Project Greatest Gift works with the Health and Human Services departments of Weld, Adams, and Boulder Counties to provide Christmas gifts, as well as help with groceries and clothing for families in kinship and foster care at this time of the year. This is a practical way we, as the Body of Christ, can show the heart of God and the love of Jesus to those in need in our community.
Last year I sat down with Christine, the founder of Project Greatest Gift, to discuss its origins, the vision behind it, and how God has used it over the past 10+ years. You can watch that discussion in the video below.
You can participate in Project Greatest Gift no matter where you are located since sign-ups for sponsoring children and caretakers are now completely online!
Did you know that children in the foster system form an at-risk people group within our own communities?
In almost every case, the reason these children end up in foster care care is because of an unsuitable home environment, which may involve violence, neglect, drugs, crime, etc. These environments not only result in trauma many times, but they also tend to result in or be associated with poverty. Many foster care situations are kinship care, which means the child is cared for by a relative, which can create a financial burden.
Poverty has a profound impact on a child’s mental and physical well-being. Children living in poverty have higher rates of absenteeism from school. Students who come from low income families are six times more likely to drop out of high school. Adults without a high school diploma are 4 times more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty, which means raising their children in poverty, perpetuating a cycle of poverty which may persist for generations: poverty affects education which affects poverty. (source 1, source 2)
One of the ways that we can help kids break out of this cycle of poverty is by encouraging them to stay in school – and one of the ways we can do that is by helping them have the things they need to be confident and excited about going to school, so they can succeed!
Our church, White Fields Community Church, has a history of ministering to children in the foster system, and five years ago we began a new ministry: Project Back to School.
We are working with Weld County Department of Human Services, and this year they have identified over 100 at-risk kids who need help with school supplies, clothes, and shoes. They have provided us with a list of needed items, which we will share with those who sign up to help.
We are trusting that God will raise up people to bless these families in the name of Jesus. It’s a way for us to love not only in words and in speech, but in action as well (1 John 3:18).
We will be taking sign-ups beginning Sunday, July 4 and asking items to be returned by Sunday, July 25.
How to Get Involved and Make a Difference
1. Sign up in-person
If you live in or near Longmont, visit White Fields Church on a Sunday morning this July and sign up to sponsor one or more children.
2. Sign up online
If you can’t make it on a Sunday morning, but are still local and could drop off items to us for delivery, leave a comment below, or contact the church here.
3. Contribute Financially
All monies that come in designated for Project Back to School will go directly towards buying school supplies for at risk children. You can make a tax-deductible donation on our church’s website here: whitefieldschurch.com/give/ (choose Project Back to School on the drop-down menu).
Join us in praying for these kids, and that God uses this initiative to bless them.
This week I sat down with Christine Appel to discuss the history of Project Greatest Gift, a home-grown ministry that serves kids in kinship and foster care in northern Colorado at Christmastime.
Every year during the month of November, we partner with the Health and Human Services departments of Weld, Adams, and Boulder Counties to provide for children and families in the kinship and foster care systems.
In this interview, Christine tells the story of how Project Greatest Gift got started, the vision behind it, and how God has used it over the past few years.
Importantly, we also discuss what is different this year in 2020, as Project Greatest Gift expands to an online platform.
Project Greatest Gift is White Fields’ annual outreach to children in foster and kinship care in Northern Colorado.
Last year we were able to provide for 241 kids and their caretakers, and this year the Health and Human Services departments from the counties we partner with asked if we could do more, and of course we said ‘yes’! So this year we are aiming to cover 314; the most we’ve ever done.
Clearly Project Greatest Gift is meeting a real need which is not going away.
In this video, Christine Appel shares some information about the great needs that these families face and how we can help:
Project Greatest Gift runs throughout the month of November, which means that we are already two weeks in, and over half of the kids and caretakers still need sponsorship.
It’s not too late to sign up to sponsor a family this year to help make Christmas more joyful, and ultimately to introduce them to the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
Did you know that children in the foster system are an at-risk people group within our communities?
In almost every case, the reason children end up in foster care is because of an unsuitable home environment, which often involves violence, neglect, drugs and crime. These environments not only result in trauma, but they are also associated with poverty. Many foster care situations are kinship care, which means the child is cared for by a relative, which can create a financial burden, especially in the case of grandparents living on pension.
Poverty has a profound impact on a child’s mental and physical well-being. In other words, the suffering that a child who is raised in this environment endures is not only limited to their childhood, but can adversely impact the rest of their life.
Our church, White Fields Community Church, has a history of ministering to children in the foster system. Through some of our leaders, we have developed a great relationship with the Health and Human Services departments in Weld and Adams Counties, and we are able to make an impact in the lives of needy families in our area. In recent years, we have had the special opportunity to get to meet and serve these families at a Christmas event we help put on for them in Greeley at which the gifts are distributed.
If you would like to be involved, visit us on a Sunday morning this November, leave a comment below, or contact the church here.
If you can’t participate but would like to support this endeavor financially, you can make a donation by clicking here, and choosing Project Greatest Gift from the drop-down menu. 100% of your donation will go straight to the kids and their families.
Something you may not know about me and my family is that we foster parented, and ultimately adopted the child we had in foster care. He came to us at age 14 and is now grown, living on his own, and pursuing a career. We’re very proud of him.
