A San Diego megachurch known for its service to the community will give out 10,000 toys and 60,000 pounds of food to "unfortunate" families in the area this Saturday.
The annual early Christmas event, Toys for Joy, is in its 14th year and expects to draw about 16,000 children and adults. In previous years, people have waited in line as early as 2 a.m. or endured rain and wind to ensure that their children will have presents for Christmas.
Nearly 17 percent of San Diego County's children are living in poverty, according to KidsData.org.
"People in the community that we hold it in will stand in line for hours and hours, all day, to get a toy and they have their kid out there," remarked Miles McPherson, founding pastor of The Rock Church and visionary behind the event, to The Christian Post on Thursday. "Last year it was 8,300 people standing in line and it was a slow walk."
The outreach event requires the help of more than 2,300 volunteers from a dozen area churches who will help provide meals, clothing, haircuts and medical services to people in the community that come. This year's Toys for Joy will also feature a Teen Area, with live bands, speakers, dance crews and graffiti artists. Community partners will also offer resources about job training and placement programs, inner-city tutoring, and gang alternatives.
Toys for Joy began more than a decade ago in partnership with Victory Outreach Church in San Diego. At that time, The Rock Church did not exist and it was Miles Ahead Ministry that spearheaded the event.
McPherson recalled that the church and his ministry wanted to use the Christmas season to reach more people for Christ. They noticed that people would sit in church to hear the Gospel and then afterwards go out to buy toys or a Christmas tree. So during the early days of Toy for Joys, organizers gave away toys and Christmas trees only.
"It was a way to conveniently bless them and give the Gospel to them at the same time," McPherson said.
The event continues to include an evangelism factor, with people in line being offered the opportunity to engage in a one-on-one Gospel sharing time and to visit an on-site prayer tent and sanctuary.
"More than ever, people need to step up and help those who are in need this year," said McPherson. "Christmas is a time when God showed His love for us, and we're ready to show God's love in the communities where we live and serve. That's the purpose of the church."
The Rock Church is San Diego's largest church with more than 12,500 people attending its five Sunday services. Last year, the Rock Church donated 615,956 hours of community service to the City of San Diego, which was valued at $9.6 million.