This time of year is filled with outreaches and opportunities to give back to the community. From food and toy drives to meals and surprising families with gifts, there are so many ways for people to demonstrate the love of Christ to others around them. Often the events come and go and we don’t get to celebrate all of the amazing things God did. Earlier this month, we shared with you about Toys for Joy, a Christmas outreach event. Below, are some of the highlights from the one-day outreach event.
At dawn on Saturday morning, long lines of families could already be seen coiling in lines in multiple directions. The very first family in line at the Lincoln High School location had staked their ground at 7AM the day before. Having waited all day and all night, they were still smiling as they anticipated making their way to the toy room. “I’m just glad we are first in line!” Aileen, one of the daughters, said. She and her sister were hoping to win bicycles.
The 22nd Annual Toys for Joy, hosted by Rock Church, was simply incredible! The total amount of guests served this year was nearly 15,000 people across the three locations. Over 17,000 toys were given away, 191,200 articles of clothing were donated and distributed, and 7,000bags of groceries were provided to families in need. There were over 3,000 volunteers at three Toys for Joy locations. One of the most amazing aspects was that 1,875 responded to the Gospel message.
Two moms attended the event at Lincoln High School with their children. One mom who has been attending for three yearssaid, “I am just so grateful that you guys do this and are just so generous!” The other mom, who was attending for the first time, also expressed her gratitude because she has two kids at home and no job at the moment. But she was so thankful to “get back into being a mom.” She is now a year sober and no longer homeless. Her favorite part about Toys for Joy was getting to spend the entire day with her children and friends and witness them with pure joy on their faces.
Then came the most anticipated moment for the children, the Toy Room. An entire gymnasium filled to the brim with every toy imaginable. Every kid’s eyes could not contain their joy. Their minds could not fathom all the choices they had, but with searching, and the help of volunteers, they found the toy they wanted.
Cynthia was grateful for finally finding an apartment after five years of being homeless. She recognized the importance of the event for homeless parents and children, as well as single mothers. She was anticipating the joy her children would receive from a toy, but also for the hot dogs. Her kids love hot dogs.
Aside from the thousands of toys that are distributed every Toys for Joy, over 16,000 free lunches were also provided for the families, along with thousands of bags of groceries. At the Lincoln location the Rock Thrift Store in partnership with Angels Closet created a store onsite where families could get as much gently-used clothing as they needed for free.
One mother waited in line at 5:30AM with her son at Guajome Park Academy in Vista. She was full of enthusiasm and excitement, even though the school she was attending had just closed without giving advance notice to the students. She had one more year to go to become a Radiology Technician, yet she remained cheerful. She remained steadfast in her dream and understood that though her education was abruptly ended, what she learned was still with her. “I still have my books, my stethoscope, and my knowledge.” She was grateful and was happy to be with her son to allow him to enjoy a gift which had become increasingly more difficult for her to provide.
On the Family Field, children sat and played with their toys or bounced around in the jumpers. Families grouped together on the grass and watched dancers, hula-hoop contests, and listened to musicians on stage. The kids made crafts and played with their balloon animals. Girls showed off their newly painted nails from the manicure station and others smiled at themselves in the mirror because of the new haircut they received.
All three Toys for Joy locations gave away free haircuts. 472 haircuts to be exact. One mother mentioned that she was able to give her son his very first haircut at Toys for Joy, something she couldn’t do on her own otherwise.
Michelle Piña, one of the volunteers at the Cajon Valley Middle School location, was excited to serve at Toys for Joy. Years prior, she and her husband joined asmall group Bible Study,“rGroup”at Rock Church, and what happened next was something she never saw coming. She let her rGroup know that her mother was in need of a kidney donor, and one of the women in her rGroup stepped up to offer one of hers. Michelle’s mom received the kidney and her life was saved.
Later, Michelle was able to open up to her rGroup about her 30-year addiction to alcohol —the one thing she wanted to get off her back more than anything. She just never had anyone to trust.
Today, she is 2.5 years sober, thanks to her rGroup and God’s grace. And that is why she volunteers at Toys for Joy. “I’m here to be a part of all this love and provision. God provided for me. How can I not want to do the same for others?”
One thing is for certain, whether an attendee or a volunteer, all were blessed to be a part of the 22ndAnnual Toys for Joy. All were filled with love, joy, and hope regardless of their circumstances this Christmas season. All of this could not be done without the support of the Rock Church and its thousands of volunteers.
–Shared from the Rock Church Writers Team
Be a catalyst of change. We don’t have to wait for Christmas to reach our community for Christ. Ministries, organizations and churches are in continual need for volunteers to serve the needs of the community. Take a step of faith if God is challenging you to put together an outreach event. Share the idea with a group of friends or your small group. Ask them for their feedback and ideas. They might even want to come alongside and help you fulfill the vision God has given you.
Be a messenger of hope. Just because Christmas has passed doesn’t mean you have to wait to share the message of hope and love of Jesus Christ with someone else. Pray and ask God to show you someone in your life that you need to share the Gospel with. He might want you to grab coffee with them and have a spiritual conversation about what they believe or invite them to an outreach. He might even want you to share a word of encouragement with someone. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s direction. Sometimes it can help to take a step back and remember how we came to Christ.
Thank those around you. Whether you finished an outreach or volunteer in a ministry year round, don’t forget to thank all of those that helped support it. They might have given a financial donation, an in-kind gift or they might have donated their time. It is important to celebrate what God has done through the ministry or group too. Take time to share stories of people who came to Christ or were impacted by the event.