South Central Indiana District has raised $28,800 to support the Church of the Brethren’s work in Nigeria and in Haiti, in a special district-wide project. The concept for the special giving emphasis started last fall at the district board’s annual retreat, when board member Brad Yoder suggested raising money to build wells in Haiti.
“Then the concept, ‘We ought to give something away,’ took hold,” according to district executive minister Beth Sollenberger.
The district established a committee for the project, offered a workshop in the spring to share information with church members, and announced a goal of receiving $10,000 by the time of the district conference this year.
With 45 churches, the initial idea was to challenge each of the district churches to raise $200. Lots of people thought this was not realistic, Sollenberger remembers, because it had been many years since the district took on such a project. But with a lot of work and enthusiasm on the part of district leaders, the project took off and exceeded expectations. The district office sent out publicity. District board members made personal calls to churches encouraging them to participate. “The money started coming in,” Sollenberger recalls.
Churches started to give generously, and many came up with unique and interesting ideas for raising the funds. Soon the district staff realized, in Sollenberger’s words: “Oh goodness, we’re going to make it. Then our eyes got big because we were going to do more than make it!”
In the end, the vast majority of the district churches sent in a check, and a gift was given in the name of every person in the district. In Sollenberger’s estimation, the whole district took part.
A success like this “is amazing, in our world and our life together,” she says. “The money is exciting, the amount is amazing, but for me the participation is the over-the-top part.” She recalls a time, not so many years ago, when South Central Indiana District “was labeled the most divided in the denomination.... So to come back with an offering like this is really fun.”
The district’s gift will be shared as follows, says Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service: half will go to water projects in Haiti, a quarter will support the digging of wells in Chibok, Nigeria, and a quarter will go to the Nigeria Crisis Response.
Church of the Brethren general secretary David Steele personally received the large check from the district, during the district conference this fall. He commented, “I knew they were planning to present a check, but was overwhelmed by the amount!” The district conference sang the “Doxology” together when the check was presented.
“We had so much fun that we’re trying to figure out what to do next!” Sollenberger says.