Creative giving assignment pays it forward

By Mandy Grisham

On a cold January night, ten people at Neighborhood Church were each given $100 and an assignment. They were instructed to manage, multiply, and invest the money in some way that advances God’s Kingdom in the world. And they were to report back in three months. Pastor of the church and Philadelphia Avenue resident Robert Grisham had heard about other churches undertaking a similar challenge as they studied the Parable of the Ten Minas (or Parable of the Talents), so during his sermon series on “God’s Economy,” he asked these ten people to be creative and follow God’s lead in serving others with the money. In the parable, a group of servants is given an amount of money to steward. Some invest and multiply their gifts while others hoard it away. In the end, those who invested and multiplied were rewarded abundantly, but those who had essentially stashed it under the mattress had it taken away. So, the question was, how would members of Neighborhood Church do with the same challenge?

Nelson Avenue resident Josh Spickler, a lawyer, knew from experience in the public defender’s office that the minimum bond to get a person released from jail is $100. And more importantly, he knew that if no one had shown up with that small sum to get you released, you were truly at rock bottom. Using his knowledge of the court system and his professional skills, he chose to use his money to bond out a complete stranger who’d been sitting at 201 Poplar for a little too long on a minor charge. Josh’s plan was to represent the person in court and engage them in a relational way to help them get back on their feet. Because of Josh’s deft legal wrangling, the man was actually released without having to pay the bond. Although he ended up spending the money on a charity instead of on his client, the $100 challenge inspired this Neighborhood Church member to reach out and help someone no one else would.

Virginia Boyd used her money on supplies for crafts to sell at a bake sale her company was hosting. After advertising that the funds raised were going to help some families she had met volunteering with Idlewild Presbyterian’s More Than A Meal, some of her coworkers donated their own crafts to sell. Not only was Virginia able to triple her money, but she also engaged her coworkers in helping beyond the craft sale. Together, they gathered donations of laundry detergent and researched organizations that could help the families further. Some of her coworkers even became interested in volunteering at More Than A Meal.

Not everyone decided to go it alone. Kristi Vickers and Paula Peyton, two friends who work together at a photography studio, decided to continue their relationship with a shelter for victims of domestic violence for which the studio had conducted donation drives in the past. Instead of having a traditional drive, this time they wanted to do something personal for the families at the shelter. Kristi and Paula invited them to come be photographed at the studio. They visited with a few mothers and their children and not only took their photographs but also gave each child an Easter basket overflowing with goodies. While most of the $100 went toward treats for the Easter baskets, it was clear that having a family portrait was the most valuable part of this ministry for the moms that were served.

Not all of the money stayed in the Memphis area, though. A few people were led to use their money to reach across the world. Amy Smith put up her money for a small business loan in Afghanistan through Kiva (kiva.org). Kiva connects individual lenders with low-income people across the world who need a small loan to start or improve their business. The loans, which have an extraordinarily high repayment rate, are typically repaid within a year, meaning that Amy will be able to continue to use her Kingdom Assignment money to invest for years to come.

Everyone was amazed by the unique and wonderful ways this assignment enabled them to give. The most important part of each of the ten stories was not the money but the relationships that were built and strengthened because people stepped out to help. Some of the money was invested in neighbors and organizations right here in Midtown, and some was sent across the world to India, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and China. Some people invested in old relationships and some in brand new. Some people used their skills and talents and others invested in other people. Some people know exactly what their money helped to do, and others have entrusted someone else to use the money. Though each aspect of the giving process was different, one thing was the same—everyone was changed and challenged to do more with their resources of time, talents, and money after this experience. They hope their experiences encourage the entire community to give what they have to share.

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