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! 

Everyone has a story….and a dance!

Live It and Give It!  (Zug, Switzerland)-  for April 2010
 
Hello all,
 
Dance- Worship? Ministry? Outreach?
 
In continuation with my intention of observing the stories of others these past months, this week is about a “trio of dance”, 3 people who have impressed me on how they have allowed the Lord to use them for His Kingdom purposes in very beautiful, artistic and creative ways! (And to think it’s wasn’t too long ago that all dancing was considered “sinful” within most church cultures…or actually some may still feel that way today……but here I go anyways!)
 
TRIO OF DANCE:
ACT 1: “ALAN”- I met Alan last year and have admired his faith in putting his life on the line for the Kingdom in how he is GO-ing with God on mission, very much in complete faith. Alan’s is a dancer, a choreographer and a pastor hearted guy who left his job, his home church, basically his overall comfortable “normal life” in Los Angeles to GO and serve God alongside a church plant in Germany. I love the adventure and heart in this guy, even if I think he’s crazy…of course in the best sense of the word. At home, part of his ministry to the Lord from his talents and passion was that of serving with the dance ministry at his home church in LA. But his home church is truly unique in that they have an amazing extensive dance and musical ministry since many from the congregation are professionals who perform in dance, musicals and various productions in Hollywood, LA and elsewhere. Really cool stuff actually, and not something that most churches have access to with such talents in their congregations. And yet, as comfortable and cool as that may have seemed, Alan was called to “GO” and give of himself elsewhere, in a country called Germany, after his heart was touched during a short term mission there. Today, Alan isn’t working with numerous professionals and a large scale structured ministry team, but with local German speaking people who are learning dance (many for their first time) and how to use it as a form or worship and even outreach. Today, Alan is has a place to call “home” while living in an apartment with some roommates and eating food every day which seems normal. But, again that is today, but when this man of faith left his comfortable life in LA several months ago to serve the Lord it was WITHOUT PRE-FINANCIAL SUPPORT and NO GUARATEES OF IT! That’s NOT normal, and totally something I admire in Alan and his story! It hasn’t been easy and still a true adventure of faith, but God has been faithful and along the way has provided Alan’s basic needs every step of the way! Obviously there is much, much more as I didn’t even bring up like the fact that he doesn’t speak German, although the Lord has provided lessons since his arrival as well, but yes, Alan has danced his GO-ing feet for the Lord in special fashion. May the Lord continue to touch hearts through this faithful servant and Follower of Jesus.
 
ACT 2: “GLEAM JOEL”- I’ll spare you the lengthy e-mail. Joel’s story can be found here: www.stillstandingthemovement.com. By the way, he’s got a musical/concert in Cham on May 21st and 28th with ticket information also on the link. I met Joel about 5 years ago shortly after we started planting LIFT as he was starting a “Hip Hop church plant” west of Zurich. Derek Webster was around at the time and helping Joel get connected with a German speaking Swiss church to be somewhat of the “support church” to Joel’s vision. It’s even funny now again trying to imagine this conservative Swiss (German speaking) church with many mature (a nice way of saying old) congregants coming alongside a foreigner with poor German, but incredibly flowing and rhyming English from Africa who’s vision was to use Hip Hop to reach the younger generation. One of the most profound things I ever heard since coming to Switzerland was Derek sharing at the time about one of these “old Swiss conservative Christian men” who was totally skeptical and against the whole idea of a Hip Hop Church and their church being associated with it. This old man, skeptical as he was, attended a “Hip Hop church service” which was basically a Hip Hop concert with a sermon, and that night afterwards deciding that HE TOO LIKED HIP HOP MUSIC IF THAT’S WHAT IT TAKES TO SHARE THE GOSPLE WITH YOUNGSTERS! About 100 had attended that night and he realized the power of using contemporary means to share Jesus in a relevant and effective manner. Soon after, this old man was that Swiss church’s strongest supporter in gaining others to support this young church plant! That’s a cool story all in itself!
 
