Marlow, First has its own Toy Story.
And its own Toy Store.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, the church’s LIFE Center was turned into a giant “Toys R Us” environment with tables loaded with all the new-fangled as well as traditional items that light up youngsters’ eyes on Christmas morning.
From footballs, basketballs and fishing rods, to dolls to electronic games to bicycles, parents could choose a variety of items for their children. And it was all free.
Tables were arranged with age appropriate items, and Marlow, First members were there to help parents with their selections. In addition, members served drinks and snacks and wrapped the presents, making Christmas a little happier for hundreds of families in the area.
“Part of what makes this Christmas season so big for us is what we do for our area,” said Pastor Joe Ligon. “During this past year, we have learned how many folks in this area are in financially difficult situations. And I don’t want these folks to have to decide between feeding their families during this Christmas season or buying presents for their kids. I also don’t want one child in our area to go without getting something for Christmas.”
Ligon said 340 families were served at the toy store and toys were provided for more than 1,100 children.
One woman told volunteers that it had been five years since she’s been able to afford Christmas for her kids.
The Christmas give-away is just part of what Marlow, First has been doing for the community this year.
“Our entire year has been marked by this kind of ministry,” said Ligon. “It’s one of many things like this we have done this year, including a gasoline buy down, grocery buy down and back to school program.”
Most of the new toys were bought by church families, and when tables became sparse, more toys were brought from a storage room to replenish the supply.
“Some of the other churches in town helped a little through the Ministerial Alliance, but the really neat story came from an anonymous donor,” said Ligon.
He related that over the Thanksgiving holiday, he got a call from the Wal-Mart in Purcell, and was told that someone came there and bought 160 bicycles for the give away.
“They went there to make sure their identity would be protected,” Ligon said. “They did not want anyone to know who did this.”
The toys that were left over from the Dec. 4 event were taken to Rush Springs, where those from that town just north of Marlow, who attend Marlow, First, conducted another toy store at the school gymnasium.
Ligon said the purpose of this year-long effort to meet the real need of real people has been an amazing journey for church members to learn how to do that and what that looks like.
“We also learned how great the need is, not only in Marlow, but also throughout this area,” he said. “In October, we served almost 700 families with a grocery buy down.”
Ligon noted that the church hasn’t seen numerical growth because of these projects, but has seen spiritual growth and depth in church members.
“One of the best things about this is that we have done these things blind,” Ligon explained. “When we did the grocery buy down, we didn’t ask for any information from anyone. When they came to the toy store, the only information we asked for was the first names of the children they were getting gifts for. That’s how we knew how many gifts a family could pick up.
He said there have been no strings attached, and they have not asked for all the people’s information “so we can come convince you to go to church with us.”
On the other hand, he said, there is a growing reputation in the area that the folks at Marlow, First are generous people and are busy about trying to help people in the area.
“That in itself is sufficient,” he said.