TAHOE CITY, Calif. (BP)–“It’s not just a van. It’s a vehicle for proclaiming God’s Word,” said Debbie Wohler of the van she has earned by collecting 1,095,000 Campbell’s Soup labels and other Campbell’s product labels.
The quest for a new van began two and a half years ago when Wohler, a Southern Baptist home missionary, pursued the Campbell’s Labels for Education program to earn a replacement for her worn-out, 15-passenger van. Wohler’s 1982 van had been used to transport children four times a day to First Baptist Church in Tahoe City, Calif., for after-school ministries.
The Campbell’s education program, originally intended for school programs, recently was extended to after-school ministries as well. Individuals or groups can collect a specified number of labels to earn various resources. The 15-passenger van is one of the largest resources offered, but Campbell’s also supplies a minivan for 874,000 labels, a child identification kit for 31,480 labels or poster die-cuts for 390 labels, among other things.
Wohler, who has worked in Tahoe City 18 years, said Campbell’s confirmed at the end of April that her new van would be delivered between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30.
“I believed that God would provide, but I thought it would take closer to five years,” she said.
Wohler enlisted nationwide help in collecting Campbell’s labels through word of mouth and promotion in state Baptist newspapers and Missions Mosaic, a magazine for women published by Woman’s Missionary Union. Labels were received from about 1,700 churches and individuals.
Bea Taylor, a member at First Baptist Church, Andalusia, Ala., has led the effort to collect labels at her church. A former California resident, she realized what an opportunity Wohler has to minister to the people at Lake Tahoe.
Taylor said she and others in the church promote collecting labels to everyone they see because of the importance of the ministry and its role in heightening missions awareness.
“I think it’s getting people more interested in home missions. If you’re a part of something, you’re more interested,” Taylor said.
Taylor wanted to send the labels so Wohler would know people in Andalusia were praying for her. “We believed she could do it,” Taylor said.
And with the assistance and prayers of many others, Wohler has done it. But Wohler is not just stopping with 1,095,000 labels. She’s already collected 136,000 labels toward the second van she plans to obtain for the ministry at Lake Tahoe.
The primary ministry Wohler is involved in is to the locals in Tahoe City, though she ministers out on the slopes during ski season. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and serves as host for about 12 million people each year.
Wohler’s church, First Baptist Church, Tahoe City, has about 100 people at Sunday services. In 1996 the church hosted 17,000 children in various ministries, she reported.
Every day after school, children are transported to the church for various ministries. “We’re really trying to give a moral foundation, spiritual foundation to the kids of our community,” Wohler said.
One of the most amazing things she has seen through collecting labels for ministry is just how incredible and big God is, Wohler said. Daily she receives letters of encouragement from people around the country who have felt led to support the project.
A Mississippi woman wrote saying throughout last fall she was collecting soup labels. The woman’s husband repeatedly asked why she was saving the labels, but she couldn’t tell him because she didn’t know. She simply felt led to do so.
Upon reading an article about Wohler, the woman knew exactly for whom the soup labels were intended.
Another woman from South Carolina sent Wohler 33,534 labels from the Woman’s Missionary Union group at her church. A church member who works for a food chain had called a member of WMU asking if anyone could use Campbell’s Soup labels, not knowing about Wohler’s ministry.
Wohler said such stories show how God can orchestrate his plans so well.
Members of Wohler’s church have been very supportive of her effort, too. A 91-year-old woman and her daughter cut labels as they are received. Within two days, Wohler said these women cut 10,000 labels.
“I honestly think people like being a part of something good,” Wohler said. In addition, people like to know where and how their money or contribution to missions is being used. Because of this, everyone who mails labels receives a letter telling about the ministry in Tahoe City.
“I’m hoping it will help people see what God can do with them, and that what they do makes a difference,” Wohler said.
And whether people send labels or not, Wohler hopes that when someone opens a can of Campbell’s Soup it will serve as a reminder of the work God is doing in Tahoe City and a reminder to pray for the people involved in his work.
For more information about the Tahoe-area ministry, write Debbie Wohler at P.O. Box 7452, Tahoe City, CA 96145-7452.