ACT 3: “TEAM FEDOR”- This one is closer to home, right here at LIFT. This isn’t just about a person, but a family of 4 that have been amazing in starting and creating an outreach dance ministry at LIFT that has truly surprised me in how cool it is…..even if is seems so opposite of my own “manliness”. I’ve written about these 18th Century Dance nights before, but truly it is an fun and eventful evening….even for “men” who prefer attending sporting events. K*, alongside husband D* and teens J* and E* have given of their time, talents and abilities to reach out into the Kingdom and not just those at LIFT, but our community of Zug/Zurich/Luzern around us! THERE’S ANOTHER DANCE NIGHT TOMORROW NIGHT, IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO COME AND JOIN….AND BRING A FRIEND! TRUST ME, YOU’L LIKE IT! (….and be LIFTed UP!)
 
So there you have it, my TRIO OF DANCE of insight and gratitude to others in serving the Kingdom of God; using dance and faith as worship to God and a way of sharing Him with others…….in living and giving their faith away!
 
In His grip and grace,
 
Corey

Everyone has a story….and a name! Continued…..

Live It and Give It! (Zug, Switzerland)-  for March 2010
 
Hello all,

“I just want to feel like that what I am doing in life can make a difference in the world, otherwise what’s the point of just going to work, going home and doing whatever in the meantime. I have a great career and make enough money to do well.  I’m in a great relationship for nearly 10 years now; he’s a really good man and we do love each other…I believe it’s for our lifetime, but don’t feel the need to be married and change what we have.  I don’t really desire kids of my own, but one of my life’s joys is my sister’s toddler that fulfills that aspect of life. But somehow, I want to do something greater for the world” –she’s got a name as well, but I’ll only share a bit of her story. 
 
How many of you are in your mid thirties (or remember them…or someday want to imagine what your life will be like when you get there) and desire to make a real difference in the world?  I’ll admit that I do and I’ll also admit that I’m actually in my late thirties, not mid and also, the question of “if” I can still make a difference becomes more of a reality because the older I get the seemingly less time I have to do it.  As mentioned in the past couple of LIFT updates, I am on a “Sabbatical” from daily leadership of LIFT this year and during this season of life, part of my personal and intentional goal this year is to better hear “other people’s stories” and try to learn from them and what the Lord might try to communicate to me through their stories if I simply listen long enough to truly hear.
 
I love the worldly aspect of my professional life that I so often find myself in deep hearted discussions with others who have no preconceived notions that they are talking to a strong Follower of Jesus, much less a “pastor”.  During an international training program with several 2 or 3 day modules over the past year or so, I’ve gotten to know several internationals that have no idea about my “ministry habit”, but know me from my work titles and function. In such courses, a team atmosphere and actual friendships begin to form from the course discussions and the many side discussions around meals and some free times. Although I may keep my “church planter/pastor” roles a bit hidden at the work place, the aspect of being a family man with faith clearly comes out during side discussions. This openness does two things; one it opens up conversations with others about life, and secondly, it’s a message to both male and female co-workers that I value my faithful marriage relationship. So although this woman in her mid thirties shared some insight into her life with me, it was definitely within an “appropriate discussion”. That being said, it’s amazing and ironic that deep down people are all the same (whether they admit to include Jesus or not) in that they seek a deeper purpose of sense in life and also seek deeper true relationships with others. 
 
Speaking of getting a bit deeper regarding a couple of things she said in the quote above and amongst over discussions in which I found particularly insightful and meaningful:
 
-“I just want to feel like that what I am doing in life can make a difference in the world”: This theme kept coming up in that she had a huge heart for the billions across the planet that live in poverty, in need of food and water and things she takes for granted every day.  She has everything she needs in a decently wealthy country and comfortable surroundings  She wanted to somehow use her life to help others, in particular children as her sister’s toddler has grabbed her heart and motherly aspirations.
 
-“a great career and make enough money”:  It was clear to me, (and I believe she meant it) that just increasing her rank in the corporate ladder and salary wasn’t very fulfilling, which actually, for her age, she has already attained a high level and definitely within a circle of very influential people. Status and money still left her feeling empty regarding things that are considered meaningful.
 
