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FIRST-PERSON: Giving by the pound

DORA, Ala. (BP) — Years back, my husband Larry was the youth minister at a small church. Two of the projects I immersed myself in were Wednesday night suppers and getting a van for the church.

We had several children from outlying areas who loved to come to our church, but their parents didn’t attend and weren’t exactly cooperative in getting their kids there. When those of us who gave them rides to church got them there on Wednesday nights, they were usually hungry. How could we expect to feed a child spiritually unless we first met his physical need for a decent meal?

So guess who volunteered to start preparing Wednesday night suppers? Yep, you guessed it. The task was overwhelming and I quickly realized I was in over my head. Praying fervently for guidance, I was led to a senior adult in our church who, in God’s divine providence, turned out to be a retired school lunchroom worker. She readily agreed to help and only because of her wealth of know-how and willingness to work were we able to make the suppers successful.

By charging just enough to cover the cost of the food, families and individuals who could afford to pay provided the means for us to feed those children free of charge. But we were quickly reaching the point of having more kids than willing drivers to transport them. We needed a van. Not only would this be a huge help in getting the kids to and from church, it’d be a fabulous help in putting together senior adult outings. But how was our struggling little church going to afford one?

We found a nice used 15-passenger one with a price tag of $4,500. The owner agreed to hold onto it for a couple of months and give us time to see how much money we could raise.

Only the Lord could have given us the perfect plan. On a big piece of poster board, I had an artist friend do a large drawing of the van. I researched the vehicle, found out that it weighed 4,800 pounds, and then drew a grid of small squares over the van image. Beneath that I printed a notice that the van was going to cost 94 cents a pound.

The response was phenomenal. With the cost of the van broken down into less-than-a-dollar increments, everyone felt they could contribute meaningfully. Kids brought in pennies and nickels. Adults young and old gave as generously as they could. And each time we received enough to pay for a pound of that van, we colored in a tiny square on the grid.

Little kids would gather around the poster and point to a colored square and say, “I gave the money for that.” It was a project that got everyone involved and excited.

That van rolled many a mile hauling kids to church and retreats, and the senior adults and I enjoyed countless outings together. And none of that would have happened had we not pulled together, pooled together and “given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:9).

“Remember this — a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others…. For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 10).
Judy Woodward Bates is a speaker, TV personality and author of Bargainomics: Money Management by the Book. Visit her website at www.Bargainomics.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

    About the Author

  • Judy Woodward Bates