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Silver-and-gold plea stirred donor to take action, literally


LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)– While Immanuel Baptist Church had its new treasure appraised on April Fool’s Day, the value is no joke: approximately $12,000.
As startling as the recent donation to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is the form in which it arrived — silver bars and coins and one-ounce gold pieces.
“It was obviously somebody from our church because the announcement about the silver and gold came after our (TV) broadcast went off the air,” said Craig Loscalzo, pastor of the Lexington, Ky., congregation, and thus only church members were present when Woman’s Missionary Union member Tanya Koch issued an exhortation at the end of a Sunday morning service in March.
Concerned because Immanuel had only raised $6,000 of its $17,000 goal to support the offering for missionaries supported through the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, Koch quoted a phrase from a familiar chorus:
“We sing, ‘Lord, you are more precious than silver, Lord, you are more costly than gold,'” said the church’s Acteens adviser. “We need to put action to those words.”
“I presume that was a big trigger for the person doing this,” Loscalzo said.
When Loscalzo came to church the next morning, several staffers asked him about a black attache case sitting by a secretary’s desk. It had first been noticed on Sunday afternoon.
Professing ignorance, he went to investigate. On top of the case was written, “Deliver to Craig Loscalzo.” Inside sat a box tightly wrapped in tape.
With no note or other explanation and the mysterious package weighing about 70 pounds, the staff decided to call the police. Then they carried the box outside and waited.
Both firefighters and police responded. Since it had already been moved, they decided the package probably wasn’t dangerous. An officer gently slit it open with a penknife.
Inside lay a typed note directing the pastor to use the proceeds for the Annie Armstrong offering and a missionary from another denomination. (Loscalzo didn’t want to identify the person since he has not talked to the individual.)
The donor scribbled this postscript: “William McDonald’s book, ‘Where Is Your Treasure?’ is the most expensive book I have ever purchased.” The book discusses the Bible’s teaching on money and emphasizes it is wrong to hoard it.
“Once they opened the box and found the note, police started opening it further and said, ‘… there’s coins in here,'” the pastor said.
“The interesting thing is police said if anything seems wrong with a package they take it out and blow it up. I’m glad they didn’t or we’d be digging through the mud to find all the gold and silver.”
An inventory showed nearly 1,100 ounces of silver, packaged in several 100-ounce and 10-ounce bars, and numerous one-ounce coins. The box also held 20 krugerrands, which are South African gold coins worth approximately $300 apiece.
The pastor said the church had not determined the percentage that will go to the unnamed missionary, but the majority will be given to Annie Armstrong. Immanuel planned to obtain two more appraisals before selling the precious metals.
Lascalzo, a former Southern Seminary professor, has never heard of this kind of a donation for missions.
“It’s been extremely exciting and positive to find that God moves people’s hearts in magnanimous ways,” he said. “It just goes to show the Lord uses all of us in a variety of ways to be able to provide resources to do missions. It enables our church to bless (Annie Armstrong) by having this gift given through us.”
However, the Sunday after the discovery he told the congregation the donor’s generosity does not negate the value of other gifts, from $1 to $100.
Lascalzo called this a reminder to never underestimate what God may be doing. The Sunday morning Koch spoke she wondered how the church could meet its goal, he said, but in 24 hours they had exceeded it.
In addition, by the end of March, Immanuel had raised another $5,000 for the Annie Armstrong offering.
Lascalzo is also pleased with the recognition the unusual offering provides for domestic evangelism.
“As committed as Southern Baptists are to foreign missions, what we’re doing in our cities and rural areas in the U.S. does not capture the excitement sometimes that foreign missions do,” he said. “It’s exciting to see that people still have a heart for that kind of missions. And, that God moves people in a variety of ways and touches people where there are needs.”