-“a great relationship…but don’t feel the need to be married”:  Ok, this may give away her nationality, but the term for her “relationship” is a unique German language word that expresses much.  “Lebensabschnittspartner”- meaning temporary life companion, or more literally “Life – segment – partner”.  Honestly, although I really don’t like this German term, I appreciate the honesty of it. So many of today’s generation across the planet don’t value marriage and just move in together, often for a brief time, in this case the title of temporary “life-segment-partner” at least admits the truth of their expectations that it is perhaps just for a part of life, not a lifetime.  Aside of the term she used for her partner, she did express deep love and loyalty, perhaps even for a lifetime.
 
Of course, there is more to her story like a “religious” background, but no understanding of a relationship with God or Jesus, just being made to go to church until her late teen years as it was the family expectations of her parents, who seemingly also only went out of duty, not worship or a meaningful reason. There is more to her story revealing her desire for real relationships and friendships as she admitted her quick successes on FB’s Farmville in recent months showing that she’s spending too much time on cyberspace longing for contact with others and not enough in real life, except those she works with, as she’s somewhat of a workaholic at times.  Of course, during our conversation, I inserted a few words of (Godly) wisdom here and there, just not stating the Book, chapter and verse behind the wisdom and letting the wisdom speak for itself. 
 
Her story is not over…….neither is yours or mine.   In a few months, I’ll be at another training course and perhaps our side conversation will continue.  In the meantime, I can keep her in prayer and perhaps God will continue to put others into her life to continue His conversation with her.  
 
YOUR LIFE DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD! In closing, I am the eternal optimist and I really do believe that I can make a difference in the world, and believe you and your life makes a difference as well!  It’s not how big or little of a difference, but simply just making a difference one person, one story, one day at a time.   Simply take the little “insignificant” opportunities that a normal day and normal conversation bring along in living and giving our faith away.  God will take it from there…..with you…..and/or with others! 
 
 
Colossian 1:9-12a For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father
 
In His grip and grace,

Corey

Words can’t express it!

Live it and Give it! (Zug, Switzerland)-  for January 2010
 
In early January, my Facebook header simple stated, “words can’t express it…..” for a little more than a week.  The rest of the statement that I didn’t post was “……being in the presence of God!” 

So far so good in twenty ten!  As I am on a “Sabbatical” this year with my family from active daily leadership at LIFT, I’m looking to “see God” as often as I can in my daily life and activities, even in the simplest of ways which are often the most profound…….when one only looks with intention to see Him!  I’m looking to “dream” of ways to impact His Kingdom, while ensuring its one heart at a time, not statistics and numbers.  In this fashion, it’s personal; personal with every person that God brings into my realm of influence.   
 
We all have a story in life and too often I want to share mine, mostly with intentions to share Him, but again, too often content with just sharing mine.  For this season in life, I hope to discover and learn about God through the stories of others and how He is working in their lives and realms of influence.  Most of you know, my work life takes me to many far away places where many people that I spend time show no signs of God in their realm, although who am I to judge from the outside, therefore, I’m hoping they’ll invite me into sharing their stories as well, perhaps in the end both they and I can see God more clearly.
 
So there you have it for the first LIFT update of 2010.  Too be honest, I’ve “written” about 10 already this year, but didn’t get out the keyboard to put them down as I just didn’t have the right “words to express it”.   If you’re ok with receiving these updates, then I pray the journey ahead this year will be of encouragement as “I try to express” the heart of God through people and the stories that I encounter, perhaps even some of mine too (because I sometimes can’t help it)! 
 
I hope your story is going well and regardless of your circumstances (wonderful, good, bad or terrible) that you can still find yourself in the presence of God and know deep within that IT IS WELL WITH YOUR SOUL!  For those that know me well, “It is well with my soul”, goes deeper than just 5 words that can’t express it completely!
 
In His grip and grace and enjoying the journey and adventure now and ahead!

Corey

PS- The morning after I wrote the above (and without Ken knowing what I wrote), I got the following text message on my phone from Ken. “Hello bru, I want you to know that I have been praying for you today that as the stories of others unfold today you will know and see our LORD’s plan unfold.”  God is so often showing us His presence when we look to Him and in this case, words do express it well!

“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