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Daniel Witte and the men of Maranatha AG in Forest Lake saw the value of gift- giving outreaches that have become a staple in missions endeavors at churches every Christmas. It inspired them to start their own personalized Christmas outreach that partnered with Assembly of God missionaries that their own church supported. They called it “Light Up Christmas”

With the support of Pastor Mike Haseltine and Men’s Director, Ed Werneke, they launched the new initiative this past Christmas. They printed customized backpacks, filled them with toys and sent them to missionaries in the Philippines and Ukraine. When it was all said and done, the Men’s Ministry had shipped 325 backpacks overseas and another 25 to their local Union Gospel Mission.

The missionaries were able to give the gifts to children in churches where they minister and in return send thank you notes and photos that were shared with the congregation at Marantha.

The outreach was such a success that they developed a system to open it up to other churches or ministries that want to participate. It’s completely scalable, which means an entire church or a single ministry can join in. Daniel recently sent out a letter detailing how it works:

This year, we are inviting all Minnesota AG churches to unite in “Light Up Christmas.” We will provide backpacks to participating churches, their members will select up to 15 items from a list for each backpack, and provide payment of $20.00 for the backpack, toys, and shipping.The backpacks will be collected, combined, and shipped to missionaries currently supported by our churches (To be selected soon.)

After Christmas services, all churches that participate will receive photos, notes, and potentially recordings from the missionaries to show local reaction to the gifts. Participation in this effort may be at any level, and that means a church may commit to funding five backpacks or hundreds. Regardless of the level of participation, all will be acknowledged with a response from the missionaries.

As part of this, our vision is to develop a network of colleagues who share a passion for supporting the work of missionaries around the world.

If you’re interested or have questions, reach out to Coordinator Daniel Witte at or 651-210-8523.