Christmas trees have gotten a lot more practical in the state of Michigan, particularly for one multi-campus church in Oakland County.
Skipping out on the usual ornamentation this season, Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church is opting to decorate their trees with toiletries instead, which they plan to donate to a local outreach center that provides for families in need.
“Our hope is that those who need these items for their day-to-day living and Christmas celebration is fulfilled,” Associate Pastor Ken Fouty told The Christian Post in an email.
This year marks the third consecutive year the church has been helping out their community through what they call the “giving” trees. In the first two years, members filled their trees with scarves and mittens, a must for Michigan residents hoping to bear the winter cold.
Leaders at Calvary took their giving tree in a different direction this Christmas, stocking up on items that one of their local outreach agencies, Open Door, said they were constantly in need of – toiletries.
“Around this time of year they do pretty well with hats, scarves and mittens. So we decided to collect their most needed items,” Fouty said. Whatever they gathered from the end of November to December would be given to Open Door, an organization they also provided with fresh produce grown from their 3,000 square-foot garden as well.
Collecting everything from soap, shampoo, toothpaste, razors, toothbrushes, and toilet paper at their White Lake campus, the church hopes to reach a 100-pound goal before the first of next year, which the associate pastor believes they would hit soon.
Their other campus in Clarkston is also participating in the giving trees as well, providing other items like toys, games, bikes and clothes to another outreach agency called Lighthouse.
Every year, the response for the trees has been great, Fouty shared, from both the givers and the receivers.
“Our hope for Advent is that through our generosity our people [will] accept the call to respond with the love of Christ and ... be part of the transforming spirit of Christ.”
He hopes that his congregation will live as “hands and feet” throughout the year, and not just during this season.
“As a Christian organization, it’s imperative to reach out to those less fortunate in the community during the holiday season and all year long,” Fouty explained to White Lake Patch.
“Basically as Christians, we are called to make an impact on the community and address needs that are not being met. We need to take those needs and ask how we, as Christians can serve.”
In addition to partnering with Open Door Outreach Agency and Lighthouse, Calvary Evangelical Church worked with a number of other organizations during the year, including Grace Centers of Hope and The Baldwin Center in Pontiac.
Fouty shared that the church’s most memorable moment of 2011 was when the congregation packaged 50,000 meal packets for the Kids Against Hunger organization. He considered that to be one of the best experiences this year.
Just this past year, the church celebrated its 50th year of ministry and advocated their theme of “Blessed to be a Blessing” to their members and around their neighboring community as well.
“Fifty years ago, in Clarkston, Michigan, God planted a new church, Calvary, to ‘reach out and receive new persons, challenging them to either dedicate or rededicate in surrender and service for Christ and His Church,” the church website notes.
“That missional spirit continues today as we seek to know Christ and to make Christ known, in Clarkston, White Lake and beyond!"