Ten years ago in our medium-size church in Bellflower,
California, an ordinary man named Milt Gilman prayed for growth in
our children’s ministry. After praying about it and having people
nudge him, Milt took a bus out to Eucalyptus Street to pick up kids
for the church’s Wednesday night program.
Police cars lined the streets, the odor was pungent, and there
were kids running through the middle of gang fights and domestic
wars. Milt’s heart and soul debated with his brain and common
sense. Should he stay and talk to a few families, or should he head
back to the safe side of town only three streets away?
God was at work in Milt’s heart already. Milt and his friend
told a few kids that they’d be back to pick them up on Wednesday
and asked the kids to tell their friends about it.
When the bus arrived Wednesday evening, four kids waited on the
curb with their permission slips. Milt was saddened by the fact
that there weren’t many kids, but he welcomed them on the bus
The following year on the way home from church, Milt asked one
of the kids if his family had decorated a Christmas tree yet. The
child explained that his family didn’t have a Christmas tree
because they couldn’t afford it. The next day, Milt was on their
doorstep with a Christmas tree and decorations. Christmas has never
been the same since that evening.
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The bus ministry has become a vital aspect of our church, and
Christmas on Eucalyptus Street has become even more exciting each
year. The entire church prepares for the Wednesday before
Christmas. People pack food baskets and gift boxes for families. We
have a circle of prayer with over 60 people to commit the night to
God and ask for safety. Then Eucalyptus Street is overwhelmed with
love from Christians at a nearby church who want to spread joy at
Christmas and share the blessings God has given.
The first year I went, one family said what they wanted for
Christmas was a family photo. So we snapped a quick shot of them
and promised we’d be back with their gift. When we returned, we
learned that their father had been shot and killed on his way home
from work that week. This family photo was indeed a gift to them
because it created a lasting memory of their father.
After 10 years, Milt is still the children’s ministry bus driver
and rarely misses a night to pick up kids and take them back home
safely. This ministry has gone from four kids a night to 130. The
big blue bus has driven through gang fights, drug deals, hostile
family feuds, and other harmful situations, but it has always come
back to the church safe and sound because of God’s protection.
God used one simple prayer to birth a ministry — and one man to
transform a community. Milt’s willingness to serve has been a gift
to so many, but especially to me.
You see, Milt is my father, and I write this story not only to
tell you how faithful God has been but also to honor a man who has
been faithful to God’s ministry. My father has an open mind and a
loving heart for people of any race or financial status. He’s been
an incredible example of a father and servant of God. He’s the
reason Christmas on Eucalyptus Street is not about the material
things but about the love shown first through one man and then
through many others. And to me, that’s what Christmas is all
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