During this Advent season, we offered some special ways to be involved with our church and localized ministry partnerships, called Three Gifts for the King. Adding to our campus hospitality team and blessing our ministry partners, KidWorks and Whittier Elementary School, this event served as a fun and meaningful way to give back in the spirit of Christmas while mirroring the bountiful nature of God. Participants donated books and Christmas presents for students at both KidWorks and Whittier Elementary School.
Our first featured local ministry partnership is KidWorks – an organization located in inner-city Santa Ana and attends to an underserved community that struggles with issues such as poverty, gang violence, and more. After-school programs for students are widely unavailable. KidWorks not only provides programming for local students but has a preschool, music center, and academic-enrichment facility that aims to grow the spiritual maturity of their students. In addition to student and kids programming, KidWorks hosts parenting workshops and development classes to equip parents to raise their kids in a challenging environment.
During the Christmas season, KidWorks opens their doors to the community and holds a Christmas Store within its main building. The store is stocked with gifts for sale by donors like St. Andrew’s. There, parents can buy gifts for 10 cents on the dollar and all proceeds go into a benevolence fund for families in need within KidWorks. Gifts donated through Three Gifts for the King not only put a smile on a child’s face but also provide much-needed fiscal provision for families living less than 15 minutes from St. Andrew’s.
The second local ministry partnership we featured is Whittier Elementary School, only 3 miles from St. Andrews’ campus. 94% of students are English-language learners and 100% of students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. The St. Andrew’s Literacy Team (S.A.L.T) partners with Whittier to boost literacy within the school, with the goal of helping every student to read at their grade level and reach their full potential. Our church contributed to the annual “Blessed by Books” campaign, which provides every K-3rd-grade student a book to take home. These books were selected by the teachers, purchased by St. Andrew’s members during Advent, and distributed to the students before they went on Christmas vacation.
Closer to home, over 100 people extended the gift of hospitality to nearly 5,000 guests this Christmas by serving our Belong Team! A kind, smiling face and tender greeting set the tone of worship for both first-time visitors and long-time members alike. Thank you to all those who served! Your time was a much-needed resource for us to be a neighborhood church with global impact.
These material goods given, however, are much more than a simple gift. They hold lasting impact as well. Gifts and giving are a consistent theme throughout the Christmas story – from the magi’s presentation of gold, frankincense, and myrrh at the manger or the most precious gift of all, God’s gift of his Son to the world, giving is at the center of Christmas. The opportunity to bless our neighbors through Three Gifts for the King allowed us as a church to practice the posture of generosity and imitate a giving God. Thank you very much to everyone who participated this year!