“unWrapping and Giving Away CHRISTmas 2010”

Hello All,

Over the past six or seven years, I have been deeply challenged to try and live and give the real heart of CHRISTmas to those I encounter during the Holiday season. For me growing up with my parents and brothers, and for my own family and kids today, I’ll be honest, CHRISTmas has always been a wonderful and special time of the year full of some of the warmest memories that I have. However, I realize that is not the case for everyone, perhaps for most. CHRISTmas can be a terribly lonely time of the year and a time that many relive difficult issues of sharing kid/parent times or missing loved ones that have passed away. Furthermore, most of the world’s population struggles to simply keep themselves fed and have decent water to drink, much less worried about how long the shops are open with the sales of iPods, iPads and i-Can’t even begin to list all the things we try and wrap for ourselves under the tree. I’m not a Santa hater nor am I one who would desire to boycott Christmas, but I am definitely one who’s passionate about reminding the world around me in a loving way that CHRISTmas is about THE ORIGINAL GIFT, that God blessed creation with in a special way when He sent His Son Jesus on that original Christmas day!

unWrapping Christmas: I’ve tried to be creative in communicating what CHRISTmas is truly about; Jesus, “the true GIFT” of CHRISTmas, thus the theme of unWrapping CHRISTmas with less influence of TV commercials, shopping, toys and gifts under a tree, and much more emphasis in communicating that Jesus’ being born into humanity is the ultimate gift to unWrap and get to know in life. A great thing about that is that you won’t get a credit card bill in January to pay for the gift of Jesus either, He paid the price in full and graced us with Himself!

Giving Away CHRISTmas: The past two years in particular, my family and I have tried to be very proactive in “Giving Away CHRISTmas”, meaning finding ways to bless and give to others instead of being focused on gifts under the tree with our name on them. In Switzerland, it’s not that we have so many homeless and needy out there in “our clean and proper cities” that are easily seen, but truly we have more than we realize that are really in need around us….if we look hard enough and find creative ways to seek those in need out. Aside of the “near needs” there is always the “far needs”, and numerous ministries and organizations that we can partnership with to help other families, not only have a better CHRISTmas season, but perhaps an overall improvement in their daily livelihood the rest of their year(s) as well.

Here’s THE ORIGINAL GIFT’s birth announcement as recorded in Luke 2:10-14

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
There are still a few days left, what might you do to still “Give Away CHRISTmas yourself this year? Taking gifts to others? Serving at a food distribution place? Adding “Jesus is the reason to the season” to your (work) e-mails instead of X-Mas? Inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (which LIFT is having one)? Connecting with a long ago family member or friend that you need reconciliation with? Bringing a guest to your Christmas meal, even if they aren’t family?

Click reply and send me your creative ideas as well!

In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey
www.liveitandgiveit.org

PS- HOW CAN WE unWrap and Give Away CHRISTmas?
Below are several ideas from many of you readers from last year and also some recently when I asked for ideas from my Facebook page. I thank the many that sent their great insight and ideas in how they or their family also try to seek ways to bless others this time of year versus being focused on a gift under the tree with your name on it. Below in blue font is a selection of many of these responses with some minor editing (denoted with an *) to keep the focus on the ideas and not the people.

Some 2010 Suggestions:

http://donate.compassion.com/pig-farming

Donate a Pig to a Family in Poverty When you help provide a pig for a family in poverty you are providing a source of income which then enables moms and dads to provide food for their children.

http://www.worldvisionmicro.org/

www.oneacrefund.org

www.Kiva.org – great way to help someone raise themselves out of poverty!

www.andreasgift.org.uk

www.madeleinechildrensfund.com

Some 2009 Ideas and Suggestions:

Hey man this was awesome. We have three children* and we are going to have each one pick out a gift, wrap it, and try to deliver it to a family in need, or give it to a charity toy drop off.
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What a wonderful message! It did me good reading it. Two weeks ago we had a discussion about the chidren’s* “old” toys and instead of selling them on the internet* and getting money for it, we would like to give them to the Gemeinde Sozialabteilung (local village’s social welfare office*). We’re also discussing the food matter as we are sure that here in (our village*) there are families who have no chance to celebrate Christmas with some good food and to enjoy Christmas because they are struggeling with everything.
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We absolutely love and look forward to Christmas because it’s all about giving although the world has turned it the other way around. Our child recently celebrated with a birthday party with friends from his/her* current & former school. For the party, instead of having presents and all, our child* had all the guests make a donation to the school’s Ghana charity fund, which funds the running of a school in Ghana. I hope this will not end here, as I will create albums & info sites and send it with a thank you to those who came, so they can continue to be updated by the progress of the Ghana school and perhaps support it again in the future.

