Each year, as I search for the perfect Christmas gifts I think back to when I first began shopping. Growing up, one of the major department stores in downtown Cleveland created a Christmas shop just for children. My sister and I would take our savings, tied in a handkerchief, and attempt to find presents for our parents, sisters, uncles, and aunts with the few dollars we had. Only kids were allowed to walk through the aisles, with help from the miniature store’s assistants. Usually, my mom or older sister would be waiting for us at the cashier, in case we needed a little more money to pay for all the items we wanted to buy.
After I started working and had more money to spend, I would still head downtown to find the best presents I could. There was usually a Salvation Army bellringer on the corner, reminding passersby to give to those in need. Each year, before I made my Christmas lists, I decided to give 10% of what I spent to the Salvation Army bucket or my church. And by the time I totaled up all that I had spent on Christmas presents, I usually gave more than that 10% back to people who might not have a Merry Christmas.
I can honestly say that I felt more joy about that extra donation than I did with most of the presents I bought for my family. My dad knew he would get a tie, socks, or handkerchiefs. My mom usually got jewelry. My sisters would get pistachios or cashews, a set of mittens, and earmuffs. As I went from one store to another, I usually thought more about the people I didn’t know and how happy they would be to get a present because I contributed to the church’s Christmas fund or the kettles for the Salvation Army.
I still keep that tradition, though most of the shopping I do these days is online. I keep a running tally of what I have spent (including shipping and handling) and then donate at least 10% back to church. This year I will be making a special donation to Readers to Leaders, a mission campaign that was introduced at the 2022 Michigan Annual Conference.
This program is an opportunity for each church in the Conference to support two ministries that are focused on education. The funds will help with the Liberia Scholarship Program and the Michigan Conference’s Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program. The Conference has set a goal of raising $500,000 by asking each church to contribute $600.00 to be divided evenly between these two programs.
I have included the link to the Conference webpage for more information and a video. I hope your faith community will prayerfully consider supporting the education of children here in Michigan and with our covenant partner nation of Liberia. May you be blessed this holiday season. And Amen.