“What would you like to do for Christmas this year?” the new worshiping community leaders asked their children.

Pastor Gad Mpoyo of Shalom International Ministry in Clarkston, Georgia, still remembers the immigrant and refugee children pondering the question.

Their answer blew him away. 

 “What you expect from kids is for them to ask for what they need,” he said.

But this year the kids at Shalom wanted to give something back.

It was a “remarkable experience” to hear the children thinking out loud as they decided to pool their money to buy mittens for people who live at a nearby homeless shelter, Mpoyo said. The kids and leaders from Shalom plan to present their gifts to the homeless shelter sometime on Christmas Eve.

About 20 miles southwest of Atlanta, Clarkston is home to an estimated 8,000 residents from at least 30 countries. Many have had their lives ripped apart by the devastating consequences of war and natural disaster.

“To hear these kids saying, ‘We see that we’re OK. God has blessed us. We want to do what we can to share the gesture of wellbeing and peace,’ is incredibly gratifying,” Mpoyo said. “We have worked so hard to empower our young kids to be leaders. They are learning how, becoming disciples of Jesus.”

Mpoyo credits that learning, in part, to a new after-school program for middle school children that Shalom started this fall. In just two months, leaders who worked on reading, academics and community building activities with the children noticed a change in the kids.

“They are more comfortable now interacting with those who are from a different part of the world,” Mpoyo said. “It’s by application only. Already there’s a waiting list. It’s been very successful.”

Shalom is hosting a fundraiser for the school in January and hopes to increase the number of students currently in the program.