Take a moment and watch this powerful story from Harilyn. Grab some tissues!
I frequently shop at Erie County Farms. Last spring, I was talking to one of the ladies, Bree, who works in the deli. She was telling me of her dream to open a hotel in Jamaica, where her grandma used to live. She said she was working on getting her GED, but was struggling to understand the math. She said that she didn't want to be 60 years old and still be working at the same dead end job. I think it's important to have a dream and work for it and so I was encouraging her to go for her dream. Sometimes when I shop at the store I ask her how school is going and I try to encourage her to keep pursuing her goal. When I got the $30 from the Benevolence Fund, my husband suggested I give it to her to help fund her dream. I know that $30 is only a little of what she needs, but I hope she feels loved and encouraged to keep trying.
We initially thought of some people this benevolence money would help, but went home to pray about it. Soon we learned of a mom who suffered back injury in a car accident that sentenced her to bed rest and no work for 8-12 weeks. This mom is single with 3 kids: a 13 yr old boy and girls, 5 and 6 yrs. We converted the money to gift cards for Valesky's and made her a Christmas ham with the fixings to deliver on Christmas eve. We have seen her poverty and realized how much help she needs. She is doing everything she can and seizing every opportunity. Our greatest gift though, seems to be our time; to listen and help with the little things. Thank you for this chance to LOOK for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
When we received the money from The Big Give we prayed about who we would give it to . It shouldn't be a problem being lead to someone with a need in these hard times. Nothing came to us and I felt a little let down. Did I miss an opportunity some where ? Well nothing came so we decided we would give the money back to the church as directed.We were out of town the first Sunday in January, and that's when the Lord showed us a need. We came across a family who heats with a fireplace and that's usually good enough for them. But when the temperatures dipped down to -15 degrees the fireplace wasn't enough to keep their home warm. That first night the temperature dropped down to 36 degrees in their home. Way too cold for anyone to live in. We contacted their local supplier of propane and found out they had an outstanding bill that couldn't pay so we ordered and paid for some propane to help them out. I'm so thankful God showed us a need to bless someone else.
This is a story of how Bonny and I used $60 entrusted to us to to give away as part of the benevolence program this Christmas season. The day before Christmas had arrived and we still had not found someone yet, so during the day we looked for someone as we went about our activities. We even drove around downtown Erie always looking for the poor, needy, down and out person who would benefit the most.
Not seeing anyone whom we felt was the one, we decided to go into the Broad St. Wal-Mart and look. We split up inside the store.
I got into a little talk with a young male employee reading a Christmas card he had received from the store. I asked him if he had gotten a Christmas bonus. He didn’t, and something told me this was the one. I gave him my $30 and wished him Merry Christmas from our Church. He was very happy and shook my hand and wished me Merry Christmas also. The expression of surprise and happiness was priceless. Something told me he would make good use of the money.
When I met up with Bonny she had still not found anyone, but had some buttons she was going to purchase. As we stood in line we noticed a sad looking couple in the line next to us. They had a few items in the bottom of their cart that looked like children’s Christmas presents. The woman rummaged amongst them and pulled a box out and set it aside. With the thought that this couple didn’t have much money to purchase gifts for their family, Bonny walked up and gave them her thirty dollars. After thanking Bonny, we noticed they got out of line and went back into the store. I think they were now able to get something else for their Christmas they previously couldn't afford.
One of the lessons we learned was to look at people the way Jesus must look at people. To look for the needy, down and out, poor, and sick means you look into people’s faces, at the clothes they are wearing, at their age, if they are sick, and so many other things you don’t normally look for, and sometimes turn your head to. I hope we will always remember to look for the need in others faces and lives because although we might not always be able to give money, we might be able to give someone just what they need, when they need it. A smile, a kind word, help, an encouraging word… a prayer, might be exactly what someone needs.
When we received the money God had already laid a family on our hearts. The father had lost his job in July and his wife only works part time. We knew they could use some help. We got them a gas card. They are very involved in their own church so they attended there on Christmas Eve.
