by Dale Reeves
Alicia Peak has been involved with the Little Angels Shoppe at Christ’s Church for over ten years. She is passionate about this ministry that our church provides to families in our community every year in December. She begins, “God calls us to care for those who are in need. When I was little, and our family didn’t always have a lot, one year for Christmas we came downstairs to many presents given to us by others. People we didn’t even know stepped in to help. I want other children to have the same joy I had that year as a child.”
Alicia continues, “This year at our Little Angels Shoppe, we served 75 families in our community. We had 71 volunteers from our church who came to help parents shop for toys and clothes for their kids, get their gifts wrapped, listen to their needs, and pray for them. And, this year our Lord multiplied the church’s generosity. In addition to providing for the families who came to shop, we donated baby toys and clothes to the Life Forward ministry, a local school district’s Christmas shopping outreach, and the rest of the clothes were donated to Warren County Children Services. We also donated money to purchase bedding for Hope House in Middletown.”
I asked several of our volunteers who served at Little Angels this year for the first time their reactions to what they did and observed. Tim Curtiss comments, “Seeing the families walk through and knowing they have wrapped presents for their children to open on Christmas Day brings them so much joy. I loved being a part of it—and will certainly do it again. One particular family that my daughter helped had seven foster children. My daughter told me that she believed that God had placed those kids with this family because of their obvious love and care expressed for them.”
Dezra Lawson, our church’s communications project manager, responded, “I was touched by the humility and gratefulness of the people I encountered while wrapping their gifts. As I shared different options for wrapping, they weren’t consumed with the paper choices, but would just respond with thankfulness, ‘Anything will do.’ For me, the experience was humbling. I love that Christ’s Church supports a mission like this to help families in our community to receive a few items for their children. I met one lady who was shopping for her six kids, several that were adopted and some with special needs. She was just so grateful for our church’s generosity.”
Blessed by Giving
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NLT). That has definitely been the experience for several volunteers who wouldn’t miss this event every year. Kim Evans has served with her family the past several years. She comments, “So many of our shoppers give of themselves to help foster children or displaced children; that is such a selfless act of courage and sacrifice. Many of the people I talked with while I wrapped their gifts were happy to share their stories with me. They appreciated being seen and heard, and they were open to us praying for them and their needs.”
Angie Vargo shares, “For some people in our group of ten, this was their first time working with Little Angels at our church, but most of us have been involved in the shopping day for several years. We love personally meeting the people who are being served that day. I love the idea that those in need can take pride in doing the shopping from the donations, creating a sense of dignity despite the needs they may have. The teens who were serving with us said that this is their favorite volunteer event. They grew in their confidence this year as they engaged people in direct conversation about their kids.”
Angie continues, “One woman’s experience this year stands out to me. She was shopping on behalf of several foster children and she just couldn’t get over how amazing the church’s generosity is. That led her to ask us some questions about our church and why we would do such a thing.”
The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, 21, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory . . .” (NIV).
That is God’s specialty, exceeding expectations—and that seems to happen every year with the Little Angels outreach. Alicia Peak excitedly shares, “God blew us away again this year. He has always provided enough so that we have been able to send a $25 Kroger gift card to each family who has come to shop, so they could use this for stocking stuffers or food. God exceeded that this year, as we were able to add on another $100 for families who are unemployed or have children with severe illnesses. And, all of the families who came have been invited to our special 2:00 pm family service for Christmas Eve. God is doing amazing things!”
Kim Evans tells one of the favorite stories she heard this year: “A young woman had taken in her 16-year-old brother to live with her two children. She was living in a hotel room with them all. She was proud that she had started off as a housekeeper and over time was promoted to general manager and had a place to call home—even if it was also her place of work. She talked about how she had a Christmas tree in their room, and these gifts would be placed under it.”
Angie Vargo shares this highlight: “One teenager who volunteered with us, Hope Johnson, was helping wrap presents. She heard that a woman who was shopping for gifts only spoke Spanish and was having trouble understanding the shopping instructions and selecting gifts. Hope has been taking Spanish for several years and she was able to jump in and translate good enough to help the woman choose presents and enjoy the experience. Hope shared that she was so glad that God had given her an opportunity to use her skill set that day to help someone else, and she was so grateful to have met that woman. It made a huge impact on both of them!”
Jesus said that whenever we reach out to those who are hungry or thirsty or in need of clothes, that we are in fact ministering to him. “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me” (Matthew 25:40, NLT).
Alicia affirms, “It’s very clear. God calls us to love those in need. When we help the least of these, we are helping him.”