Rain soaked the field of the original site of the Rock Church North County’s Toys for Joy event at San Marcos High School. Nevertheless on Saturday, December 12, the enthusiastic spirits of the volunteers could not be dampened. They welcomed and served almost 3,000 attendees with smiles and cheers and provided hope.
The corps of volunteers even included local high school students, who signed up to help in exchange for community service hours. Carolina, a helpful young lady who was senior at San Marcos High School, said an announcement was made in her AVID class, and she thought, “Why not?” Little did she know how she would help provide hope to the many families attending the Toys for Joy event that day.
When doors opened, guests flooded into the event space. Just hours before, the basketball court had been filled with players practicing. The North County volunteers had transformed the space into a toy room with bleachers filled with every kind of toy imaginable. All with a single purpose, to provide a platform to share the life-changing message of what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The ‘amazing’ gift of salvation
Volunteer North County Life Groups Director, Mike Thomas, welcomed the group in English and then after a phrase or two, paused to allow his every word to be spoken again by a Spanish interpreter.
Thomas shared how God intersected his own life as a young adult after his parents divorced and he tried to run away from his problems. Instead, he ran straight into drugs and alcohol, pornography and irresponsible living. He said that Jesus sees the pain and problems in the world and that is why he died and rose from the dead.
“Through him we receive eternal life,” he said. “You are excited to receive gifts today, but God gave us an amazing gift that day.” Over 1,000 attendees responded to the gospel message and invitation.
Excitement filled the toy room. The prayer volunteers wore green aprons and clapped and cheered as the group arrived to their area. One enthusiastic volunteer donning a green headband spontaneously sang, “Feliz Navidad….I want to wish you a Merry Christmas,” with a big smile while holding up her hand to give high fives to individuals as they passed by her.
Volunteer Ashley Reber, who is normally seen on the platform as a vocalist on the Worship Arts team, said that a 6 year old girl who was in line with her mother looked at Ashley and asked, “Can I have another Bible? It’s for my Dad.” Her mother was holding a Bible that they received at the stage area just moments ago and looked at Ashley while replying to her daughter, “We already have one for our family.” Ashley sensed that the family might not all dwell in the same home, so she quickly gave the little girl another Bible to bring home.
Prayer for first responders
In the same prayer area Christine Lee, coordinator of VIP tours, which included local community partners like the fire department, asked volunteers Tammy Seymour and Jennifer Gordon to pray for a group of six firefighters in blue uniforms who were visiting the event to observe all of the activity. The firefighters, Christine, Tamanie and Jennifer, formed a circle and Tammy offered up a prayer.
On the astroturf football field, the alternate festivity area, a bicycle raffle was held. The San Marcos Fire Battalion Chief Scott Hansen Captain read the number on the ticket that he drew and then the numbers were read again by another volunteer in Spanish, but no one stepped forward to claim the prize, so another ticket was pulled.
A winner came forward: Eileen, a Hispanic woman in her late 30’s, who was by herself. She chose, from the group of over 30 bikes on the side of the stage, a pink one with training wheels. “My 5-year-old daughter has a second-hand bike and needs a new one,” she explained. Eileen’s niece attends San Marcos High School and told her about today’s event.
‘Everyone has been so loving’
On the field Mariela, age 8, was toting a 1000-piece World of Art Activity set for Disney Princesses exactly like her 6-year-old sister, Clara’s. Her mother, who was carrying a little girl swaddled across her back with a large piece of cloth, only smiled when she was spoken to. Clara told me they speak Azteca at home, and said that they found out about Toys for Joy from invitations in the neighborhood. Her father dropped the family off at the school and he went to work. She flashed a big smile and said, “Thank you. Thank you very much for having us today.”
After participating in the raffle, exploring any of the pop-up stations around the football field including inflatable jumpy toys, a nail painting station, video games with a flat screen TV, making “reindeer droppings,” a photo booth, and much more, guests received a bag of groceries from friendly volunteers standing near the exit.
Guests of all ages enjoyed the energetic atmosphere in the Family area. In addition to sharing the Gospel message, Toys for Joy provided an opportunity for the community to come together. They were able to connect with neighbors and meet new friends. Mary, who was in her late 60’s, learned about Toys for Joy from a flyer left at their San Marcos home and said, “Everyone here has been so loving and welcoming. It was wonderful.” As guests left with toys, Bibles, groceries, and more, volunteers prayed for the lives that had been changed that day, eager to return next year.