Once a week through the past two summers, friends, neighbors, and park visitors near Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alta., have been able to pick up a free craft kit designed to provide a fun activity and some community connection. Typically the church’s community relations committee seeks different ways throughout the year to share the love of Jesus with its neighbors. It has put on movie nights, hosted a summer pancake breakfast, run Vacation Bible School, and more. But the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic with social distancing and limited gathering required committee members to get creative in communicating to neighbors the church’s continued care. After seeing the idea for a craft bag on the Facebook page of a different local church and asking for permission to use the idea, Maranatha launched its “Neighbour to Neighbour” craft kit giveaway in June 2020. “A quote we came up with was ‘Sharing the love of Jesus, one kit at a time,’” said Paula Haugen, a committee member.
Each kit, aimed at children from preschool to age 12, includes instructions and materials for a simple craft, coloring pages, a snack, words of encouragement, and information about Maranatha CRC. On Saturday mornings a church volunteer stands by a table with assembled kits ready for the taking. The church posts the weekly craft on local social media community pages, and as it’s located across from a park, there is a fair bit of walk-by traffic. Last summer, the church handed out about 50 kits each week. Members were pleased with the response and made more kit giveaways for Christmas 2020 and Easter and Mother’s Day in 2021. They picked up the weekly giveaways again in mid-June, in time for Father’s Day.
Haugen said the idea has spread to other churches as Maranatha received emails and Facebook messages—one from a group in Florida—asking to use this idea in their neighborhoods.
“People need people,” said Hagen, describing how she experiences much joy when she sees a child return for a second or third time to pick up a kit, especially if they bring a friend. “A smile, a simple hello, showing you care for someone else—even a stranger walking by—is so important in times like these,” she said. “It allows us to send the message that no one needs to be alone. Our church is here for you. Most importantly, we are trying to share the love of Jesus through this small gift.”