy a present for someone else.
Over 200 children participated in these activities - children whose lives are forever changed. They gave out hundreds of gifts and meals. Many of these kids have shared how they now have a stronger drive to work hard and receive an education so that they're able to bless others in the future. Seeds of giving have been planted and we know this is just the beginning! We look forward to all that's ahead as the children continue to learn what it means to serve others, give to others and love others.
If you haven't had a chance to watch our Gift of Giving recap video, watch it now!