Each year at Portland Avenue Baptist Church, Gina McKean, director of Childhood Ministries, brainstorms ideas for how her VBS program can help support missionaries around the world.
Last year, she decided her VBS children would raise money for a Send Relief’s “Buy the Farm” Catalog item. They would give a family the land for growing crops, and animals to provide them with a reliable source of meat, milk and income.
McKean set a goal of $600 for the children. She had the boys and girls split into teams to compete against one another. Their reward? McKean would have to kiss a bearded dragon lizard if the boys won. The head pastor would have to do the same if the girls won.
That was all the motivation they needed because the children had raised enough money to buy two farms at the end of VBS and had even exceeded their goal by $200!
“The squeal of excitement for achieving our goal was piercing, and we all experienced such joy,” McKean shared. “We were all winners in that we had the blessing of purchasing two farms and sending additional funds to families with urgent needs.”
Some children robbed their piggy banks of every cent because of their desire to make a difference in another child’s life. “Participating in this challenge for Send Relief was a great way to make a difference with our offerings and serve those on the mission field in a tangible way,” McKean said.
Meanwhile, in a community in Central Africa, God was laying the groundwork for a powerful moment of reconciliation.
A neighboring Muslim tribe had recently attacked a cluster of several Christian villages. A project director in the region commenting on this tragic event said churches, Christian homes and crops were burned and destroyed.
“Livestock were slaughtered. Some people were brutally attacked, with at least one recorded death. It was incredibly destructive. A local pastor in the area reached out and wants to help Send Relief to rebuild some of the Christian churches and homes.”
The project director asked the local pastor to consider helping in a more all-encompassing way.
He asked the pastor to return to the community to find out if this terrible act of violence had impacted any non-Christians and ask them what Send Relief could do to help them recover. “We can stop the cycle of violence by actively turning the other cheek,” he shared.
The pastor returned with a request that Send Relief provide new roofing, farming equipment and livestock to a neighboring Muslim village impacted by the attack.
With Gina McKean and Portland Avenue’s dedication to VBS fundraising, Send Relief granted that request in addition to helping the Christian villages replant crops, providing construction materials for damaged churches and houses and sponsoring a medical clinic.
After the project’s completion, the pastor reported, “When I told them the good news that a Baptist church in America was helping, they felt this was such a special gift and asked me to pray for them and peace in the community. This gesture cemented our relationship with them! They told me, ‘We have never had such a gift ever, even from our Muslim brothers. You are a true man of God and this is the first time in our lives a Christian pastor did a good thing.’”
The pastor even shared a new proverb in the village: “We expect help from our Muslim brothers, but the help came later from our Christian brothers.”
Little do we know what a lasting difference one small act of generosity can make in the lives of strangers across the globe.
If you or your church are interested in helping more communities like this through VBS fundraising, click here for creative ideas on how children can raise money for families in need.
Published May 18, 2022