From today’s Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.com:
Pastor seeds funds for flock to grow
By Josh Poland
As a certified personal trainer, Erica Manning is used to helping people transform flab into muscle.
Bulking up a modest financial investment is an entirely different proposition.
Nevertheless, Manning and four friends have embraced the new challenge with all their considerable might.
On July 9, the five women – all personal trainers and members of Pickerington’s Grace Fellowship Church – will hold a fitness-themed fundraiser at the gym where they regularly work out.
All proceeds from the “Hope Challenge” will go to Asia’s Hope, a Columbus-based multidenominational program that provides long-term care to orphans in Cambodia and Thailand, children at high risk for sexual and economic exploitation.
“Obviously, as personal trainers, we take great satisfaction in helping people reach their fitness goals, but this takes it a little bit further,” Manning said. “This helps people who really need help.”
The Hope Challenge began with a challenge from Keith Minier, senior pastor at Grace Fellowship, 7140 Reynoldsburg-Baltimore Rd., a 620-member congregation affiliatiated with the Indiana-based Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
A few weeks ago, to illustrate a sermon on priorities and stewardship, Minier put $3,000 – divided into amounts ranging from $100 to $500 – in 12 envelopes and sealed them.
At the conclusion of each of that Sunday’s three services, Minier placed four of the envelopes at the front of the church and invited members to pick them up. His charge to those who accepted the challenge: Take the money, and make it grow.
Specifically, the pastor told them that they had six weeks to parlay the cash into larger amounts that the church would then collect and forward to Asia’s Hope.
This is the third time Minier has tried the experiment at Grace Fellowship, where he has served as pastor since 2004: Four or five years ago, he said, he distributed $225. Two years later, he increased the amount to $1,000.
Minier said he’s thrilled by the fundraising projects his congregants have undertaken. One church member is using his seed money to produce and sell T-shirts, another is peddling bracelets and a third is staging a benefit concert.
“One guy was just going to go around and mow people’s lawns for donations,” he said.
Three or four people decide to take on projects even though they didn’t get any of the envelopes, the pastor noted.
Minier said he’s confident the latest experiment will yield far more than the $5,000 that Asia’s Hope needs to retain a nurse to work with the orphans the charity serves.
However, he said, the primary goal isn’t to raise money but rather to teach the congregation an invaluable lesson in priorities and stewardship: “When we have a vision – boy, things get done.”
Manning, who attended the first service the day Minier announced the challenge, didn’t get one of the cash-filled envelopes. Susi Vermillion, who attended the day’s final service, did. It contained $100.
“She wasn’t sure what to do, but I had a plan,” said Manning, who has worked as a personal trainer since 2004. “God must have brought us together.” They came up with the idea for the fitness challenge.
The event will run from 8 a.m. to noon on July 9 at Advanced Training, 462 Waterloo St. in Canal Winchester, with registration beginning at 7 a.m. The fee is $25 for participants age 14 and older and $15 for those ages 6 to 13.
Participants may register online, at www.hopechallenge.webs.com, or at the door.