By Bob Gerstmyer, Executive Director of Baptist Family & Children’s Services
Outside the Solo Gibbs Rec Center in Baltimore, hundreds of people lined up in the December cold. Mothers and fathers waited to take a turn picking out Christmas gifts for their kids. Most were bundled up, and happy to brave the weather for a chance to make Christmas a little brighter for their little ones. They were patient and quiet, hopeful for just a little help.
The atmosphere inside the small brick building was very different: a massive team of volunteers was in constant motion, preparing piles of toys and clothes, chatting and laughing, ready to reach out to their brothers and sisters in need. The volunteers came from two churches: Baltimore’s The Church on Warren Avenue in Federal Hill and First Church of Upper Marlboro. A moment of prayer was the only pause in the organized commotion of the early morning.
The doors opened, and families began to enter the building a handful at a time, as the organizers were quite mindful of Baltimore’s fire codes. All were greeted warmly and offered cookies and hot chocolate in addition to the gifts they came to receive. A magician performed tricks for the kids, who walked around the toy-filled room in a state of shocked wonder.
All in all, Baptist Family and the volunteers distributed gifts for 500 children and parents at this one event. Thanks to an especially generous donation, we were able to give out children’s hats and gloves and shoes and warm clothing to needy parents.
Events like these also occurred in LaVale, Md. (thanks to a partnership with LaVale Church), The Pen Lucy neighborhood of Baltimore City (thanks to the Pen Lucy Action Network), Patterson Park in Baltimore (thanks to Salem Gospel Ministries), Seaford, Del. (thanks to Grace Church there) and Cambridge, Md. (thanks to that city’s First Church).
One thousand one hundred fifty-seven children and parents were served at these events. The impact on the people served will be lasting: they know that God’s people across Maryland and Delaware care about them and want to help ease their burden.
Jennifer, a mom with three children, ages 7, 10 and 12, shopped at the church for her children who were just returned to her from foster care. Both she and her kids prayed for the reunification and her advice to other parents in a similar situation is, “Keep your chin up and pray. It gets better.”
Judy, a grandmother of three, just gained custody of the children because her daughter has been arrested for drug trafficking. Grandmom did not have the resources to provide Christmas presents and with tears in her eyes, thanked God for this ministry.
Misty and her three girls came home to their first floor apartment to find it flooded from a water line break. Everything was ruined. Misty was thrilled and was thanking God for the Christmas Shoppe so her girls could have some gifts this Christmas.
There is also an impact on those who helped give. In the words of one person, “What a joy it is to shine Christ’s Everlasting Light! You set out to try to bless someone else and God always turns the blessing back on you. Thanks, Jesus. Happy Birthday!”
Year in, year out, this ministry is one of Baptist Family’s most satisfying and most impactful. We are thankful to have the opportunity to honor the coming of our Lord by showing love and care to His people.