We only have one Christmas decoration in our home. I think this pretty much says it all!
Dear Mission Family,
It’s become a tradition for us to send Christmas ornaments to the sustaining financial supporters of our ministry. Each year we try to find a piece which speaks of life here in the hills and hollers. Many times these Christmas tree trimmings have been made from local coal dust, mixed with resin and shaped into remembrances of the coal industry which once dominated this region. As I selected the ornaments for this year’s gifts I noticed that, in fact, I had sent this same design during a Christmas past. My first impulse was to return the items to the local craftsman who sold them to me, but then I was reminded of one simple, yet profound truth; Christmas, and the Christ, are “the same yesterday and today and forever.” (see Hebrews 13:8)
I fear that many times our thirst for bigger and better seeps over into our worship of our King. We never seem content with what is, but look to improve on it. Every day the “app store” icon on my cell phone reveals a great number of enhancements which I’m told I simply must have. Often my computer visually taunts me that its operating system is not the latest and greatest. This agitating need to improve on everything, or at least cause it to grow in volume, is ever-present, even outside of the cyber-world. Folks flood the Christmas section of Walmart to secure additional lights to make their homes more dazzling than last year. Lasers and musically synced strings of LEDs replace the worn and weary ice-cycle lights of previous displays. Even in our church celebrations during this special season, advancing technology brings the plays and musical presentations to a crescendo, at least until next year.
Change is inevitable in any circumstance. In fact, it’s often healthy and necessary. The writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” (Ecc. 3:1) For more than thirteen years my wife, Rita, and I have ministered among the impoverished people of Appalachia. Over that span of time, we have frequently altered the means by which we engage people with the Good News of Christ. What began as primarily a “church house” approach to reaching folks, has transformed into daily encounters with those who need assistance with myriad aspects of their lives. While our means of ministering have changed, our motive has remained the same. Our initial calling from God was to “Teach the people about My Love, and SHOW them how to take care of one-another.” Over the years it has often been suggested that we GROW our organization, rebranding our appearance to the world and taking a more event-focused approach to ministry. I’m not condemning those who upgrade the “version” of their ministry in an effort to be increasingly relevant in an often skeptical world, but Rita and I have discerned a need to remain constant in our simple one-on-one approach to helping people discover their true need to love God, and to love their neighbor as themselves.
The Christmas season brings to the hills and hollers a certain sense of desperation. Needful folks literally race from agency to agency, trying to glean from the bountiful harvest of gifts and services... while they are still available. We ceased to host a traditional Christmas “give-away” a year ago. Our decision was influenced by the number of trucks parked in front of our building, during our events, already filled with bags and boxes of gifts obtained at other venues. Instead, we choose to encounter people individually. While the more populated areas in our county are host to a vast number of Christmas events, we work quietly to bring gifts to the children of a very remote community, appropriately named “Clark Holler”, as well as to our local neighbors who were passed over during other Christmas events.
I truly believe that the greatest gift that any of the needful souls who seek our assistance could ever receive- aside from their salvation in Christ- is the gift of “true understanding”. The birth of Christ makes that possible. As we minister to people during this Christmas season, and any time of the year, we try to illuminate the vital importance of seizing the responsibility and accountability which we all have within our society. I’m sure that if folks would accept this gift with the same enthusiasm which they display while standing in line at multiple give-away events, they would find the True Purpose of Christmas influencing their lives... every day of the year.
I pray that you experience the Joy of Jesus in everything this season... in His unchanging version. Merry Christmas from the Cmoliks and Hills and Hollers Ministries!