There wasn't a mitten or snowflake in sight. But members of Calvary Baptist Church decked their sanctuary last Sunday with a Christmas tree, sang Christmas carols and ate Christmas cookies.
Following their 37-year tradition, Calvary members once again celebrated "Christmas in July," a time when they remember idividual Southern Baptist and American Baptist missionaries with cash gifts donated by church members. Calvary Baptist Church at 7th and H streets NW is affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and American Baptist Churches.
This year, the church collected more than $1,400, which will be divided among 14 missionaries, most of them working in Africa, according to the Rev. Harry Ng, a minister at the church.
The Rev. Hugh W. Smith, of the International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches, guest preacher at the service, told the congregation of his years as a missionary in Hong Kong and how he used the donations.
"I was the recipient of this (Christmas in July offering) money three times in 18 years," said Smith. " $100 doesn't seem like a lot, but when you receive an unexpected gift like this, over and above your budget, it's tremendous help."
Smith remembered once spending the money to buy 25 bags of cement, which enabled him to help refugees from mainland China lay cement floors in their cardboard and wooden shacks. "A dirt floor is murder!" said Smith.
Another year, Smith used the money to pay the $10 monthly tuition for several schoolchildren. And the third time, the$100 paid for one year of treatment for a tuberculosis patient.
During most of his 18 years in Hong Kong, Smith worked on improving living conditions for the mainland China refugees who were looking for a better life. Smith remembers them as "beautiful people" who only needed a boost until they got settled.
According to Smith, 255 American Baptist-sponsored missionaries are serving in 20 geographic areas of the world, and about 2,000 Southern Baptist-sponsored missionaries are working in 30 areas.
A committee at Calvary Church selects missionaries who will receive the early Christmas gifts on a rotation basis, and according to need and the size of the collection, according to Ng.
In addition to cash gifts, church members have sent the missionaries magazine subscriptions, children's toys and baseball gloves.
Calvary also supports world missions through annual allocations built into their budget as well as with gifts at Christmas and Easter, according to Ng.
Meanwhile, Calvary church members also are responding to the problems surrounding their inner-city church. They sponsor after-school recreation and tutoring programs for local youth; they hold English-language classes for immigrant Chinese, and house Cooperative Urban Ministries, a group that feeds, clothes and helps Washington's "street people" find jobs. CAPTION: Picture, The Rev. Harry Ng, associate minister at Calvary Baptist, speaks at "Christmas in July" celebration. By Douglas Chevalier - the Washington Post