Change Makers

No goats, no glory: Sunday school students give the gift of goats

Five years ago, Pastor Larry Heenan of Spring Valley Baptist Church in Raytown, Missouri, challenged every Sunday school class in his church to raise $85 for goats from World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

For Sharon Baker and her class of 12 third, fourth, and fifth graders, this seemingly simple request felt daunting. They were doubtful they could raise the money for even one goat.

But now with the 478th goat in the works, Sharon’s husband, Tom, has lovingly dubbed her the “crazy goat lady” — a nickname she has embraced with open arms.

We can’t help everyone, but we certainly can help someone.—Sharon Baker

“Goats are one of the cutest animals ever. They’re so precious, and they provide so much for each family,” Sharon says. “We realize there’s a lot of hurt out there. We can’t help everyone, but we certainly can help someone.”

Fundraising really took off once her class started letting donors name each goat — starting with goat No. 47, named “The Old Goat — Russell” by Jaunita Box in memory of her husband.

All of the goats now receive names, each one unique to the situation or the reason for buying the goat. And the children were insistent on going back and naming all of the previous goats too.

After goat No. 50, Sharon says they were planning to quit, but the children wanted to keep going. And an answer to her prayer came quite obviously the next Sunday morning, with Pastor Danny Dyer pointing directly toward her during his sermon and telling her emphatically to never quit doing this good work.

“We do not have a goal any longer,” Sharon says. “We are just going to keep going.”

With help from her fellow teachers, Ed and Peggy Conway and Joe and Kim Biondo, the children in their class have been donating their allowances, doing extra chores, selling donated items, saving aluminum cans, collecting UPC codes, and using their imaginations to create crafts to sell — all to add another goat to their classroom’s “goat meter,” which keeps track of their progress.

Sharon Baker holds one of the four baby goats who visited Spring Valley Baptist Church on April 30, 2017.
Sharon Baker holds one of the four baby goats who visited Spring Valley Baptist Church on April 30, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Baker)

“‘I am a Christ-centered, biblically anchored world-changer.’ I have the children say that every Sunday,” Sharon says. “Their eyes light up when you tell them they are a world-changer. Saying that really broadens your view of who you are. It gives me the confidence to be the ‘crazy goat lady.’”

Both the church and the community, particularly those in Sharon’s line dance classes, have rallied behind them every step of the way. Money periodically arrives in her mailbox with a note to buy another goat, and for Sharon’s birthday and Christmas gifts, her friends give a goat in her name. People also donate money in honor of someone or in their memory.

“I could not possibly do this alone,” Sharon says. “As we’ve asked others to come in and be a part of what we’re doing, they become part of the team.”

Both their team and impact continue to grow, but Sharon gives all the glory back to God.

“Knowledge and prayer bring the passion — the knowledge that there are people out there who are hurting that you can help, and prayer to ask God’s guidance every step of the way,” Sharon says. “There are doors we never dreamed we could open.

“We never dreamed that we could talk to someone about a goat, and they would hand us [$85]. That is purely God working in the hearts of other people. Once you see that happen, your passion becomes like a bonfire. It just grows. You realize that you can do something significant with God’s help.”

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