OK...so not such a "spiritual" one word title, but hopefully as you read on, you will understand the connection. Remember...this ministry is about "bridging the gap between the Church and the community." What better way to build a bridge that connects these two than with bargain shopping? Especially if the party you are reaching out to is female....and is a mother.....and it is Christmas.....and the bargain basement price is "free!"
On December 7th we will experience one of the two annual "special events" held for GAP participants...the GAP Christmas Shoppe. If anyone has been bitten by the scrooge bug, I invite you to attend the loud, joyful, frantic and fun chaos that happens for three hours in a basement room on a December Wednesday morning to discover the cure! Black Friday has met its match! Christmas excitement is in the air....and yes, it is all focused on gifts! We discovered early on that God gave us a great way to build relationships with ladies and children whom we may never know otherwise, through the giving and receiving of gifts...and yes, that means they are free! We make no apologies for that and we don't hide the fact that it is used as a way to encourage regular attendance and participation at GAP...(i.e. the participants who may read this post are not suddenly realizing they have been misled).
The GAP Manual (which was initially comprised in 2004) includes a timeless statement about caring for the children who attend GAP: "The heart of the GAP Ministry is to reach into homes in the downtown Augusta area with the love of Christ by meeting practical, everyday needs. As a ministry team, we are convinced that we cannot sincerely connect with single, low-income mothers without offering a safe, loving environment for their children. The maternal bond varies little from culture to culture: show an interest in and love for her child and you have won a mother's respect as well as her heart." What mother does not desire to give to her child gifts at Christmas? If we can enable her to do so, then we have met a need for both her and her child. We do not give gifts from the GAP Ministry or from Curtis Baptist Church or from individuals who may want to help a "needy family"...and some may not understand that precept. Yet, it is very simple. It is not about the gifts at all...but it is about sharing The Gift. And that begins with building that bridge mentioned earlier...with forming a bond and a friendship...with earning respect and with giving it....with honoring motherhood (regardless of how different it may be from my own style of parenting) and family....and humbly considering others as better than myself, (see Philippians 2:3).
Another statement included in the GAP Ministry manual, that focuses on the Church side of that bridge, is as follows: "We [the Church] have become so complacent and comfortable with this division that we must first prove ourselves by meeting needs and forming relationships. The needs of young women in our downtown community are all very similar and frankly, quite simple. In many cases it is the basic human need for unconditional love. Not many will come to us asking to be introduced to Jesus Christ, yet as we express His love and develop relationships in the GAP ministry classes, we will have the opportunity to see their hearts and to share His hope."
Yes, we do invite donations of new toys for the ladies to "purchase"...(for free)...and those who give these donations may never see or know the results of their gift. But the givers can trust that many relationships have been created and bonds of friendship have been established which have earned us the right to share a gift offered throughout the entire year, the Greatest Gift of All--Jesus. And all involved come out on the receiving end of that bargain!
"...to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with
the riches of God's grace...."