BY TREVOR BROWN
Stories of Generosity Continue to Inspire
The large, glass jar on a small table in the International Sunday School department had been clanging for several weeks, as it does every year. The label on the outside reads “Change for Change.”
Leaders of the International Class recall the simple concept being around for more than fifteen years in their room. It starts, several times a year, with an empty jar and the willingness of the class to give what money they can to support mission work around the world.
Annual missions offerings have a much longer history than the jar. A Christmas offering for international missions in broader Baptist life dates back to 1888, a time when the city of Amarillo was still brand new and its 150 citizens were yet to complete their first Chapel. The occasion for this specific collection, as is the case each Easter season, was the support of North American mission work.
The International Department brings together a broad spectrum of backgrounds: long-time citizens with Southeast Asian heritage, Sudanese immigrants, a large group from FBC’s Karen (Burmese) congregation, and many others. The simple goal of the class was to begin filling the jar together. It encourages generosity, promotes awareness of the need around the world, and enables the group to contribute what they can to the cause.
“I think it helps everyone in the class to realize that every little bit they give to missions is important,” said Mary Lou Serratt, a longtime leader in the class.
“We’ll announce that it’s time to be taking up another missions offering,” explained Ruthie Baggett, who found a home serving in this class after years of missionary service in Mexico. “It’s amazing how many pennies and nickels and dimes and dollar bills will show up in it.”
On one particular Sunday morning, it was the money that was placed beside the jar, not in it, that was most remarkable. The “Change for Change” had made some modest headway when a Karen (kah-REN) class member walked in one Sunday in March with a glass jar of her own. With eagerness and generosity, she had filled a large Starbucks Frappuccino container with coins. It was to be her missions offering.
“She walked up and rather than open it up,” Baggett explained, "she put her whole jar on the table next to our class offering.”
“The secretary and I actually counted it and decided to put it back into her jar to turn in so that somebody would see what she’d done. We were so impressed with what she did.”
Stories of great generosity are familiar at First Baptist Amarillo. They are a part of the church’s identity. Woven into a long story of ministry and missions throughout the local and global community are stories like this one, generous hearts and faithful people committed to supporting kingdom work.
Times filled with uncertainty and anxiousness about the future are prone to push generosity to the background. There are few people who understand crisis and calamity more than refugees.
The Karen people, who fled tragic religious and ethnic persecution and Burma, are no strangers to uncertain times.
What better example of the power of generosity than a beloved Karen refugee saving up to support gospel ministry throughout North America. They asked for spare change, and she brought her whole jar.
Photography for this article provided by TrenPam Communications.