‘Christmas Offering’ invites entire community to give

By Reader Staff

In this season of giving, 10 local churches are partnering for an extraordinary community-wide Christmas Offering to benefit two faith-based charities that do life-saving work here and in Africa.

At their Christmas services, the churches will dedicate the offerings they collect to be divided equally between The Luke Commission and Freedom House. And the initiative is by no means restricted to church members, as everyone in the community is invited to join in this special offering to support the two charities.

Echo Vanderwal, right, of The Luke Commission with a patient. Courtesy photo.

The Luke Commission brings critically-needed medical care to isolated regions of Swaziland – a country nearly devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It was founded in 2005 by Sandpoint’s Harry and Echo VanderWal, an MD and PA respectively, who began by single-handedly driving the country with their young children to provide free medical clinics. Today their Luke Commission works from its 30-acre Miracle Campus in Sidvokodvo, last year treating more than 60,000 patients with a team that has grown to more than 100 staff and volunteers.

Right here in Sandpoint, the Freedom House is a Christ-centered, safe-and-sober house that just this year moved in to the former Sweet Magnolia bed and breakfast downtown to provide temporary housing for women fighting to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. Providing 24-hour staff and serving up to 10 women at a time throughout the year, it is an outgrowth of the jail chaplaincy program at the Bonner County jail and is led by Fred Petteruto, the senior chaplain for the jail.

Eric Rust, pastor of Cedar Hills Church, is one of the organizing pastors of this emphasis. “During a time of year when the normal thing to do is to spend more and consume more, we wanted to be intentional about turning our eyes off of ourselves and onto others,” he said. “I am convinced that selfless giving is central to the story of Christmas.”

Participating churches for the Christmas Offering are Cedar Hills, Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church, Harvest Valley Worship Center, North Summit Church, River of Life Fellowship, Sagle Victory Baptist Church, Sandpoint Assembly of God, Sandpoint Church of God and Sandpoint Church of the Nazarene.

While the churches are getting the word out to their congregations about the upcoming special offering, everyone in the community is likewise invited to contribute. Contributions can be made during Christmas services at any of the churches, or dropped off at their offices.

Or, you may donate online at: www.cedarhillschurch.com/giving. Select “Christmas Offering 2017” when prompted for giving type.

Get more information about the offering from any of the churches. See more about the two charities online, at www.lukecommission.org or www.freedomhousehope.org.

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