A Christmas Miracle in Denmark

By Allen Crabtree

Special to The News

AMAZING PUBLIC RESPONSE — Pastor John Patrick reads to the children at the Denmark Congregational Church from some of the notes that people have sent in with donations. Their donations have replaced the money stolen just before Christmas 10-fold, enough to purchase two Heifer International “Arks” with an assortment of farm animals that will be sent to families in other countries to help them be self-sustaining. (Photo by Allen Crabtree)

DENMARK — A little over two weeks ago a pallor of gloom and disbelief hung over the little Denmark Congregational Church.

Someone had broken down the front door and stolen the children’s collection that they had been working on, a penny and nickel at a time, for more than six months.

How could the children possibly replace the $800 that was stolen? How could they now buy the farm animals from Heifer International to send to needy farmers around the world as a gesture of love and charity for others less fortunate?

In the short time since the theft, we have all been reminded that even the most shortsighted act of desperation cannot overcome the spirit of Christmas and the unselfish acts of good people to help one another.

Through the overwhelming support by people far and wide, the children’s money has been replaced more than 10-fold. This Christmas will long be remembered by the children who have witnessed first-hand the power of a Christmas miracle.

The Thief is forgiven

The Sunday after the theft, Reverend John Patrick was able to turn the tragedy into an important lesson for the children and the entire congregation.

“The person that took the money must have been desperate,” Rev. Patrick said. “But, they didn’t need to steal. If anyone needed help, all they had to do was ask and we would have reached out to them and helped them.”

The children and the congregation agreed with Rev. Patrick to forgive the thief in the spirit of Christmas and Christian love. They also resolved to restore what had been stolen — and then some. That Sunday, several children donated the contents of their piggy banks to the new collection. The mood was almost festive as the congregation resolved not to have this event spoil their Christmas.

Overwhelming response!

The story of the theft and the church’s response to it received widespread coverage in the Portland Press Herald and The Bridgton News and on Facebook.

People who had never set foot in the Denmark church responded, and sent copies of the stories to other friends far and wide. The response from good people who wanted to help right this terrible wrong was overwhelming!

“I received a call from the Denmark postmistress to come to the post office and empty our mailbox,” said Rev. Patrick. “It was stuffed to overflowing and there was no room for the large pile of letters that were still coming in!”

In addition to a huge amount of loose change, more than two hundred letters and cards with donations have been received so far, and they continue to arrive as more people learn of the theft.

The messages from donors were reassuring and heartwarming, such as the anonymous note that said, “To help make your endeavors worthwhile — fill the bottle with love.”

A donor from Westbrook wanted, “To help the children know that their good deeds do not go unnoticed. And also to understand that good hearts and souls outnumber the ‘other kind’ on God’s earth.”

A card from Cape Elizabeth included this letter, “Though I am not a Christian myself, I believe you are teaching (the children) the true spirit of Christianity. I hope this helps your little congregation bring the true light of Christmas to our world.”

Another, from a Maine State Prison inmate sent a sizeable donation with these words, “Kindly take and pass this reminder that the first man to enter heaven was the thief Jesus pardoned. Here is the ransom for your anonymous thief, from a known one.”

Miracle of Christmas

“I have amazing news tonight,” said Reverend Patrick at the Christmas Eve service. “We have truly experienced a Christmas miracle — in just two weeks and through the good efforts of so many wonderful people donations have not only replaced the money stolen, but have multiplied it more than 10-fold! More then $10,000 has been donated for the children’s project — enough to buy two Heifer International ‘Arks!’ What a wonderful way to bring joy to the world this Christmas season!”

Each Heifer “Ark” has 15 pairs of farm animals that can change lives and offer hope worldwide to families who are poor and hungry. It helps families start on a journey to fulfill a seemingly impossible dream — to secure food and a source of dependable income. Each family who receives livestock will pass on one or more of the animal's offspring to other families who are in need in their community. Every gift will multiply for years to come.

Dr. Michael Merazr writing in the St. Louis Spiritual Perspectives Examiner said, “The quality of a miracle is not measured by the character or intent of the one through whom it is enacted, rather it is measured by the genuine benefit to others! …Christmas miracles can, and do, occur on a daily basis.”

The children of the church have truly experienced a miracle this Christmas, one that they will remember for years to come. They have also learned the valuable life lesson that even in the darkest of days good will ultimately prevail (“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not extinguish it” — John 1:5).

From the children and the congregation at the Denmark Congregational Church, “Thank you all for sharing your love and your donations with us to help turn a dark time into a wonderful victory — Merry Christmas everyone!”

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