The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Thursday, December 18

Christmas Jubilee

I want to tell you about a Christmas sharing program that got started some 29 years ago when I was director of the Lafayette Urban Ministry. It started with a question - why do well meaning people try to play hero with someone else's children and ignore parents in the process of gift giving?

During my 1st year at LaFayette Urban Ministry, we devised a model for Christmas sharing that celebrated and honored parents. Instead of well meaning people playing "hero" with someone else's kids, we invited parents to a party and shopping spree.

In the church social hall we set up tables, arranged for music and refreshments and a host/hostess for each invited guest. In another room donated new toys were laid out so that parents could make choices that were right for their kids. For the next several hours church people and low-income parents mingled and wrapped gifts and shared some genuine holiday spirit.

We called it JUBILEE...based on the idea that God decrees a JUBILEE every 50th year where debts are canceled and renewed time of equality is initiated. Christians believe that Jesus realized this prophetic vision in his life and resurrection.

If you want to check it out in the Bible, pick up Leviticus 25 and Luke 4:14-28.

Those early years set in place what has now become known as a JUBILEE spirit. Every year the program grows a little. Now more than 650 parents were honored guests as they selected gifts for more than 1800 kids. The number of volunteers engaged is well over 1500 in 26 different sites. One volunteer coordinator told me, "Sure it can get to be a lot of work, but it just would not be Christmas without JUBILEE."

I visited many of the sites this year. Needless to say I was overwhelmed by all the giving and sharing. Words can hardly express the joyous feelings. A reporter filed the article below....

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Lafayette Urban Ministry's Jubilee is 'what Christmas is all about'
12/14/2008 3:43:54 PM
POSTED: Sunday, December 14, 2008/JACH News Service
LAFAYETTE -- Jennifer Crouch shared smiles with other visitors at her table in the Central Presbyterian Church gymnasium Saturday morning. The hugs and smiles were warm despite the chilly temperatures outside.
She pulled out a large and showed Christmas gifts she just wrapped for her two children, one with a birthday on Christmas Eve.
Recently, Crouch said she had no idea how she would be able to find money for Christmas gifts with a bad economy and few resources herself. Then, she received a card in the mail from Lafayette Urban Ministry informing her she could pre-register for the 28th annual Jubilee Christmas, put on by the ministry.
"I got my taxes done at LUM this year," Crouch said. "When I got the card, I thought initially that now my kids can have a pretty good Christmas. I was pretty excited."
Crouch's excitement was shared with more than 700 families around the Greater Lafayette area Saturday, courtesy of several hundred volunteers and 34 churches. Lafayette Urban Ministry's Jubilee Christmas took place at 26 sites where parents from needy families were able to select Christmas presents for their children.
Joe Micon, executive director of LUM, said the concept of the Jubilee Christmas was established in a way to allow the parents to be the "hero" for their children and give the gifts instead of the church or agency directly handing out gifts to children.
Parents, like Crouch, attended one of the different sites and were able to select toys, books, food and stocking stuffers for their families. All the items were purchased and/or donated to the various sites for the Jubilee.
At the Central Presbyterian site, organizers also raffled off additional gifts to families.
Chip Goldsberry, one of the coordinators of the jubilee at Central Presbyterian, played the emcee, guiding groups of parents and their supports from room to room so they can select gifts and items for their families.
The gym looked more like Santa's Workshop between room changes as parents and church members busily wrapped the selected gifts and items to be opened only on Christmas Day. It was enough to bring a smile to even the Grinch as Crouch and others made their selections with the help of church members.

"What Christmas is all about"
One church member, Garry Smith, owner of Smith's Shoes, said his daughter Victoria, 18, a senior at Lafayette Jefferson High School, insisted that the family take part in the Jubilee Christmas. It was the second year the Smiths have participated.
"This is what Christmas is all about," Smith said. "It's good to see the looks on the faces of people as they pick presents for their kids and helping out those who may not be as fortunate," Smith said. "(Victoria) was adamant about coming here this year."
Victoria Smith said she sleeping in on a cold Saturday was never an option and the jubilee was something she looked forward to.
"I like to meet people and help them out," she said. "It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and knowing I've been able to help someone."
Another teenager, Tori Sauer, 16, a sophomore at Harrison High School, said she went shopping for presents to donate the night before and took several of her friends.
"They said (the shopping for gifts) was fun," Sauer said. "It was fun shopping for younger kids and remembering all the things you liked at that age. It feels good to know that you were helping other people. I go to this church (Central Presbyterian) so I've known about the jubilee since I was young. It's great to be a part of it."
Goldsberry said one of the indirect benefits of the event is what it does for the congregation. Goldsberry said the jubilee allows the congregation to put its faith into action and helps bring the members together for a common cause.
"They are here out of love," Goldsberry said. "They didn't have to get up and be here. The families are here because of their commitment to their children. Some of these families are going through some pretty hard times. They have to be pretty strong to come and do this.
Goldsberry said it cost about $6,000 for the church to put on the jubilee. He said over 100 volunteers took part behind the scenes and making sure the event ran like clockwork on Saturday.
"It takes time, money and devotion," Goldsberry said. "This is a joy. You always get more than you give. These families bring an excitement and love for their families and dedication to their faith that's awe inspiring."
Rita Tillett, a member of Central Presbyterian and Lafayette Urban Ministry's program director, said over 900 individuals volunteered their time for the jubilee this year.
"Jubilee Christmas is our community's largest Christmas assistance program," Tillett said in The Seed, the ministry's newsletter. "This is an important holiday tradition for so many in our community. We're grateful to each person who will contribute of their dollars and of their time so that Christmas morning will be bright for all of our community's children."
Central Presbyterian pastor Bill Smutz said his church has been involved with the Jubilee Christmas from the very beginning. He said his church members have been very good in giving of their time for others.
"We want to support the good work that (Lafayette Urban Ministry) does," Smutz said. "From my perspective, it's a question of faith. It's a tangible way to live out their faith, to serve others, care for others and share grace. I'm grateful for those who show up to be part of this. It's great to see that they take their kids serious enough to get involved in something like this."
Jennifer Crouch said she was more appreciative of the opportunity to see her children smile at Christmas time. She said she was equally pleased to know about organizations and churches that are willing to help families like hers.
"I think (the jubilee) is very valuable," Crouch said. "There are a lot of kids out there who may not get any presents. It's great to know that there are people out there who are willing to help and who care. It makes me very happy that I live in a community that's willing to step up and help people in need."

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