Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pass the Plate

Most of us have been in a church when a plate is passed for the offering. This is an opportunity to support the church and its mission. But what if it was reversed? What if instead the church handed out money as part of an assignment to make a positive difference in the world?

The church I attend is going to find out. Several weeks ago 50-dollar bills were given to me and about eighty other volunteers with the understanding that the money was to be invested and multiplied for a greater good. Making that $50 grow had more to do with situations and people than the S & P 500.

This idea originated with two books: The Bible, and “The Kingdom Assignment.” A church in California (surprised?) came up with this concept about ten years ago using a passage from the Bible. Now before you dismiss this idea as some religious silliness I would think that you would want to find out what I did with the $50.

This may surprise you, but I actually took this challenge seriously. I have never thought so hard about $50 in my life. Sure, it would have been easy to give it to the county so they could buy more abandoned railroad lines for a future undetermined use, but that didn’t seem quite right.

I was looking for something bigger, something with a larger world view. The $50 may not be enough to change the world, but if it was multiplied it could make a difference. While I was busy contemplating this new responsibility my wife Rhonda scheduled me and the rest of the family for an evening activity at church.

I went with some reluctance as I had other plans: TV, several books that needed to be read and some other stuff that seemed better than going to church. The activity at church involved helping an organization pack food. It sounded to me like bagging groceries.

We did bag food – but not in a “paper or plastic,” sort of way. The organization that we helped is called Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). Headquartered in Coon Rapids, they have locations in Eagan and Chanhassen, as well as Illinois and Arizona They put meals together to feed starving children throughout the world. But what makes this organization unique is that they can bring the entire packing assembly line to an off-site location, such as a church building.

There volunteers are trained, split into several groups, each having multiple stations, and packaged food then is sent around the world to feed starving children. Each meal costs about 20 cents to produce and 94 percent of all donations go directly to the food program. From one of their brochures I learned that $350 could feed a family of five for a year. FMSC relies on volunteers to pack the meals.

As a volunteer I sat through a training session and watched a heartbreaking video of children who were saved from certain starvation with food donated by this organization. To participate in the packing I was required to wear a hairnet, even though I am convinced I have very little hair left to capture.

I had fun being part of the effort (I carried boxes) and the time flew by, plus I felt that I was actually doing something very meaningful and important. At the end of the two- hour packing session (some of which was training and clean-up) approximately 200 volunteers had packed over 51,000 meals.

The next day I gave Feed My Starving Children the $50 I had been entrusted with along with an additional check. With this small donation I know more plates can be passed to hungry kids. The $50 won’t change the world – but maybe it will be multiplied.

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