Christmas Letter 2009

2009           Merry Christmas          from Joe & Elaine Vandegriff

Another year!  Come & gone.  Already!  Amazing how fast.  And here we are still alive to live it and celebrate the life God is giving us moment by moment.  Elaine & I have been feeling so blessed this year;  it has occurred to us that it’s probably time for us to BE a blessing.  That has been our prayer this year, for God to show us how we can be a blessing to others.  One of the biggest things for us now is Elaine’s parents who are nearing 90 years old and still living at home.  Elaine calls almost every other day and goes to Indiana to visit as often as she can.  Like my mom said in her old age, “This getting old is tough.”  And we try to be attentive to the needs of others around us and hope that we can offer a smile or word of encouragement.  More than ever this year, we have become more aware of a billion or so people on our planet who are in crushing poverty on the edge of death.  Are these not God’s children, too?  We are reminded at Christmas time of Jesus coming to earth to bring peace and hope to the world.  We who call ourselves God’s people are the ones God is looking to and expecting to carry that peace and hope to the earth.  And we are asking ourselves, “What are we going to do about it?”  To do nothing is not acceptable.  We are looking for our part and hoping that others will join us somehow, someway to make a difference.  I know, this is a rather different kind of Christmas letter.  But how can we continue to participate in our country’s annual spending binge any longer while a billion people suffer?  We ask you to join us this Christmas in remembering the billion poor people who are desperately in need of help and find a way to make a difference.  (See below for how to help).  We hope you enjoy your family this Christmas as we will ours. 

Sharon        Jon              Ellie 13
Celeste 7             Lincoln 5        Johan 11
Joe & Elaine
Joan & Hubert, Cora 6 ¾, Dessie 9

Books on the global crises:

“The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Sterns, president of World Vision.  Better than almost anyone else, he knows the critical needs of the poor around the world.  This book is his assessment of how the church of the USA is responding; it is an indictment of missing the message of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus and neglecting God’s mission to rescue His world.

“Everything Must Change” by Brian McLaren.  Subtitled, “Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope”.  The author says, “This book explores two of the shaping questions of my life.”  #1: What are the biggest problems in the world?     #2: What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?  He looks systemically (economically, politically, environmentally, spiritually) at the big problems and finds reason for hope in the message of Jesus.

Places to give:

  1.  Drop some cash in the Salvation Army bucket.  Bills, not just coins!
  2. Check out the gift catalog at
    I told my grandkids that I will be giving them chickens and ducks for Christmas this year.  And they won’t actually get them; they will go to some other kids whose family needs them to help them survive.  (We’ll see how well this goes over!)
  3. Food for the Hungry
  4. United Methodist Committee on Relief, UMCOR.   Responds to natural disasters around the earth and helps alleviate hunger.
  5. There are plenty of worthy charities.  Find one and help them!
  6. Find out about the United Nations Millennium Project:
    At the Millennium Summit in September 2000 the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets, with a deadline of 2015, that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

Recently, we had a nice rain here after months of exceptional drought.  My rain gauge collected two inches of rain.  Everyone was pleased and were all talking about the wonderful rain.  It occurred to me that those two inches in the rain gauge came one drop at a time.  And when the level of Lake Travis rises a few feet, that, too is the result of one drop at a time hitting the earth.  This helped me realize that my one little action may not appear to be much compared to the overwhelming needs of the desperately poor, but if it gets added to a billion other actions then there will be a flood of help to the poor that will lift them up to a life closer to what God has in mind for all his children on his earth.

There is part of the Christmas story that hardly ever gets read at Christmas.  It’s the part where King Herod kills the children in Bethlehem.  (Matthew 2:16-18)  It’s too gruesome to hear.  But did you know that the equivalent of 45 jumbo jets full of poor children crash and all are killed – EVERY DAY!  They die of starvation and easily treated diseases.  It’s too gruesome to hear even when it’s not Christmas.  But we must.