For the 23rd year in a row, Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., helped Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) students bring Christmas presents home to their families. On Nov. 12, Bay Leaf volunteers greeted students with cheers and applause as they eagerly entered the gymnasium to find presents for their children among tables stacked high with toys.
Bay Leaf Toy Chest volunteers help parents select a bike for their child. Families can purchase one bike for $10.00 while they last.
The Bay Leaf Toy Chest is an annual event where the church offers new toys to students for a fraction the actual cost, enabling them to purchase Christmas presents that they might not have been able to otherwise. It is Bay Leaf’s way of being a blessing to students who are preparing to serve the Lord through ministry.
“It’s just a great way for a church that’s in close proximity to a school to show the love of Christ to students, many of whom have left good jobs, have left careers and now perhaps work part time,” said Marty Jacumin, senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church. “We live in an area that is not cheap. It’s just another way for us to be a blessing to people.”
Jacumin is a two-time graduate of SEBTS, with a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Philosophy from the school. He currently serves SEBTS as chairman of the Board of Trustees and as an adjunct professor.
“I love serving there any way I can, and I love the emphasis of the school,” said Jacumin. “That’s part of why we do the Toy Chest. We just feel like we have an opportunity to partner, in a small way, with people that just like us are called to take the gospel to the nations.”
The Bay Leaf Toy Chest is open to students from SEBTS and The College at Southeastern who take at least six credit hours per semester and to full time advanced degree students. Toys offered include gifts for preschool, elementary and youth ages and are priced at ten percent or less than retail prices. Families can spend up to $7.00 per child or purchase a total of four items for each child. The event also includes more expensive raffle items that are sold at $10.00. In addition to this, families can purchase up to one bicycle for $10.00 while they last. The Toy Chest also includes lightly used items that are additional purchases for only 25 cents each.
Each year, the members of Bay Leaf Baptist Church donate money to the Toy Chest, and a committee purchases items to sell. Sarah Bryant who is the chair of the committee enjoys being able to help families out in this way.
“We know what a big deal Christmas is for kids and parents,” she said. “It is a way for us to utilize our resources and gifts to help others.
Volunteers from Bay Leaf Baptist Church joyfully help assemble toys, set up the gymnasium for the event, provide coffee and breakfast and assist students as they shop. Jacumin said that volunteers across all generations turn out to help with the event each year.
Peggy Brooks, a member of Bay Leaf and Toy Chest volunteer, enjoys helping students who are studying for ministry. “We know they sacrifice so much to go to seminary and prepare for serving the Lord, and what’s better than that,” she said. “This is just one little way that we can give back to them.”
Lee James, another Bay Leaf member and Toy Chest volunteer, helps to assemble bicycles and assist students in loading toys into their vehicles after shopping. “I think it’s a great way to help out the seminary students,” he said. “They’re making a lot of sacrifices in order to proclaim Christ, and I think it’s the best thing we can do to try to help them out as much as possible.”
Southeastern students were overwhelmed by the generosity of Bay Leaf and so thankful to be able to provide things for their children that they did not expect.
“We are so thankful for the Toy Chest because we would not be able to do Christmas without it,” said Jennifer McCracken who is pursuing a master’s degree in Christian education and biblical counseling. “Money is tight this time of year, and our daughter was so thrilled on Christmas morning last year when she saw all the toys we were able to get from the Toy Chest.”
Brad Holloway, who is pursuing a Master of Divinity in Christian Ministry, has been to the Toy Chest for the past three years. He and his wife have been able to use the example of the Toy Chest to share the message of Christ with others.
“It has opened doors for us to share the gospel with our lost family members and friends,” he said. “They can’t believe a church that doesn’t know us would be so giving to us.”
The Holloway family has also been able to teach their children from the example of Bay Leaf. “It has helped us provide good gifts to our kids that we would have otherwise not been able to give, and in so doing we always relate it to the gift God gave us in Christ,” he said.
The Bay Leaf Toy Chest provides toys for around 350 children from Southeastern families each year. Since the Toy Chest began, Bay Leaf has donated all proceeds to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support international missions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is the News and Information Specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)