When six youth from Lighthouse Community Church in Wichita, Kansas, committed to attend YouthCon 2019 in Glorieta, New Mexico, youth leader Anna Clausen initiated multiple fundraising campaigns to help offset costs.
Despite their efforts, however, the youth group was still low on funds for YouthCon. But God multiplied their efforts through a sister Mennonite Brethren church in a loaves and fishes kind of way when Hesston (Kansas) MB Church raised more than $5,000 for Lighthouse youth.
Lighthouse is located in the low-income Oaklawn neighborhood in southeast Wichita. To help offset YouthCon expenses, Clausen organized fundraisers, including a pasta meal, bake sale, and yard work and other manual labor.
“(The meal) was a chance for the people in our church to ask questions about the trip and ask the students what they were hoping to get out of it,” Clausen says. “So it was really good to connect with our people, but it wasn’t very profitable for our fundraising.”
More profitable was a bake sale, for which Clausen and her sister took orders and spent four or five days baking. The sale raised about $1,000.
“Parents got involved and took the order sheets to work and got tons of people to order stuff, and it just went really well,” Clausen says. “We learned a lot from that experience, too—what not to do and what we could try differently. That’s the most success we’ve ever had fundraising.”
Still, it wasn’t enough.
“People tried their best, it’s just where we’re at, there’s a limited about of funding,” Clausen says.
With YouthCon quickly approaching, Clausen says she began to worry.
“My goal was to trust God with it, but I was also getting very nervous because it’s like I know that God can do this, I just can’t see it, and I’m doing everything I can and I’m worn out,” she says. “And then I get a call, right when I’m at my breaking point.”
The call came from Jared Menard, youth pastor at Hesston MB Church, who told Clausen people at Hesston had been praying for Lighthouse and had taken an offering to help send students to YouthCon.
“I was crying,” Clausen says. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened. How could I ever doubt?”
The connection between the churches—separated by about 40 miles of Kansas interstate highway—happened when Bethany Martin from Hesston MB visited Lighthouse.
“My parents have been attending Lighthouse for the last several months and invited me to come visit,” Martin says. “I was impacted by the service and especially the need of their youth group, who had been trying to raise funds to attend YouthCon. I immediately thought about my own congregation and how they always step up to meet a need if they know about it.”
After praying about it, Martin says she told the Hesston MB congregation about Lighthouse’s need during a sharing time.
“The response was immediate and overwhelming,” Martin says. “Before I left that first Sunday, almost $2,000 had been pledged, and the total collected in less than three weeks was just over $5,000. God completely blew me away.”
This is not the first time the churches have worked together.
When Hesston lead pastor Brad Burkholder was youth pastor at Hesston MB, the church partnered with Lighthouse to host a vacation Bible school in the Oaklawn community.
“We are celebrating our 40th year of being a church plant ourselves,” Burkholder says. “As the years have gone by, we try to remember not only what it as like to be a church plant, but also the passion to reach the community we serve. We want to be sensitive to the moving of the Spirit to work in and through us however he chooses to move.”
When Menard delivered the check to Lighthouse, the amount was more than enough to cover the cost for Lighthouse youth to attend YouthCon. Clausen says the excess will be used to fund additional youth events, like sending students to an Urban Church Association retreat in November.
“That goes a long way for these kids, because they don’t get much,” Clausen says. “To see that God has cared enough to have a church that’s never met them—all these people—praying for them and sending funds so they can do something like this and then more, it’s tremendous.”
Clausen acknowledged the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend YouthCon Hesston’s gift provided.
“Their gift is not just this small thing—‘Oh I gave a few bucks to help these kids,’” Clausen says. “No, this is one of the biggest things these kids have ever been a part of. They’ve never been this far away from home. They’ve never been to a place like this. They’ve never experienced this kind of tremendous Holy Spirit thing going on, and it’s amazing.”
In an interview during YouthCon, Clausen said she has already seen significant impact.
“One of the girls, she’s not opened up to any of us ever, and last night (she) was the first to speak and just laid out this heart-wrenching story of things that are going on in her life,” Clausen says. “It was like she finally felt like she could just get it out and trust that we were going to care for her heart. That wouldn’t have happened—I mean it might’ve; God can do that—but like this was laid out specifically. Even if it (was) just for her, that was worth it.”
The partnership has left Clausen thankful.
“For Hesston to come alongside our little church—and not in a ‘We pity you’ kind of a way but in a ‘We love you and God has put you on our hearts’ kind of way—that’s tremendous,” she says. “The kids don’t have to feel like this is just a charity case. These people care.”