New Prospect Baptist Church Christmas store shut down due to pandemic

PROSPECTUS, La. (CALF) – A church with a vision of God’s power: This is how the New Prospect Baptist Church describes itself. At no time is this vision more accurately represented than in the first week of December for the Church’s Christmas shop.

“It is an opportunity to reach out to the ward and our church members who are going through difficult times,” said Bill Smith, a church deacon.

Many families cannot buy gifts for loved ones during the Christmas season. This is where the Christmas shop comes in and offers the families in the community free gifts.

“Our desire on this ministry is to help people who are down,” said Diane McCain, the store’s organizer. “Hopefully next year your economic situation will change and you don’t need any help and you could send someone else to us.”

The idea for the Christmas shop came up in 1987 when a deacon visited a home to deliver grocery boxes and noticed that the children in the home had no Christmas presents.

“They went in there and saw they had nothing,” said Smith. “It touches your heart.”

The service soon changed from home visits to youth service and eventually evolved into a church-wide effort. In a normal year, the Church raises donations and gifts year-round, and in December provides funds for “shopping” in local stores. Members of the youth group take the money and use it to buy gifts for others and later equip tables in the parish hall of the church with items such as toys, jewelry and utensils.

On the first Saturday in December, the needy of the congregation meet in the church to collect gifts from the shop while the church members wait in another room to wrap their gifts.

The ministry has grown over the years. In its final year of operating as usual, the church served more than 200 guests before COVID-19 broke out in 2019. What is usually the Church’s largest outreach program has continued on a smaller scale this year. This year the church was able to give presents to 26 families who will buy 75 children this Christmas season.

“We’re still kind of tied to COVID so it’s a lot smaller than ever,” explained Smith.

“This year we mainly focused on children,” said Diane. “We don’t have gifts for adults, but we have a lot of gifts for children. One day we’ll be back to how it was. In the meantime, we are blessed to have one-on-one conversations, time with, and prayers with our guests who walk in. “

However, COVID-19 didn’t just affect the size of the event. Sandy McCain, one of the founders, died of COVID-19 last year. Sandy was larger than life, and so was his heart for the Christmas shop.

“If he went shopping in Marksville and stopped by Tractor Supply or Walmart and saw some offers, he’d be so excited,” said Diane of her husband Sandy. “The day after Christmas we went into the store at six in the morning and he was pushing strollers and I threw things in. This service was just so close to our hearts. “

But Sandy and the Church were never just about serving by giving. It is also about having the opportunity to share the gospel and encourage others to receive the spirit of service and carry on the gift of service.

“We want to challenge people to get involved and see where to serve,” said Diane. “See where you can make a difference in someone else’s life.”

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