Being a child once myself, I can understand how important presents are to kids and as parent’s* were very pleased to see our child* give instead of take, and use the birthday party as a way to raise awareness & funds for those who need it. God is indeed great and church has played a great role in shaping our child* as well. My grandma raised me with a thought – “To be able to give – that’s the greatest blessing.” So I hope that this is passed on to my child*.

The other idea which we all had was to have a birthday party at an orphanage, where all the guests bring gifts for the kids at the orphanage instead of the birthday child. That doesn’t just stop there as the kids would be encouraged to continue their friendship and to really be a friend to the kids at the orphanage, so like writing to each other and all that. This too can be used for a Christmas party, where we can share the real Gift – Jesus.
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I used to work for a Greek shipping company and every Christmas, we send out Christmas greetings to all our partners, clients, suppliers and friends, and tell them we have donated to charities the money which we would have used to buy the cards & pay for the postage. That was quite a bit which would have been spent on cards and postage, so it was good to see that the money went to children’s homes and cancer charities instead… and the cost for sending out the thousands of greetings out – zilch. :) … oh yeah… less trees cut down too, so also protecting God’s creation.
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I love your words “giving away”. I often hear our child* say these words. As a matter of fact, she wrote a paper about a famous person* and in her opening paragraph she wrote something like this “this person* loved peace and gave it away….”

In our home country*, we, as a family always tried to do some kind of little family fundraiser and pass the money onto the orphanages in Russia. This always was a big deal for us, but last year here, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to do and let our little family tradition go past us. The last year we were in our homeland*, we had an art show. one of our children* is a very good artist, but other made a bunch of pictures, too. I put borders on all of them and hung them in our dining room. We invited lots of neighbors and friends and collected donations for each “piece” of art. We donated all the money to an organization that builds playgrounds in orphanages in Russia. Now, our second year, here, and I’m still thinking about this and maybe will try to do something in the New year.
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Cool message! For several years in a row my siblings* and I were buying Christmas gifts for each other, and for each our spouses. There are 6 of us in total. We all attend the same church in our homeland*, and they often have various organizations in need around Christmas time. About 5 years ago we decided we truly didn’t need anything material for Christmas, and that we would much prefer to take all of the money we would spend on each other (+ some extra), and we sponsor a family that is in need. While I was there last we all* took a day and went and did all the shopping together. We really enjoyed spending the time together, and we were so happy to do something that would make someone else’s Christmas morning special. Obviously, I am now just a monetary contributor, but the “tradition” remains. Our kids visibly see that we don’t have gifts from each other, and it a good opportunity to explain to them what we are doing and why. We certainly aren’t “special” for doing this – as lots of people all over the world do it – but I have to say I don’t miss the gifts under the tree at all, and it is such a peaceful feeling to know someone else is having a special day.
That said we have struggled to find a way to really instill it in our kids – so I love the ideas you have! Can’t wait to see the others.
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This year compassion international has a “what I want for christmas” program. They send you a child that needs a sponser (at the end of NOv) for you to pray for during the holidays and try to find a sponser for. We are doing that and the kids are really praying for (*our child we sponsor). Also we do one of the toy programs for kids that wouldn’t get anything, each child fills a shoebox. Also we have some Christmas books we read
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Working with and helping the mentally and physically challenged is a real blessing because they really appreciate the love. I use to volunteer with the Special Olympics * and continue to help out a workshop/day center.

Another things is to give to the Messianic Congregations in Eretz Israel. They have Arab, Jewish and others that have paid dearly to become believers in the Messiah. As you know both the Arabs and Jews families write their family members off when they put their faith in Jesus.

Recently some congregations have been firebombed, vandalized and have had the anti-missionary groups riot in front of their places of worship. They really need our prayer and physical support (even visits). Consider standing with them as they need to know that other believers care about them in their time of need. Especially now..

