Imagine you are ten years old again, and Christmas is a few weeks away. You live with your mom and your little sister in downtown Seattle, sometimes in a rented room and sometimes on the streets. You are familiar with cold, with wet clothes, with hunger in your belly and the cries of your sister at night. She’s afraid of the dark, of the bugs and the vermin in the room, and of being left alone while your mom is out. You attend 3rd grade and all your friends are excited about Christmas. They talk about presents and Santa and all the food and candy they will get. Some of your friends are like you. They know that there won’t be presents this year, and that Christmas dinner will be at one of the shelters nearby. Your sister talks about a new doll that she’s hoping Santa will bring her. You secretly hope for a new jacket and a toy, but you’re old enough now to know the reality of your mom’s life and that presents are not something she can provide this year.
Now imagine a wonderful Christmas Party at Matt Talbot Center in downtown Seattle. There’s a huge pile of presents, delicious smells and best of all, Santa Claus! Children, like the two described above, line up around the block with their parents as they wait their turn to come inside, sit on Santa’s lap, receive a present, cookies and delicious foods. Someone says “Welcome!” and “Come on in!” Volunteers from all over Seattle are dressed in holiday sweaters helping kids and their parents to feel hope and joy again. Throughout the party, everyone points to the reality that Jesus came to earth as a baby to reconcile humanity to God. Happy laughter, hugs and smiles are everywhere.
In the midst of July sunshine, blue skies and lake-side barbeques, it might seem a bit incongruous to be thinking about Christmas. After all, we have five months before the Big Day. And, if you are like me, I put off thinking about anything related to Christmas until the fall. Longtime BelPres mission partner Matt Talbot Center, on the other hand, are long-range planners when it comes to Christmas knowing that the needs of children and families in the urban core are intensified during the holidays. Every year they host a Christmas Party for families in the downtown area. What began as a small gathering 31 years ago has grown into a huge event, with last year seeing 1000 children coming through their doors the second Saturday in December. With homelessness at a crisis level in Seattle, they are expecting another huge celebration this year.
Matt Talbot Center has an amazing presence in downtown Seattle. Founded in 1985 by a small group of businessmen with a vision for solutions for homelessness in Seattle, MTC has evolved into a place for those who are serious about living drug and alcohol free lives. Members are ministered to through counseling, drug and alcohol treatment services, Bible study and prayer, housing and employment assistance, and literacy training. MTC provides individuals and families with the opportunities they need to overcome obstacles and disabilities that hinder self-sufficiency.
On July 24th, BelPres is hosting “Christmas in July” for Matt Talbot Center. During all morning services MTC will be present in the lobby to share about the ministry of MTC. BelPres members are invited to bring a gift card for MTC so that they can shop for Christmas gifts ahead of time for this year’s party on December 17th. With an annual cost of $20,000 to provide gifts for 1000 kids, gift cards to WalMart, Kohl’s, Target, Toys-R-Us, Costco and Sam’s Club are perfect. Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards work well, too. Matt Talbot staff and volunteers will use the cards to purchase gifts for Santa to give out during the party. You will be helping them provide new clothing, toys and other gifts to needy families this Christmas!