There is a lady who faithfully volunteers many hours each week at the City Mission Food Bank. She has very few financial resources of her own. I put $10 into a collection for her taken by her fellow volunteers. When they gave it to her she said her son out of town was helping her pay her rent each month and she made him a thank you gift for Christmas. However, she did not have the money to mail it to him until she received this gift.
When I first went to receive the envelope instantly 2 people popped into my head (who happen to be dear friends and members of the church as well) without a mere thought of who this money would go to. Instead of just giving the gift away at first I wanted to pray and make sure it was God's will. A week went by of praying and going to many different places and still did not hear/feel God's pull. Thinking I would be giving the money back without helping someone was a sad thought until Sunday service I was talking with a friend about my dilemma he asked me well who do you think God wants to have that blessing giving to them and instantly again without thinking the original 2 people I thought of in the beginning and that's when I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were meant to have that money, which on Sunday after I got home i went and delivered the money and shared my story to them on how it all came about. It was so ama zing to be able to share how God was able to work through me on that Sunday (12-22-2013). As for them being members of our Church and knowing about the services and such the two cards that we all received I placed them in places at work and prayed that God to help guide many people to see them and come to our services.
I really had no idea what to do with the money and I had never done anything like this before. I actually thought I was gonna be giving it back to the church on Sunday. But I prayed to God that I would receive a clear sign of who I suppose to give it to and I did. I have a department manager at my job whom just started about a month ago. I don't know her well but I know from being around her that she is very caring and appreciative of every little thing I do or my coworkers do. She is a very hard worker at work and continues that with her 5 kids and husband at home. I thought I would give her the money to take her and her family out to a nice dinner but I soon found out that it takes $45 dollars just to take her family to MCDONALDS! So I thought, "ok, I will just give it to her for her husband and her to go out to dinner to her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden". But when I thought about it, I remembered I had $50 that a family member sent me as a Christmas present. It costs $75 to take her and her husband and her five kids to dinner at Olive Garden. So I took my Christmas money and the $30 and bought her 3 gift cards to Olive Garden to take her whole family out to dinner. She flipped. She was speechless. She didn't wanna accept it at first. But I just told her to "pay it forward". :)
So it is Christmas time and the church has given us each an envelope containing $30 to help someone with one request "Pray asking God to show you how to use this money to help someone." So that is just what I did! After saying my nightly prayers, I woke up the next morning totally confused! There was no magical voice from the skies that told me what to do but instead, a feeling that I needed to help 2 families out. Utterly torn, I decided to pray again that night for some help with my dilemma and I awoke the next morning with the perfect answer! Take the 30 dollars and give it to a cousin who has lost her job and has a broken down car and give her that giant eagle gift card that's been lying around. Match what the church has given you (and maybe a little more) and buy some presents for the other family whom has 2 small children and are struggling to provide presents for them. Now I'm not rich and struggle myself from time to time but I did have some money to do just this. So I'm hoping this little bit helps and in the envelope I included a card from the church as well as a little saying that says this......"Do not think of this as a donation, think of this as 'God is with you' for he is the one that has guided me to do this!"
Well I hadn't really thought I would be able to help someone out with this money in all honesty I figured on returning it to the church. Well I had gotten a gift certificate to go to this small hole in the wall restaurant and while there God pushed me to leave it for our waitress... I am not sure what it will do for her but I know he has a plan!
Ten days before Christmas 2012, the Benevolence Ministry of McLane Church in Erie County, Pennsylvania gave each member of our church $40 with the directive to go make a difference in somebody's life. Here are some of the hundreds of stories.
Our entire family went to dinner tonight at Texas Roadhouse. A young girl came around the corner with a tray of plates which all ended up crashing to the floor. She looks at us to let us know how sorry she was…it was our entire dinner order. Noticing how embarrassed the girl was Matt and I decided to write her a note with $20 attached. Matt wrote, “Roses are red, violets are blue. Our food is on the floor and there is a fry in my shoe. Hey, stuff happens. I’m sure this ruined your night a heck of a lot more than it did ours. Hope this makes your night better. God Bless.” The young girl ended up coming out and thanking us for the kind gesture and how it made her night. Our server then came out saying how kind it was to do that for the food server. She then went onto explain how she is a newer Christian and shared her walk of faith with us. She said it was so nice to see good being done in a world of hatred. We were truly inspired after the 9:13 project and will continue to pass on Gods light.
