Pastor Mark Holmen of the Crosslake Log Church surprised 50 volunteers of his congregation Feb. 28 with a challenge inspired by his "What's Your Why?" sermon series.
"The last sermon in that series is 'Why doesn't God do something?'" Holmen said. "Because a lot of people live in a world (that asks) why doesn't God do something about hunger? Why doesn't he do something about all these things? Essentially, the response is that he has. He sees this world in need and he gave this world for us, his people, to do something on his behalf."
Holmen invited 50 of his congregation, in person or in the virtual service, to volunteer for a "Kingdom Challenge." Not knowing what to expect, they volunteered. Then he sprung his plan on them.
"When we did get the 50, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the 50 $100 bills and walked around and gave everybody 100 bucks," Holmen said. "I said, 'Between now and Easter I want you to do something with this. I'm not telling you what to do. Some of you may choose to invest it and some of you may see a need and meet that need.'"
Holmen saw a similar challenge while serving a church in California. His message was a reference to Matthew 25, the sermon of the talents in which the master of a house leaves home and puts his servants in charge of parts of his estate. When he returns home he punishes the one servant who merely held onto the money rather than trying to grow that money for his master.
The 50 volunteers took the sermon to heart and spread that blessing far and wide. Those who participated did not want their names attached to their deeds, but they agreed to talk about their participation in the program.
" Biblically we are called to take care of the needy if we are in the position. That is something near and dear to my heart. That's something we do as we are blessed to have abundance and be able to do that. "
— Jan van Rooyen.
"I was very honored to be blessed to be one of those chosen to do this because it's right up my alley," said Karlyn Anderson, of Crosslake. "I'm always looking for great things to do for the Lord, actually."
"It was an honor to be part of it and just to see and feel the ways that we could interact with people that were more needy than us," said Karen van Rooyen.
"From my perspective it's not something unusual," said Jan van Rooyen. "It's the type of thing we do. It was a great experience to be challenged by the premise to do something like that. We had no idea when he called us up what it was about."
Though the primary beneficiaries of this challenge were obviously the recipients of the donations, some of the volunteers learned quickly that they too got something out of it.
"The people themselves who are the givers are being really affected by this, really finding it's challenging in a positive way to them," Holmen said. "It's not just the recipients that are getting blessed, but also those that are doing the blessing are having a lot of positive experiences."
Anderson was able to use the challenge to support a cause she is passionate about.
"In a way I saw God working through the whole thing," Anderson said.
Anderson learned that the generosity of the challenge was contagious and grew, as others joined her in her gift. Together, a small group of people were able to make an even larger contribution.
The van Rooyens were able to turn the opportunity into a family experience and life lesson. It gave them the opportunity to be great role models for their family and for their faith.
"Biblically we are called to take care of the needy if we are in the position," Jan said. "That is something near and dear to my heart. That's something we do as we are blessed to have abundance and be able to do that."
The experience had a profound impact on their younger family members who witnessed it.
"For me, as new residents of the area, we were able to directly impact the community we live in," Karen said.
The van Rooyens were surprised to find there were ways to make their donation grow by donating it to the right group.
"Before, I think we were a little naive," Karen said. "We didn't realize the impact of what the program would be able to do with that money. It was an investment that just exploded. They were able to get more money than we actually gave them."
"The impact is significant," Jan said. "We believe it is a good organization that made us feel fantastic."
Holmen has the particular joy of reading all the stories from the 50 volunteers and seeing the impact of the program.
"I'm the one that gets the fun of getting all these stories coming in and seeing all the ways it's being used and the diversity of ways this is being used to bless people," Holmen said. "When you start to see the stories, it is just so far and wide and so many things we would have never seen on our own as a church. But when you empower people to do it, that's pretty fantastic and inspiring. Every story is unique."
Holmen received permission from the church elders to give out the $5,000 from the church's benevolence fund, a fund dedicated to charity. He doesn't expect the church to do this program again in the future as the program felt most appropriate for the times we are living in. Holmen also said there are several people participating in the challenge with their own money.
