From ages 10 to 87, nine volunteers took the challenge during our recent "Beat the Odds" series. Each participant was given $100 and asked to: 1) Recognize the money belongs to God, 2) Use it to build God's kingdom, 3) Involve other people and 4) Report back on what happened. Last Sunday, we heard from these volunteers. 87 year-old Clyde Smith said he had never volunteered for anything in his life. When considering what to do with the $100 he had been entrusted with, he decided to use his passion for baking. He bought ingredients. He involved Dave Hansen who donated pounds and pounds of flour. This equipped Clyde to bake "cakes" which he peddled to grow the seed money. He raised over $400 for the church, and also gave cakes to several pastors at Ventura Missionary with money inside for their ministries. Erin Ramboldt sold raffle tickets to raise money for Royal Family Kids and Teen Reach Adventure Camps (There were two $50 gift card prizes.). She was a little nervous at first, and wondered, "How come I didn't get to volunteer for the cookie sharing example?!" But, she determined early on to allow the Lord to speak through her efforts. One thing she noticed is that most of those who were willing to help foster kids already had a passion to do so. This caused her to check her own motives for giving and challenged her to be open to investing in areas of the kingdom that she hasn't been passionate about in the past. By the end of the five week series, Erin had raised $570. After tithing, she gave $513 to the foster camp ministries. After the challenge was given to Brittney Lease, many gathered around her to ask what she would do. Zoe Erlenborn suggested that she make necklaces for children. Brittney decided she would like to help children with health issues, and through the Women's Auxiliary Volunteer Services at Ventura County Medical Center, she learned about the need for "welcome bags" for children who are admitted to the hospital. Brittney and her sister, Heather Arena, went shopping for the items to fill these bags using the $100. Brittney then enlisted Zoe, Christine and Anika Erlenborn and a friend of theirs, and they gathered to fill six bags for girls and six for boys. They also made and decorated Get Well cards for the children. Brittney says, "My $100 was invested in the lives and joy of children who need love in order to beat the odds of whatever physical battles they are facing when they walk through the doors of Ventura County Medical Center...My heart is full of joy." Lauren Potts had struggled in the past with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which Pastor Chad taught about to launch "Beat the Odds." She didn't see what was so wrong with what the man did who buried his master's money for safe keeping. After all, he was fearful of his master, so he probably wanted to make sure he didn't lose any of that money. But the master not only called him lazy, but wicked. Lauren put the money she was given in a savings account so that it could draw interest while she was praying about this opportunity. During this time, God seemed to keep saying, "Sing, sing, sing." So, she recorded a CD and posted it on Facebook to sell. In less than 24 hours, the $100 was quadrupled! Lauren now realizes the meaning of that part of the parable. Had she not taken the step to do something with the money, she would have robbed God of all the resulting profit that came in. The resources from this money have already been used for one dental mission trip to an Ensenada orphanage, and more is still coming in that will benefit another trip planned for later this year. To date, Lauren has raised $710. 10 year-old Jillian Zollar jumped in with both feet to the challenge by asking for help from friends and family to put on two bake sales (one in her neighborhood and one at church) that raised $500 for Royal Family Kids and Teen Reach Adventure Camps. While attempting to gain permission to do a bake sale at a local park, Jillian shared with City Council members about what she had been asked to do. She described to them that her pastor had taught that our money is not our own and that it was given to us by our Creator. She said, "It is not about how much money you have, it is about giving to others." Though her request was denied, Deputy Mayor Neal Andrews was so impressed by Jillian's heart, he commit to make a donation to Royal Family Kids. Jillian has definitely captured the heart and spirit of how God desires that we use the resources He gives us to live and share the transforming love of Jesus.
This is just a snapshot of the stories that came out of the Beat the Odds Challenge. To date, 9 volunteers have invested $900 to raise approximately $2,800 in resources to benefit homeless individuals, foster kids, orphans, children with illnesses and more. Well, done, good and faithful servants! You have wisely invested in God's kingdom.