Change Makers

Cheerful givers: New Jersey children ‘didn’t want to put God in a box’

For a group of New Jersey children, the goal was to give one cow, but they filled an entire stable instead.

The youngest members in a small church in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, learned an important lesson about not limiting God.

With a weekly attendance of about 150, Grace Christian Church members wanted to make an impact on God’s work around the world. After hosting a World Vision sponsorship event in 2005, several attenders chose to sponsor a child — including Larissa Jay, a volunteer in the children’s ministry.

Last Christmas, Larissa and Children’s Ministries Director Bonnie Deroski were searching for a fresh children’s curriculum; they turned to World Vision’s Gift Catalog curriculum for the 2nd- to 5th-grade Sunday school class. “We liked how it pointed to the gospel,” says Larissa.

The curriculum pairs a Bible verse and lesson with a story about a child in need. Videos, activities, and discussion questions make each story come alive. During Advent’s four Sundays, Larissa says, the children’s hearts and minds were opened to the needs of others around the world.

Soon they were excited to raise $650, enough to buy a dairy cow through the World Vision Gift Catalog.

“At Grace, we always talk about giving cheerfully from your heart,” says Larissa. “And each week the children brought in their offering.”

As enthusiastically as the kids gave, Larissa and Bonnie were concerned the children couldn’t reach the goal. “We didn’t want to put God in a box, but we didn’t want the kids to be disappointed,” Larissa says. So the class chose a donkey — $322 — as a back-up plan.

Meanwhile, the children were practicing for their Christmas Eve skit. After the curtain call, they took an offering to boost what was already raised.

Sometimes, children think there’s not much they can do, but they can. Clearly, God can do a lot through them.—Larissa Jay

Not only had the 25 children reached the dairy cow goal, but there was enough for a sheep and a goat too. “It was a wonderful opportunity for us to talk with them about how God will often exceed our expectations,” says Larissa.

The experience was a faith builder at Grace. “We shared in front of the congregation that we thought it would be just a donkey,” Larissa says. Seeing God move in such a big way through the church’s children “lit up something in the hearts of the people in our congregation.

“Sometimes,” she adds, “children think there’s not much they can do, but they can. Clearly, God can do a lot through them. God showed us more than what we thought was possible.”

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