Keeping the light(s) in this world,

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A cool idea that we have used in the past is to give specific gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, in someone else’s name, as an honorary gift to them (SP sends an honor or memory card explaining the gift). This works well for grandkids to give to their grandparents, for example. See https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
e.g.
$4 for milk for a child for a week
$9 to feed a hungry baby for a week
$10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria
$14 for a dozen baby chicks
It’s also available in British pounds here: http://www.giftcatalogue.org.uk/
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We’ve done Operation Christmas Child via ISZL for the past two years (isn’t that cool that the international schools sponsor such a Christian thing!? I wonder whether they realize!), and we also were able to do it through our homeland* as well. Have been blessed to sponsor Compassion children for 20 years this year.
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My Dad just came back from some ministry* outreaches where he was telling Hindu Indians about what Christmas is all about. Sharing our “Dad time” over the Christmas break is one way that we give Christmas away. Another way is that we’ve always had a stocking for Jesus. So there are 7 stockings at our fireplace: one for every family member, plus one for Jesus. We kids grew up putting poems for Jesus, letters for Jesus, and money for Jesus in the stocking. We then take the money to church as offering, or give the money to missions/the poor. We also bake traditional Swiss Christmas cookies for all of our neighbors. Some of them wait all year for our cookie bags! Most of these neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, but they all know that we are Christians, and they respect us for it… I think they’re glad we take Christmas so seriously because it means they get yummy cookies (hehe), but it’s also a nice way of reaching out to them and going to their homes to deliver the cookies… We have interesting conversations with them each time.

"Everyone Has A Story…..Your City Too!"

Hello All,

I live in Edlibach, part of Kanton Zug in Switzerland. Where do you live? What city do you live in? Who are your neighbors? Who are those around you in your community? ….in your workplace? …where you play sports, shop, or enjoy your hobbies? We are all surrounded by people! The question is, are we for them……or against them?

A few months ago, I was abroad and met with a pastor and friend, Adaumir, who also has a day job and who also planted a church about 6 years ago. We both realized, since the first time we met more that a year ago, that we have a lot in common. In particular, we both have an intercultural marriage, live in a German speaking country, are church planters, have passion for Jesus and passion for others to know Jesus and experience hope in life. In addition to our wonderful wives, we also have 3 kids each and again, in both cases, we have 2 older kids and a baby girl toddler. I was sharing that I believe that for my family of five, living in Switzerland has actually been healthy for our family unit, keeping us close in relationship and life conversations with our kids. Since we speak English at home and the rest of life outside our doors is Swiss culture and German language, I stated that sometimes I feel like it’s kind of like, “our family against the world around us”, but meant it in a good way, in that it keeps us close as a family unit. Adaumir agreed that they too have a close family unit, mixing their Brazilian/German/USA culture at home, BUT he wisely twisted my sentence by changing one word………and it made all the difference. He said that he prefers to say that he feels it is “his family FOR the world around him….not against it”! I’ve restated my version every since; yes, I believe it is my family, our little family of five, in Edlibach, Switzerland, FOR OUR WORLD AROUND US! I believe it is our church too, FOR our city of Zug around us! I believe that Living and Giving our faith, hope and love in Jesus does make a difference and is worth it! How about you, in your neighborhood and city? Each of us make a difference, one day and one heart at a time!

Speaking (writing actually) of my city of Zug, I was blessed to experience something very special this past Sunday night with my wife Tanya. Once again, we were able to catch a glimpse of God showing a bit of His glory, and as usual, He’s always way ahead of us. Our church LIFT has begun to share our facility on Sunday nights with ICF-Zug (International Christian Fellowship Zug) and on Sunday, ICF-Zug had its kick off celebration service at “the LIFT-Church” (as they call it). LIFT meets in the mornings and ICF on Sunday nights. During their announcements, they noted that their “after party” will continue at Pickwick’s, the local English speaking pub……even though ICF-Zug is a Swiss-German speaking church. Driving home that night, Tanya reminded me of some really amazing “Kingdom connecting dots” (thus my yellow highlighting above) that were part of my original church planting seminary project from back in 2002, long before LIFT or ICF Zug existed……although Pickwick’s has been around Zug for a long time! Way back in 2002, for that church planting project, that was only a project at the time, I included mention of Pickwick’s as a place where English speakers can connect and I also mentioned how ICF in Zurich was growing as a relevant church in Zurich (and also mentioned our friends across town as Stami as well!) and how these connections could be something God could develop and allow us to use here in the Zug area. So, on this past Sunday, not only did the manager of Pickwick’s, whose family now attends LIFT, come to LIFT’s morning service, but the 5 year old church plant of ICF-Zug also met in the same place as LIFT………..and to think that God “caused” these real life connections to happen in this city in an even more complete way than I wrote about way back in 2002 … that is something that is way beyond me!!!!!

