During a sermon on Oct. 16, based on Matthew 22:15-22, the Rev. Jay Pierce, pastor of Merced United Methodist Church, encouraged congregants to "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to give to God what belongs to God."
He passed out $120 in "marked" one-dollar bills and issued a challenge: to utilize each $1 bill as seed money and then, on Nov. 13, to return it and report back what was done to "give back to God." (The sermon on that day would focus on Matthew 25:14-30, "the parable of the talents.")
(Undesignated proceeds will go to the World Service Apportionment Fund.)
"I report today that there were many things done, and I want to share that information here, at least briefly," Pierce blogged on Nov. 15.
He reports that:
$4 was returned that very first Sunday. $2 was sent to World Vision, where it was multiplied by five to save young lives. Cupcakes were made for the Merced UMC Tuesday after school program, "Children at the Church" ("CATCh"), and for a cakewalk at the church's Halloween carnival. The carnival – for which a number of marked dollars were contributed – brought in $300, half going to United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) and the other half to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Jalapeno jelly was made and sold, the profits given back to the church. Someone was inspired to donate $25 for the church's holiday gift-bag ministry for the Chowchilla women's prison, as well as to buy a box full of greeting cards for that same project. Someone bought a flock of chicks from Heifer Project; funds went to the food pantry; and someone creatively returned the results of heeding the 'a dollar saved is a dollar earned' philosophy. (This person tracked daily spending for a month. Each day that money was not spent on things other than necessities, was counted as a dollar earned. The person says, "It was a learning experience: asking myself a number of times, 'do I really need this, or can I get by without it?'" As a result, 24 days of "thoughtful spending" resulted in $24, and the balance of $25 was a "thank offering" for lessons learned.) This seed money was added to donations to a children's toy drive in central Baja, and a vacation Bible school program in south Mexico.
Someone purchased supplies to make and sell straw jewelry; another purchased Communion bread; and others supported the Hmong women's car wash. One family held an egg roll sale netted $106.
Another idea formed from someone who was not even in worship that day. Gwen Bortner's husband, Arlis, challenged Gwen, a professional knitter, to create and sell a knitting pattern, with the proceeds going to cancer research. She placed the story on "Ravelry" – basically, Facebook for knitters – and through a series of sharings, people not associated with the church, or any church, or even the Merced community – got on board. (And by the way, you can too! Clue in your knitting friends to this site: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/mariposa-flip.)
Someone purchased gas to pick green beans; someone else held a candy sale; and someone even invested the dollar and made 93-cents! A couple of people focused on "found money," having had a series of fortunate instances, and were able to donate $230 to the Merced County Rescue Mission for its Thanksgiving dinner.
All told, from 120 marked $1 bills, eight times that amount – or $970.93 – was donated to mission!
And finally, three yet-to-be completed projects were planned: A Crayola crayon box of 64 was purchased to do a crayon ministry; a donation is planned for the Children's Hospital of Central California; and a soon-to-be knitted scarf will be sold for charity.
"The point, of course, was not about the funds raised, but [about] our ability to do more together than we could ever possibly do on our own," Pierce says. "Allowing God to work through us is the miracle!"