The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
This past summer, rostered ministers new to service in our church were invited to attend a stewardship retreat, "Love Let(s) Go". Recognizing that generational attitudes toward money and the church have shifted, the retreat discussed the need to re-examine existing models for stewardship. After the retreat, each participant was given $300 to steward in a way of their choosing. In a series of blogs, each participant will write about how they invested the impact of that money. Today, the Rev. Julie Wright at Amazing Grace Lutheran in Inver Grove Heights shares how her $300 created a ripple effect.
After attending the synod’s stewardship retreat “Love Let(s) Go”, I was shocked to receive a $300 check from Bishop Lull with the instructions to give it away. As I held the $300 in my hand I wondered, how could I make a big difference with this money? What would God have me do with it? Then it dawned on me. To create a generosity ripple effect I decided to give $100 to each of our three soon-to-be confirmed 10th grade students so they could learn what it’s like to be generous and to give this gift of love away! Let me introduce you to Joseph, Hope, and Olivia.
It took a while to figure out what I was actually going to do with this money, but I ended up choosing three organizations because I wanted to do something local for the community, to do something world-wide helping kids in need, and then helping animals (which I call family).
I’ve worked with Neighbors, Inc. (our local food shelf) through our church’s Summer Servants program and I’ve also volunteered with Feed My Starving Children countless times, which is a fun thing to do. In 2014, my family experienced the death of a dog, so in 2015 we started looking for another dog. My dad found Good Karma Animal Rescue of Minnesota. So we went to meet Otis in Apple Valley and brought our other dog Boomer along. A few days later we brought Otis home as our dog. We ended up adopting Otis because he was really cute, and in his photo he was wearing a men’s tie. Good Karma is a small, local animal shelter.
When it came time to decide where to give this money away, it felt like a powerful feeling, like God telling me the right decisions to make.
Hope & Olivia’s Story
Olivia: When I received the money from Pastor Julie, my step-dad had some ideas for me right away and he said, “You should make bracelets.” I said, “Um, I’ll put that in my idea box." But first, I called Hope and we decided to join forces because we felt we could do more together as a team than we could do apart. We both love making bracelets and had been doing it all summer, so I brought up my step-dad’s idea about making bracelets.”
Hope: I decided to organize the project and help us decide which charity we should give money to.
Olivia: Yeah, and I took charge of buying and organizing supplies. We decided that the Humane Society was an organization we both care about.
Hope: So we decided to make bracelets, put a photo on Instagram, and let people know that we were raising money for the Humane Society. We started selling bracelets fast – for $1 or $2 each.
Olivia: We wanted to make sure we could raise the most money the fastest. Hope’s aunt saw her making bracelets and after learning about her project, she made a donation to the cause and told others about it. It started with bracelets and then Hope was asked to make a dog collar! The Humane Society was a good choice for us because so many people care about animals and most people are familiar with this charity and what they do.
Hope: I express my faith through being creative - by making arts and crafts - so by making bracelets, I could use the talents God gave me to do God’s work.
Olivia: I was thinking about animals and how God put them on earth so we could have best friends. If we could help, then why not do what we can?
To date, Hope and Olivia have collected proceeds of $235…and counting.
In October all three students will present to the congregation a statement of their faith journey, which will include reflections on this generosity experiment and how it has impacted their faith. As a result of this experience, I have decided to add a stewardship unit to Amazing Grace’s confirmation curriculum. For generations to come, we will see how far out these ripples can take us in spreading God’s love.
The Rev. Julie Wright, lead pastor
Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights