I love Toy Time! I love my friends, Ami and Tena, who have organized a misfit bunch of volunteers year after year! I love seeing God multiply dollars and multiply toys to provide toys for hundreds (actually thousands) of needy children in our area! It's incredible to be a part of this effort year after year.
The Toy Time story goes like this.... Once upon a time (say 15 or 16 years ago), a woman named, Ami, took over a Christmas toy consignment sale. The founders of the sale would price used toys and offer a sale. The consigners would receive a part of the sale of their used toys and the organizers of the sale would earn Christmas spending money for themselves. When the founders no longer had children at home, they looked to someone else to run the consignment sale. They found Ami. And instead of simply maintaining the toy consignment sale as it was, Ami dared to dream big.
Ami enlisted the help of her cousin, Tena, and their children, and together they started the first year of what we now know as Toy Time. These two women took the toy consignment sale and instead of using the 40% profit for their own Christmas shopping, they opted to use this money to buy brand new toys for needy children in the area. Over the years, Ami has relentlessly pitched her idea until she has gotten our area community assistance organizations, the Salvation Army, area churches, the local media and the Marine's Toys for Tots to join in and be a part of an incredible community outreach. Within a few years, Ami and Tena needed more help in cleaning, pricing and sorting toys. They now have a small army of trained volunteers who consider it an honor and a privilege to be part of the fun!
Throughout this week, people in the community will drop toys off in a heated building at our local fairgrounds. Inside, smiling and laughing adults and children busily clean, sort and price the used toys for the sale this coming weekend. By the time Ami and Tena open the doors for the sale, there will be thousands and thousands of toys ready to sell over the weekend.
Next Monday, Ami and Tena will take the profits from the sale, along with cash donations that were made and go shopping! Last year, Tena's husband, Mike, took his semi-trailer and these two ladies filled it with brand new toys! Volunteers met them and unloaded and sorted the new toys by category (ie baby toys, toddler toys, 2-4 year old toys, etc.). When they return with the new toys Monday afternoon, there will be hearts rejoicing because it will be time to give away!!
Hundreds of people will come and stand in line in the cold next week to receive a brand new toy for each of their children for Christmas. When they receive the toys, they will also receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With adult supervision, the children volunteers go behind closed doors and pick out gifts for the children and pass them out to the parents who have come. The children will have Bibles and tracts for the adults and all day long the sound of "Merry Christmas! Here are your new toys. We want you to know that we do this because of Jesus. He loves you!" fill the building. I wish I could adequately describe the thrill of seeing children proudly proclaim Jesus Christ! Every single year, tears of joy run down my cheeks.
At the end of two full days of giving toys and the Gospel, we will have no toys left. With tired bodies and joyful hearts we will clean the building. Ami will turn out the lights and lock the door and we will all travel home to rest and to prepare for our own Christmas celebration with new "Toy Time" stories ringing in our hearts. Stories like the year that Rissa gave up her shoes to a little girl that needed them or when Bryce was able to give a bike to a boy who had none.
As I said, I love Toy Time! I wish everyone could experience the privilege that God has given us. I wish that everyone could pray in a circle with children volunteers thanking God for a bunch of brand new bikes that were donated, or witness their own children boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ! I do know, though, that God uses the Body of Christ in different ways to complete His work on earth. He gives us all ministries to complete. Though they may look different, they are all for the same goal~spreading the love of Jesus and telling others the story of His birth, death and resurrection. So, my heart is joyful and thankful that God has given this ministry opportunity to my family. Our lives are blessed because of the vision that Ami and Tena have had and have allowed us to join. I am forever grateful to these dear friends for telling me the Story of Toy Time and for allowing me the privilege of being a part of their dream. This truly is the most wonderful time of year!