BY ANDREW DUBOCK
There were no exclusive, red-carpet gatherings. Or invitation-only events with strict dress codes.
They weren’t about celebrating celebrities or those at the top of the social ladder.
No, these parties were much more special than that. They welcomed those usually forgotten about, left behind and pushed away from the spotlight.
They were for vulnerable children who lead difficult lives. Children who lives in broken homes. Children at risk of becoming a victim of substance abuse. Children without any parents. Children who live on the streets.
That’s the magic of Viva’s Christmas Parties, which were held again globally during December 2018. This time, 443 churches and organisations, from 26 Viva partner networks, worked collaboratively to host a total of 76 parties.
Overall, 8,365 children attended a party and, for around a third of them, it was their first contact with one of our networks.
Most Christmas parties took place over a whole day, with plenty of time for fun, games and good food. There were dramas, songs, prayer, imaginative tellings of the Christmas Story, dance, puppet shows, magic shows – and even haircuts.
From several parties, children went home with a gift to remind them that they are loved and precious. These gifts ranged from sports equipment in Colombia to sleeping mats in Patna, India.
At each party, the churches took the opportunity to teach children valuable lessons in a fun way. These included lessons on good treatment of children in Delhi (India), Nepal, Paraguay and Costa Rica, washing and sanitation in Ranchi (India) and the dangers of drug abuse in Uganda and Zimbabwe.
A 16 year-old boy in Zimbabwe, who attended the party, said: “Some of my friends are involved in substance abuse and the community I come from it is normal… I am grateful for today’s party for I was equipped with information on how to help my friends and protect myself from becoming a victim of substance abuse.”
The event in Uganda was specifically for children living and working on the streets. Nine boys expressed a need to learn livelihood skills and two organisations willingly took them on. Since then, the boys are currently learning skills in building, plumbing, making products such as belts and sandals out of leather.
Each member of the street children working group had a role to play and it would not have been possible without everyone’s input. The local council and government leaders had the opportunity to see how big the problem for street children is and to hear from the children directly.
In Bangalore, India, three girls from a particular family expressed their desire to study but had not attended school because the father was alcoholic and mother had a small job. A volunteer who heard the story, and prayed with the network at the party, offered to sponsor the children’s education for the next few years. Those girls are now being connected to their local church.
The parties can have a lasting impact on children who attend because these children have the opportunity to hear about God who loves them, and form the start of relationships with other children and churches who can support them as they grow up.
They also serve to deepen connections between churches and Christian ministries, which enables greater collaboration. As confidence increases, churches and organisations who have had a positive experience of working with others then go on to take part in larger-scale collective programmes that can achieve far more for children than a single organisation could do on its own.
The co-ordinator of our partner network in Venezuela, which is experiencing a time of crisis, said, “It was an extraordinary experience to be able to serve parents and children in a party that was born in the heart of God and use the network as a provider agent to achieve it. It was a very emotional moment to support parents.”
And in Hyderabad, India, our network co-ordinator wrote, “Through holding a Christmas Party in the slum, one of the Christian community leaders restarted his ministry work. We also had good relationship now with a small church in the area.”
The last word goes to one of the 8,000 children impacted by a Viva Christmas Party – a 14-year-old girl in Nepal, who says: “A month back I had a road accident and I did not think I would be able to attend this party due to my injuries. But praise to the Lord, he has a bigger plan for me, he is healing in my injuries so fast that I am able to come to this event with my little brother I had so much fun and I felt the presence of God.”
We’re really grateful for everyone who supports this amazing programme. Could your church support Viva Christmas Parties 2019? Find out more at www.viva.org/christmasparties