Boys pour coins into a bucket at Harrah UMC, where noisy offerings supported CJAMM’s New Day Camps. Photo by Laura Deerwester
By Randy Little, Pastor, Harrah UMC
The children stampede to the altar table in the sanctuary. Each one grabs an empty paint can from the stacked pyramid and hurries with it into the congregation. Clanking, clunking, and intentional shaking create a cacophony that means a mission is in the making — children helping other children.
The Children of Harrah United Methodist (C.H.U.M.) collected a "noisy offering" each Sunday in March. Worshippers brought change and dropped it into the buckets. The offering helped fund scholarships for children who attend New Day Camps, a summer program of the Conference’s Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries (CJAMM). New Day Camps host children who have incarcerated parents.
C.H.U.M.’s fundraising goal was $900. The Harrah youngsters raised $1,800 through the offering and other means.
Harrah also is one of several churches that transport New Day campers, who come from all over the state. And the April mission emphasis for the church was collecting supplies for the campers.
Harri Williams has been driving the church van to pick up campers for at least 10 years. "The first-time campers that are younger are apprehensive and way out of their comfort zone when I pick them up to go to camp. Returning campers [show] a bit more excitement because they know what awaits them," Williams said.
"When I pick them up to go home, they are totally different; they are tired, but they have been loved. They made new friends their age and also with Christian adults.
"When I pick up older children to go to camp, they are jaded and closed off. At the end of the week, there are lots of tears because they will miss the love they received at camp."
Williams’ biggest joy is watching campers change as they return year after year. They grow to know God is doing something in their lives, and they want to go back and share it.
Enrollment was 84 children, ages 8-11, in the June camp, "New Day I," according to Lesa Rhoads, CJAMM assistant director. For "New Day Too" in mid-July, 61 campers were registered. That session is for ages 12-14.
Each camper leaves with a backpack, Bible, and teddy bear.
At Harrah, after the children collect the noisy offering, they run back to the altar area, shaking their cans as they go, then pour the coins into a galvanized pail, painted gold, creating more noise. Words painted on the bucket declare "Make a Joyful Noise!" — and they do!
Doing this for "the least of these," as Jesus directed, and having fun in the process, is touching and changing children’s lives.