It has reached that time of year when shops are putting out their Christmas decorations and selling festive treats like chocolate coins and candy canes. For some it has been that time of year since the beginning of September.
While many people get grumpy about Christmas being shoved under our noses so early in the season, some organisations know that forward planning is necessary in order to bring a little cheer to those in need.
One such organisation is Mission Without Borders (MWB) whose Operation Cover-up initiative sends blankets and other knitted goods to orphanages in Eastern Europe.
How it began
Countries such as Romania, Moldova and Ukraine suffer through temperatures of -30 degrees around Christmas time and the children have very little to keep them warm.
This statistic touched the heart of Liz Clarke, who lives in New Zealand's North Island town of Taupo, and was sponsoring an orphan through MWB. Mrs Clarke said in an interview that she asked God what she should do, and placed an advertisement in her local newspaper asking for 67 blankets.
Eleven years later Mission Without Borders now fills two 40 foot containers with blankets, booties, hats and other knitted goods to send to children in time for Christmas.
Mission Without Borders Director Andrew Wilks says, "Operation Cover-up has been very successful this year; we are really pleased. People said interest would just die out but we have a huge amount of support and it continues to grow; it's astounding really."
Have I missed the boat?
Both of the MWB containers are now on their way to Europe where the contents will be loaded onto trucks and driven to at least two of MWB field countries.
However, it's not too late or too early for people to start thinking about the little things we can do to make a big difference to someone's Christmas.
October is the collection month for the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal, World Vision has a number of gift options from their Smiles Gift Catalogue, and TEAR Fund has a Child Christmas Gift Fund. The list goes on and on, from sponsored events to simple food parcels, and it all counts.
Like a stuck record
Three comment pieces in and I imagine you are getting a little tired of me banging this drum. I just can't help but feel that there are so many people out in the world who want to help but have no idea how to do so.
Therefore I shall sit here at my computer trying to inspire you with the same hopeful stories of faithful people that help get me through the day. And I'll do so until we've fed and clothed the world, ended all wars and cleaned up the oceans, or until the Lord comes to take me home.
I'd like to finish by quoting U2 singer Paul David Hewson or, as he's more commonly known, Bono. "But you know what's amazing? Everywhere I go, I see very much the same thing. I see the same compassion for people who live half a world away. I see the same concern about events beyond these borders. And, increasingly, I see the same conviction that we can and we must join together to stop the scourge of AIDS and poverty."
Gemma Margerison is an aspiring author from the North of England. She currently works as the chief reporter for Challenge Weekly Christian newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand.
Gemma Margerison's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/gemma-margerison.html