A collaboration between 11 different churches for a collective Christmas Offering raised a stunning $132,541 for two faith-based charities that do life-saving work in Sandpoint and Africa.
The entire amount goes to the two charities, and will be split evenly between the Freedom House, a substance abuse recovery and rehabilitation program that provides temporary housing for women fighting to recover from drug or alcohol addiction; and The Luke Commission, which brings critically needed medical care to isolated regions of Swaziland – a country nearly devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Echo VanderWal, who with husband Harry founded The Luke Commission right from Sandpoint in 2005, summed up the reaction in an email from Swaziland: “The response from the North Idaho community has been such a blessing,” she said. “It is hard to put into words... Wow!”
Fred Petteruto, executive director of Freedom House ministries, said the amount was “amazing” and added: “The willingness of 11 churches with very different doctrinal perspectives to agree to come together on a common cause speaks volumes about how God is calling the Christian church in Bonner County to greater unity for His purpose.”
Freedom House is located in the former Sweet Magnolia bed and breakfast. Petteruto noted the donation will help cover operational costs, plus provide a financial safety net for the future.
VanderWal said the donation to The Luke Commission is earmarked for a new project to build a Staff Development Centre on its Swaziland campus, from which last year it treated more than 60,000 patients across the nation with no other means for medical care. With some 200 local Swazi on staff now, VanderWal said their training “is the key to Swaziland’s future.”
Not only will trained personnel help TLC meet the country’s desperate health care needs, but the training will provide critical employment and life skills to men and women in their 20s and 30s, many of whom suffered greatly during the HIV pandemic and have never had paying jobs .
“More than 50 percent of our staff lost their parents in the worst period of the HIV pandemic,” said VanderWal. “TLC staff are orphans and are now adults – but orphans do not cease to be orphans when they become adults. TLC must be part of the team that grows and trains leaders to rebuild the social, economic, and spiritual structures of the Kingdom of Swaziland.”
Participating churches for the Christmas Offering were Cedar Hills Church, Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Dover Community Church, First Baptist Church, Harvest Valley Worship Center, North Summit Church, River of Life Fellowship, Sagle Victory Baptist Church, Sandpoint Assembly of God, Sandpoint Church of God and Sandpoint Church of the Nazarene.
For more information about the two charities go online to The Luke Commission, lukecommission.org; or Freedom House, freedomhousehope.org.