This Christmas, Iowa Children Wish for... Earthworms?

While many American children are asking for the latest toys and electronics this Christmas, Molly Juza’s sons have asked for more unique items: earthworms, sheep, and a handwashing system.

The Juzas are part of Orchard Hill Church (OHC), an Iowa church with three campuses. They are just one of many families with surprising gifts under the tree. Other families will select Bibles in various languages, beehives, chicken coops and even libraries.

All of these unique gifts are made possible through the Food for the Hungry (FH) gift catalog. The catalog allows church members to select items to give to people living in poverty around the world.

The Tradition of the Gift Catalog

Molly Juza’s son, David, hopes to buy “baa’s” (sheep) for children living in poverty this Christmas.

Since 2008, OHC has partnered with FH in Mozambique. Always looking for creative ways to engage the church body with missions, staff member Kris Hoskinson discovered the FH gift catalog.

Kris leads Face to Face, Missional Outreach and Mission Opportunities at the church. “Some of our key principles in mission at Orchard are focus and partnership,” she explained. “The catalogs have helped us to encourage our people to be generous, but with a partner of ours, FH.”

Individuals and families at OHC are invited to take catalogs home and to give corporately through opportunities at church.  “We have had catalogs set out at our Welcome Centers the last few years and have promoted it as an alternative gift giving idea to our families. We also have a local gift giving opportunity, the Christmas Store, where our congregation donates gifts to be sold at deeply discounted prices.”

At the Christmas Store, families iwho are financially struggling are invited to purchase gifts at discounted prices. Recognizing that everyone deserves an opportunity to give, OHC sets up a display near the entrance inviting shoppers to donate toward gift catalog items. “We believe everyone has something to give,” said Kris. “Many of our shoppers put in a dollar or two, and we’ve been able to raise $250 or so each year. It’s pretty cool to see people give in this way!”

OHC families have sponsored over 350 children in their partner communities in Mozambique. These families receive the gift catalog in the mail, and many have made it a yearly tradition.

Joy of Giving

“In my family, our kids have enjoyed doing this every year as their ‘grow’ gift,” Kris said. “We have four kids and give three gifts for each kid – a fun gift, a practical gift, and a grow gift. Picking out an FH gift for someone else is a way to help our kids grow their understanding of the world, of generosity, and of the way they are connected to others.”

“My kids love to pick the health-related ones,” Kris commented. “They are always playing doctor and nurse at our house, so that is right up their alley!”

Molly Juza’s sons browse through the FH gift catalog to make their Christmas wish lists.

For Molly Juza and her family, the gift catalog has become a Christmas morning tradition.

Each of the past few years, we’ve woken up Christmas morning to gifts under the tree and an FH catalog by the fireplace,” Molly said. “The first thing we do after reading the Christmas story from Luke is to choose a gift. We give in honor of our sponsored child through FH, Castigo. In the past years, we’ve given our boys a few things to choose from and then they’re able to pick what we give as a family.”

Molly explained that this year, she and her husband have given them the opportunity to contribute to the gifts. “This year, they’ve been earning money doing household chores and will be able to purchase their own gift,” she said. “My five year old, Daniel, is so excited to send worms to help someone’s garden grow! Our three year old, Matthew, wants to send a Tippy Tap after practicing washing his hands like someone in Mozambique. Our two year old, David, wants to send ‘baa’s,’ his word for sheep.”

Through the gift catalog, OHC has found opportunities to extend the reach of their missions partnership around the world. They have also discovered a key to helping families engage in international missions tangibly, in a way that is accessible to everyone in their church.

Interested in engaging your church with the FH gift catalog? Contact our Church Engagement team to order print copies, or visit the catalog online