After hearing of the 9:13 projected, I was very excited to see who God would reveal to me. I prayed for that "right" person for several days. Finally, while sitting in the parking lot at Once Upon a Child, God showed me the family. A young mom and three children. I absolutely knew she needed to be the recipient. I walked in the store and told the woman that God really wanted her to have the money to help with her shopping. She thanked me several times. I felt very blessed to be able to do this!!
I am a teacher in North East and have the opportunity to work with many teenagers in that community. I was keeping my eyes and ears open throughout the week to find a student or colleague that I could bless with the 9:13 project funds.I was talking to our school guidance counselor about a couple of children that were experiencing financial difficulties at home and knew they were the ones I needed to give the money to. Throughout the past year, there were times they had been without power at home because their parents were not able to pay the bills. I decided to use the money to give them each a Wal-Mart gift card. When my father-in-law (Pat Brady) found out what I was doing, he decided to add his funds so I could give each girl a $40 gift card. I placed the gift cards in an envelope with the invitation to the Christmas Eve service. When I gave the envelopes to the girls, I explained that our church was doing some random acts of kindness by giving some gifts to people for Christmas, and I wished them a Merry Christmas.
When I heard about the 9:13 project, I began thinking about someone that I could help with my $40. I went a few days without any names coming to mind, I realized that I needed to take some time and really pray about it. I am a runner and after several days of praying I felt that I was suppose to take my money and Christmas Eve invitation with me during my run. I kept wondering how God could use me while I went for a run, but I placed my invitation and money into a plastic ziplock bag and stuffed it up the sleeve of my shirt. As I was running I kept praying and looking for opportunities where God would use me. The day I went running was our first really bad snow. I came across a car accident that had just happened. Two guys were outside of cars talking while their cars sat in the intersection. My heart beat faster as I realized this could be an opportunity. I kept running, telling myself I'd turn around shortly and go back if that was what I felt led to do. I kept running and praying about the situation. When I turned around the cars weren't in the intersection anymore and from where I was, I thought they were gone. I prayed and told God that if this was my opportunity, the cars would be there. "Come on God," I thought, "I need to know if this is it." When I rounded the corner I saw the two cars. I was getting anxious because I realized I'd have to go knock on the car window and explain myself-I'd be out of my comfort zone. However, when I looked in the car no one was in it. I smiled to myself, as I knew God had a plan and this was n't my opportunity.
Days went by and nothing came up. I felt a little defeated, as it was the day of the Christmas Eve-Eve service, and I still hadn't given away my money or invitations. I felt that my opportunity would come while running, and that I would be out of my comfort zone. I laced up and took my plastic bag with me. Outside my house, a young man had run his pickup truck into a tree. Talk about a bad day for him. I watched for a little bit as a tow truck came, someone else arrived in a car, and I saw the guy who was in the accident was about to leave in the car. I ran down the driveway and down my road. He had gotten into the car and the girl that was picking him up was about to get in as well. I was out of my comfort zone as I ran down the road yelling at her to wait.
I ended up ducking my head into the drivers' side and asking him if he was the one who had just crashed. He said yes as he stared up at me puzzled by why I was there. I told him my church had given its members each $40 to help someone in the community, and that I wanted to give my money to him. His jaw dropped and he still looked confused. I told him I didn't know what he had planned for Christmas Eve, but invited him to one of McLane's services. I handed him the plastic bag with the money and invitation in it and told him regardless the money was his to do whatever he needed to. I don't even remember what he said or if he said anything because I was enjoying the little smile of disbelief on his shocked, still jaw dropped face. I said bye to him and the girl whose face might have been more shocked than his. She whispered thank you, and I smiled back.
I took off on my run thinking how lucky I was to be a part of a church that would help their members reach into the community, so they could personally see the look on the faces of the people they were helping. I thought about how through my prayers, it was revealed that I'd be out of my comfort zone and find my opportunity while running, and how right this proved to be. I thought that even if the people I invited didn't come to a service, I know God has used me to be a part of their story, even if it is just planting a seed.