Have a wonderful week and I encourage you to pray and connect with your city and those around your realm of influence……in living and giving your faith away! Tanya and I are off to Dusseldorf today for a Mosaic event called “Tribus”, with numerous other churches and church planters across Europe. I’m even having an opportunity the share a word about “GO” during the breakout sessions www.tribusmosaic.org/the-team.

In His grip and grace,

Corey

PS: Below are words to a wonderful song about God and “your” city….mine too!

GOD OF THIS CITY
You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

-Chorus-For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

Everyone has a story….Kingdom Builders!

Live It and Give It! (Zug, Switzerland)-  for July 2010

Hello all,
 
It is a beautiful day in Zug, Switzerland, 11:00 a.m. and I’m sitting in the Starbucks at Metalli with Jesus and you (via my keyboard) trying to put into words some stories of amazing people the Lord has allowed me to cross paths with.  In continuation of “other people’s stories” as the theme in 2010 for me with these Live It and Give It (LIFT) updates. This time around it is a collection of 5 encounters with church planters/missionaries around Europe.
 
My work life at an International company takes me to all sorts of places and this year in particular I’ve been intentional to seek out and connect with Kingdom influencers whenever possible.  Aside of the all too brief words about meeting with each of these men (although they all are blessed with wives, one of them getting married today!), for me there has been a back story behind each meeting of simply being amazed at watching God orchestrate these divine encounters.  12 months ago, I knew none of them and one by one, from one mutual friend or connection we were “introduced” via e-mail (or Facebook), then my work travel schedule sent me to their country, then my local schedule allowed an open night free from work commitments to meet, while at the same time their schedules aligned just the same…….yes, God scripted the steps along the way! Over the next weeks, I’ll share more about their stories as today, it’s Horace from Belgium who is highlighted.
 
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Horace serves the Kingdom outside of Brussels in Flemish speaking  Leuven, a university city. Overall, their ministry work there over the last few years has been mainly based on “serving others”.  Their organization, Serve The City uses volunteer work forces to serve in countless ways across the city; from expected things like feeding and clothing the homeless, clean up projects, to other very personal and real things like spending time with elderly people in their homes who need tasks done or just need someone to talk and share stories with.  Horace’s organization also sends out teams abroad for short term service/mission trips to various places.  Interestingly, as they have a base of approx. 400 volunteers involved in serving others, the vast majority are NOT Christians, but care to serve others and give of their time, money and resources to make a difference, regardless of faith based or not.  Currently, they are now transitioning in creating more of a “church plant” with regular gatherings/worship services on Sundays for those who desire to grow in faith.  For a guy like me who studied countless church planting models and lived the LIFT experience over the last five years, the reality of what Horace has done is exceptional, especially since it’s somewhat “backwards” to the norm.  They first created a large movement and cause with hundreds involved, then transitioned those who desire a deeper relationship and purpose in life with Jesus to come together for “church”.  Some out there might think this is a “bait and switch”, but if you were to have the opportunity to meet Horace in person and hear his heart and story, then one will quickly get it that he’s for real and genuine with people, whether they go to “the church” or not, they are important to him and others and valued, regardless of their current faith beliefs.  His story: Horace was raised in a home far from relationship and knowing Jesus, but full of religion and practices.  Polo (yes, the sport on horses hitting the balls around large fields to score) was his early professional career, taking him from Belgium to South America and eventually Florida depending on which team he was contracted to play for.  Although polo’s fan base is not as big as soccer’s current World Cup, nor American football or basketball, he had a cool life of pro sports, traveling, money, cars and a bit of fame within the sport…..but deep down searching for purpose.  I pray someday, you can hear him share the full version of his powerful story directly from him, so I’ll just wind down the short version with him meeting Jesus personally nearing his mid-twenties as he was wrapping up his Polo career. Although having this new found relationship with Jesus, knowing God and having a purpose in life, it didn’t solve all of his life’s problems and issues at the time, in fact in some ways his circumstances even got more difficult.  Needless to say, faith is normally strengthened by circumstance and through perseverance and within a couple of years he found himself in another city serving God at a church in the States where he met Tina.  Another decade later, Horace, Tina and their kids are serving their city in Belgium and serving others, in a relevant and real way!  Horace is a man of vision and action to creating a reality of those visions…..that’s a man of faith indeed!
 
