ABHMS ministers to children in Rainelle, W.Va.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) is restoring the wonders of childhood this Christmas via the congregation of First Baptist Church (FBC), Rainelle, W.Va. The home mission staff has donated more than 100 new toys to be distributed to the church’s children, whose toys were lost in a historic and deadly flood that impacted regions of West Virginia in June.

Members of First Baptist Church, Rainelle, W.Va., with toys donated by ABHMS. Second from right is the church’s pastor, David Bush.

Members of First Baptist Church, Rainelle, W.Va., with toys donated by ABHMS. Second from right is the church’s pastor, David Bush.

“It’s been said that ‘If play is the work of childhood, then toys are its tools,’” ABHMS’ the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Johnson reminded the staff at its annual Christmas luncheon, where the toys were blessed. Johnson, who serves as ABHMS national coordinator of Evangelism and New Church Planting, coordinated the project on ABHMS’ end, along with FBC pastor David Bush.

Toys were collected for both boys and girls of every age, from infant to teen. They include Matchbox and Hot Wheels vehicles; manicure and beauty playsets; Lego and Mega Bloks building sets; Play-Doh, modeling clay and art sets; baby and Barbie dolls; basketballs, footballs and soccer balls; play purses and jewelry, stuffed animals; puzzles and games, such as Jenga, Clue and Uno; coloring books and crayons; and storybooks, such as “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory.”

“After the flooding in Rainelle, it was sad to see the piles of gray rubble with brightly colored toys mixed throughout. The toys that weren’t washed away were unsalvageableeither broken or contaminated by polluted water,” said Johnson, who visited the area in his role as associate executive minister/regional pastor with congregations for West Virginia’s neighboring American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Most of the parents are without funds. And those who do have money can’t afford to spend it on toys this Christmas.”

The toys donated by ABHMS staff were combined with toys collected by Great Bethel Baptist Church, Uniontown, Pa., and displayed on tables in FBC’s fellowship hall, where parents and grandparents can “shop” at no cost.

According to news reports, 8-10 inches of torrential rain fell in West Virginia on June 23, causing flash flooding that took the lives of at least 23 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and left thousands stranded and without utilities. A reported 44 counties declared states of emergency.

The toys were blessed by the Rev. Jamaal Nelson, director of ABHMS’ “In Support of Excellence” program.

“This act of love will serve two purposes,” said Johnson. “One, it will put actual toys under family Christmas trees—if they have them—and into children’s hands. Secondly, it will convey to this American Baptist Churches-supporting congregation and to their community that they are neither forgotten nor forsaken.”