Following the tragedy in Connecticut, Ann Curry launched the 26 Acts campaign on twitter. The concept was simple: perform 26 random acts of kindness in honor of the 26 victims killed. The timing of this great cause could not have been better as McLane had started their own 9:13 campaign. I used my benevolence money to perform these random acts of kindness for people and made sure they knew the cause by using #26Acts on a note and encouraging people to pay it forward in honor of the 26 victims. I did everything from buying dinner for a close friend who was out of work, taking hot tea to a sick friend and purchasing breakfast for the car behind me at the Tim Hortons drive-thru. All in the name of God and all in the spirit of Christmas. Along with the attached post-it note to each recipient, I'd tweet the act to the founder, @AnnCurry and she'd retweet them. It was an awesome experience to be able to give so freely and participate in a simple yet significant cause in the name of Christ, Christmas and the victims of the Connecticut school shooting. Thanks to McLane church and their mission to reach people for this awesome opportunity!
Our shop shuts down for an entire week between Christmas and New Years. There is a temporary that works at our shop that drives a long distance to and from work and doesn’t have a lot of money to pay for gas. So with my money I went to Country Fair and bought him a 40 dollar gas card, and explained to him that it was a gift from the church that would help alleviate some of the cost so he can get back to work after having a week off without pay. He was very thankful and gave me a hug. It made me feel great to be able to help him out!
My husband and I were looking for the right person to give our gift. I missed an opportunity at Walmart, when two employees, who were stocking shelves, were talking as i shopped and the one was sharing how they can never get ahead, it seems the bills keep piling up. When I was putting my groceries in my car trunk, I realized I had the money with me and missed an opportunity. My husband missed his opportunity as he was reminded when he saw a man who is raising two grandchildren and lost his wife last year pass him in his car. He tried to catch up and flag him down, but was not successful.
I had in mind a widow the day we received the gift money. I told my husband on Christmas Eve Day that I wanted to stop on the way to Christmas Eve Service and drop off an envelope. I knew that her family would be attending a Service that night in her local church. I felt lead to add a $20.00 bill of my own, and as we were leaving my husband said to add his in the envelope.
We stopped at her home and her daughter answered the door and said her mother was getting ready for the evening and I left it in her hands with a note explaining how God had directed us to give her this offering. She called me on the cellphone before we arrived at McLane Church and shared how she and a co-worker at the Edinboro Manor had come to talk about this girl's desire to be home for Christmas, but didn't have money for gas. This widow went in her purse and had $100.00 and handed it to this girl. This girl knew that the widow did not have extra money to spare and asked why she would do such a kind act. The widow explained that God would provide for her and prompted her to give the money. This girl had never heard of such an act.
The widow went on to explain to me that as she opened the envelope, she knew this was a God Moment of encouragement to her. She counted the money twice, yes, $100.00, the exact amount she had given away in faith! She will share with her co-worker when she returns from her family gathering in Harrisburg area how a faithful God provides.
I am a bit of an overplanner. I am one of those people who makes plans to make plans. The moment Brian mentioned that we would be giving to our community through the 9:13 project, I started making a plan as to who I might help and how I might use the money that we were given to “do good.” As I was lining everything up in my head, however, I caught Brian’s words about praying for God to open our hearts and make us more spiritually aware during this time. Those words echoed through me, even as Frank and I were leaving the service and returning home. This was an opportunity to live in a state of heightened spiritual awareness. I had planned to take the wheel and design a moment which I thought would fulfill the mission of this 9:13 project, but those words made me realize that it was God who was at the wheel and I was merely a tool in HIS plan for this money. I placed the money, a McLane Church invitation card, a hand-written prayer for hope, and a candy bar from Finney’s and wrapped them all together with a ribbon and carried them around with me for the week, praying every morning that God would place my 9:13 package in the hands of someone who needed help and hope. In the end, I was moved to place the gift on the windshield of a car at the gas station. While I am not sure who the owner of the car might have been, I have faith that God’s work was done through me and that His plan for my portion of our benevolence fund had a far greater purpose than any plan that I could have orchestrated on my own. I am grateful for the nudge that I needed to open mind and my heart to listen for God’s direction.