It's time . . . well, a bit past time . . . to start requesting your help with the annual Gifts for Gracias Project!
If you're unfamiliar with this project, it's simply an opportunity for our friends and supporters to donate gift items to help and encourage the pastors with whom we work, and their families. In the past, when we have had extra gifts, these have gone to orphans and children who attend our feeding centers and special needs programs. (In the last two years, donations have been way down, so we haven't had much in the way of extras.)
We currently work alongside of about a thousand pastors, with varying levels of involvement. Some pastors (about 100) run feeding centers, and we supply the food. Some pastors have received assistance with construction of a church or school building. Many have participated in our free pastor training school. About 150 (so far) have received motorcycles for use in their ministry work, through a joint effort with the Christian Motorcyclists Association. Another 50 or so, who either can't afford to run and maintain a motorcycle, or who live and work in areas with roads that even motorcycles can't traverse, have received funds to purchase horses and mules. Some just take advantage of the non-profit Bible and Christian book store which we run in the city of Gracias.
Many of the thousand pastors are located pretty far from us, and don't participate in this project because of distance. Other pastors, who work in more well-to-do areas with churches that can actually pay them a salary, choose not to receive a gift, so that the gifts can go to the needier pastors. Last year, we distributed about 300 gifts to pastors and their families - and most went to the pastors working in very poor rural areas, pastoring four or more churches (holding services in different villages on different nights of the week), and doing hard, physical agricultural work to support their families at a very minimal level.
We spend a lot of time, personalizing the gifts based on the ages and genders of the children in each family. Some of our donors prefer to put together a gift for a family, which we then match to an appropriate family (or add gifts for additional children, as necessary), some send shoebox-type gifts for children, which we then add to family items to make a complete family gift, and some people prefer to purchase one or a few items in bulk, which we then use as we put together the personalized gifts. We're happy - thrilled, really - to receive any of these types of donations! Additionally, many people send us used clothing and bedding, in good or new condition, to add to the gifts. Sweaters, jackets, and blankets are always high demand items!
I have prepared a page on our website, as a reference of information about this annual project. You can check the Gifts for Gracias page for mailing addresses, deadline dates, suggested items to add to gifts, and an overview of the project. If you have a question and can't find the answer there, please write to me, and I'll see that you get an answer! There is also a Gifts for Gracias Facebook page, which we will be using to post updates as this project gets rolling again this year!
Thanks so much for whatever part you can play in helping us show appreciation to these hardworking servants of the Gospel.