By Connie Faber
The courtyard at Laurelglen Bible Church (LBC) in Bakersfield, Calif., was transformed Nov. 3 into a “classroom of the world” known as Market of Hope (MOH), and visitors were invited to consider what they could do to make a difference for the “poorest of the poor” around the globe.
MOH organizers describe the annual event as a way for people in the congregation to respond to great physical needs that could change the life of a person and “ultimately…their eternity.”
“Since our first Market of Hope in 1998, our focus has always been to provide life-changing necessities for the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable around the world,” write organizers Rille Pinault and Joel and Cari White in the MOH catalog that describes various mission projects. “Jesus showed great compassion for the poor, the powerless, the vulnerable and the hurting. We are called to do the same. Market of Hope helps us be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world.”
This year, LBC shoppers contributed $99,000 to ministries working in five countries around the world. “We are just beyond blessed,” says Rille Pinault, LBC missions director, in an email to the Christian Leader. “LBC was a much larger church when we began this project 15 years ago, but this year we nearly doubled our gifts from any prior year.”
Pinault attributes the ongoing and growing success of the annual missions fundraising effort to widespread congregational involvement and relationships with the ministries supported by MOH.
Children at LBC are encouraged to pray for the poor and to remember that their MOH gifts “ultimately glorify God and allow an opportunity to share the gospel,” says Pinault.
Children’s Sunday school classes receive MOH catalogs four weeks prior to the event. They collect money as a group, go shopping together at the booths on MOH Sunday where they are given a short lesson on the needs of that people group and then decide together what to buy.
“Our children are involved starting at age two,” she says. As the children get older, Pinault reports that they give as groups, with their families and on their own.
Adults who are passionate about specific projects are also important. “We had huge support this year from passionate people who ‘drove’ certain projects,” says Pinault. For example, a group of women collected and sold broken gold jewelry donated among themselves and from friends. The funds raised were designated to build a bathroom for orphaned and trafficked boys in India.
Relationships promote giving
These passions for specific ministries have no doubt been nurtured by LBC’s decision to shift their support from what Pinault calls “very worthy causes to very needy people” to ministries with which the congregation has established relationships.
“Rather than sending money (for) World Relief (a non-profit organization that serves as the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals) work in some desperate country, we send money to places where we have missionaries, send short-term teams and have had national pastors come and visit us,” says Pinault, who has developed close personal relationships with staff members of the various ministries supported by MOH. “People have come to know, trust and care for these 'friends.'”
Pastors connected to three of the five countries supported by MOH have spoken from the LBC pulpit this past year. “This is huge,” says Pinault.
In 2013, the congregation sent 15 people to India and 10 to Uganda to see ministries they support and a team will return to Kenya in 2014. “Our church family comes back with stories and people become engaged,” says Pinault. “We show video of our teams actually helping distribute sheep to widows, etc. It’s powerful and it’s personal.”
Purchasing sheep for widows in Kenya is one of the projects listed in the 2013 catalog. The LBC Missions Leadership Team annually selects the agencies that will be supported by MOH. The longest running projects are assisting the Sabaot people living on Mt. Elgon in Kenya and working with Children of Love in various countries.
Pinault is responsible for contacting the various ministries and agencies asking for a list of needs. The list is then compiled in such a way that each country has a variety of projects at different prices. The 2013 catalog described 34 projects carried out by five mission agencies in five countries.
A review of the catalog shows that projects fit a variety of budgets, ranging from $1 to $25,000 and would appeal to a diverse shopper interests:
- Projects in India supported Berachah Children’s Home, a ministry of Children to Love that provides a home to 170 abandoned children rescued from human trafficking. Projects ranged from sponsoring a child ($40/month) to providing firewood for cooking ($200) to covering the costs of completely refurbishing a boys’ bathroom ($7,500).
- Market of Hope participants could partner with International Christian Ministries and Christian Veterinary Mission to assist the Sabaot people of Mt. Elgon in Kenya. A donation of $1 would purchase 10 pencils while $35 would provide a widow with sheep, household goods and bedding and $3,725 would purchase a Jesus film projection system.
- Partnering with Il Soggiornia, a drop-in center in the heart of Rome, Market of Hope shoppers could help the center serve people fleeing war and violence in their homeland. For $5, one could provide a refugee with a hat and socks, $30 would purchase a month’s supply of tea and sugar for the center and $10 would purchase a Bible to be given to a refugee in his/her native language.
- MB Mission’s work in Thailand was another Market of Hope ministry. A gift of $100 would provide flood relief kits during the monsoon season and $10 would buy a Thai Bible for the Ang Sila church plant.
- Market of Hope also selected Uganda’s Mercy Childcare Ministry, another ministry of Children to Love to 100 abandoned children. Among the projects offered was building a children’s cottage for $25,000, providing micro loans for widows at $120 and purchasing mosquito nets for $5 each.
In addition to children’s Sunday school classes, the Sunday before the event MOH catalogs are distributed in the Worship Center and Pinault reviews the projects with the congregation.
“Prayer is always key,” says Pinault, “challenging people to really consider what God would have them do above and beyond the tithe.”
Families, friends, home groups and Sunday school classes are encouraged to go through the booklet together, discerning what projects they will support. Shoppers are also encouraged to give an item in someone’s name as a birthday or Christmas gift or to celebrate any special occasion. Gift cards are available for these purchases.
Come MOH Sunday, shoppers are provided with an abbreviated shopping list. They can roam among the various booths, sampling ethnic snacks as they learn about the countries and ministries they are supporting. LBC volunteers recruited by Joel and Cari White, MOH coordinator, staff the various booths. Some dress in clothing worn in the country they are representing.
Shoppers mark their purchases on the shopping lists and then visit the market cashiers who total the cost and receive payment. While most funds are collected on market day, donations are received for two weeks.
When the MOH account is closed, organizers audit the records several times before compiling a list for each agency of exactly how much money was given to each project. If something is overfunded, givers are aware that those funds will be given to the project that most closely matches the donor’s intent.
“It is so much fun to be part of something bigger than yourself, when you know it is God at work moving his people,” says Penault, who this year continued to receive donations after the MOH deadline. “It just doesn’t get better than that!”