HENRIETTA, N.Y. (BP)–Soap and shampoo can open the door for leading someone to Christ. Just ask Steve Fromm, director of church and community ministries in Henrietta, N.Y.
Fromm received packages from 70 different churches as a part of the 2000 Christmas in August missions project sponsored by Woman’s Missionary Union and the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
Volunteers used the items in the packages to assemble 350 school kits to distribute to schools throughout the association. In addition, more than 500 hygiene kits were assembled for the homeless and needy. The hygiene kits were distributed through food cupboards, shelter ministries and soup kitchens.
Fromm told of one kit given to a young girl in a city. “A missions volunteer from one of the churches in the association had met her on the street. The volunteer asked why she wasn’t in school and the girl replied, ‘I’m not going to school. They call me stinky and won’t play with me or sit by me.’
“You see,” Fromm explained, “the young girl didn’t have soap or shampoo at home.
“The next day,” he continued, “the missions volunteer found the young girl and gave her a hygiene kit. They talked about Christ’s cleansing power. The girl has begun attending church with the volunteer.”
Fromm is one of 36 North American missionaries from 22 states featured in WMU magazines for the Christmas in August emphasis.
Each year the North American Mission Board selects missionaries to be featured as Christmas in August missionaries. WMU contacts the missionaries and publishes information about their ministry and a list of items that they need.
Now in its 74th year, Christmas in August has become a summer tradition for dozens of Southern Baptist churches throughout the United States.
The missions activity began in 1927 when the Sunbeam Band of First Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Va., began collecting Christmas gifts for missionaries Hundley and Elizabeth Wiley. The missionaries gave the gifts to women and children in Shanghai, China.
The project grew and was soon adopted by Virginia WMU for all Sunbeam Bands in Virginia. Because of the war in China and problems in shipping overseas, in 1937 the decision was made that the Virginia Sunbeams would send their gifts to home missionaries (now called North American missionaries).
In 1950, WMU began featuring the Christmas in August missionaries in its magazines. Baptist Women were asked to help the young people have a Christmas in August missions activity in their churches.
Like Fromm, missionaries often share that Christmas in August is very meaningful to their ministry.
Among reports from the 2000 group of missionaries:
— Pastor Tom Anderson in McAlester, Okla., received gifts that were used among five Indian associations in eastern Oklahoma.
— North American missionary Kay Bennett reported that the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans has been blessed with gifts from 140 churches that sent more than 1,000 boxes of hygiene products. “We had Christmas in August, September, October, November, December and January 2001. What a blessing!”
— Tommy and Liz Stevens expressed gratitude for their Christmas in August experience. The Cochise Baptist Association in Tombstone, Ariz., received gifts from 133 churches in more than 20 states. Nine churches in the association, in cooperation with the Caring and Sharing Ministries in Tucson, assist two orphanages in Mexico. “We feed almost 1,000 children two meals a day, five days a week. These churches also provide Bible studies for the children and many come to know Christ.”
— Max Malone, Native American catalytic missionary for western and northern Oklahoma, writes, “It is difficult to give a total at this time. I am still receiving Christmas in August gifts. Mission groups from over 40 churches have responded. The gifts received have been distributed among 29 Indian Baptist congregations. WMU, through Christmas in August, helps remove some of the barriers to sharing Jesus Christ with these unchurched peoples.”
— Doug Chanco of the Savannah Baptist Association’s language and seafarer’s ministry, said: “‘Salamat Po’ (thank you). “Your Christmas in August gifts went all over the world. Seafarers from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle and Far East along with migrant and contract workers from Mexico and South America were recipients. The gospel of Jesus Christ was received by some and heard by all.”
— Efrain P. HortaCastro, catalytic multiethnic language missionary in Birmingham, Ala., was not only the recipient of Christmas in August packages from Acteens across the country, but he also received more than 200 letters when his name appeared in the missionary prayer calendar on his birthday in November.
— John Ashworth, associational missionary in Savannah, Ga., said, “We received enough soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toiletries to supply a small army. When you add crackers, cookies, snacks and prizes, we found ourselves prepared to touch the people of the Savannah Baptist Association with the love of Jesus.” Savannah ministries include a seafarer’s outreach, a multi-housing ministry, camp ministry and seven language mission churches.
“Let me assure you,” Ashworth wrote, “when WMU asks Baptists to give through Christmas in August, Baptists find a way to outdo themselves! Our ministries were greatly enhanced by your contributions. But more, our hearts were greatly touched by your generosity and prayerful support.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: UNLOADING BOXES.