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN: David serves the Kingdom in Stockholm.  We met in May and not only did we both have a passion in serving the Lord, we’ve both been blessed with God enhancing our family via adoption.  As much as my family saw God “work out” countless details, paperwork and bureaucracy with our Sarah, David’s story of his two adopted boys who are about Silas’ age (one a year older and the other a year younger) touched me more than his also amazing story of Kingdom work and ministry in both Sweden and the UK.  Sweden, like Switzerland, is very complicated and a long process when it comes to adoption, often 5 years or more are necessary, and yet David’s cases a decade ago were miraculous with both their infant sons coming into their family in less than two months (although two years apart) from starting the adoption process.  The connections of how David and I “met” (via another friend, Derek Webster, who’s never “met” David face 2 face either) is also beyond the realm of simple coincidence. 
 
DUSSELDORF, GERMANY: Adaumir serves the Kingdom in Dusseldorf with Mosaic Dusseldorf.  A Brazilian national, who’s also a German citizen via his German wife, church planting there for approx. 5 years, but also has a “day job” to provide for his family. A father of 3 (two sons about Silas and Livia’s ages and a beautiful lil’ girl about 2 years old) and we’ve realized we’ve got a lot in common actually!  I first met Adaumir on the phone last October, then in person a few weeks later as I fly to Dusseldorf frequently since my company’s headquarters is nearby.  We last met two weeks ago and shared a meal at a Brazilian restaurant while watching a world cup game together and sharing what the Lord is doing in our lives and ministries.  More to come in the future, but Adaumir has been a huge encouragement for me personally as we really do have a lot in common although our ministry contexts are different…..we’ve connected well in mutual friendship and encouragement, as he says “we are of the same tribe!” 
 
DUSSELDORF, GERMANY: Alan serves the Kingdom in Dusseldorf with Mosaic Dusseldorf as well.  I’ve shared a bit of his story before as he’s “the dancer” and choreographer that came to Germany last year from Los Angeles on faith and calling and not much else (financially, etc).  I love crazy adventurers who GO in faith…and not much more, so God can get the glory as He blesses faith with His faithfulness.  Alan not only had a place to live, enough food to survive and been able to connect and serve others, Alan found his life’s greatest blessing in Germany and is getting married, TODAY (actually even as I write, Veronica will be walking the aisle very soon!)  Last Monday while there on business, I had the opportunity to met Veronica and they took me to Mosaic’s new facility that the Lord has provided after years of meeting in Adaumir’s living room, then another weekly rented place, and now a full time place to encounter and grow faith every day of the week!
 
MILAN, ITALY: Jason serves the Kingdom in Milan, a city in a country full of Christian religion and history, but “somewhat empty” on relationship in knowing God personally through Jesus Christ!  Every time I talk with Jason, I smile as he’s got a bit of a Southern USA accent, but isn’t really from Arkansas because he was raised most of his live in Brazil on mission with his family.  Over the past 5 years he’s transitioned his Portuguese into Italian and connected especially since his passion is football (known as soccer to some). In fact, a side mission/opportunity for Jason has been coordinating the Atleti di Cristo (similar to Fellowship of Christian Athletes) in Italy in connecting pro players and community projects which often allow these famous athletes to share their faith as well.  After meeting last year while there on work, and some continued correspondence, Jason and I shared lunch and a couple hours together in downtown Milan last Saturday.  It was great to hear that their church plant is continuing to grow and they are now having Sunday gatherings at a rented venue alongside their meeting in their home where they’ve outgrown over the years.    
 
So there you have it…..just a glimpse into some areas around Europe where God has put His Kingdom influencers into these cities.   “Other people’s stories” for me has been an incredible experience in not just hearing, but seeing what the Lord is doing in the lives of these men and their families. Hard to believe that in just the last three months I met with each of these men in their cities and their stories of life, faith and seeing God work through their ministries are inspiring. These brief words about Horace and the others in the weeks ahead, truly don’t even begin to share their full stories………their journey and journeys continue! Take a moment and pray for them, their families, their ministries and their cities and may the Lord continue to bless His Kingdom in these places and across all the nations as we, the Followers of Jesus, continue to Live our Faith and Give it away….near and far! 
 
In His grip and grace,
 
Corey
 
PS- For those of you that are part of LIFT, interesting to note is part of our missions giving the past three years has been in part to the Mosaic Alliance, and the Serve the City in Brussels and Mosaic Dusseldorf have been two of the ministries that Mosiac had forwarded some of our missions giving to….another part of the back stories of God scripting these mutual serving the Kingdom encounters! 