A Picture of the Gospel
Foster parenting is something very near to my heart, and I believe it is one of the most profound ways in which we can live out the gospel: choosing to make someone family, placing your love on them and caring for them, not because you have to, but because you choose to. That is what God has done for us in Christ! He took us who were strangers, and in Christ he makes us full-fledged sons and daughters. He adopted us into his family! (Romans 8:15).
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
Did you know that Jesus was adopted? Joseph, knowing that Jesus was not his biological son, chose to raise him as his son – to provide for him, teach him, and love him, and be a father to him.
A Profound Need
Foster parenting and adoption are some of the greatest ways in which you can make a real, substantial difference in the life of another person. Does it come with risk? Absolutely! But is it worth it? Most definitely.
Take a look at this infographic from Together We Rise, a non-profit which helps families get into foster care, and foster-to-adopt. It shows the number of children in foster care waiting to be adopted in the United States.
I challenge you to pray about if God might have a role for you to play in this important and life-changing endeavor, of living out the gospel by welcoming a child-in-need into your home.
A Counter-Cultural Approach
Many people think of parenting in terms of what a child will do for them, such as give them a sense of fulfillment, companionship or the promise of posterity and an heir. The gospel causes us to think differently about parenting, however, in light of how God has parented us. Rather than thinking about what parenting can do for me, my focus in parenting becomes what I can do for the child, to give them the love, provision and instruction that they need; pouring out myself for their sake.
Our church is involved in two annual initiatives, one at Christmastime and the other in the summer, when kids are preparing to go back to school. You can read more here about Project Greatest Gift and Project Back to School.
Project Greatest Gift, our church’s annual outreach to children and caretakers in the foster care system in Northern Colorado, was a success again this year.
In the end, we were able to sponsor 241 children and caretakers in three northern Colorado counties. Additionally, we were able to take part in an event to meet and bless the families who were recipients of these gifts. Along with giving gifts, we were able to include materials in each bag explaining to each child and caretaker the hope that we have because of Jesus.
One thing to pray about for 2019 is that Weld County (where the majority of our recipients come from) is considering cancelling their program next year. If that happens, White Fields would consider taking over the program from them. This would require significant resources, meaning we would likely have to expand what we do beyond our church. This might just be the next step God has for this project, but do pray for God’s leading and provision as we move forward!
Check out this interview that our worship pastor Mike Payne did with Christine Appel, the founder and leader of Project Greatest Gift:
Recently I told you about Project Back to School: White Fields Community Church’s annual summertime outreach to kids in foster care in conduction with Weld County Health and Human Services.
This month-long project concluded today with some of us from the church delivering the backpacks to the case workers in Weld County. They will be delivered to these needy families in the coming days and weeks.
Staging and Inventory
Here’s a message from Travis Hergert, who oversees missions and outreach for White Fields:
This morning, Joe Cady, Pastor Nick and I had the great privilege of delivering the backpacks that you so graciously provided to 135 elementary, middle school and high school age foster children. As you all are well aware, each pack was filled with the needed school supplies for Weld County Schools.
It took two pickup trucks to haul all of the backpacks to Greeley! As we were unloading them at the facility, I was so moved when one of the Human Services workers commented that he is always amazed at how our church manages to provide this amount of backpacks and an incredible amount of gifts at Christmas. He said he wanted to know the secret of how a congregation is so engaged with their community! All of the Human Services case workers were incredibly appreciative and very excited to give each child their new backpack and supplies.
This goes beyond just backpacks, you truly showed the love of Christ in a tangible way!
…As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15, ESV)
It was great to see how excited the case workers were about the backpacks, having personal knowledge of the kids and the details of their situations. Please be in prayer both for the kids, their caretakers and these case workers who care so much about them.
“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
One of the great outreaches we do here at White Fields church in Longmont is a home-grown initiative called Project Greatest Gift, which is our ministry at Christmastime to children in foster care.
Project Greatest Gift has been a tradition at White Fields since the beginning of our church, but in the past it was limited in the number of families we were able bless. After looking at ways to broaden its impact on the community and considering alternative programs such as Operation Christmas Child, we decided to attempt to bless the “orphans” of Northern Colorado. Since no orphanages existed in this area, God led us to reach out to local foster families. A couple in the church was heavily involved in the foster system and they offered to make contacts within that system to find families in need. Beginning in 2009, as a result of God’s provision and their efforts, we were able to begin blessing the foster families in Weld and Adams counties through the generous gifts of the congregation at White Fields. Over the years, we have continued to see God’s great provision for us so we are able to continue to share His abundance with others.
In past years, our church family has provided gifts for around 40 to 60 kids. This year we have had a great outpouring of generosity, and people from our congregation have signed up to provide gifts for 90 children in Adams and Weld counties!
For those of you unfamiliar with the purpose of foster care, it is safe homes, loving caregivers and other family members who take in and provide for children whose living situation is unsafe. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, many children live in homes with parents addicted to drugs, who are neglectful or abusive, or who do not know how to care for children appropriately. So foster homes are critical to meet the needs of these children while birth parents work to recover and learn to parent. Sometimes, foster homes are also where children’s needs are met while they await a forever home through adoption. Children in foster care experience grief and loss. Even when their living situation was unsafe, children mourn its loss, as that is all they had ever known. Foster parents serve not only as loving caretakers, but often also as counselors as they help the children in their care through this grief and loss. We are so thankful that we can in some way bless these foster families too by helping provide gifts at Christmastime.
In addition to the blessing of Christmas gifts, please pray for these children that they would soon have a forever family, and more importantly, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their savior, and God as their Heavenly Daddy.