Christmas will be merrier for nearly 10,000 kids who will receive backpacks filled with toys and other goodies courtesy of Georgia Baptists.
The Christmas backpack ministry — done through a partnership with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, the state’s Baptist associations, and local churches — ensures that every needy child receives gifts.
“This is a ministry that our churches have gotten excited about in a big way,” said Ricky Thrasher, the state Mission Board’s liaison to the associations.
Tangible way to show love
“It’s a tangible way for our churches to show children they’re loved,” Thrasher said. “God always has a way of putting the right backpack with the right children.”
Each year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, eager children gather with their parents to receive their backpacks, which are stuffed with a variety of toys, hygiene items, Bibles, non-perishable foods, clothing, school supplies and other items.
Gift suggestions for younger children include small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, card games like Ol’ Maid and Go Fish, Slinkys, Etch A Sketches, and Frisbees.
For older children, depending on gender, gifts might include costume jewelry, friendship bracelets, craft kits, LEGOs, hand-held electronic games, flashlights, basketballs, soccer balls, even NERF footballs.
“One thing is certain, Georgia Baptists know how to make Christmas special for children,” Thrasher said. “I’ve never seen a child disappointed by what they find in these backpacks. You’d be surprised how many items they can squeeze into these backpacks.”
Gene Roberts, associational missionary in the Summerhill Baptist Association, said volunteers from his churches will be handing out more than 1,100 backpacks in the next two weeks in Dawson, Preston and Lumpkin.
More than gifts
The distribution will be the culmination of months of shopping for gifts and filling the backpacks, Roberts said.
“It’s a way for churches to serve their Jerusalem,” he said. “It’s a great ministry. The churches are planting seeds, and the children are hearing the gospel.”
Roberts said children and their parents typically gather in a gymnasium or other large room. A church leader will present the gospel, including the real meaning of Christmas. After that, the children will line up at different stations, based on age and gender, and receive their backpacks.
Thrasher said the backpacks go to needy children in Georgia as well as to children in impoverished areas of central Appalachia and elsewhere.
“This is a ministry I’m glad I get to be a part of,” he said. “We’re not just giving gifts. We’re giving children something to smile about by letting them know we love them and that Jesus loves them, too.”