Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Youth Lead Hurricane Relief Challenge

It was Sunday, Sept. 4, the weekend following a devastating hurricane and flooding in the South. Worship was underway in this small Northern Indiana congregation far from the impact of the storm. The worship leader was planning to come to the podium with a prepared offertory statement. But before that could happen, three youth came forward to make a special announcement.

"Today, we would like to announce that the junior and senior high youth have decided to donate money to the hurricane relief fund," came the words of Kaitlyn Hearld, Deanna Beckner and Carmen Metzger, three seventh grade youth of the church. They continued, "The junior high has decided to donate all of its money, $500, and the senior high said that they would match whatever we decided to donate." They then challenged the congregation to match the funds given by the youth.

"Following worship I had a member of the congregation say he and his wife would match the entire $1,000 challenge the youth brought," said pastor Dennis Beckner. Other smaller donations were given for a total $2,182 in the first of four planned collections during the month of September. Pastor Beckner identified that the early outcome of this challenge sounded like Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 18 where he advised the disciples that they would not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they change and become like little children.

Although these children aren’t so little any more, they definitely are to be taken seriously and are driven to do what is right. The youth have been raising money through fundraisers, selling lemon shake-ups at a car show, hosting several garage sales and a silent auction, and selling Papa Johns and Subway cards. More fundraising events are planned. The funds are being raised as both groups plan a major event the summer of 2006. The junior highs are planning a mission trip while the senior highs will be attending the Church of the Brethren National Youth Conference in Colorado. Each group has exceeded early expectations in their fundraising efforts and had planned to use excess funds for a ski trip, weekend outings, and other fun events.

The youth recognized their successes in their statement Sunday morning. "Over the past few months the junior and senior high have worked very hard to earn the money that we are donating, but we feel that God is telling us that giving these people another chance at life is much more important than going skiing or to Bear Creek Farms," Kaitlyn Hearld continued. The junior and senior high youth had discussed with youth advisor, Cara Hoppe, prior to the beginning of worship that they wanted to do something to help those in need following the disaster. The Columbia City Church of the Brethren had already planned to ask members of the church to donate to the Emergency Disaster Fund of the Church of the Brethren General Board. This fund supports the efforts of the Disaster Child Care and Emergency Response/Service Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Pastor Beckner recalled times when he has been a part of other disaster response work projects supported by this fund. "My wife and I accompanied youth from another congregation to Alabama and Oregon back in the 1990s for disaster response. We worked side by side working on homes that had been damaged by storms, cleaning a school that had been flooded, and helping to restore some normalcy to people’s lives. And those projects were so small in scale compared to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. We have to help now with our funds, later with our skills and abilities, and always with our prayers." Pastor Beckner’s sister is a volunteer with Disaster Child Care. These volunteers work hand-in-hand with the American Red Cross in providing child care for parents who need time to process paper work and spend time at work sites during the clean-up process.

The youth challenge other area congregations and others in the Columbia City community to answer this challenge to give. To make a donation to the Emergency Disaster Fund you may send a check to the Columbia City Church of the Brethren, 112 N Washington St, Columbia City, IN 46725 or you may go online to and click on "Responding to Hurricane Katrina" (www.brethren.org.) For further information call the church office at 260-244-6278.

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