It often seems like Christmas at BCM is taken over by ToyLink, with staff and volunteers from every department recruited into delivering gifts around the city to meet the Christmas Eve deadline. This year was no exception, but there was a lot else happening besides.
From opening until close, the BCM Shop’s Christmas Extravaganza brought in regulars and new customers. We had 20% off all stock, mince pies, home-made cakes and festive hot chocolate with whipped cream. With extra volunteers and staff, we were able to engage with lots more people and show what BCM is all about… loving people the way Jesus does!
Mark Ellis, BCM Charity Shop Manager
All three ElderLink lunch clubs enjoyed their Christmas meals and services. The Tuesday club had a special time because members of The Hive Cafe & Bakery came and sang Christmas songs with us.
Rachel Khan, ElderLink Manager
Once again we were grateful to PRYZM nightclub for inviting our guests for a wonderful Christmas meal. May we also remember their staff who all heard a message about God’s love that evening.
Steve Bagnall, Care Centre Manager
Pupils asked James and me lots of questions in Christmas RE lessons. What were you before you were a Christian? Does prayer work? We had lots of opportunities to share our testimonies.
A local church partner told us: ‘A teacher who heard the Christmas assembly decided to come to church yesterday and made a commitment to follow Jesus. Amazing! Goes to show that the Lord is working and we aren’t just speaking to the youth but the teachers also.’
John Platt, Youth Team Co-ordinator
Thank you to many Christmas fundraisers. Amongst the youngest were: Barnt Green Baptist Kids & Youth who raised £100 by selling home-made wrapping paper; Year 3 at Highfield Junior & Infant School who made and sold slime(!) at their Christmas Fayre; and Isabella Morton who single-handedly fundraised to buy toys for BCM.
Which brings us back to ToyLink… This year 1,520 families (3,750 children) were referred to us for help, that’s 15,000 new toys, books and puzzles donated!
These came from around 100 schools and churches, 50 companies and lots of individuals too. There were Amazon parcels arriving daily at the Clock Tower, mostly from anonymous givers.
This generosity meant we could support more than 300 extra families this year. Many are single parent families, some in refuges, some going through unexpected hard times because of illness, relationship breakdown and mental health struggles. The stories are always different but the parents and carers feel the pressure, like we all do, to do Christmas ‘properly’ for their children and give them something special – but they are not even covering the day to day bills. Every toy donation has helped one of these families.
City Missionary, Jonathan Hackett, said:
‘We delivered to a family in an apartment block – a single mum with many children. The mother was surprised to receive the gifts and was almost overwhelmed with emotion. She invited us in and, over a cup of tea, explained to us her story.
Her husband had become physically abusive towards her and the children, to the point that she was fearing for their lives. One day she decided to flee. She took her children to school as normal, waited for her husband to go to work and, in a terrified state, packed some essentials into her car, picked up the children and went to a refuge centre.
She still has struggles. Her apartment is small and it is tough – sometimes she has to choose between topping up the gas or the electricity. One of her children has severe special needs. Coping alone, she battles with stress and lack of sleep. She doesn’t have friends or a community of support around her, so life is lonely. She has a bible and thought she might start reading it again, perhaps attend a local church. We have visited since with a food parcel and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.’