Searching for Meal to fill Empty Barrels
By Karen Taylor Bennett
This weekend, our Children’s Ministry Department has two major outreach missions lined up back to back. On Saturday evening, we will be visiting the Sunbeam Association for Mission Home for Boys, a home for boys who once lived on the streets of Jamaica. On Sunday, August 31, we have planned a Back to School Fair as an outreach ministry for children heading back to school in September.
Following is my recount of my struggles to lead and execute two mission events amidst the most tepid response from my congregation, fundraising ideas that are not in the church manual and an SOS for your help to save two children mission activities that are in danger of aborting.
The plan to add mission programmes to my mix of children programmes for 2014 were seeded early in the year. But it was not until June/July that we decided to put it into effect. We felt that the Summer months would be the ideal time to execute them.
My assistant who had adopted the Sunbeam project started her campaign to appeal for donations in late June. Each week, no fail, countless appeals have been made during church announcements for donations. The Back to School fair promotions began in July. Meanwhile, I turned my attention to planning Vacation Bible School which was scheduled for August 4. It would be a delicate balancing act trying to the coordination of these three events all in the space of a month, but my assistant is an efficient lady, and I left her to coordinate these two projects. The Back to School Outreach Fair was scheduled for August 17.
With VBS out of the way, it was almost time for the Fair, but there were no donations and almost no response to the appeals. When the Board asked us to reschedule the Fair to a later date to accommodate a community funeral, it gave me an opportunity to try and drum up some support, hence I proposed to my assistant and the Board that we could go into the upscale sections of the community with a Collection Drive.
At the same time, the Health Ministry team members who were collaborating with us to execute the event pulled out, then study commitments of our Education Sponsor who should have played a key role in the planning kept her out of town and absent from the crucial planning stage.
With very little support from my congregation, my assistant leader and I have been working overtime to pull off these missions.Church announcers have been broadcasting our bulletins for the last 12 weeks or so. My assistant has begged, dressed and rolled barrels into the sanctuary to support our promotions and serve as visual reminders of the Sunbeam Mission and Back to School Collection drives. Yet, to date, only two kind souls have donated $500 cash and a bag of used clothing towards the Sunbeam Children’s Home trip.
Days to go before the calendered date and the poverty of our campaign is now starkly evident. I asked God for a sign that this is to happen.
While we tried to get the supplies together, we also ran a fundraiser to underwrite the expenses of transportation. So, last Saturday night, we hosted a Movie Night for kids. Well, less than 10 children turned up. With a loan of $7000.00 from the church, we had purchased and sold snacks and ice-cream, however, because of the poor turn out, we only managed to generate $2500.00. We have to pay back that loan by Sunday.
This lacklustre response has been the trend with our Back to School Collection Drive which as I noted before has been announced without fail for consecutive weeks leading up to now.
To add to this, trying to raise enthusiasm for the projects among the Children ministry council members has been something akin to trying to raise the dead. As a result, the planning, execution and coordination of the events have been left to myself and my assistant. Meeting notices and appeals of volunteer support have been received with apologies for absence and little or no input form the rest of the leaders on the Committee. Parents sit in meetings with us, but most leave making no commitment. ‘No’ is the operative word. As I write this, I can’t help but reflect on the title of a book I read some time ago, How to Survive in Dead church. (I promise to do some research for a future post.)
Everything and everyone seems to be rejecting our invitations to contribute. The persons who have helped us before seems to have grown weary of our requests. Towncrying equipment loan? No. Book supplies and necessities, please? Eerie Silence. Will you come and volunteer? No. Could you take us to the Home? Yes, but you have to find the gas. Could you print these letters we need to send out to sponsors, donors and care professionals? Sorry. Some help, but then, this: I can’t use my company’s facilities to print. I am not sure that I (church clerk) can pass these letters in Pastor’s absence. (The plans had in fact been passed by the Church Board chaired by our Pastor).
Shocked, disappointed, saddened. These are the words I could use to describe my response to the selfishness and passive indifference I see among my fellow children ministry officers and church members. I cannot only blame the members, surely, this raises question about administration of the church, and how we go about handling God’s work?
When god speaks about the lukewarm church, was this state of affairs in our churches what He was speaking of? What has happened to the ideology of compassionate christians who give with love and willing hearts. Has the harsh economic conditions turned even Christians into self-centred myself-first-self-and-last narcissists? Have we lost the compassion that we should practice as followers of Jesus? Have we forgotten what the Good Book in Acts 30: 8 says?
So, at the start of this week as I peered into the barrels and saw only textbooks that the church’s Education sponsor had donated for book loans and the bag of old clothing, the grim prospect of both missions not happening this weekend stared back at me, I thanked God that we will have some meal in the barrel to offer these children who come to our Fair this weekend.
