Every Christmas, for the last twelve years, the Bay Leaf Baptist Church of North Carolina donate toys to seminary students. This action, according to Bay Leaf laymen, is a way for the church to show care and compassion for students desiring to build a career in church work and missions. This year, the Bay Lead Ministry was able to collect $20,000 worth of newly purchased toys to offer to seminary families. The seminary families were then allowed to buy the toys for practically nothing.
Seminary students are allowed to purchase three gifts, which are no less than $7 each. The price of each toy is determined by one-tenth of its original cost. More expensive toys like bicycles and handmade dolls will go through a lucky drawing. The church will then sell the toy to winning ticket holders for $10.
Bay Leaf associate pastor Will Gatling says that Bay Leafs generosity extended toward seminary students is a way to show them the love of the church.
Were committed to the seminary and to being a partner with those preparing to go into ministry, Gatling said. Seminary time is typically a tough time financially. Students come with a sense of devotion and sacrifice, and we thought this was a good way to provide their children with a Christmas like theyre used to. Were not looking for any payback. Were assisting them, and were just being a vehicle God can use.
The Toy Chest ministry of Bay Leaf cannot be described with mere human language, Southeastern President Daniel Akin says. The love shown to the students of Southeastern and their families is truly a gift from heaven. We love this church and thank God for how they love us."
For many young seminary students, particularly those who bring their families, coming to seminary is a difficult time. Not only do the students bear the weight of fulfilling class requirements, but also struggle raising a new family. For many students, turning to the church is the only way to find solace in difficult times.
Some churches dont [even] welcome seminary students, says Deborah Manby, because they know theyre just here for a while and then theyre going to leave, and so its hard for them to open up their hearts. So its really neat that this church sees the seminary students and what life is like for them and how hard it is. It really makes you appreciate them.
Not surprisingly, seminary students have responded well to this show of love from the local church. Many of the students who have receive the joy of feeling this kind of care have expressed desires to become a part of future toy chest events.
Its been a tremendous blessing, said master of divinity student Scott Cannon. Without it, our Christmas would probably be a lot dimmer. I work for a church right now, but the salary is minimal and we do well to pay the bills so any extra [money], like at Christmas time, is always tough. This is a great ministry and a big blessing to us.
When witnessing the joy of seminary students, the volunteers at the Bay Leaf Toy chest, expressed that they too receive much blessings and joy.
We love the seminary, volunteer Ron Hardee said. This is our 12th year of doing this, and its more of a blessing than we can describe. Too often we dont get a chance to tell students how much they mean to us, but were glad [for them]. They are our last hope. If this generation doesnt do it, were lost. But were going to make it.
The toy event has not only attracted good comments from students, but also from the faculty as well. A seminary could have no better friend than Bay Leaf Baptist Church, Allan Moseley said. For years the Bay Leaf folks have blessed Southeastern Seminary in innumerable ways - from major financial support to helping numerous individual students. The Bay Leaf Toy Chest is a microcosm of the people of Bay Leaf. It exemplifies their generosity toward students and missions while demonstrating the excellence that marks all their service for Jesus."
[Quotes taken from Baptist Press]