“Giving Away CHRISTmas! Part 2”

Hello All,
 
I just got back yesterday from an event (a CHRISTmas party) with my company’s UK partner in Cardiff, Wales.  It was such a blessing that Tanya was able to come with me and we even slipped in a bit of time at the big shopping mall near our hotel.  Wow, it was like one foot back in the USA as this mall was not like the Swiss “malls” around Zug….or even Zurich.  While impressive and full of people as this place was only a few days before Christmas, it was a clear reminder again of what the world around us thinks Christmas (or X-mas as most of the signs indicated) is all about; shopping for gifts and the guy in the red suit named Santa.  We even saw several Santa’s around, one in particular giving away the “ISSUE” newspaper to all that walked by.  I’m not a Santa hater nor am I one who would desire to boycott Christmas, but I am definately one who’s passionate about reminding the world around me in a loving way that CHRISTmas is about THE ORIGINAL GIFT, that God blessed creation in a special way with His Son Jesus on that original Christmas day! 
 
Here’s THE ORIGINAL GIFT’s birth announcement as recorded in Luke 2:10-14
 
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
 

In continuation from the last LIFT update regarding “Giving Away CHRISTmas”, I thank the many that sent their great insight and ideas in how you or your family can also try to seek ways to bless others this time of year versus being focused on a gift under the tree with your name on it. Below in blue font is a selection of many of these responses with some minor editing (denoted with an *) to keep the focus on the ideas and not the people.   
 
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Hey man this was awesome.  We have three children* and we are going to have each one pick out a gift, wrap it, and try to deliver it to a family in need, or give it to a charity toy drop off.

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What a wonderful message! It did me good reading it. Two weeks ago we had a discussion about the chidren’s* “old” toys and instead of selling them on the internet* and getting money for it, we would like to give them to the Gemeinde  Sozialabteilung (local village’s social welfare office*).  We’re also discussing the food matter as we are sure that here in (our village*) there are families who have no chance to celebrate Christmas with some good food and to enjoy Christmas because they are struggeling with everything.

 
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We absolutely love and look forward to Christmas because it’s all about giving although the world has turned it the other way around. Our child recently celebrated with a birthday party with friends from his/her* current & former school. For the party, instead of having presents and all, our child* had all the guests make a donation to the school’s Ghana charity fund, which funds the running of a school in Ghana. I hope this will not end here, as I will create albums & info sites and send it with a thank you to those who came, so they can continue to be updated by the progress of the Ghana school and perhaps support it again in the future.

Being a child once myself, I can understand how important presents are to kids and as parent’s* were very pleased to see our child* give instead of take, and use the birthday party as a way to raise awareness & funds for those who need it. God is indeed great and church has played a great role in shaping our child* as well. My grandma raised me with a thought – “To be able to give – that’s the greatest blessing.” So I hope that this is passed on to my child*.

The other idea which we all had was to have a birthday party at an orphanage, where all the guests bring gifts for the kids at the orphanage instead of the birthday child. That doesn’t just stop there as the kids would be encouraged to continue their friendship and to really be a friend to the kids at the orphanage, so like writing to each other and all that. This too can be used for a Christmas party, where we can share the real Gift – Jesus.

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I used to work for a Greek shipping company and every Christmas, we send out Christmas greetings to all our partners, clients, suppliers and friends, and tell them we have donated to charities the money which we would have used to buy the cards & pay for the postage. That was quite a bit which would have been spent on cards and postage, so it was good to see that the money went to children’s homes and cancer charities instead… and the cost for sending out the thousands of greetings out – zilch. :) … oh yeah… less trees cut down too, so also protecting God’s creation.

 
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I love your words “giving away”.  I often hear our child* say these words.  As a matter of fact, she wrote a paper about a famous person* and in her opening paragraph she wrote something like this “this person* loved peace and gave it away….”
 
In our home country*, we, as a family always tried to do some kind of little family fundraiser and pass the money onto the orphanages in Russia.  This always was a big deal for us, but last year here, I had a tough time trying to figure out what to do and let our little family tradition go past us.  The last year we were in our homeland*, we had an art show.  one of our children* is a very good artist, but other made a bunch of pictures, too.  I put borders on all of them and hung them in our dining room.  We invited lots of neighbors and friends and collected donations for each “piece” of art.  We donated all the money to an organization that builds playgrounds in orphanages in Russia.  Now, our second year, here, and I’m still thinking about this and maybe will try to do something in the New year. 

