What does the formula “21-61-431” have to do with missions and Christmas in New Mexico? Glad you asked!
In an average year at least 21 churches or individuals, including a Girl Scout Troop, participate in the Christmas Shoe Box project to bless the Navajo in New Mexico. From mid-November to early December we receive at least 61 packages of all sizes sent from Oregon, Washington, Montana, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Hundreds of people have purchased gifts, packed, wrapped and sent 431 beautiful shoeboxes, bags, and backpacks. Each one is labeled for age and gender, from Infant to Adult, and filled with age appropriate gifts to brighten someone’s Christmas. In addition, there are dozens of blankets and throws, walker bags, several boxes of school supplies and other miscellaneous items, and some cash gifts.
What happens to all those wonderful gifts you send to us at Christmas? Shoe Box season is an exciting time for us missionaries and the people of Kirtland Hope Evangelical in Kirtland, New Mexico. First, we unpack all the shipping boxes and sort the gifts by age/gender groups. Then we spend a couple days inspecting all of the boxes and bags to double check for content, making sure they are “equaled out” so each child receives about the same amount of gifts and goodies. We add a Christmas Greeting, explaining the meaning of Christmas and God’s love, and extending a warm invitation to visit our church. Then we load them all into our trailer and deliver!
We have adopted the Nenahnezad Indian School just a few miles from Kirtland Hope Church on the Navajo Reservation. They have 159 students in K-6th grade, about 1/3 of whom are boarding students that only go home on the weekends. Our church members don our new Santa and Elf hats and pass out the shoe boxes to joyfully exuberant Navajo children that express many glad “Thank-Yous” and smiles!
This year when I (David) entered a 1st grade classroom to alert the teacher that we were ready with the gifts, she had all her students quietly gathered around a table listening to her read a story. The kids took a look at my white beard and Santa hat, heard my message of gifts, and all jumped up and rushed me with warm hugs and shouts of “Santa”!! So much for classroom order. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or what!
Most of the remaining gifts are delivered to the Pine Tree Mission Church south of Gallup, New Mexico, which is pastored by Virgil Chee. On Christmas Sunday they sponsor a community dinner after their morning service, and every person receives gifts for their family. Many Navajo families struggle, especially during the winter time, with the hardships and extra costs due to the cold weather. These gifts are a wonderful encouragement and blessing. This is a great outreach for this rural church that could never afford such a large ministry without your help! In addition, the walker bags and many blankets go to nursing homes and seniors in the community.
On behalf of everyone that receives a “Christmas Shoe Box” gift, from the bottom of my heart I say “Thank You”, the members and friends of The Evangelical Church who participate. Your love has touched hundreds here in the Southwest. We are eternally grateful.