Miracles at Toy Town

ImageEach holiday season, we provide gifts to nearly 10,000 children in need for Christmas at a Toy Town event at our community center locations. In addition to toys and food, they’re offered the gift of prayer. Here Major Kris Wood shares his observations last year from the prayer chapel.

Toys were piled high on tables. Stuffed animals waited anxiously to be adopted. Ornaments, tinsel and garland twinkled, expressing the excitement of the season. It was the setting for miracles.

Volunteers, adorned in Christmas sweaters and sparkling Santa hats, smiled and laughed as they escorted shoppers from table to table to pick out toys for their children. The last table was labeled “Prayer Chapel.” It sat in front of a room created of broken down cardboard boxes covered in festive wrapping paper.

Its purpose was simple: offer a prayer with and for visitors toToyTown. No one was asked theirImage denominational background, religious preference, or even if they believed in a loving God. A simple offer was made, “May I pray with you today?” That’s when the miracles started to happen.

The first was a woman who’d been in the hospital the day before having surgery on her spine. Though she really shouldn’t have been out of bed, let alone driving, there she stood smiling through the pain and asking for prayer. She’d been injured at work and had needed a fusion of two vertebrae in her neck. When the volunteers asked what she was doing atToyTown, she said, “My kids need to know the joy of Christmas this year.” She’d always worked and provided a blessed Christmas for her children, but the accident had changed everything.

“I want to thank God for a successful surgery, a great family and continued blessings,” she said. “I want to pray for you, too.” She continued, “I want to pray that God will help you. I know that you are in pain. I see it in your eyes.”

She was right, the volunteer was struggling to stay positive due to her own back pain. She took the volunteer’s hands and prayed earnestly for God’s healing. She prayed for the blessing of a pain-free Christmas Day and then finished by asking for a blessing on the volunteer’s family.

“I was here to pray for you,” whispered the volunteer, wiping tears from her eyes.

“But I was here to pray for you,” said the woman, ending their time together with a warm hug and a friendly, “Merry Christmas!”

Almost immediately, another woman sat down dejectedly. “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” she said. Another volunteer asked, “What can’t you do anymore?”

“I can’t keep pretending,” she spurted out as tears cascaded down her face. “Pray that I can handle the funeral, the family, Christmas.”

Image“I’m so sorry,” the volunteer said. “Did you have a death in your family?”

The woman sobbed. After several minutes she said, “They killed my brother in my car two days ago. He was a simple boy, just going to the store to get me some things for supper. They robbed him, and all he had was the $5 I gave him. They killed him for my $5.”

The volunteer, her own tears falling uncontrollably, responded, “I don’t know what to say, but God knows. He cares. He loves you.” She held the woman in a warm embrace and prayed for comfort and peace….

“You don’t know how much you’ve helped, just letting me cry. I have to be so strong for everyone,” said the woman. They spent another 20 minutes praying and talking together.

Next was a man who’d just endured his third surgery after an accident. He was walking with a cane, a limp holding back his right leg and a sling on his arm. He was tall with a strong face and proud eyes. “Before you say anything,” he declared, “I’m here to pray a prayer of thanks for my girls.”

“Your girls? What’s happening with your girls?” asked a volunteer.

A huge smile spread across his face. “They are good! They have been through so much with my surgeries and have been my caretakers, my nurses and friends, and most of all they have prayed me back to health.”

“You sound blessed,” the volunteer responded. “I am blessed,” he boomed back. “My girls are my wife and my twins. Did I tell you they believe in the power of prayer?” “Yes, you did. That is so wonderful,” encouraged the volunteer. “I got me two teenaged girls who go to church, read their Bibles and pray with some kinda power!” he said even louder.

On and on the stories and prayers went from praise to sorrow, from pain to joy. God transformed that empty room into holy ground. Lives were changed; miracles took place.

One of the greatest was near the end of the second day. A woman arrived without an appointment, not quite sure why she’d come. She wandered over to the prayer chapel and asked for help. After picking out toys for her children with a volunteer, she said, “If anyone needs prayer, it’s me!” She shared her story.

She and her four children were living in a house without heat, gas or electricity and with only oneImage working toilet. All the rest of the pipes in the house had frozen. Though she worked full time, this mother had to choose between heat and medicine for her two-year-old. The volunteer stopped her mid-sentence, “We can help you get your heat turned back on!” she exclaimed. “How?” the woman asked. “We’re The Salvation Army. That’s what we do!”

Soon a social service caseworker began making telephone calls. Fifteen minutes later the woman ran acrossToyTown. “You did it! You got my heat back on. My babies won’t have to sleep with me in my bed tonight. My babies won’t freeze!” she said.

The mother had walked into ToyTown not knowing why she was there, wondering if someone could possibly help her. She left with food, toys, heat and much more. She left with the joy of Christmas in her heart.

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