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Locally Grown: 58,000 Pencils

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Interview by Candice, RMM staff writer

Lori Maust is the chairperson of the Missions Committee at Pigeon River Mennonite Church in Pigeon River, Michigan, which means she is a cheerleader for missions in her congregation. Lori agreed to answer a few of our questions about the missions project that she helped organize for the kids in her church this past summer.

1. Can you describe the missions project that the children in your church were a part of?

We sent home globe banks and the children raised money for a missions project. My goal was to foster the love of sacrificial monetary giving to others, even if it means DOING something to gain the funds to give away. Pigeon River Mennonite has always been such a supporter of missions—both in sending people and supporting workers and projects throughout the world and in our community—but I asked myself, “ how can we make sure this continues?” I think it is something we have to teach and model for our kids.

Putting $2.00 to Work:
Stacia (age 6): I had a lemonade stand. Favorite part? That I gave for missions. Learned? I learned how fun it was to raise money.

Jared (aged 12): I had a kickball tournament. Learned? That a lot of people like kickball. Favorite part? Winning at kickball.

Abraham (age 6): I had a bike race. The bike race was part of a going away party for Uncle Andrew. Learned? I didn't learn anything. It was a lot of work. Favorite part? They gave me money and I put it in my bank.

Some of the other ideas the kids had for fundraising: cupcake bake sale, selling toys at a garage sale, giving birthday money.

2. Where did the idea for the project come from?

When my husband Marv was growing up, each child in the church received a silver dollar as seed money. I'm not sure what their instructions were, but they were to use it to raise money to give to missions. My sister-in-law remembers raising vegetables in the garden to sell. I liked the idea because it sounded like it could be a way to help the kids think about what it takes to raise money and to give it away too, and that it can be fun and a joyful activity.

3. How much money did you give each child and what were the rules?

We raised the amount of seed money each child received to two dollars (inflation!) and we told the kids that they were to use it to raise money for missions. Besides that, we gave them two rules:
  • No begging for money—they had to do something to earn it.
  • No bragging about how much money they raised. The amount was to be between themselves and God so that it was not a competition.

4. How much money did the kids raise all together?

Last year they raised around $1,900 and this year around $2,400.

5. How did you use the money you made?

Last year we sent the money to Mennonite Central Committee—Great Lakes for relief kits. This year we decided to give a portion to our local food distribution center (Thumb Breadbasket) and to buy supplies and assemble school kits to send to MCC. Elaine and Duane Ropp were our buyers and purchased all the supplies for 700 kits

Many hands make light work. People of all ages were involved in packing the 700 MCC school kits at Pigeon River Mennonite Church.

(that's 2,800 notebooks; 58,000 pencils; 700 pink erasers; plus rulers, school kit bags and boxes of colored pencils!). We assembled the kits between our church service and Sunday school time. We had three lines with all the supplies in different piles, and we asked each person to grab a partner and start filling the bags. Nearly everyone participated and we got them filled in half an hour! People were even refining our system by jumping in and counting out pencils in advance to make things go even more smoothly! Seeing church members of all ages working together was a good visual of the church "in action" supporting missions!

6. How did the project impact the kids at Pigeon River?

It’s hard for me to say what the impact on the kids actually was. Maybe like many things that we "catch" versus "learn" as children, the lessons are learned in the rear view mirror. I hope that the kids know that every little bit that they do for and in the church counts in the Kingdom.

7. What lessons did you learn through heading up the project?

Besides the fact that 58,000 pencils are a lot of pencils? That it takes effort and intentional effort to teach about giving, and sometimes you're not sure you are getting through to the kids, but nothing is gained by not trying. Also that giving can be fun, creative and inspiring to others.

8. If you would give advice to another church wanting to foster missions giving in children, what would your advice be?

Just do it. And keep doing it. Let the kids know that it's important—that what they give matters and will make a difference for someone that they don't even know.

A Note from RMM Director of Donor Relations Andrew Miller: As you can see, the people at Pigeon River started with what they had and multiplied it into something much bigger that God could use to build his kingdom. Our hope at RMM is that their simple idea would call each of us to do the same in our own backyard. Start with what you have, creatively find ways to honor God with it, and carry it out into completion. As you do this, you are not only reaching out to the rest of the world, you are modeling this behavior to others who can do the same.

What is it that you have? How can it bless others? It may appear small, but the small ideas that God births in peoples’ hearts are the most effective ones. Much like the mustard seed, they can grow into something far more than we could ask for or imagine. As you do this, share your ideas with us and others, that we could all be blessed and encouraged to do the same.