HAZELWOOD – Each December, Hazelwood Church members look forward to ministering to their needy neighbors through the church’s Lifelines Christmas Giveaway. The event supplies physical needs but also addresses individuals’ spiritual needs for Christ. Participants receive the Gospel message when they come to pick up needed clothing or toys.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, the giveaway served 60 families through its toy and coat distribution, which included approximately 150 children.
Church member Ginny Willey leads the church’s Lifelines ministry that hosts the giveaway. “The purpose is to bless our community with material things while offering them Jesus when they come to pick up their packages.”
Lead Pastor Jim Walker explained that the event’s number one priority “is always to share Christ’s love and message of salvation” with every participant. This year there was at least one known profession of faith during the event.
In previous years the giveaway had up to 100 volunteers for a walk-through event in the church building. In addition to receiving various items each family or individual also spent time with a counselor where prayer and a Gospel presentation were offered.
Willey said the church has seen “several people receive Christ as their savior through the years and many… are now part of the ministry.”
Due to COVID-19 this year’s event used about 30 volunteers and a drive-thru process. However, each recipient still spent time with counselors who connected with them by telephone.
“After people were checked in they were able to pick up a box of food items donated by the Missouri Food Bank,” said Walker. “They were then instructed to go to a certain parking spot” and spiritual encouragers called each car.
“We had some great conversations with people,” Walker said. “We were able to pray about specific needs, encourage people in their faith, and one lady professed her faith for the very first time over the phone.”
After the calls volunteers took age appropriate new or lightly used toys, coats, hats and scarves to each participating family. Items were donated by church members, with some contributing handmade items.
“Our desire is that everyone gets a personal touch of encouragement,” Walker explained. “We seek to share love, encouragement, prayer, and the message of Jesus with everyone who participates.”
To get the word out about the event the church contacted social workers in the Hazelwood School District who referred families. Social media, flyers and yard signs have also been used.
Another Lifelines community ministry is an August back-to-school giveaway of backpacks filled with necessary school supplies.
“At the end of each event, we, the volunteers, are the ones who are so blessed,” Willey said. “If one person receives Christ, it is all worth it.”