Our effort to “Make Room” this winter was inspired by the Luke 2 account of Jesus’ birth story, and the unfortunate message his family was given: there is no room for you here, even in the most desperate hour of a mother in labor. We challenged ourselves and others we knew to consider the ways that they could make room for those in similar situations to Jesus’ family.
Making Room in our hearts and prayers, we raised $78,885 for those in need! Our particular focuses were improving schools, caring for women, empowering refugees, preventing illness, visiting prisoners, providing food and empowering youth. In some cases we raised enough funds to continue this good work for another whole year -- like offering after school activities for youth in the Philippines, or the work related to providing 120 rocket stoves and 60 double dug beds in Kenya and Uganda. 25 children will receive full tuition for the year, APS and St. John's were given major contributions towards their improvement, and much much more.
But as Jesus taught us, it’s more blessed to give than to receive. And so in giving, we also received benefits. Our hearts were softened, our prayers focused, and our families united through our efforts to make room this holiday season.
Several people told me that the Make Room campaign challenged them to keep their priorities straight over the holidays. For those of us in the West, it can become really easy to forget those who are in true need, simply because we don’t see it very often. But God’s people are called to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10), and to establish the spiritual fruit of generosity in our lives (Gal. 5:22).
I began to see families doing very intentional activities with their children, all under the banner of “make room.” I walked into one friend’s home and saw banners hung across her dining room with words written in her daughters’ best print, phonetically applied, “pregnit women,” “kids without shoes,” “parents in jail,” “kids in afrika.” She explained, “every day, we choose a different topic to pray for.” Tears filled my eyes at the substantial new tradition she’d established.
Then I went to another home and saw the same thing, hand drawn topics written, on snowflakes cut out from paper. “Refugees in Nashville.” “Kids who need help going to school.”
Kim Ownby, mother of four, reflected, “As we prayed together as a family, I began to watch my kids priorities shift. One morning my 7-year-old was praying for refugees. He kept repeating, ‘Lord, please give them peace, peace. Peace ... and blankets! Lord please help them get blankets, it’s cold outside.” The mother (Kim Ownby) took that as a cue. She knew they had several to spare. So she and the kids washed and folded them together and sent them with a friend who visits refugees every week. As the family continued throughout the month, the kids told the parents they’d like to donate any Christmas money towards helping kids in Africa to attend school. Sure enough, when the checks were totalled they had enough to send a little boy in Kenya to school for an entire year!
The Loeffler family (of 7) was similar. They committed their whole December to discussing Jesus’ birth and their kids were very impacted. For the third year in a row, they told their grandparents and relatives and told them they didn’t need presents, but they would like them to please give towards St. John’s school, which still lacks some basic necessities. This year, they even gave their own funds they had been saving for a new trampoline net, saying this need was more important. The Loeffler kids ended up raising over $1,000 for the kids at St. John’s Primary! Their dad sat them down and let them think through what they could provide with what funds they had available. They chose: a hand-washing station for students, to support a teacher for one month, outfitting two classrooms with supplies, supplies and resources for one teacher, 5 garden beds, learning resources, 10 uniforms and 10 pairs of shoes!
You can’t help but pause and reflect on the hearts of kids, who according to our culture should be quite obsessed with the “big day” full of presents under the tree, who now are testifying to adults a shift in their priorities. It brings to mind Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Often, we make excuses for Christmas to be less about Jesus and more about stuff because of “the kids.” But when we see kids make these choices, what choice do we have left but to join them in making room?
I’ll leave off with one powerful testimony by Grace Aaseby that I hope encourages you:
“The theme Make Room became the talk of our home this December. Remembering Jesus’ birth for the reality that it was, and remembering the message he proclaimed and lived out in his life, convicts me more each year at Christmas time. As a mother, I was determined to ensure my children also remembered the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth and how they affected his life, above and beyond the haze of culture and nostalgia they are bombarded with during the holiday season.
We took the theme “Make Room” that G.O.D. Int’l was consistently talking about during the Christmas season and made it the topic of conversation in our home as well. It began with making a banner that we hung across our home - we made a list together of 24 people groups and individuals around the world we wanted to make room for, and wrote each one on a triangle to make a banner. For 24 days we made it a nightly tradition to sit down together, remember the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and remember a group of people on the banner. We focused on them by sharing a little about their story and praying for them.
After a few days, it became an anticipated moment for my children, who never let us forget what people we were praying for that day. They would often gather their young siblings together before we even started and tug on mom and dad to come sit down so we could remember together. It was really special. They became moments as a mother I will keep with me, as I witnessed my kids’ concerns be opened up. I heard their prayers become more sincere, and I watched their eyes light up as we prayed for each of the different individuals, as well as those helping them. We prayed for a good friend of ours Rachel Nowlin, who was serving in India as a teacher, and even assisting teachers there to be better equipped. We remembered women in the prisons of the Philippines, and how our friend Rina consistently visits these prisons, bringing needed hygiene items and teaching them Scripture. We remembered our own neighbors who are widows, and made baked goods and cards. My daughter later told us she wrote to our elderly neighbor that she could call her dad if she needed any help around the house. December was filled with sweet moments like this for our family, and I will say it was the most joyous Christmas we have had as a family--because Jesus was remembered.”