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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Yes, it is that time and 2014 is nearly over.  Your calendar is probably overwhelmed with events and trips and you have only 31 days to do it all (not counting the shorter time until Christmas).  But we need to remember that this is NOT only a time of parties and food and travel, it is a celebration of a gift given to us, a gift for which we must demonstrate gratitude.  It is not about what I get, but rather, how much I can do and give for those who truly need.  (I will confess that there are three little girls who may not “need” what Marsha and I will give, but grandparents have unique definitions for “need”.)

This year we will again support Heifer International.  This organization provides livestock and other resources to people all over the globe who need to be fed and to earn a living, even here in the USA.  Gifts of any size can be used to purchase everything from bees to cattle, from fish to education for girls, from trees to water buffalo.  As a congregation during the past several years, we have paid for most of the animals that can be sent.  One of the newer items available is irrigation pumps.  They cost $150 but can provide water to areas that usually have to transport the water by bucket.  We only have to listen to the news of drought out west to get an idea of how bad it is in many places in Africa and elsewhere in the world.  It is often the young girls who are tasked with carrying water and therefore cannot attend school.  This perpetuates the poverty of the community.

As we celebrate the birth of the Water of Life, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to help provide life giving water as well as a chance for girls to have the time to go to school?  If you want to join in the effort, there are two methods to do so.  First, bring a check to church or send it to the church (100 N. Houston Rd., Warner Robins, GA  31093) made payable to First Christian Church and in the memo note indicate Heifer International.  Second, send a check directly to Heifer International P.O. Box 8058, Little Rock, AR, 72203-8058.  You can even make gifts to Heifer in a friend or family member’s name and Heifer will send a card acknowledging the gift.

There will be another opportunity to assist those facing hunger this year.  The Society of St. Andrew, www.endhunger.org, is recognized by our denomination and is partnered with the Week of Compassion.  This program helps gather produce from participating farms by gleaning.  Throughout the Bible there are passages encouraging farmers to not harvest the edges of the fields so that the needy can come and collect food for their families.  This Is what is done in the Society of St. Andrew.  Partner farms allow volunteers to come and collect crops that have not been fully harvested and distribute that produce to food pantries and kitchens.  The GA office is in Tifton with two other locations in Dahlonega and Albany.  On the first Sunday of Advent, boxes will have been made available to collect change or bills to help in the work of ending hunger along with an Advent devotional booklet.  Please pick one up and consider using both the booklet and the box.

While this is the last opportunity to share our gifts, it is by no means the least.  Every year we collect a Christmas Offering that helps support the regional church in Georgia.  New things are beginning to happen here and we need to be encouraged as a regional church.  We also need to dedicate not only our resources but also our time and talents in the weeks and months ahead.  The Christmas Offering is the first chance to get the ball rolling.  The offering will be collected on Dec. 14 and 21.  Please support this region.

One last thing that should be a lot of fun, on Sunday, Dec. 21 everyone coming to church is encouraged to wear a Christmas shirt, sweater, and/or tie.  Kick up the festive celebration of Christmas and have some fun on Christmas Sunday.  You can also break out the wardrobe on Dec. 24 at 7:30 p.m. for the Christmas Eve service.  Come to church and enjoy the fellowship and the joy of this time of year.

Shalom, Darrell