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Heavenly Holiday Tea making a difference
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A program in the Republic of the Congo that is helping empower women and children is one of the projects that will benefit from this year’s Heavenly Holiday Tea fund-raiser by the Women’s Ministry at The Place of Refuge in Manteca.

Now in its seventh year, the annual event will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, at the former First Assembly of God on Button Avenue with doors scheduled to open at 8:30 a.m. While that date is several weeks away, those who plan to attend are encouraged to get their tickets as early as possible.

“No tickets are sold at the door (and) ticket sales will close as soon as we reach 260. We have less than 100 tickets left,” said Jan Dillman, head of the Women’s Ministry and Prayer Development at The Place of Refuge.

Tickets are $20 apiece and can be obtained by calling the Place of refuge office at (209) 239-1371, ext. 225. The goal this year is to raise $20,000.

One of the fundraiser’s big draws is the spectacular and “heavenly” ambiance created for the guests.

“We transform our sanctuary area at the Place of Refuge into a beautiful candlelit area decorated for the holidays with lights, trees, and garland. Ladies sit around round tables set with china, linen and centerpieces, scones (and) teacups,” Dillman said, describing some of the exquisite details that go into the creation of the festive occasion.

 “Our event combines a place for women to do what they love at the holiday season, enjoy a lovely tea and luncheon with friends, sit at beautifully decorated tables, hear some live music and inspiring stories and to do some Christmas shopping with our silent auction, live auction and raffle,” added Dillman, wife of church pastor Mike Dillman.

Those who are unable to attend the holiday tea but would like to help support the different projects that the Women’s Ministry supports can make a donation of any amount or by donating to the fund-raising event any “new item of value” such as things for the boutique sale, antiques, jewelry, home-décor pieces, specialty baskets or gift certificates for dinner, a round of golf, manicure, oil lube, hair styling and the like.

Women making a difference locally and in the world

Funds that have been raised from the holiday tea over the years have supported a number of projects including:

•Ray of Hope

•Manteca Pregnancy Help Center

•HOPE Family Shelters

•Haven of Peace Home for Women and Children in French Camp

•Modesto Rescue Mission for Women and Children

•Collide Youth Network

•Collision School of Leadership Training, and,

•miscellaneous other projects in India, Bangladesh, and China.

The church group has listed half a dozen causes that they will help this year with the holiday tea proceeds. Among them are a husband and wife in Africa who are devoting their life to helping women and children in that region of the world.

The Women’s Ministry will use part of their proceeds to assist the young couple, Esther and Camille Ntoto, in completing phase two of the “Un Jour Nouveau” (A New Day) Empowerment Center for Women in Goma, Republic of the Congo in the heart of Africa. Currently, the program is providing women and children skills and literacy programs. The second phase of the project is planned to provide “toilets and showers for the women who have been rape victims, and begin to be trained to care for themselves and their children,” said Dillman.

“In this region of Eastern Congo, young soldiers from dozens of roaming factions have turned rape into a primary weapon of war. The gang rapes these soldiers inflict create a disfiguring injury called a fistula. The women are left with severe pain, infection, debilitating incontinence, infertility and shame that cause them to be cast out of their own village,” explained Dillman.

She said the couple, Camille and his wife Esther, “work with a Christian Hospital there to receive these women after they complete usually five surgeries to repair the damage done to them. Many are unable to be saved.”

Dillman further noted that the estimated number of women who have been raped since 1998 run in the “hundreds of thousands” with more than 4 million dying in this conflict since that time. It’s been reported that the movie “Blood Diamonds” accurately portrays what is happening in this region of the world.

“This ongoing conflict has left the country in a state of humanitarian crisis. A limited infrastructure for even basic needs of health, food, water and sanitation is prevalent. We cannot save a country but we can save hundreds of women and children through the work of the Ntotos and others they assist,” Dillman stated, briefly outlining the reason for their decision to support this project this year.

Genesis of the annual Heavenly Holiday Tea

“What inspires us is being a part of something bigger than ourselves that changes people’s lives for the good, not temporarily but permanently. Change externally is temporary. Change externally and internally is permanent,” Dillman said, explaining the mission of her church group and the goal of their annual holiday fund-raiser.

“Our annual Heavenly Holiday Tea was our answer at The Place of Refuge to begin to make a difference in people’s lives worldwide and locally. We look for projects that will not only help women and children physically (food, clothes, shelter, medical aid) but give them the tools to find healing, hope, and help spiritually and training to provide for themselves financially,” Dillman further explained.

“As women, we are constantly made aware of the many worthy projects that need our help and support. As busy women, we are faced with the issue: ‘How can we make a difference in our own community and our world when we have so little time and even less resources?’” she added.

Their works are inspired by the following scripture passage: “Provide justice for the needy and fatherless; uphold the right of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy.” – Psalms 82: 3–5.

For additional information about the The Place of Refuge’s Women’s Ministry or to find out how to donate to their projects, call the church office at (209) 239-1371.