Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christmas Season Begins with "Project Joy" at Cypress Church

The holiday season is based on and filled with tradition. For some, it doesn't feel like Christmas until the lights on the house have been strung. For others it's picking out the perfect tree or hitting one of our many Orange County malls to find the hottest new toy on the market. For Cindy Pearson of Cypress, though, it's the annual trek across the US - Mexico border to a village near Tijuana on the first Saturday of every December.

For over a decade, Cindy has been traveling with a group from Cypress Church to deliver gifts to children who otherwise would probably not receive any. When they arrive in Mexico and greet the children, the group unloads shoeboxes filled by caring strangers from another nation. The gifts they deliver are not necessarily the ones that would be found under the tree in the typical OC home, but the smiles they induce are enough to bring people like Cindy back to the same Mexican community year after year.

"I absolutely love watching the kids open their gifts," Cindy says. "They look at each item and share their excitement with their friends as they examine what everyone received."

"Project Joy" is a cooperative effort between Cypress Church and Grace Bible Church in Mexico. Participants on the Cypress end do one of two things, or sometimes both: They fill a shoebox with toiletries and small gifts for children in Mexico and/or they commit to delivering them to the children who live in the community that Grace Bible Church serves.

In addition to delivering the gifts, those who travel to Mexico tell the Christmas story to the children, lead craft activities, break a piƱata and serve snacks to the children.

"Project Joy is a great activity to show the love of Jesus for others in a tangible way," says Bob Koehler, a Reach Ministries Team Member at Cypress Church.

Starting in early November, Cindy and a group of volunteers keep a Christmas tree in the church foyer covered with paper ornaments that lists a child's age and whether the shoebox should be filled with "boy" or "girl" items. Their goal is to hand out as many ornaments as possible. This year, there were 310 ornaments made for the tree.

By early December, they should have an exact number of how many shoeboxes are filled. At that point, Pastor Martin Castro from Grace Bible Church will know how many children from the community to invite.

Dan and Lori Punkay and their three children have been part of the traveling team for the last eight years. They are a bilingual family and the kids are able to interact with the kids in Mexico with no language barrier.

"It is a great opportunity to serve together as a family since we speak Spanish and everyone can have a part in the Christmas play or story," says Dan, whose children are now ages 17, 16 and 15. "We have made it an annual tradition since it is something that we feel like we are equipped to do and we want our kids to experience the joy of giving to others without expecting anything in return," he adds.

The total time spent in the village is about three hours. But while the event (and especially the present opening) seems to be over quickly, the effects of the love the Mexican children are shown can last through Christmas.

Cindy remembers staying late one year with Pastor Martin to visit the home of some of the children, three brothers between the ages of 4 and 7. Their mom suffered from AIDS and had no husband. Cindy says their house was "very, very small and sparsely furnished."

"I will never forget it," she continues. "They had an artificial tree (about a foot high) and their three gifts surrounding it. They had carefully placed everything back into the boxes and reattached the lids because they knew this was their Christmas."

Cindy says the positive effects of being involved with Project Joy often remain with the volunteers as well. "Many families who volunteer want to teach their children to be thankful and try to come up with ways that can really help demonstrate how fortunate they are. This is a hands-on opportunity to really experience this up close and personal and yet return to their own home the same day."

Anyone interested in either filling a shoebox or helping to deliver the gifts to Mexico on Saturday, December 4th is encouraged to call the Cypress Church office at (714) 952-3001. Passports are required to deliver gifts in Mexico.

In addition to Project Joy, several other events are scheduled throughout the Christmas Season:

The Christmas Extravaganza is on Sunday, December 5th starting at 5:45 p.m. The community is invited to join groups from Cypress Church and go caroling around the neighborhood sharing joy with neighbors and inviting them to Cypress Church. Following the caroling, groups will return to Cypress Church for dessert, fun, and fellowship.

The Community Christmas Worship Concert is on Sunday, December 19th at 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Cypress Church will be joined by two other churches in the community. The choir and orchestra will lead worship to the newborn King.

The public is also invited to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve. There will be two Candlelight Services on Friday, December 24th at 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Those interested in learning more about any of the above events may contact Cypress Church at (714) 952-3001 or online at http://www.cypresschurch.net/ The public may also interact with the Cypress Church community on Facebook, and Twitter. The church campus is located at 6143 Ball Road just east of Valley View. Everyone is welcome at Sunday services and Bible studies that are held at 8:45 and 10:30 a.m. as well as many other activities throughout each week.

Photo 1 Caption - Boys in the Tijuana, Mexico area are excited about the candy canes they received from "Project Joy" volunteers.

Photo 2 Caption - Children at Grace Bible Church in Tijuana holding up their "Project Joy" presents delivered by Cypress Church.

Cypress Church - 6143 Ball Rd. - Cypress, CA 90630 - Phone: (714) 952-3001 - http://www.cypresschurch.net/

No comments:

Post a Comment