By JUDY A. TOTTS
SHARON TWP. â€” Connection Church is living up to its name with a program that will allow its members to connect with the community to extend the blessings of Christmas.
The congregation held an auction Dec. 6 to raise money for the church, but what the Rev. Tony Myles, who pastors the church, didnâ€™t tell the congregation was that the $835 they raised would be used to bring the joy of Christmas to the community.
â€œSome people are facing economic challenges, and we think itâ€™s time to bless the community,â€ Myles said. â€œWe thought, â€˜Wouldnâ€™t it be great on Christmas Eve to empower the congregation to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the community?â€™ â€
During two Christmas Eve services, the church handed out 66 envelopes, each containing $10. The remaining $75 and $100 will be offered to anyone who has a bill to pay who has received a utility shut-off notice, Myles said.
Each envelope contained a list of 10 to 15 ideas to help people connect people to Christmas â€” to Christ â€” in a practical way.
â€œEvery year at Christmas time people are asked in every direction to give,â€ Myles said. â€œBut theyâ€™re seldom empowered to give. Jesus didnâ€™t come to just ask people to do good deeds. Jesus lives through you.
â€œYou might use the money to buy pizza or a gift for a neighbor youâ€™d like to connect with,â€ Myles said. â€œYou might go to Goodwill and buy clothes to give to someone in need, or you might buy something that allows you generate more money to use for people in need. Itâ€™s the â€˜pay it forwardâ€™ concept.â€
The church also participates in the â€œShirt Off Your Backâ€ program to distribute clothing items and blankets at a homeless shelter in Cleveland.
â€œOne guy literally gave the shirt off his back,â€ Myles said, recounting their experience the previous year. â€œSomeone asked if they had any sweatshirts, and he took off his sweatshirt and handed it to him.â€
Living their faith manifests in other projects, like the laundry baskets packed with food by the womenâ€™s group for local families and, for global mission work, raising money for T-shirts distributed through Gospel Harvest Ministries in Kenya.
â€œI loved to hear how one familyâ€™s child caught how blessed we are from our â€˜Christmas Unpluggedâ€™ program,â€ Myles said.
Christmas Unplugged is all about building relationships and bringing Christ to people through acts of kindness. One aspect encourages using a calendar that suggests setting aside change every day in a fun way, like paying 10 cents into the fund for every pair of blue jeans you own, to collect money for charitable projects.
â€œ(Seeing a child learn about becoming a generous Christian,) Thatâ€™s a gift that extends beyond Christmas.â€
Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or