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A Christmas Selection Box


If you belong to a church that tries to make the most of gospel opportunities at Christmas, you were probably more than disappointed when Omicron reared its ugly head in December 2021. Our missionaries had their share of these feelings too. Some of them, like Tim and Debbie Brooks in Haus Barnabas Germany, who went down with Covid, or Michael and Ariëtte Robinson in Belgium, who had a couple of Covid cases in their fellowship, had to cancel/postpone evangelistic activities. Restrictions and legal requirements vary across Europe, and most of our workers have had to figure out whether they could proceed with activities as planned. But across Europe some Christmas outreach events did go ahead, and we thought you might be interested in hearing about a small selection of these…

Stefano and Jenny Mariotti have been working hard to share the gospel with the 20,000inhabitants of Budrio, Italy, since 2010. As in any church plant, creative ideas for biblical gospel outreach are essential, and the couple found one such idea in is based on the example of the gratitude expressed to their servants by British gentry, who traditionally gave hard working staff boxes of presents the day after Christmas―hence the tradition of ‘Boxing Day’. To show the fellowship’s appreciation of the work done by public servants and community volunteers over a difficult year, the church (distributors had to have Covid passes to be able to participate) gave each of these individuals a box of chocolates, and, thanks to help from Gideons International, along with this little gift came a New Testament!  Jenny and Stefano write in their blog‘What a beautiful way to translate the true meaning of Christmas into practice, with the gift that God made of his Son, who became man to give himself on the cross, giving us peace with God and the new life of His resurrection!’ 

There is also an ongoing work with young people in the Budrio area, and in spite of Covid restrictions, the church was able to adapt the planned activity of games and a Christmas evangelistic message from Luke 2 (given by Stefano) for the families of the teens who come to the MySpace club, so that it went ahead safely, with Covid passes, which are a legal requirement for this kind of activity in Italy. 

In the Hungarian Church in London, nearly100 people gathered for a Christmas carol service on 5th December. Almost half of them were unbelievers! The pastor, István Salánki, never lets this kind of opportunity to preach the Gospel go by! In spite of fewer attendees than in former years (Omicron was beginning to make its presence felt in the UK capital), it was, Tünde Salánki writes, ‘a joyous occasion when we try to involve as many people as possible. The preaching is compact but very clearly evangelistic, presenting those people with the gospel who would otherwise not attend services. Due to a specially earmarked donation we were able to purchase bilingual Hungarian-English children’s Bibles and Christmas activity books which we distributed, to the delight of all families.’ A little children’s Nativity play (with Covid-affected ‘Joseph’’s understudy bribed to appear!) and lots of carol singing and poetry all attempted to bring home the wonderful Christmas story. 

In central Spain, the church in Ciudad Real managed to get most of its activities finished before Covid infection rates rose very steeply. It is not easy to hold safe meetings in their building, which is much too small and poorly-ventilated for the current congregation, though thankfully the weather was much milder than usual, and the draught through the open door was bearable.  

The three main activities consisted of an evangelistic coffee-and-cakes event for women, a young people’s social evening and meal followed by evangelistic epilogue, and a service on 26th December for the Sunday School children and their families. Paty Flores (married to Xavi Patiño, EMF worker in Ciudad Real) gave an evangelistic talk at the ladies’ Christmas meeting. There were three or four women there who have made no profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and who listened well to the message on ‘The True Meaning of Christmas’. Pilar Herrera (wife of Luis Cano, pastor of the Ciudad Real church) told us that the gospel was presented clearly to those ladies, as it was too at the young people’s evening the following day. Thomas Birch (our EMF director’s son)spoke to these fifteen teenagers, most of whom are non-believers, after a pot-luck meal. ‘It was a great blessing’ Pilar says.

The Sunday School children of the Ciudad Real fellowship took part in the service on 26th December(with a smaller congregation than expected, as by then fears of infection had grown), telling the gospel story from Genesis to Revelation, then singing a Christmas song. Luis Cano had adapted his sermon for these little ones, focusing on the different names by which Jesus is known in the Bible, and, as Pilar reports, ‘urging the children to believe and trust in the name, the person, and the work of Jesus for their salvation’. The children went home excitedly with a little gift; their parents and friends took away a souvenir photo calendar of the Sunday School pupils. 

These are three different churches with very different kinds of approaches and methods, but each is committed to using any legitimate means to make Christ known to those around them. They are representative of all our workers, who this past Christmas, and in the face of Covid restrictions and Omicron infection rates, made every effort to use this time of the year to reach people with the gospel.

Prayer Points

  • The many people who heard the gospel in evangelistic events in the churches where our missionaries are working. Let’s give thanks for great gospel-spreading opportunities.
  • The churches and workers who could not do much this past Christmas due to illness and Covid restrictions. They may feel discouraged.
  • (In Ciudad Real): ‘C’, a young non-Christian lady who has not attended the church for a long time but who gladly came to the ladies’ Christmas meeting. ‘E, C and J’ are a Colombian Catholic family who have been attending the church since arriving in Spain. The daughter, (‘J’), a pupil at the school Pilar teaches in, took part in the Christmas activities. Luis and Pilar ask for the young people mentioned above (mostly children of believers but unsaved) to be touched by the gospel.
  • (In the London Hungarian Church): The Hungarian-Japanese ‘Sz’ family, who turned up in church in September for Istvan’s 20-year anniversary celebration. The parents, professional musicians, played a Christmas piece at the carol service. Tünde says ‘It was a true encouragement for us that they came to church, even if it was for a couple of special events. We pray that they would start attending and that they would be saved’.
  • (In Budrio, Italy): ‘S’, whose brother attends the MySpace club, and ‘G’, ‘S’s’ boyfriend. They ‘really listened to the Christmas evangelistic message; for the last couple of weeks they’ve been to everything!’, Stefano tells us. Pray too for ‘A’, the head of the local emergency response team, who was really happy to receive the church’s visit with gifts, and even asked to receive 50 New Testaments for the volunteers.