Gospel for Asia, Wills Point, TX
It’s Throwback Thursday! We’re going back to 2005 to a group meeting in Gospel for Asia’s old office in Carrollton, Texas, where people are discussing potential opportunities to help meet more needs on the field. A question is raised, “What if we made a catalog with high-impact gifts donors could give to families in Asia at Christmastime?”
The project was something new for the leaders at Gospel for Asia. Providing farm animals and sewing machines was so different from what the ministry was doing at the time—supporting and equipping national missionaries, educating underprivileged children, drilling water wells—but helping impoverished families in Jesus’ name truly complimented the ministry’s vision.
“The next year, we worked with the field with the idea of animals and other gifts,” said John, a Gospel for Asia staff member since 1992. “It was exciting because it would give donors a whole new and completely different opportunity to minister to the poor while still sharing the love of Christ.”
In 2006, Gospel for Asia’s first Christmas Gift Catalog was printed. It’s aim? Encouraging believers in the West to celebrate Christmas by giving life-changing gifts to families in Asia that break the cycle of poverty and provide hope. As John says, “The gift of hope, I believe, is one of the greatest gifts we can give, as it comes directly from the Father.”
What People Thought of the Catalog
When the catalog started landing in mailboxes, Gospel for Asia friends had the opportunity to give toward dozens of items, such as chickens, goats, water filters, rickshaws, winter clothing and church buildings.
“We were not totally sure what to expect, but our donors totally grabbed the vision and ran with it,” John recalls. “It was amazing to see the huge number of gifts that came in. We had to reorganize the work load just to manage it all.”
Heather, another Gospel for Asia staff member, remembers the flood of donations received through the catalog.
“I didn’t anticipate such an overwhelming response! It was so exhilarating to watch the Body of Christ all come together for this endeavor. …
“That first year, I talked with someone who had given a Jesus Well. It was his first gift to the ministry, so I was curious how he’d heard about it. As it turned out, he was a postman and had been delivering catalogs all week. He was waiting for one to be undeliverable so he could look at it himself (standard procedure for catalogs and magazines), and when he finally got to see the inside of a catalog, he was so impacted that he responded by providing a well. I think that’s when I really realized this was something special.”
By God’s grace, the response to the catalog has continued to increase—with more than 1.7 million families in Asia receiving life-changing gifts over the years.
We’ve all been there. On Christmas morning, the toys and the presents are so exciting! And then one day the new toy monster trucks loses a wheel. Or the mechanical puppy starts to wheeze as its battery dies.
But over the past 11 years, we’ve heard from GFA friends how much more joy their entire family has found knowing their Christmas catalog gifts are changing lives for years to come. We’ve seen them making major changes to the way they celebrate Christ’s birth, and it’s because of love, which as Dr. K.P. Yohannan writes, is the greatest motivation of all.
Hope, who now serves on staff with Gospel for Asia, remembers how her family incorporated the Christmas catalog in their celebrations during her childhood.
“Every year when I received the catalog growing up, my favorite thing to give towards was the Widows and Abandoned Children’s fund. My family would save money in a mason jar, and we would fill it up throughout the year with our change. And then the day we had been waiting for came…the catalog arrived! Down from the shelf came the now quite-heavy mason jar, and we would dump out the coins and count them excitedly to see what we could buy that year! My family really loved to give Bibles, and I think one year we gave a sewing machine and chickens…always chickens.”
Seeing the Impact Firsthand
After years of donating toward the catalog, Hope and some other GFA staff members made the long journey to Asia. There, she saw a glimpse of the impact her family and thousands of other families are making through the Christmas Gift Catalog.
“When I was able to travel to Asia and see things like blankets and sewing machines [being used], it was like a light bulb flashed on,” she says. “I could see the benefit of these gifts in a new way. Through that experience, it has made the catalog and the prayers and the hard work everyone puts into it so much more exciting and beautiful.”
The gifts in this catalog are simple—yet their impact far exceeds their cost. Even a blanket or a pair of rabbits can make a lasting difference for a struggling family.
“I was staggered to learn about the impact of blankets,” Heather shares. “Such a simple and humble gift, but one that seems to have an overwhelming response. I remember hearing about GFA-supported workers going out on wintery nights and laying blankets down on those who were sleeping unprotected on the street. The workers said simply, ‘These people went to sleep never expecting to wake up. Instead, they’ll wake up and know that someone has seen them.’ What an incredible way to communicate that the overlooked and neglected are noticed and cared for by the Heavenly Father.”
In places where the poorly clothed, the malnourished, the bedraggled and the hopeless are extended little kindness, giving income-generating gifts or gifts that improve people’s quality of life carries a powerful message: You are valuable.
“I think that’s the thing I love about the catalog gifts: restoring dignity,” Heather explains. “Reinforcing innate human worth. Demonstrating to everyone in sight that this individual is so highly valued, so cherished and so very special in God’s eyes.”
Gifts Help Givers to Celebrate Christmas in Missional Way
A beautiful thing about this ministry project is how we’ve learned these gifts not only change the circumstances of the gift recipients, but they also impact the givers.
GFA’s gift catalog doesn’t simply provide opportunities for families in Asia to receive practical help, it also gives families in the U.S. and around the globe the chance to celebrate Christmas in a missional way.
“These gifts can be so much fun to give,” Heather says, “and the gifts each year are the result of many ‘cheerful givers.’ But what’s really amazing is that many of these gifts will actually position the recipients to be givers themselves, perhaps for the very first time.”
As you anticipate this Christmas and the many joys of the season, may you remember the amazing love God has shown toward you and know His will in how to show that love to others.
We hope you’ve enjoyed going back with us to the origins of our Christmas Gift Catalog and the impact it’s made over the years!
To see our current Christmas Gift Catalog, go here:
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