Merry Christmas

Just wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very Merry CHRISTmas. Instead of gifts this year, we did something a little different for most people on our list:

Dear Friends and Family,

When we sat down to make our Christmas shopping list this season, we quickly realized how blessed and fortunate we all have been this year. Personally, we have been blessed with many “things” but more importantly, we’ve learned a lot in these past 12 months by paying more attention to God’s desire for our lives. The more we began thinking about Christmas and the insane amount of shopping to be done, the more blessed we realized we were and the more we felt like God was telling us to do something different and meaningful this Christmas. We both felt led to donate the bulk of our budget for Christmas gifts to groups and organizations that could help spread the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior – Jesus Christ, to people around the world.

As many of you know, back in October, we went on our second mission trip to Russia and were truly touched by the many Russian Christians we met and befriended. One group of believers that we met was in a small town called “Rzhev” about four hours outside Moscow. This church has 19 members and was attempting to renovate and build a new church building for themselves before the long, hard winter set in. Of these 19 church members, most of them are elderly and retired, living off their government pension, barely being able to put food on their tables, let alone have enough to spare to contribute to their church’s building fund, but they faithfully began building, trusting in God that the funds, materials, and labor would follow. This small, passionate church in rural Russia is just one of the groups we felt led to share “Christmas” with this year.

In addition to the Rzhev church, we’ve also made a pledge to our church’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which goes to support more than 5,000 missionaries around the world through the International Mission Board. The work that these missionaries do is priceless. In the year 2005, more than 100,000 new churches were started and nearly a half-million people were baptized as a result of IMB missionaries.

Finally, we’ve also made a contribution to Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is truly a world-class organization, probably most well-known for bringing smiles to millions of children’s faces each Christmas with the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. In addition to the shoe box ministry, Samaritan’s Purse played a large role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helping people get back in to their homes as soon as possible. Even more than a year later, volunteer teams led by Samaritan’s Purse are still in the Gulf Coast area helping families get back on their feet. They are also constantly providing general medical care and needed operations to people around the globe who cannot otherwise afford the same level of care that we generally take for granted here in America.

If you were to take a look at “the big picture” our contributions to the above charities and groups may not be a lot, but we truly believe that when we give as God leads us, that our gift will be multiplied and be used in ways we can only imagine. We’ve made these donations in honor of you, our friends and family, in hope that at this time next year, even more families will be celebrating the birth of Jesus for what it truly is, instead of the commercialized version that has become so popular in our culture. We sincerely hope that we have not offended you, but that instead you too have been blessed by the works of these organizations and maybe even feel challenged yourself to help make a difference in Christmas for the rest of the world. From us to you and your family – Merry Christmas!

In Christ’s Love,
Justin and Bonnie
Christmas 2006