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Turning the Christmas spirit into action

Members of a local church cut back on their Christmas budgets and together they raised about $160,000 in just two months.

"We raised it just by asking our church people to just give their greatest Christmas gift to the world's greatest needs," said David Whiting, pastor at Northridge Church in Rochester.
Whiting said Christians need to reclaim Christmas.

"We've lost the purpose of it and we want to bring to back it what it's supposed to be about."

Somewhere along the way, Whiting said, Christmas has become less about giving and more about buying.

"It's crazy to see the amount of money that we spend extravagantly on things when there they have nothing."

A trip to the country of Chad in Arica in October really changed Whiting's perspective about the difference between wants and needs.

"We asked 'what do you need' and immediately the people in the village started shouting 'water, water,'" said Whiting.

The 1,000 people who live in the Maramara village have no access to clean water and "walk two hours each way just to get water that makes them sick."

When the congregation at Northridge saw the water the people in the village were forced to drink, they were disgusted and inspired to help.

"To reclaim Christmas by sort of giving less than what we would normally spend on ourselves and sharing that with people who have great need," said Brad Files, an elder at the church.

Files said his children each gave up the item at the top of their Christmas lists.

"I'm even afraid to call it sacrifice because it's not really costing us anything but a few gifts - Christmas gifts that will soon be forgotten."

With the $155,000, the church will donate half of that to the village to dig a well and help build a school for the muslim community there.

"We're to love them and supply for their basic needs, to meet the needs of people no matter what religion they are," Whiting said. "Whether or not they ever embrace Jesus, we still want to meet their basic needs and education and we can do it in a way that for us doesn't cost a lot."

The rest of the money, roughly $80,000, will be distributed to local charities and organizations in Rochester.

 
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