By Stan Friedman
MAPLE GROVE, MN (June 12, 2012) –President Gary Walter was stunned Sunday morning when members of Maple Grove Covenant Church presented him with a $50,000 check to benefit Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision.
“Wow, wow, that’s amazing,” said Walter in a soft voice.
Pastor Chad Erlenborn gave Walter the check while introducing the president, who later brought the morning message.
The money was raised as part of the congregation’s “Do Something” campaign. Erlenborn describes it as a short-term campaign to kick-start a long-term strategy to end extreme poverty.
The underlying theme was that no one person or organization could end poverty, but “we can all do something,” Erlenborn says.
Leaders were inspired by Isaiah 58, in which the prophet calls on Israel to fast for justice and serve the poor. Congregation members completed cards pledging to “fast” from a certain product or activity and donate the savings to the campaign.
“We asked people to give up something good to participate in something great,” Erlenborn says.
Some congregants gave up certain foods, others substituted meals such as beans and rice for their regular dinners. One individual rode a bike to work rather than drive and donated the gas money. Others decided not to go on vacation.
In the beginning, leaders did not know in what specific ways the money would be used. “Nine months ago when we started this, all we knew was we wanted to do something,” says Erlenborn.
They believed God wanted them to use the money to support ministry concentrated in one area. When leadership learned of the Covenant Kids Congo project, they thought it was a perfect fit.
The congregation initially hoped to raise $25,000 – that would be matched with money from the church’s mission fund and other special gifts. The church far surpassed its goal and raised $53,000 – before the match.
Rather than just match the $25,000, church leadership decided mission funds would be used to match the entire amount, so the final total was $106,000. They decided to contribute $50,000 to Covenant Kids Congo and then allocate the remaining funds among several ministries.
“The beautiful thing was that it was sacrificial giving,” says Erlenborn.
Before Erlenborn presented Walter the money, he gave him all the pledge cards and asked the president to deliver them to the Congolese when he traveled to the country in August. “It’s not just the check that matters, it’s our heart,” Erlenborn said.
Walter replied that he would read the pledges from the cards, noting, “the gift will be incredibly meaningful to them.”
Erlenborn said Sunday’s worship service “was probably one of my best days I’ve had as a pastor, seeing how the church responded to the need.”
Following the service, Walter said, “I was so heartened by this gift. This is the fruit of a congregation that has really been seeking how to tangibly engage around deep need in the world, particularly Congo. I know there are many other congregations doing the same.”