There’s an electricity and excitement in the air at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rochester. It often happens this time of year, but it doesn’t come from the children dreaming of what will be under their Christmas tree. Students at St. John’s are overjoyed to place presents at the church altar. One kindergartner just left clothes and a football for a 12-year-old boy and a My Little PonyTM toy for a 5-year- old girl. The altar is filled with wrapped presents.
These gifts will go to at-risk children in Southeast Michigan. It’s a small part of Gifts for All God’s Children (GFAGC), a ministry started by Patti Jacques back in 1988. That year, 187 kids received Christmas gifts from the mission. Now it’s grown to include a warehouse in Shelby Township for storage, shopping, and wrapping presents. A semi truck even delivers some of the presents to churches and organizations throughout metro Detroit. The total number of kids that will be blessed by Gifts for All God’s Children this Christmas will be more than 3,500.
“When I see the gifts that come in, people are so generous for people they are never going to meet this side of heaven,” Jacques said. “We have seen miracles in this program year after year—how God just provides incredibly more than we can ever ask or imagine. It brings a lot of joy.”
As it’s grown, Gifts for All God’s Children has become a well-oiled machine thanks in large part to the volunteers. Volunteers are needed at the warehouse to help fulfill the children’s wish lists. They are also needed at the drop-off sites to unload and distribute the gifts. Then there are the Christmas parties, where the volunteers celebrate Jesus’ birth with the children who receive the gifts. Over 55 churches and organizations will be blessed with gifts from GFAGC this Christmas.
St. John’s Pastor, Rev. Marc Schwichtenberg, has seen the kids in his community step up to help make Christmas special to those less fortunate. He shares his perspective on what Patti has built and how this mission is making a difference: “To know that those gifts are given in Jesus’ name, to know that it goes beyond the gift itself, [that] it’s the ultimate gift of Jesus and His love and the hope that it brings, that’s what I think of when I see all these gifts up here.”
GFAGC is currently looking for a new location to continue its operations, since the cost to rent the current warehouse became prohibitive. The ideal location would have over 5,000 sq. ft. and be somewhere in Oakland or Macomb county. For more information, visit their Facebook page.
Photos and video by Jeff Heisner/Michigan District, LCMS