Spreading Christmas cheer at The Laurels

Christmas came to The Laurels this week when the Pathfork Holiness Church, co-pastored by Rev. Mark Taylor, held a Christmas party for residents.

Everyone received a beautifully gift-wrapped package to open, hand selected for each individual. “Liz Bull, Laurels employee, provides a list of things to buy, with the sizes,” Rev. Taylor said. “This year we bought probably a half dozen pairs of shoes, all kinds of clothes and pajamas, even a warm coat. We couldn’t do this without her. The last couple years the list had things like art supplies or games and puzzles. But not this year.”

Taylor’s wife Lisa, a legal secretary, asked for donations from the legal and business community in Harlan. The rest of the money came from generous donations from their church. “It takes about $1,500 to buy everything; the presents, wrapping paper and food. It’s worth it all just to see them smile,” he continued.

While members carried in bags and boxes of gifts, Taylor gathered everyone in the lobby to talk about the true meaning of Christmas. His message was taken from the Book of Luke, about the birth of the baby Jesus. Tears flowed freely and unashamedly at times from both the reader and the hearers. The unmistakable spirit of Christmas had arrived.

“I do this because I love it,” Taylor said. “I want them to know that somebody loves them. They have not been forgotten.”

The mood turned festive as they sang carols while the residents enjoyed the snacks they brought in. Some joined in, not missing a word. One man said he grew up in a Baptist church and sang with the choir, and that he enjoyed singing very much. When Santa arrived, the carolers sang “Here Comes Santa Claus” and the residents showed their delight by cheering and clapping. Santa talked with the residents, called out their names and each one received a gift.

In addition to the year-end Christmas party, Taylor has church services inside the chapel at The Laurels the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. “When I first got saved I wanted to spend time with our old people,” Taylor said, reflecting on years past. “I learned a lot from them. I love preaching God’s word, and telling everybody about Jesus.”

“I thank God for always making the way for us. It looked like maybe we wouldn’t be able to do this right up till the last minute. Seems like God never gets in a hurry but he’s always right on time.”

“I can’t tell you what this means to us,” said Theresa Church as she opened her present. “I appreciate this so much.” Another resident, Philip Espy, came back to the dining hall as they were cleaning up to show Taylor his new shirt. “Look,” he said. “It fits me just right.”