Giving and Caring

H2O Centennial Life Group: Giving Tree 2022

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)

Seasons Greetings from Kent! We’ve been so excited to have a week where both of our family’s college students are back home for Kent State University’s Thanksgiving Break — all of us sleeping under the same roof again, eating at the same table again, and decorating the house for Christmas together. It’s given me a new sense of appreciation for what so many other families have done through the years: sending their kids out into the world, hoping and trusting that they will make good decisions, eagerly anticipating opportunities to reconnect and share stories of what’s happening day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year. Anyway: it’s that time of year to say: We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Seriously. We hope you’re doing well. The last year has brought much continued growth and grace for our family — as you might be able to see in the new family picture / prayer card we’ve enclosed — still we’re doing well, and our ministry at Kent State is doing well, too.

A lot of people are starting to work on their Christmas shopping these days. And the students of H2O Kent are doing this, too — with a bit of a twist. As we get into the Advent season this year, our church is renewing an annual tradition known as “The Giving Tree.”

This initiative developed several years ago when our church started praying for ways to get involved in the community of Kent, in addition to the campus of Kent State University. We wanted to find a way to bring about Gospel renewal by meeting the tangible needs of those in our community. Since 2014, we’ve developed some key relationships with children and parents in the south-central neighborhoods of Kent, surrounding Holden Elementary School. As connections with this particular school have developed and strengthened, we have partnered with the Ben Curtis Family Foundation and Holden Elementary to provide for the needs of these children and families. It’s kind of like sending a shoebox stuffed with Christmas presents to a child dealing with poverty in the developing world, except that the child is from a family dealing with poverty right here in Kent — just a few blocks away from the places where students live.

We believe that the Giving Tree is a direct, tangible expression of the fact that God cares for us. We use the phrase “Giving Tree” because that’s what the Ben Curtis Family Foundation calls their initiative — and, honestly, we’re pretty sure their name simply references a coniferous Christmas tree and/or a book by Shel Silverstein. But we also like the way that the phrase echoes the Cross at Calvary, where Jesus gave his life for us. We hope that as our church heeds the call to care for others in our community, we exemplify Jesus’ heart for His people and proclaim that a new world is coming when things will be set right. We believe that we are participating in these realities as we care for these kids at Holden Elementary.

It’s encouraging to look back over the last year and recognize all the different ways that we’ve experienced God’s care for us in our ministry this year! Even the group of Christmas shoppers from H2O’s Centennial Life Group seemed to be a testament to God’s goodness and grace. I reflected about the way that one student was in a deep place of grief this time last year, after losing three family members to COVID… Another student is wrestling with questions about how the Bible her identity, after having undergone Transgender reassignment surgery in early adolescence… Another student is asking questions about the origins of the universe, after being brought up in an Atheistic household… Still another student is trusting God through his girlfriend’s 400-day military deployment… And in spite of all these challenges, they recognize that God’s goodness brings comfort to their struggles. God cares for us! I wish I could package up all these grace stories and send them to you as a special Christmas present. Your prayer support and financial support are helping to touch so many lives.

Those of you on our ministry team regularly amaze us with your generosity. There’s absolutely no sense of expectation or entitlement here at the end of this calendar year; still, we wanted you to know that we are trusting God to help provide some extra funds to meet our year-end goals and position us for continued progress in the year to come. Specifically, our goal is to raise $9,000 in special gifts to help cover a shortfall in 2022 giving and to provide for extra ministry expenses and travel in 2023. Would you please think and pray about helping to meet this goal? I know that a lot of great missionaries and organizations are also busy with year-end fundraising — but we would be honored by your consideration at this strategic time of the year, when holiday bonuses are provided and year-end giving is determined. Again, we are extremely appreciative of what you’re already doing to partner with us in life and ministry. As you feel led, though, please consider helping us in the following ways:

  • A special gift. An additional gift of $500, $300, or $100 at the close of the year is a significant way that God provides for our yearly budget, and it will be especially strategic in providing the means for strategic ministry initiatives in the year to come.
  • Giving via LifeLink. If you give regularly by mail, please consider a switch to this easy, automatic, secure service. You can start, stop, or change your giving at any time.
  • Increasing your regular giving amount. A new year means a new missionary budget. We’ve picked up some extra costs and lost some support through natural attrition, and 2023 is going to be a year of shoring up our financial support foundations. We would be blessed if you could help meet our support goals for the coming year.

As Kent State University’s Fall semester wraps up in the next couple of weeks, I hope to reach out to catch up, as well as to see if you’d like to help meet our end-of-the-year needs in any of the ways mentioned in this letter. In the meantime, though, I just want to say that we are extremely thankful for all your support throughout 2022! We look forward to everything God will do in the year to come. We’ll be in touch…


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