Seventy-two hours to go . . ., and we have explored several Plan Bs and Cs and we’re heading to Plan Z. I’ve created Facebook promotions, written numerous letters along with my assistant, went on the scheduled community collection Drive (where just the two of us turned up) and canvassed for funds and supplies for three hours. Ironically, we received the best support since our campaign started from these non-Christian folks. (Note to self: Start here first in future.)
Collection Drive Flyer
Crowdfunding… Keeping My Options Open
Having just read that, you’re probably saying now, crowdfunding? You went all the way there? Yes, I did. Take notes. Yesterday, I tried crowdfunding, and in 24 hours managed to raise $US80 from a US-based girlfriend in a personal campaign, note it’s a personal campaign, on the GoFundMe site, but had to cancel because my country was not supported and the payment site would not have been able to send me the funds.
I’ve even asked my daughter on vacation in Florida to spend $10 from the spending money I gave her to purchase and bring me back supplies, hoping that I will be able to get to the airport this Sunday to retrieve them ahead of the start of the Fair.
My frustration also comes from not being financially able to cover the expenses myself as my salary is late, and so I have no money. Had I had personal funds, as is my custom, I would have used it to the glory of God; I would have made the sacrifices to obtain these basic necessities and school supplies in the hands of the less fortunate children who we are reaching out to this weekend.
Amidst stark reality that we would not have the gifts the children at Sunbeam expect and that we had promised the Mission’s management we would bring, I have struggled with my faith that God will deliver and send even last minute manna and my urge to give up on these missions.
The burden of the mission has been heavy. The physical exhaustion, worry and the frustration of others circumventing or abdicating their responsibilities, thus teetering or derailing our best efforts and progress has threatened the very relationship between myself and the only person who has been working alongside me since we launched the projects, my assistant leader. Two days ago under mounting pressure, she blew her top, my faith buckled, and I quit. Backed away from it all. Told my assistant who had just unleashed her anger on me that I would no longer be working on the project, and she was to cancel or downscale. I told God that I was letting go, and that if He wants to bless these children, he would have to do it Himself.
In a moment of self-righteousness, I murmured that I would let nothing separate me from the love of God, or cause me to be involved in strife with church brethren, not even over a mission trip. Ironic, right? A little voice teased, ‘Isn’t that exactly what you are doing?”
Peeved with her constant crying over the spilt milk of what should have been done, and what we should have done, and absolving others of their responsibility (or so it appeared to me) while I tried to stay hopeful and keep my eyes on the promise God had made, I sulked for two days.
New Day… Fight Continues
Yesterday, my sense of duty prevailed under her requests to assist her, and I decided to continue the fight.
Today, I know we will have our mission trip and our Back to School Fair. It won’t be on the grand scale that we have planned. If we don’t get the funds or donations needed certain offers like ‘free school supplies’ , ‘bouncehouse, and ‘face painting’ will have to be removed from our fliers. I’ve had to reconcile with that, knowing that what is not available in material supplies will be there with our presence and the love that we will bring to the children who we will minister to this weekend.
Today, my mustard seed faith and snippets of faith stories from the Word of God continue to fill me with hope. Like the Widow of Zarephath of 1 Kings 17, I am still knocking the side of the barrel for the promised meal. Like Peter, James and John, I am casting my net on the other side of the boat as God has put in my heart to do. He said in his Word, he will raise the stones to praise him if we, the church who are called, refuse to do so.
Hence, I am putting my wish list into the blogosphere where I hope it will appeal to the heart of anyone with compassion for children, who is willing to turn over his widow’s mite, five loaves and two fish so God can use it to feed a less fortunate child. That someone may be you, blogger or a reader.
Missions, SOS’S, and Wishlists
Here are the facts about our upcoming missions and our wishlists.
Mission 1: Sunbeam Children’s Home Visit
Facts You need to know about the Home
After reading The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson in 1972, Pastor Cedric Lue of the Open Bible Church decided to start a home for the boys who were living on the streets in Jamaica. Sunbeam was started in 1976 in Mandeville with 25 boys. The Home then moved to Nightingale Grove, St Catherine. In 1990, when conditions at the farm proved cramped and unbearable, Pastor Lue relocated the home to its present location a few miles away near Gutter’s Corner.
There are 31 boys in the home: one of the youngest, 10 year old Shaquelle who wants to be a computer worker when he grows up. Eric, another 10 year old wants to become a farmer. Both say their favourite Scripture verse is Psalm 100. The oldest resident is 38 year old Kevin.
