As you might expect, this article has caused quite a stir within our community. Everywhere I go someone is commenting about the article and inquiring about the church. One pastor from a prominent Kingwood congregation said, “Kingwood Christian Church is really becoming the church known for welcoming and loving everyone, especially those who do not fit the Kingwood mold.” I was so happy to hear him say that word is spreading about our little church, that our message (Love, not Judgment, Extravagant Welcome, Open-Minded Conversations and Compassionate Service) is taking root in our community.
I could not believe it on Sunday morning when someone laid the Houston Chronicle Religion section on my desk. To my surprise, it was a full-color, cover article (above the fold) about little Kingwood Christian Church and the launch of the Table Service. We knew that several reporters had attended on the Table launch Sunday, but had all but lost hope that an article was on its way. The article caption reads, “Kingwood Christian Church seeks to create a more inclusive, less formal service.” The article goes on to describe our church as one where following Jesus means breaking down barriers between people, loving and accepting everyone and celebrating diversity around The Table.
This is the calling and mission that God has entrusted to us, that we would become a movement of welcome and inclusion that embraces all people as children of God and invites them to follow Jesus. Praise God! May it be so.
How did Kingwood Christian Church’s Joy for the World Market come to be?
Back in 2008 my friend Karen Evans Head told me about a charity called Bead for Life that was helping women in Uganda feed their children by creating beads out of recycled colored magazine pages. She had seen a news story about it and thought it was the kind of thing our women’s ministry might want to get involved with. She was right!
The women of KCC fell in love with Bead for Life and their mission to empower women in Uganda to eradicate poverty “one bead at a time.” We hosted our first “Bead Party” that year, selling their unique colorful bracelets and necklaces in the church foyer over three Sundays in late November and raised $1632 our sisters in Uganda.
The following year we weren’t sure whether we should sell the jewelry again, since our members had been so generous the previous year. Would there be enough interest for another year? We decided it was worth another try to help our Ugandan sisters. To our pleasant surprise, we raised $1635 the following year. And so we just kept going.
For four years we hosted an annual Bead Party and we raised a total of $7086 for our sisters in Uganda. By this time, the women weren’t just able to feed their children 3 meals a day instead of 2, but they had created a whole village where women were able to purchase a plot of land and build their own home, which is everything. They also founded a Leadership Academy, empowering women with the knowledge of business knowledge and practices to create sustainable small businesses.
About this time my friend Mary Sue McIlvain told me about Alternative Gifts International, and the gift market that her church in San Antonio hosted every year. Our Bead for Life group decided it was time to take things to another level and our Joy for the World gift market was born in 2012 with 59 charities. We were thrilled to raise $13, 124.
Over the next five years, we hosted the one-day Joy Market and raised money for 90 local, national and international charities totaling $68,850. Each year, KCC supported our market by budgeting the money needed to promote and host our Joy Market, and the KCC family supported us by volunteering to coordinate charity booths and bake cakes and by doing their Christmas shopping at our market.
One of the unexpected blessings of our market has been building relationships with these charities over the years. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast in September, 2017, I received a phone call from the Executive Director of AGI, Surrinder Moore. She called to see how the church fared in the storm and if we needed anything. When I told her about the church opening our doors as a shelter for those displaced by flood waters, she said, without hesitation, “We want to help. I’m not sure how much, but we are sending a check to help KCC with the relief work you are doing.” Imagine our shock to receive a check for $5,000 the next week. This summer, KCC received a local food pantry grant from AGI in the amount of $1700 for our Feed My Lambs program. Because we already had budgeted funds to cover our Feed My Lambs program for the year, the money was used by our KCC youth to create welcome bags for folks who stop by the church seeking assistance with bills, food, and/or resources beyond what KCC can provide. Our middle and high school youth wanted to be able to offer something tangible to members of our community who visit our church needing assistance with basic needs. Our grant from AGI provided the funds to make their idea a reality. The greatest surprise came when the new AGI gift catalog came out this year and KCC was featured on page 2!
This year we are excited to host our Joy for the World “Mini” Market this Sunday, December 9, before and after 11:00am worship in the foyer of the Sanctuary and before and after our KCC Christmas Dinner and Variety Show at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. Kingwood Christian Church is located at 3910 West Lake Houston Parkway. You will recognize some of your favorite charities and merchandise: Alternative Gifts International (AGI) catalog, Bead for Life, Equal Exchange coffee, olive oil and chocolate, SERRV, Rahab’s Rope, 2019 Grenada Mission Trip, Ten Thousand Villages, and a special opportunity to support for the Margreat Hakim family. Many gift items are under $10 and 100% of all purchases will go directly to the charities. All purchases can be paid for at one time with cash, check or credit card. So get ready for some fair-trade Christmas shopping! Grab your checkbooks, your piggy banks and your Christmas cash envelopes on your way to church Sunday morning and on your way back for our Christmas dinner & show on Sunday night. Partner with us in continuing our ten year tradition of bringing Joy to the World through our fair-trade market.
So if you haven’t heard, Christmas is coming. Presents are coming. Family is coming. Turkey and stuffing, Santa and elves, The Griswalds and Ralphie Parker are coming. Rudolph and Pepper, our elf on the shelf, Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey and Michael Buble are coming. Christmas is coming. But also the Messiah is coming. The Savior is coming. The God of the Universe in flesh is coming. Prepare ye the way.
We as Americans and Christians have packed so much into the four weeks between Thanksgiving and December 25, that there seldom seems to be enough time or energy to attend to the coming Messiah. Honestly, I don’t think it is because we have taken Christ out of Christmas. I think we’ve left Christ in Christmas. We’ve just buried him under layers of other things we’re also trying to celebrate like trees and family and presents and decorations and holiday traditions. I don’t know about you, but sometimes Christmas feels like trying to put 5 lbs. of fun into a 3 lb. bag. My Christmas schedule fills like a takeout container at Golden Corral, so full it won’t close, and Jesus is somewhere buried at the bottom. But… this… year…, I believe we long for Jesus to come to us again and show us the way to something new.
Advent means an anticipated arrival or the coming of a notable person. It is a season of preparing the way and then celebrating the arrival of the Savior, the Christ-child Jesus. I want to invite you into an intentional season of preparation for this holyarrival and provide you a resource for the journey. Below is the link to a daily devotional guide for the Advent season provided by the ministers and leaders of the Coastal Plains Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I encourage you to carve out a few moments each day to read and reflect with these authors on the beauty and mystery of the season.
May God bless your preparation with a new and meaningful gift far greater than those found under your tree.