By Debbie Eisenbise, director of Intergenerational Ministries
“Don’t look for big things; just do small things with great love.”—Mother Theresa
Sometimes all it takes is a simple request. The theme of National Older Adult Conference (NOAC) last September —“Then Jesus Told Them a Story”— inspired such a request. The goal: collect enough new picture books to give one to each of the 450 students at Junaluska Elementary School. This challenge was met with great generosity! It was a blessing to see the story unfold.
Jim and Libby Kinsey of Hope Church of the Brethren in Freeport, Mich., participated in the service project, making their donation and witnessing the presentation of those 450 books to Principal Sherri Arrington. Before going home, they volunteered to deliver two additional donations to Junaluska Elementary. Libby shared that the building was beautiful and relatively new, but state budget cuts severely impacted school programming.
Libby and Jim had the opportunity to meet with the Principal Arrington, who was delighted with the gift of books from NOAC. “I feel so blessed,” said Principal Arrington. “I have told the story over and over of this remarkable event that occurred in the life of my school. When things have been incredibly tough—budget cuts, a charter school opening in town, and other struggles—your group [showed up]. In my 37 years of public education, I have never experienced such generosity and kindness.”
Jim and Libby’s experience, which began at NOAC, inspired them to more service. Libby shares, “Our picture book donation was priceless, but I kept thinking about how strapped their budget had become, and how classroom libraries had been hit so hard…. Since little is nearer and dearer to our hearts than boosting literacy, Jim and I discussed our commitment on our way home: to get 200 new books into each third through fifth grade classroom by NOAC 2017.”
Since her retirement from 38 years of teaching, Libby regularly volunteers at the Scholastic Books warehouse, and is “paid” with boxes of new books. These books are now sent to children at Junaluska Elementary School. To increase their donation, Libby and Jim involved family, asking for additional donations to be made in lieu of adults exchanging gifts at Christmastime.
New books and the stories they tell lift children’s spirits, help them make sense of this challenging world, and encourage them to read. What began at NOAC 2015, a simple act of sharing something small, will make a positive impact on the givers and receivers for years to come. It is in this way that a small request produces a great outpouring of God’s love.
National Older Adult Conference is one of several conferences hosted by Congregational Life Ministries, a Core Ministry of the Church of the Brethren. Learn more about National Older Adult Conference 2015 at www.brethren.org/noac or support it and other life-changing ministries of your church at www.brethren.org/give .
(Read this issue of eBrethren)