- interface with the boys and share the message of Jesus’ love through singing, story and drama ministry
- Use the opportunity to bring cheer, gifts and social exchange, hopefully fostering friendships between the kids.
- teach our children to be compassionate to those who are less fortunate
- inspire in our children a need to empathise, serve and minister selflessly to others’ needs.
- reward them for doing good to others.
You can help!
The Mission offers these three ways in which interested persons can minister to the needs of the boys of Sunbeam.
- Pray: All mission teams need prayer support.
- Join us on a team: Your mission experience will allow you to realize your desire to have God work through you, helping children in need.
- Share your blessings: Help support Sunbeam Children’s Home financially. Give a monthly donation.
Wishlist of Items that could make a Sunbeam Child Beam
- Grocery/ items – hygiene and grooming products (soap, toothpaste, wash rags, towels shave, toothbrush, toilet tissue, roll-on, shampoo)
- Clothing – underwear, undershirts, shirts, pants, shoes, socks, khaki suits,
- Food – non-perishable, tinned food products
- School supplies – exercise books, stationery, novels, school bags
- Bibles and Christian literature
There is nothing that appeals to the heart than the face of a child, so I’d like to invite you to also meet the boys of the Sunbeam Mission and read about the home here.http://www.sunbeammission.com/about. You will also find contact details and a donation form on the site. Please mention that you read about the appeal through this blog
Mission 2: Back to School Fair
Our mission is to put school supplies in the hands of the community’s children. We also plan to offer free health screenings for the children and educational workshops for parents and children to prepare them for school. We have confirmed one doctor to date, but would love to have other volunteers.
How can you help?
See below our wishlist of items that you can donate.
Wishlist of Most Wanted Things to Make Back to School Outreach Fair 2014 REACH
- donations of back to school supplies. Click on this poster to find the supplies we need: B2School DONATION DAY POSTER
Otherwise here they are in black and white:
- boys khaki pants and shirt (full suit). For my non-Jamaican readers, these are the uniforms worn by Jamaican male students
- blue or black nylon children socks
- children shoes – black or brown are common colours worn by Jamaican students
- stationery – exercise books, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpeners, geometry sets, etc.
- crayons, drawing pads, other art supplies for infants
- back packs
- textbooks (used and new) for donations or exchange. To check if you have a text that kids will be using in schools this September, have a look at this list I downloaded from the Ministry of Education website: Approved Textbook List for High Schools-2014-2015 Approved Textbook List for Primary – 2014-2015 and Approved Textbook List for High Schools-2014-2015
- non-perishable food
- hygiene and grooming products ( as listed in the Sunbeam list)
To achieve our original goals for the fair, and to extend more free services to our children, we need volunteers who are
- educational psychologists
- developmental learning specialists
- evaluation and assessment centres
- fire safety presenters
We would like to offer health screenings and have one confirmed doctor, but would be happy to have at least one of each professional group below to join the health team
- general practitioners or paediatricians
- volunteer dentists (for examinations only)
- eye care specialists
- barbers to give free haircuts
- volunteers (to set up and tear down, to coordinate activities, for flyer distribution and canvassing)
For facilities and entertainment, we are praying for sponsorship of
- three tents
- a bounce about/bouncehouse
- a banner or two, one as a backdrop
- entertainers- face painter, clown, gospel singers
- 100 flyers
- Food items for our food bank
- Media partners for publicity of the Fair
If you are in Jamaica and would like to donate a care package to one of all boys, leave a message with your contact details in the Comment box below, and I will be in touch.
Surviving as a Children Ministry Leader
Leading a Children Ministry in a small, lukewarm church can be a daunting experience, but the message in the experience I’ve shared here is to persevere in faith. Don’t lose hope. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Phillipians 1: 6″
“Every mistake WE make as a ministry leader is a lesson to learn a better way; every lone mission we persevere on presents an opportunity for God to have HIS way, and for us to try Him and experience renewed faith.”
As for your lukewarm team members? Hold fast. Pray for their revival. Maintain a friendly but accountable relationship with your team. It might also be time for a team building social.
If all fails, keep the vision before you, remembering that Luke 19:40 says, “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” He will raise up your help from where you least expect. Keep your eyes and options open.
Next week I will tell you whether the Missions were aborted or accomplished. You can help to ensure the outcome is the latter by giving to the causes. Do something. Contact the Sunbeam Home by visiting the website. Pray. Donate. Take a Mission trip. For the Back to School Fair, give a donation or volunteer your time and resources.
Are you surrounded by lukewarm ministry workers? What are your survival leadership tips to revive them while getting your ministry programmes off the ground? Leave a comment below.