CrossPointe Church, Atonement Lutheran Church, and Vista Church are gearing up to celebrate the holidays and more importantly-to help those in need.
At Atonement Church’s new location in Vista Lakes, members have two things to celebrate-the new church and the holiday season. The process of moving the staff and the congregation may have been stressful at times, but it will not stop them from giving back. They are still holding weekly Advent services, putting on a children’s Christmas program, and providing scripture lessons and carols on Christmas Eve.
CrossPointe Church in Lake Nona may not have as many special church programs taking place during Christmas time, but the church has community groups throughout Lake Nona and East Orlando which host holiday parties and celebrations.
Vista Church is located off Chickasaw Trail, making it a short drive for East Orlando families. They have a few Christmas activities this year, including their Youth Give Back. They have also been growing, and are going to have two Christmas Eve services this year.
CrossPointe’s Project Thanksgiving, which is hosted by the Lake Nona YMCA and other area churches, is centered on a worldwide service project called Operation Christmas Child. Participants bring shoeboxes filled with toys and gifts to the event where they will be shipped to children in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “This event is a celebration where we eat together, enjoy some live music, and celebrate that we as a community can unite together around helping others,” says Ryan Walker, the connections pastor at CrossPointe.
“We strive to be aware of needs people have, like a family who may not be able to celebrate Christmas because they do not have the financial means to do so,” says Walker. “We want to see those as opportunities to serve those in our community.”
This year is Vista’s second year holding Youth Give Back. The youth “raise the funds needed to buy the gifts for local families who are struggling and not able to “make ends meet”. They ‘rent themselves out’ by washing someone’s car or windows, raking leaves, etc.” says Deb Fielden, the Connections and Children’s Director. The children then bring the money they make to Wal-Mart and break into groups and shop for specific families. Fielding believes that, “It helps them take their eyes off themselves and on others at this special time of year.”
At Atonement, their candy cane card project will supply the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida with even more than candy canes and cards. “We feel that this is a small outreach that we can do at this point because of our move,” says Karen Combs, director of family ministry at Atonement. “It’s just something that we can do to spread a little Christmas cheer and information to the Coalition for the Homeless.”
Atonement has also been collecting money for Toys for Tots this year instead of gifts as another result of the move. This money will allow many children throughout the country to experience the joy of opening new toys.
Although the holidays may be a rough time for some, all three churches welcome new members while maintaining traditional programs for existing ones.
Vista welcomes anyone who wants to join them in their worship. “We like to create environments where families can celebrate together,” says Fielden. “Our church community becomes ‘family’ for many whose blood relatives are far away.”
“At CrossPointe we want to be like family to those people so they have a place where they can feel loved and accepted no matter what they may be going through,” says Walker.
“My favorite part of the holidays is just letting people know that this is Christ’s birth that we’re celebrating,” says Combs. As she wrote in an article for Atonement’s newsletter: “People need to say Merry Christmas.”
CrossPointe Church’s community Christmas Eve service will be held at the Lake Nona YMCA, Atonement’s services will be held at their new Vista Lakes location, and Vista Church will be holding their Christmas Eve service at their facility off Chickasaw Trail.
Article by Aimee Hoyt