The church plans to publish all the donation stories on its website once they become available. The site is CrosslakeEFC.org. The sermon is also available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHU_8_ay30w
DO SOMETHING CHALLENGE TESTIMONIALS:
Coffee for a homeless person
I was driving to work on a Friday and decided to pull into Caribou Coffee for a specialty drink. On the way there I noticed a woman with a bedroll loosely draped over her. She was obviously homeless and I felt compelled by God to DO SOMETHING. I pulled into the parking spot and I noticed she had sat down on the pavement right by the entrance to the coffee shop. I knew this was a God thing so I went up to her and asked if she wanted a cup of coffee. She said "yes" so I walked in and bought her a coffee. When I exited the shop, I handed her the coffee and asked her what her story was. She said that she was staying at a church as her sleeping quarters and that she just left today because she had reached her time limit for staying there. I told her that the reason I bought her the coffee is because we had learned a few weeks ago about the parable of the talents and that I felt that God had urged me to help her. She said she loved that story and said, "God bless you." I am happy to know that she knew that story so obviously she had learned or known about God in her previous experiences.
What I learned is that while I had money to give her, the greatest gift was what God gave me, which was a compassionate heart for someone I didn't know. It's easy to pass judgment quickly on someone for their situation at hand, but God taught me to obey and to obey quickly without question.
Camp for a young person
I have decided that I want my focus to be on the youth and growing their faith in God. As a very immature 17-year-old I was fortunate enough to be invited on a canoe trip that was through Bethany Fellowship in Bloomington, Minnesota. All I knew was they were going to the Boundary Waters and I wanted to go with. Fast forward over 40 years and I can’t even IMAGINE what my life would have/will have been like without my acceptance of Christ in my life on that canoe trip. It saddens me that the decline of people (specifically young people) who live without faith. If I could help even just one young person to grow their life following God’s teachings and Bible studies that would be such an awesome thing. My life has been enriched by my faith and has helped me in my darkest days. SOOOOO … I will I make my $100 grow by personally matching it so that some young person can go to camp!
Programs to help families
We received $100 and matched it with another $200, totaling $300, and made a donation to the Pine River-Backus Family Center. They have many programs to help out local families.
Addition to the benevolence fund
Pastor Mark, I was amazed with your “out of box” message and request for volunteers on Sunday 2/28/21! Wow, how cool was that!?! I have always struggled with Matthew 25 14-30, wondering truly what the Master desires us to do with possessions he entrusts us with! To give or to invest, and give back more? I can only say the request for volunteers to do a “kingdom assignment” was remarkable! I am glad your elders agreed! I know this event has stirred tremendous discussions in our family, but, it has also had an impact on my reflections on the Word. I invested the 100 bucks in the great “gambling casino” called the stock market, and to date it has gained 800%. I sent in a “gift” for $800 to the benevolence fund this evening.
Donation to a person with failing health
Hi Pastor Mark. I just wanted to share with you what I did with the money I was given about a month ago. Right away, after being given the money, I kept hearing God speak to me about a certain individual. I work in health care and it was someone that I had seen on a fairly regular basis. She was someone who had been broken from her addiction and her health is still failing as we speak. She is estranged from her husband and cannot work due to her health. In a nutshell, she has been plagued with struggles in her life, and many are undeniably due to the choices she has made. I know she needs the hope that only Jesus can offer. So, I wrote her a short little card explaining why I was giving this to her and telling her how much Jesus loves her. I have been praying for God to touch her heart and to reach out and save her as I don't know how much time she has left. I have not spoken with her again but hope to this next week. I will keep you posted.
Help at the soup kitchen
I matched the money, doubling it, and did two challenges. A good friend of mine has a family member that was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I gave them $100 to help out during this difficult time. I also volunteered at the soup kitchen in Brainerd and while I was there, to spread my money we randomly gave 20 people $5 to go with their food pickup. Because of the pandemic the soup kitchen hands out bags of food instead of serving meals.
