Toys for Joy

By Kimetha Hill

One in five San Diego children are living below the poverty line. In a recent report released by Regional Task Force on the Homeless San Diego, there are more than 8,000 homeless children currently living in San Diego. In 2013, society is superficial, commercialized and desensitized. In this watering down of the holidays’ roots, the true meaning of Christmas is lost in translation. Though ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ may sound a bit cliché, it is absolutely true. Jesus was the epitome of love, faith, giving and having a servant’s heart. And the Rock Church again led San Diego in the spirit of giving back, just as the Messiah did.

On Saturday, December 14, Lincoln High School and Porter Elementary were filled with children and families experiencing love and salvation through giving on a grand scale. Now in its seventeenth year, Toys for Joy provided so much more than just toys to San Diego’s neediest children. Families were blessed with three bags of groceries, some with full sized trash bags of clothing, free lunches and books from a book fair sponsored by Macy’s.

Lincoln High School’s gymnasium was transformed in the blink of an eye into a toy haven for children. Pastor Miles McPherson could be found engrossed in a sea of grinning children completely content to see the sheer joy children experienced. Of course there were many local athletes who came to show their support in one of the largest giving experiences in the City.

The first family found their spot at the front of the line at approximately 3:30 pm the Friday before. For every child and family involved, these few hours served as a bright light during a difficult time. Toys for Joy aims to provide less fortunate families with the opportunity to experience Christmas just the same as other families.

There was never a dull moment as families entered through the Gospel Stage, then hit the Toy Room – which was full of life and love. Thousands of new toys aligned four neat columns, while bordering the bleachers reaching as high as the ceiling. Each child received one toy, and there were definitely plenty to choose from.

The spirit of giving and serving was so thick throughout the day, it was very difficult for anyone to hold back tears. “It’s amazing to see how God provides every year,” said Cindy, PR volunteer with the Rock Church and college student. In preparation for the day, the San Diego community came together as local businesses and community organizations held toy drives for the event in the months leading up to December 14.

This year, over 2,000 toys were purchased at 70 percent cost through the Mattel Toy Store Charity program with money donated from the San Diego Half Marathon as well as other generous donors. The bike giveaway is always an element of extra excitement during the day. A generous donor provided 32 bikes, a portion of which were saved for the last children in the Toy Room. “Those who are last shall be first.”

Family

Outside several tents aligned the field where children were treated to free haircuts, face painting and manicures. As children browsed books and mothers picked out clothing, while dads picked up groceries and families communed for lunch, entertainment was anything but lacking. An outdoor stage provided a variety of performances including puppet shows and musical acts. The atmosphere was truly carnival-esque.

But the framework of the day was the introduction of Jesus Christ, and the offering up of that personal relationship to every person present. A staple at past Toys for Joy, the Gospel Stage stood tall at the entrance of the event, complete with English and Spanish speakers who shared the life of Christ and invited the crowd to a commitment of salvation and life everlasting.

On Saturday, 16 local churches served alongside Rock prayer and encouragement volunteers, defeating the spirit of competition and pride, and living under God’s commandment that we are all one and His greatest desire is for His people to return to Him.

Pastor McPherson has a true evangelistic heart, and through his desire to serve the community and spread the Gospel, Toys for Joy was the perfect avenue.

The production was absolutely grand, but would have never come to fruition without the time and effort of the volunteers involved. To put on a production such as Toys for Joy takes planning that begins mid-year (July). So by the time the event rolls around, volunteers have been trained and are ready to man their stations.

This day was truly amazing, and God’s love would not be denied. Such an ultimate display of compassion and care for the community should be duplicated at any opportunity. You certainly do not have to be a millionaire to give. We are called to lift up our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate, so let us do so with cheerful hearts, bringing peace and joy to the community.

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