 
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Cool message!   For several years in a row my siblings* and I were buying Christmas gifts for each other, and for each our spouses.  There are 6 of us in total.  We all attend the same church in our homeland*, and they often have various organizations in need around Christmas time.  About 5 years ago we decided we truly didn’t need anything material for Christmas, and that we would much prefer to take all of the money we would spend on each other (+ some extra), and we sponsor a family that is in need.  While I was there last we all* took a day and went and did all the shopping together.  We really enjoyed spending the time together, and we were so happy to do something that would make someone else’s Christmas morning special.  Obviously, I am now just a monetary contributor, but the “tradition” remains.  Our kids visibly see that we don’t have gifts from each other, and it a good opportunity to explain to them what we are doing and why.  We certainly aren’t “special” for doing this – as lots of people all over the world do it – but I have to say I don’t miss the gifts under the tree at all, and it is such a peaceful feeling to know someone else is having a special day.
 
That said we have struggled to find a way to really instill it in our kids – so I love the ideas you have!  Can’t wait to see the others.

 
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This year compassion international has a “what I want for christmas” program.  They send you a child that needs a sponser (at the end of NOv) for you to pray for during the holidays and try to find a sponser for.  We are doing that and the kids are really praying for (*our child we sponsor).  Also we do one of the toy programs for kids that wouldn’t get anything, each child fills a shoebox.  Also we have some Christmas books we read

 
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Working with and helping the mentally and physically challenged is a real blessing because they really appreciate the love. I use to volunteer with the Special Olympics * and continue to help out a workshop/day center.

Another things is to give to the Messianic Congregations in Eretz Israel. They have Arab, Jewish and others that have paid dearly to become believers in the Messiah. As you know both the Arabs and Jews families write their family members off when they put their faith in Jesus.

Recently some congregations have been firebombed, vandalized and have had the anti-missionary groups riot in front of their places of worship. They really need our prayer and physical support (even visits). Consider standing with them as they need to know that other believers care about them in their time of need. Especially now..

Keeping the light(s) in this world,

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A cool idea that we have used in the past is to give specific gifts from the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog, in someone else’s name, as an honorary gift to them (SP sends an honor or memory card explaining the gift). This works well for grandkids to give to their grandparents, for example. See https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog/
 
e.g. 
$4 for milk for a child for a week
$9 to feed a hungry baby for a week
$10 for a mosquito net to prevent malaria
$14 for a dozen baby chicks
 
It’s also available in British pounds here: http://www.giftcatalogue.org.uk

 
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We’ve done Operation Christmas Child via ISZL for the past two years (isn’t that cool that the international schools sponsor such a Christian thing!? I wonder whether they realize!), and we also were able to do it through our homeland* as well. Have been blessed to sponsor Compassion children for 20 years this year. 
 
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Dad just came back from some ministry* outreaches where he was telling Hindu Indians about what Christmas is all about. Sharing our “Dad time” over the Christmas break is one way that we give Christmas away. Another way is that we’ve always had a stocking for Jesus. So there are 7 stockings at our fireplace: one for every family member, plus one for Jesus. We kids grew up putting poems for Jesus, letters for Jesus, and money for Jesus in the stocking. We then take the money to church as offering, or give the money to missions/the poor. We also bake traditional Swiss Christmas cookies for all of our neighbors. Some of them wait all year for our cookie bags! Most of these neighbors don’t yet know the Lord, but they all know that we are Christians, and they respect us for it… I think they’re glad we take Christmas so seriously because it means they get yummy cookies (hehe), but it’s also a nice way of reaching out to them and going to their homes to deliver the cookies… We have interesting conversations with them each time.
 
What amazing insight into “being CHRISTmas” and a blessing to others at CHRISTmas time! 
 
There are still a few days left, what might you do to still “Give Away CHRISTmas yourself this year? Taking gifts to others?  Serving at a food distribution place?  Adding “Jesus is the reason to the season” to your (work) e-mails instead of X-Mas?  Inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (which LIFT is having one)?  Connecting with a long ago family member or friend that you need reconciliation with? Bringing a guest to your Christmas meal, even if they aren’t family?  (Contact the Eales if you want to join with the growing “Christmas Day meal with the Eales” for families/individuals around LIFT that don’t have extended family around!
 
In His grip and grace…..because He first gave me the real gift of Christmas!
Corey

“We’re Just LIFT”

Hello All,

I’m back in the saddle with writing LIFT updates again after a wonderful vacation with my family!  

