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December 31, 2000: California church trailblazer for city's revitalization

December 24, 2000: New Jersey township retracts impediment to A/G congregation

December 10, 2000: Christmas stocking project brings hope, gifts to needy kids

November 26, 2000: A/G church looks to second half-century with founding pastor

November 19, 2000: Quest for souls occupies Christians during Olympics

November 12, 2000: Three ministers reaching their world

October 29, 2000: A/G Minister to ride to each state capitol, pray for nation

October 22, 2000: Art academy connects students with Creator

October 15, 2000: Columbine survivors share testimonies, hundreds respond

October 8, 2000: Graham conducts final evangelism conference

September 24, 2000: Independent congregation receives help from Lousiana A/G church

September 17, 2000: California ministry team breaking strongholds

August 27, 2000: Bold outreach touches hurting in Allentown

August 20, 2000: Baptist church gives A/G congregation its facility

August 13, 2000: Climbers conquer Kilimanjaro, help A/G

July 30, 2000: Chicago church, city partner to improve lives of women, children

July 9, 2000: New Mexico fires damage A/G families’ homes

June 25, 2000: God moves in Mississippi high school assembly

June 18, 2000: California skate park becomes 'teen church'

June 11, 2000: Convoy and partners team up to reach poor

May 28, 2000: Tornado damages A/G church in Texas

May 21, 2000: National Prayer Center ministry expands reach

May 14, 2000: Adventure, ministry on Pathfinder missions

April 30, 2000: Church reaching deaf students in Louisiana

April 23, 2000: 40-day fasts unite, renew A/G churches

April 9, 2000: Colorado church booms with bilingual services

March 26, 2000: Cell groups strengthen California youth group

March 19, 2000: Michigan church bounces back from brink of closing

March 12, 2000: A/G man holds world arm-wrestling title

February 27, 2000: A/G minister helps others get their wings

February 20, 2000: Former editor with Christ

 

Christmas stocking project brings hope, gifts to needy kids

(December 10, 2000)

Christmas will be merrier for nearly 2,000 children in Oregon this year because of an outreach orchestrated by several Assemblies of God ministries. From the inner city to rural logging towns children in hospitals, shelters, day-care centers and subsidized housing will receive a Christmas stocking packed with toys, candies, school supplies, toiletries and other goods.

Duane Driver, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Portland, Ore., helps fill wagons with stockings for distribution at a local hospital.

"For a lot of kids this will be the only toy or gift they will receive for Christmas," says Dorothy Driver, who pastors Cornerstone Church in Portland with her husband, Duane. "By teaming with other churches it equips us with the tools to touch many people."

Across the state hundreds of volunteers make and stuff the stockings and then send them to inner-city ministries, like Cornerstone, for distribution. Others, like Rainier First Assembly (Garry Siegenthaler, pastor), distribute the stockings in their community.

The Probasco family, who attend Rainier First, volunteer each year to fill three stockings and deliver them to various agencies and homes. Rhonda Probasco says her children are learning valuable life lessons because of it.

"They have learned to give to other people and that it’s nice to share," she says. "It’s important for them to see there are children in need."

When Rainier First started the program four years ago, children began bringing unwrapped toys from their fast-food meals for stocking stuffers. Members from the church contacted several restaurants and retail stores for donations, which soon followed.

"It’s a group effort," says Doris Peterson, who attends the church. "This year we will stuff and distribute nearly 200 stockings."

At Neighborhood Church, in Tualatin, members of the Women’s Ministries "adopted" more than 100 stockings. According to Kenneth Vanderhoff, pastor of the church, the stockings will be sent to inner-city ministries in nearby Portland. The church participates in the program, says Vanderhoff, so children will know that someone cares for them and God loves them.

The stocking outreach began nine years ago at Cornerstone Church. As word of the ministry spread, churches began a network. Members of Sunday school classes, women and men’s ministries, youth groups and families volunteered to make and fill stockings. Teen Challenge student-residents were enlisted to help dispense the stockings in Portland. Driver says it became evident that more than the recipients felt blessed by the giveaway.

"One stocking touches many lives," says Driver. "Many people in our church don’t have the means to give. But they have the joy of getting to go out and dispense these stockings."

Each stocking costs about $12 to make and fill. Besides stuffed animals, coloring books, stickers and gum, some churches include Bibles, gospel tracts or cards in the stockings.

James Boyd, pastor of Portland Metro Church, says more than 15 churches will send stockings to his church this year. The partnership has encouraged him.

"This shows there is unity, love and a concern for the people of the inner city," he says. "The outreach is a blessing to our community."

Neighborhood Church has expanded the stocking ministry to include a Christmas gift bag for adults. Congregants purchase the bags, which contain popular Christian books, the Jesus video and candy, then give them to non-Christian friends and family. The gift bags and stockings are not promotional material for any one church, Vanderhoff says. Instead, they are evangelism tools that let others know someone else cares.

"These are little ways of letting people know someone loves them," he says. "People don’t always understand the gift of eternal life so we give them gifts we hope will eventually lead to their acceptance of the greatest gift of all — salvation."

— Kirk Noonan
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