Christmas has been redefined for the Bychowski family.

The family began hosting a Christmas-day-long celebration with sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base six years ago at their former church after John Bychowski and a coworker began brainstorming how to teach their kids about the beauty of giving.

“This day has taken the focus off of the mentality of ‘it’s all about me — what do I get,'” John said. “We wanted to teach them it’s better to give than receive.”

And have they ever.

“My dad asked us if we wanted to go on vacation this year instead of trying to start this event at [Immanuel]; my sisters, brother and I said, ‘We want to have Christmas with the sailors!'” said 13-year-old Sadie Bychowski.


But this year John and his wife Michelle weren’t sure Christmas Day would be spent with sailors who would otherwise have no place to go, as the family just began attending Immanuel within the past year and didn’t know whether Immanuel would be able to support such an outreach event.

“We didn’t think it would happen here,” John said. “But … when Rodney Karlstrand got up on stage during a service and spoke about ICU projects and asked if anyone had any projects, we realized we were still living by the flesh … the doors that seemed locked were opened nicely.”

The Bychowski family along with Kasey and Sharon Hamilton have begun preparing for the day-long celebration, having invited 50 sailors who are in the midst of basic training.

“Many are so young and have never been away from home,” Michelle said. “It’s like taking them out of confinement. They are so grateful for the meal and the fellowship. We even have had one sailor cry over a dish prepared because it was just like his mom made … we have a real opportunity to show them the love of Christ through serving them.”

While the Bychowskis and the Hamiltons serve as the organizers of the day, they rely on the church family coming together and getting involved on the day, too.

“It’s an everybody event,” John said, “because everyone is needed. We all spread out. Families sit with the sailors and the fellowship is awesome.”

Eating dinner with the guests is only way to be involved. There are plenty of opportunities in which the Immanuel family can serve, and there’s room for anyone to add a personal touch.

“We’ve never been short of people,” Michelle said. “Even if you can only come by for 20 minutes and bring a tray of cookies, please come. Those 20 minutes will change your life.”

If you’d like to be involved with Christmas with Sailors, please contact John and Michelle Bychowski at allknowhim1{at}yahoo{dot}com. Or you can read more about the project by clicking here and then clicking on Christmas with Sailors.

UPDATE: 12/22/12: STILL NEEDED: Side dishes, appetizers and healthy salads. Contact Michelle at allknowhim1{at}yahoo{dot}com if you can help!

2 thoughts on “Local Outreach: Christmas with Sailors

  1. Watching the details unfold has greatly increased the passion behind the event. Just yesterday, while seeking donations from a bakery, a gentleman told me he has to work that day and his wife wants somewhere to go. He asked if she could come and help. “Um…YES!” was my response! It ALWAYS is so much more than we could ever imagine!looking forward to it! God is so Good!

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