If you recall, the last update was titled, “I’m just Corey”, sharing insight in that it’s not my titles in life, work or ministry that matter, but just me, “Corey”, living and giving my faith away as I go through life, which is true for you as well.  This update titled “We’re just LIFT” is to give insight on how our name and identity (even when we use our full name LIFT- The International Church of Zug) allows us, within our Swiss cultural surrounding, to have real faith conversations and discussions that normally are stopped before they get started when one of two “religious” words are used. 

Normally within the Swiss culture around us (or most all of Europe as well), when a conversation heads towards the topic of God, faith, church or Jesus, then the inevitable “conversation stopping question” is usually asked.  This question is simply, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?”  As soon as this question is asked, then within 30 seconds the conversation is over.  Regardless if one answers protestant or catholic, the walls of religion and titles have already been poured, it’s just a matter of who stands on which side of the religion wall.  Either both are the same, or one is the other, but as soon as they have classified each other there is no need to continue the discussion.  Within the 30 seconds the follow-up statement is, “me too, or I am the other”. and there is no need to seek insight from another on faith from there.  Even more interesting is that if the conversation is in German and someone tried to answer with another option than your church name and answers by stating “Ich bin Christ” (which means a Christian in German, not saying you’re Jesus Christ), then it is socially considered that if you’re not of the State Catholic or Protestant church, then now your label is more as one who belongs to a sect/cult, versus a real church, not the label you want in trying to share real faith in Jesus with someone.

But for us, we’re just LIFT and our church’s name is LIFT (The International Church of Zug) and this is a “conversation continue-er”, not a conversation stopper! Time after time, over the last 5 years since LIFT began, many of us have found this to be true in conversations with those who live in our community of Zug around us, Swiss and non-Swiss alike.  When we say we go to LIFT, then “What is LIFT?” is the open door to continue the conversation.  Especially by using English and saying that we are simply an International Christian church using the Bible and English to share the Gospel message in a relevant way (or something like that), then we’ve got their curiosity, not their preconceived religious label or title to attach to us.  From there you have 9 powerful words that can do more than just continue the conversation, but give real life understanding and insight to what LIFT is all about, a relationship with Jesus Christ, not just about religion.  The 9 powerful words are, “Why don’t you come to LIFT with me sometime?”   
(Did anyone really count the words and then think it should really be 10 and not 9 because “don’t” technically represents two words?)  

Clearly, I am one who normally challenges Christians to “GO” into their world and share their faith in Jesus with those they encounter, not just inviting others to go to church so the preacher can tell them about Jesus.  That’s a given for me, but at the same time, “We’re just LIFT” within our Swiss context is a great way to help individuals continue the conversations with those around them.  It’s part of LIFT, your church, partnering with you in sharing (y)our faith with those around you!  If their first hand experience of a LIFT worship service is very different than that of the big churches around us with the spires and bells ringing and if it helps you continue the conversation, then let’s keep the conversation going together!

Of course, I am bias in my own opinion of LIFT, but many, many others (Followers of Christ and non-Christians, Swiss and non-Swiss) that have come to a LIFT worship service over the years have said that there IS something different about LIFT and the environment at LIFT that in other churches they’ve encountered. Even if they only came once and even if they were not receptive to desiring to hear about God, it’s often mentioned that the friendly environment of a so many Internationals together, with contemporary music and focus on the Bible, but somehow relevant to today’s issues is unique.  Of course, being honest and transparent, there’s been those that haven’t come back and/or didn’t like LIFT either. Our heart at LIFT isn’t about where people go to church, it’s that people come into a relationship with God thru Jesus and know His love and grace for them.  

In closing, I offer proof that LIFT is a unique name that can lead to very interesting conversations.  This past week I got an e-mail of a dialog with an evangelist that may come to Switzerland and a “friend of LIFT” describing LIFT as this, “It is the Lift church in Zug. In this church, one has to sit in an elevator while the pastor preaches over a monitor…… We all sing “Lift us up Lord …just kidding”  I had to smile trying to imagine a big elevator with a bunch of people standing scrunched together watching a monitor of Ken , Bedros or I sharing about Jesus, although in my imagination’s version we were singing Lord I LIFT Your Name on High!  

Have a wonderful week and whether you attend LIFT (or another Christian church), be blessed and be a blessing alongside those at your church as we LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS in Living and Giving our faith away!

In His grip and grace,

Corey