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Going the Distance
By Michael Blatnica

On the eve of Toys For Joy at Lincoln High and Porter Elementary – located in San Diego’s Southeast neighborhood, I met a couple that came all the way from Portland Oregon, as they have for the past three years now, to serve.

Andre Edward and his fiancée Christina Mendoza had just shown up to the toy room, where later, it would majestically be transformed from a gym into a miniature “Toys R Us,” with thousands of toys, hundreds of stuffed animals, dozens of volunteers, and a whole lot of love and smiles yet to await the many kids and their families on that Saturday morning. 

Christina and Andre had just barely arrived in town. He is active duty Navy and first came to Rock Church ten years ago. She is studying to become a doctor in clinical psychology, and has a master’s degree in counseling. She joined him at the Rock in 2011. They have been dating for five years now.

Andre says this was one of his first opportunities to serve, and that is was Christina who was the driving force behind getting them involved in Toys For Joy. "I grew up Catholic, so I never really had any sense of community. It was just you had to get the check in the checkbox, you had to do this, and had to do that. Coming to the Rock started breaking me out of that, and then especially serving has most definitely opened up so many doors." He goes on to say, what the Rock is doing is awesome.

Christina was sold after hearing a message from Pastor Miles one Sunday on serving and Pervasive Hope. It was all in Gods hands after that. This was Andre's first year available in helping with Friday’s toy room setup, and her third.

On that Saturday morning, Andre served in medical and Christina with one of the Rock’s other outreach ministries, Miracle 139, which serves the families of children with special needs. Christina has been in a leadership role for the past few years and says serving in this ministry really spoke to her. "That’s where the need was at the time, so I signed up. We work throughout the day to provide a safe space for our special needs kids and their families."  

I asked both of them this question: How has Toys For Joy touched and impacted your relationship personally, and with God?

"I think one of the important things for me is that it’s really amazing to be able to come here, even though we live so far away, to serve and bring Pervasive Hope to this city." It’s a way for us to reconnect with The Rock Church and helps us grow in our relationship with The Lord. Christina added, "I love Christmas and what it stands for."

Andre and Christina said they plan on making this a yearly tradition.