Missionaries to Mexico
We were led to give our $100 to missionaries to Mexico. We believe this is very fertile ground to sow into. About 40 years ago they went to Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and started a small church. In the beginning they met in home churches. Today they have over 2,000 members, a Bible school, 12 missionary churches in Victoria, 50 or more around Mexico, and even some in the U.S. They also support an orphanage in the Philippines. They have a TV channel and produce videos. While shut down during the pandemic they continued broadcasting the services live and reached many more people. The congregation and the students are out on the streets witnessing and reaching many more for Jesus. Thank you for the opportunity to give more to this ministry.
Help for a friend in need
I was waiting for the most amazing opportunity, something crazy insanely impactful, and then I heard God say, “Look around, you are in your own mission field." I have a friend going through a tough divorce! It has hurt her and her daughters financially and emotionally! I have often invited the oldest daughter to come to youth group with us, but her dad won’t allow it! God placed the hearts of my friend and her two daughters on my heart! I knew they had a Bible so I went and bought three devotional books - one picked uniquely for each of them! Hoping to help with the emotional void! Also, a letter saying I can’t understand the hurt or pain, but I know someone who can!
I won’t stop inviting them to church, but right now I know God has me in their lives. I am the church for them now! Financially she is struggling so I also added a $50 grocery store gift card! I am not done just because the $$ is spent! This challenge has encouraged me to watch and listen for more ways to be the church in our community and friend groups!
Easter meal celebration
I work with a small group of people in Charleston, South Carolina. Most of them are over 65 years old and retired. I work with a few who are disabled. I've spent some time with each of them recently via Zoom. They each told their story and many of them are struggling either physically, mentally/emotionally or financially. A few are caregivers to their loved ones and that stress is taking a toll on them.
My husband and I decided to take the challenge and do something special for these people. So, we took the $100 and multiplied it. We sent a $50 Honey Baked Ham Company gift card to each of them so they could share an Easter ham, side dish or dessert with their family. We've already received notes on how they are going to use the gift card. We feel so blessed. We had the honor to share our blessings with 15 people in Charleston, South Carolina, so they could celebrate Easter with their families.
Hymnals for seniors
I lead a hymn sign group at the Whitefish on the Lakes senior residences and while I can’t sing well, I wanted to help a Log Church friend in Memory Care there. Although my friend is memory challenged, she can sing most hymns by memory and even the hard ones. On Thursday mornings we sing with about nine residents on the first floor and then we go up to the Memory Care section and lead a group of about 12 residents there. The memory unit prefers simpler hymns with large print. When I received the $100 challenge gift from Pastor Mark, I knew just what I wanted to do with it. I got on the computer and found several easier hymnals that looked like they would be just right. The total came to more than $100 but one day I was walking in the gym with a friend, and I shared with her how I was going to use my $100 but didn’t tell her the total needed would be more than $100. Without her knowing that she said, “If the total is more than $100 I want to cover the extra.” WOW! God took care of the problem! Also, two ladies in my Bible study said if I needed to order more books later they wanted to help. It brings me to tears - the loving, caring people in our church. I thank God for taking an interest in every aspect of our lives.
Help for single parents
I was blessed to have the opportunity to utilize the $100 given out by the church. Thank you! My story begins from the burden my heart carries for single parents. It began when my daughter became a single parent. I’ve watched my daughter's life raising two children, basically alone, without support money and what it would have been without parent support. There are so many more out there in the same situation. It breaks my heart! The majority of single parents, especially women, live at poverty level here in America! The recipient of the $100 from the Log Church was given to a single mom still raising two young children.
Support for the hungry
We have felt called to support people dealing with hunger, and at the same time we also feel that God has called us to Pequot Lakes to be closer to our grandchildren and to be able to have a Kingdom impact on them. As our "Do Something" challenge we found the Lakes Area Food Shelf that serves people in the Breezy, Ideal, Jenkins, Nisswa, Pequot areas. A $1 donation to this organization enables them to buy up to $10 of food items from Second Harvest Heartland North Central. We took our two oldest grandchildren (6 and 4 years) to the food shelf where the director explained to them what they do to help people experiencing food shortage. This had a direct impact on our granddaughter who made the connection that children from her school may be served by the food shelf. After that, each child received the $100 bills and handed the money over to the director. He was delighted and did not let us leave without giving some treats to the children.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.