Three children embrace the importance of outreach
Pillows for the poor
“One day when my brother and I were riding bikes, we saw an unhappy man with no smile. He didn’t look like he had much stuff and I wanted to help,” says 8-year-old Sennet Janzen of Southridge Community (MB) Church, St. Catharines, Ont. Janzen’s father volunteers at Southridge’s homeless shelter, making her aware of and sensitive to the needs of others.
She decided to use her creativity to make pillows for sale and use the proceeds to buy supplies for people at the shelter. She cuts squares of denim from old jeans, lays them into a pattern, and – with her mother’s help – stitches them together. She adds strips of ribbon and denim pockets for embellishment.
“When some of daddy’s shelter friends ask for certain things, like warm socks or a kettle, I sell a pillow and buy the supplies for them,” she says. Janzen also used the money to purchase one book for each student in her father’s Grade 3 classroom when she learned that many of his students don’t own books. “Fifty percent of the students read their book within two days,” says her dad. “Eighty percent were done within the week.”
“I think God feels happy that I’m doing this,” says Janzen, who plans to keep making and selling pillows as needs arise.
Learn more about the Southridge shelter here: southridge.cc/shelter.
Nets for kids
“I got the idea for Nets for Kids from an article in Clubhouse Jr. magazine about a girl who raised money for mosquito nets,” says 8-year-old Kaitlyn Weeks of Orchard Park Bible (MB) Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. She started collecting cash and pledges for Compassion Canada’s malaria nets project in October 2012. “I want to help people in Burkina Faso and India. Malaria is a dangerous problem there,” says Weeks.
She thought the idea of collecting money was fascinating. “I want to help people be healthy too. I showed the article to my mom and dad and they helped me get started.”
Weeks made jars to collect the money, started a blog, and spoke to her class at school and at church about the project. “My friends thought it was cool because we are learning about our health in school.” Weeks put collection jars in her classroom, the school office, and at church.
“The most exciting part was on my first day collecting money at church. I raised over $100 in five minutes!” In less than two months, Weeks raised $1,074.04 and sent 135 mosquito nets overseas.
“I think God thinks I did a good thing. He likes it when we help other people. His Bible tells us to help,” says Weeks. “I hope to do another project like this next year.”
Visit Weeks’ blog at www.netsforkids.wordpress.com.
Kids helping kids
“I want to help other kids with my birthday again,” says almost 6-year-old Bennett Epp of St. Catharines, Ont. For his fifth birthday, he invited party guests to bring school supplies for the Roatan Daycare Centre in Roatan, Honduras, a place his parents (MB members) discovered while researching Honduras for a trip.
This year, he says, “I will make the world a better place.” He asked his friends to bring a gift that would help others. “Other people don’t have so much things,” he says. “But we do.”
Party guests brought gifts from thrift stores, one donated to a charity in Epp’s name, and another brought him a school kit ready to send overseas through Mennonite Central Committee. He also received a monetary gift with instructions to use the funds “to improve the world.”
“I decided to buy more school kits,” says Epp. He had enough money for one, but he wanted to send 20 kits, one for every student in his class. After some modest promotion among family and friends, Epp reached his goal.
When asked what he plans for his next birthday, Epp smiles and shrugs. “I don’t know yet,” he says, “but God thinks it’s good to help other people.”
Read more about Epp’s story and how he inspired the children in the Roatan Daycare Centre to become givers themselves at www.roatan-daycare.com/2011/09/23/paying-it-forward.
A sure foundation
By intentionally focussing on generosity and involvement, parents and churches – like Janzen’s and Weeks’ – teach children to believe they can be difference-makers, locally and globally.
Southridge Community Church (Glenridge, Vineland and Welland Campus)
“We’ve tried in our church programs to help kids see that they can be difference makers locally and difference makers globally,” says Southridge’s children’s pastor Rick Zwiers. “We want to create a heart of compassion in every child that can be extended to their families and neighbours. We want kids to see that the world is big and the world has needs. To that end, our Movers and Shakers ministry (for children Kindergarten through Grade 5 at the Glenridge, Vineland, and Welland campuses) sponsors a child from Ecuador through Compassion Canada. Our boy is Luis Oswaldo Reinoso Aules.”
Every spring, the children’s leaders encourage their youth to become entrepreneurs. Through running bake sales, garage sales, lemonade stands, and doing extra chores around the house, they raise enough money to cover their $600 sponsorship commitment for the coming year. The children produce cards that are mailed throughout the year to Luis, and Luis responds with letters to the children that are read Sunday mornings. Movers and Shakers also encourages children to write independently to Luis and to develop a friendship with him.
Orchard Park Bible Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
The children’s and youth ministries of Orchard Park maintain a purposeful relationship between themselves and the Abundant Life Home in Thailand (MB Mission orphanage in Chonburi, Thailand, for children with HIV). Family life pastor Kevin Weeks encourages all the youth to get involved. “The purpose behind this relationship is to teach our kids that God is bigger than what he is doing in their own lives,” he says. “One practical way to reinforce that fact is to help kids across the world.”
Orchard Park’s children pray for Abundant Life Home residents by name, based on the pictures and profiles sent to them. They made and sent Christmas cards and the junior youth program raised funds for the orphanage with a Thai-food dinner.
Children in Orchard Park’s Christian education program, KidZone, can also donate money toward the purchase of hygiene kits and school kits through Mennonite Central Committee. “As a large group, we discuss what’s inside each kit and why children need these items,” says Christine Lett, KidZone director. “We chart our progress on a thermometer to provide a visual of how much money has been raised and when we can make more kits.”
Find out more about the Abundant Life Home at www.mbmission.org/projects/thailand/c0438-abundant-life-orphanage.