Be the Gift by Carla Hilburn

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A couple of years ago, God put a dream in my heart for a day of service called Be the Gift. I wanted a way to put into action the messages we give our students every Christmas “It’s better to give than to receive,” and “Christmas is about being generous and sharing with others.” It was important to me that our students know how to LIVE OUT their faith and to see that they can make a big difference in their communities as middle school and high school students. 

Last year, we kicked off Be the Gift with about twelve kids and three service projects; it was amazing. We knew this year would be bigger than last year, but y’all, we were blown away when 40 kids signed up to serve! 

God’s hand has been at work all throughout the planning process. One of our youth’s family who owns a bus (AND decorates it for Christmas!) volunteered to help cart around all these kids. A divine meeting with UP Ministry volunteers resulted in finding a perfect project for our students to shop for UP Angel kids. We thought we ordered too many t-shirts but ended up having JUST the right number. In other words... we have been saying “God is Good!” the whole way through. We knew the day was going to be special, and it was! 

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We kicked of the day at our church, where our students hosted a walk-through play of the nativity story, so that young kids and their families were able to see the story of Jesus’ birth come to life. It was amazing to watch the little ones look up to our “big kids” and to see them understand the story of our Savior’s birth in a new way. 

Then, each student received $5.00 to spend at 5 Below and was able to pick out gifts for kids in need. It was neat to watch our students picking out things that they thought other kids might like to receive for Christmas. They were so thoughtful in their selections! 

Later, we visited an elderly couple who have lived in Argyle for over 40 years. They’re limited in mobility, so we helped them clean up their yard to make it safer for them to be outside. Our students worked so hard and got a ton done. In the end, the couple came out to thank the kids and pray for our group. Then, one of our 6th-grade students, Jenna, jumped up and prayed over them. Such a blessing! 

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Last, but certainly not least, we blessed our friends at Mayberry Gardens by spreading some Christmas cheer, caroling with them. We brought small treats for each resident and each one of them expressed how much it meant just to have the students there. Many students recognized their “friends” from our visit in the fall. It was sweet to see not only our students recognize the residents, but also the residents light up to recognize our students. 

At the end of the day, almost every student asked when we could go back to serve the couple and Mayberry Gardens. Our students are hard workers with HUGE hearts for God and others. They spread all sorts of joy, hope, love, and peace throughout the day and were a huge blessing to our community, which is what this season of Advent is all about. Their hearts to serve and love others is incredible and God is using them to be the gift in this community!