SHOP EARLY FOR CHRISTMAS
You may have groaned when you saw the first of the tinsel and selection boxes in the shops, but there are some Christmas tasks that do need an early start: shoeboxes need filling in October for Operation Christmas Child. In her article, URC Elder Dorothy Vickery gives the background to this international campaign, and explains what you can do this month to help.
In October 1990 Dave and Jill Cooke of Wrexham watched a news broadcast on the dreadful state of Romanian orphanages after the fall of the Communist Government. They asked themselves “How can we help the real victims, children who live in such circumstances day after day?” They knew they could not end conflict - but they could offer the gift of love.
Together they arranged for a convoy of nine trucks to be filled with medical supplies, food, clothing and Christmas gifts for the children, and they set off into Romania. This was the beginning of what would become the world’s largest children’s Christmas project – Operation Christmas Child.
Five years later Samaritan’s Purse got involved. This international relief and development organisation works in crisis areas throughout the world, using existing mission agencies and local churches to deliver whatever aid is required. Their links allowed Operation Christmas Child to expand enormously, sending shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to children in need around the world. Since then, more than 61 million shoeboxes have been delivered to deprived children in more than 135 countries.
Each box brings joy and hope to a child in a desperate situation; and it provides an opportunity for people of all ages to get involved in a simple hands-on project that has the power to transform children’s lives.
This year, we are again filling shoeboxes at the URC, to be sent to children in Mozambique. If you would like to be involved, the panels on the left tell you what you can do. Lots of Ickenham groups will be taking part – both churches, Breakspear School, Happy Days Pre-School, Jack and Jill Mother and Toddler Group as well as Brownies, Guides and Scouts. Each group will have their own plans in place, but eventually all items make their way to the URC.
You can also bring filled shoeboxes or any individual gifts directly to the URC. There are boxes for them in the Church lobby and in the Hardwick Room. Bring them by Sunday 23rd October, please, to give us time to check, sort and pack all boxes before their dedication at the following Sunday service. Then they can start their journey to Mozambique in time for Christmas.
Last year nearly 1.2 million shoeboxes were sent from the UK to children who need them most in some of the toughest parts of the world. Ickenham’s contribution was 192 shoeboxes. Through these gifts, can we show even more children this year that God loves them and that they have not been forgotten this Christmas?
FROM ST GILES’ CLERGY
There comes a time in the life of everyone who has a faith when they have to truly live that faith and not merely pay it lip service. I have just been through that time. My brother was diagnosed with lung cancer and his health rapidly declined until his sad death at the end of August.
Having a faith does not shield you from the evils of this world, but what I believe it does do is to give you the strength, power and comfort to come through such times. As it happened, each night I was reading “Jesus: A Gospel”, a book by Henri Nowen, and I found it amazing and comforting that no matter how I was feeling the reading for the day was absolutely appropriate for my needs.
On one particular night when I had seriously been questioning my faith I read this: “I can’t get my mind off my concern for a dying friend – but what am I supposed to do? Set my heart on the Kingdom? Fine, but how does one do this?”
It continued: “One answer is to move from the mind to the heart by slowly saying a prayer with as much attentiveness as possible... The truth is that a prayer, prayed from the heart, heals. When you know the ‘Our Father’, the ‘Apostles’ Creed’, the ‘Glory Be to the Father’ by heart, you have something to start with. As you lie in your bed, drive your car, wait for a bus, or walk the dog, you can slowly let the words of one of these prayers go through your mind, simply trying to listen with your whole being to what they are saying. You will be constantly distracted by your worries, but if you keep going back to the words of the prayer, you will gradually discover that your worries become less obsessive and that you really start to enjoy praying. And as your prayer descends from your mind into the centre of your being, you will discover its healing power.”
How comforting I found these words and how true they were for me as I prayed in this way over the next few days. It was also a great comfort to know that I was part of the larger Church Family and that many other people were praying for my brother and for me.
To conclude with more words from Henri Nowen – “It is good to know that millions of people have prayed these same words over the centuries and found comfort and consolation in them. I am not alone when I pray these words. I am surrounded by countless women and men, those who are close by and those who are far away, those who are presently living and those who have died recently or long ago, and I know that long after I have left this world these same words will continue to be prayed until the end of time. The deeper these words enter into the centre of my being, the more I become part of God’s people and the better I understand what it means to be in the world without being of it.”
I thank people for their support, both practical and spiritual, during the recent weeks.