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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Lenten challenge: 'Do good things'

Rather than cancel confirmation during Lent — when the Wednesday evening class time is pre-empted by Lenten worship services — leadership at Madison [Wis.] Christian Community (MCC) came up with an alternative. 

At the beginning of Lent in 2012, each confirmation student was given $25 along with the assignment: “Go do something good!”

The students — all seventh- and eighth-graders at the time — and their adult mentors read a chapter of Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens (Upper Room, 2002) by ELCA author Dorothy Bass. They then did some brainstorming on faith and creativity. After reporting to theMCC (an ecumenical partnership between Advent Lutheran Church and Community of Hope United Church of Christ) at the end of Lent, they were turned loose.

Rosa Ohlrogge, an animal lover, was already volunteering with Friends of Ferals, a nonprofit that rescues, spays and encourages adoption of cats. Although uncomfortable around cats, Jackie Muehl, her mentor, agreed that Ohlrogge should invest her time and money in this cause for which she was already “doing good.” 

The congregation donated old towels, which she and Muehl brought to a monthly Friends of Ferals session where veterinarians donate their time to spay feral cats. The pair also assisted in the recovery room following surgery and presented the $25 gift to the organization.

Muehl said the professional staff treated Ohlrogge like a peer as she comforted and cared for the nervous cats. After the experience Ohlrogge said, “It just makes me want to do more.”

Amanda Huff’s reaction to the confirmation challenge was: “Let’s not just give this money away; let’s multiply it.” She and her mentor, Emily Wixson, decided to make and sell a dry bean soup mix for $5 each. Reflecting their mutual interest in music and drama, Huff and Wixson chose to give their funds to an organization that benefits an arts program for children with special needs in upstate New York.

Together they found a good recipe; used their $25 to purchase dry beans, herbs and spices; and then printed labels listing ingredients, instructions and the recipient of the proceeds. (Luckily, Wixson had plenty of canning jars and lids on hand.)

The Sunday “Amanda’s Friendship Soup” was for sale following worship, they sold out in 10 minutes. With the help of the bank where Huff’s father works (which matches employees’ charitable contributions), the $175 in soup sales became $350 for music scholarships.

Alex DeMeuse and his mentor, Ken Streit, found another way to multiply their $25. They searched the Internet for a way to invest in microloans in developing countries and came upon Kiva. After some digging, they were satisfied that the nonprofit Kiva was a legitimate way to help a stranger who needed a small amount of money to better herself or himself.

Streit added $25, so a $50 investment was split between a man in Azerbaijan and a woman in Chile. They could track the entrepreneurs online, and DeMeuse learned that both paid off their loans. Now the money DeMeuse and Streit invested is helping other start-up enterprises.


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