By: Meryl Krys Dominguez and Rosella Abenio

If there is a single word that would describe what Christmas is all about, it is the little word “joy.” As the Christmas season rolled in, each one of us felt the breeze of love, kindness and generosity sweep through. So, to spread the Christmas joy, Evangel Family Church- CDO prepared a series of gift-giving activities through “The JOY Project” for children and adults in various outstations in Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental last December 26-29, 2018.

The JOY Project” aspired to give a jubilant Christmas party for kids and gift-giving for adults who are faithfully attending the Bible Studies every Sunday afternoon in various outstations. EFC-CDO desired to bring great delight to kids and adults by allowing them to experience the joy of knowing Jesus in the process. The church workers went to various outstation barangays such as Zone 8 Upper Canitoan, Nazareth, Indahag, Bolonsori, Calaanan (composed of four areas: Puli, zone 10, Pagatpat, Canitoan, and Duplex), and in Molugan, Misamis Oriental.

“Since Christmas is a season of joy and giving, the church gave joy to kids who have never been able to experience a Jollibee Party or have never eaten a Jollibee kiddie meal before,” says Pastor Andrew Kwong.  We want to make these children happy and give them a meaningful Christmas. Our plan of giving them a Jollibee party is not just to give them a joyful Christmas, but to spread God’s message of love and hope for them,” Pastor Rowena Kwong added.

Upon reaching the site, the children were all excited to welcome the team. The kick start of the event was joyful praise and worship led by the EFC CDO youth. The sharing of God’s message to everyone this Christmas shortly followed. There were also many exciting games which both kids and parents nearby enjoyed.

As a wonderful Christmas treat, the team surprised the children with the appearance of Bee mascot. Amidst the scorching heat, the faces of the children lit up, with some jumping with excitement as they saw the 6-feet, bright red Bee making an entrance into the stage. They were screaming out of excitement and running towards the Bee mascot with overwhelming fun. To the delight of the children, the Jollibee mascot spent few minutes of dancing and playing with them.  The sounds of chuckling children were infectious and drew smiles from the adults nearby.

Interestingly, it was the first time for a majority of the children – and many of their parents – to see the Jollibee mascot in person. As expected, the mascot was hugged, kissed, mobbed, mainly adored by its throng of fans in these places, most of whom had seen the famous bee only on television.

Words will never be enough to describe the responses of the children and parents who witnessed the event.

For Isabel Granada, 8 years old and Grade II student of Molugan Elementary School, and for other participants, it was indeed a day to remember: “Dili matukob ang akong kalipay kay first time nako nakita ang Jollibee mascot. (I cannot describe the happiness I feel because for the first time I saw the Jollibee mascot),” she said in Visayan, the local dialect.

Irene’s sentiment was echoed by Admely Castro, also 8: “Dako ang akong kalipay kay may Jollibee. (I am so happy because I saw Jollibee).”

Older children like Ray John Albanio, 10; and Adrian Aljas, 13, were equally happy, but for a different reason: “Nalipay jud ko kay may pinaskuhan ako. (I am very happy because they gave me Christmas gifts.). “Makalingaw ug nalipay kayo ako sa Christmas Party ug nakadawat pa jud ko mga pinaskuhan nga akong dulaan na magamit nko sap ag-inom. (I really enjoyed the Christmas Party. I received gifts like tumbler that I can use as a water container),” (Mary Jane Aljas) averred.

“The JOY project” has brought extraordinary joy to these kids since not all of them would have the opportunity to eat Jollibee or even see a Jollibee mascot. This is something they are wishful about, dreamed of, and longed to experience as a child. They were very happy to be able to eat “Jollibee chicken joy” for the first time; for most of them really cannot afford to buy one.

A total of 500 children took part in the activity and received a Jolly kiddie meal, a toy, and scoops of ice cream. Moreover, a total of 118 families were the happy and thankful recipients of the plastic containers filled with rice and grocery items.

Rev. Rowena Kwong initiated the whole project with the support of Rev. Andrew Kwong.We were so happy to see the presence of their daughter Kristy and her friend Isaac Tan, who came along to support this project.  The success of this project was due to EFC CDO members and overseas members putting in their resources and utmost efforts.

By God’s grace and provision, “The JOY Project” really brought joy to every kid and to everyone in the community. Despite the odds, every part of the program was carried out successfully. It reminded everyone of how Christmas is so much more than just giving gifts. Activities such as these are a great way to bring people together, to serve and share blessings, and to spread joy.

This season became a source of a joyful commemoration of God fulfilling His promise to send mankind a Savior in the person of His Son, Jesus.

Truly, “ The JOY Project” was undeniably a joyful experience that will last beyond holidays!