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If you had $100, could you change the world?

Article in Today’s Woman
By Elaine Rooker Jack

Bob Cherry thinks $100 can change the world. In 2002, Cherry, senior pastor at Northeast Christian Church, challenged members with something he called “Kingdom Assignments.” He got the idea from a book about a church in California that gave $100 bills to members who were told to “go make a difference.”

“There was something good there,” recalls Cherry. “I kept it in my spirit.” When it came time to celebrate the church’s 25th anniversary, Cherry thought, “Sure, we can celebrate, but let’s make a difference, too.” He sent letters to 100 members of Northeast Christian, located on Highway 22 in Louisville. The church averages 2,500 in attendance at three Sunday morning worship services.

Shelia Day received one of those letters and remembers Pastor Cherry asking “for me to trust him, and to start praying about it. I had no idea what he was asking, but he asked me to keep an open heart and an open mind,” says Day. Cherry planned to give each of the 100 members $100, and he hoped they would discern what God wanted them to do with it. He hoped they’d make it multiply and reach out beyond their church into the community.

On the night of the anniversary celebration, Cherry called the 100 people onto the stage of the Palace Theatre and presented them each with $100. Day remembers him saying, “This is not your money; this is God’s money. Take it and pray over it and ask
God what to do with it.”

The Kingdom Assignment, in short: Take $100 and change the world.

When she received her letter, Shelia Day began praying for direction. She first thought of the recycling program she already had in mind for Christian Academy. “But God started laying on my heart the idea of single mothers,” says Day. At first Day thought she didn’t know anything about single mothers, but when she thought about some of the women in her life, she thought of her sister, two best friends, and a mentor who were all single mothers. “I never looked at them that way. These were women I admired, loved. They were part of my life, but I’d never labeled them single moms.”

Day felt strongly that single mothers should be seen as individuals, not as labels. “I realized that God wanted me to start educating the community about single moms,” says Day. She believes that everyone is valuable in God’s eyes, and she can also take what she calls a secular view: “That no matter where they start, everybody has the potential to be something.”

She started to envision a resource center for single moms. At first Day was doubtful. “I don’t have the education to run a resource center,” says Day. “I thought, ‘God, I think you picked the wrong person.’”

Day’s next step was to write 50 letters to family and friends, asking for matching funds to support her vision. She received $15,000 back. She set up an office. She collected information about available resources. She began educating herself about the realities of single parenting. And that is how Shelia Day came to start Mom’s Closet Resource Center. She asked her brother Gare Rossenberg, who was living in Cincinnati at the time, to come home to Louisville and help with marketing and public relations. Day also receives help from her husband, jockey Pat Day, who serves as spokesperson for the center.

MCRC helps single mothers in two ways. Any single mother who is willing to provide ID and submit to a background check may come to the Center four times a year and receive food and clothing for herself and her children. They do not need a referral from another agency but must make appointments in advance.

MCRC also works with some mothers to create what they call a Life Plan. Before they are eligible, the women have to be working full time or in college. Single moms entering this program also provide ID and approve a background check. Once they apply, they are interviewed by a committee. Day says the interviews often last two hours, and during that time the committee tries to establish an emotional connection with the mother.

Day is quick to say this is not a charity, not welfare, that it’s a “hand up.” Rossenberg explains that this program helps cover the poverty gap: the people who make too much money to qualify for most types of assistance, but don’t make enough to get ahead.

Once a mom is accepted to the Life Plan, “we help her create a strategy for the next year, what to do and how to do it,” says Day. “We provide emotional, spiritual, and financial support, and we witness transformation.” Participants are encouraged to apply for every form of assistance, including food stamps and financial assistance for education. “The next step,” says Day, “is getting a job and losing that federal and local assistance. They learn it’s a stepping stone, not a way of life.”

Two years after opening, MCRC has a waiting list, and 14 mothers and 35 kids enrolled in a Life Plan. MCRC has placed 10 mothers and their children in apartments, and has provided appliances, furniture, linens, and a second-hand computer. If a woman is leaving an abusive situation, she gets immediate attention and the center finds a place for her to go. “I never would have dreamed this was what my life’s purpose would be,” says Day. “I look back over the years and I see God was preparing me. I married, had a child; those were nourishing, growing years. And God was preparing my spirit for my purpose in life.” “She had a vision, and it just exploded,” Pastor Cherry says of Day. “She’s passionate about everything she does. 

And the other 99 Assignments?

“This is the best thing we’ve done as a church,” says Cherry, who has been pastor at Northeast Christian since 1977. From that original $10,000 has come more than $380,000 in additional money. And a lot of lives have changed all over the world. Here are some of the projects, many of which are still going strong:

  • One woman created an organization to make hats for cancer survivors who have lost their hair from chemotherapy.
  • Someone started a ministry to take balloons to children in hospitals.
  • A nurse at Kosair Children’s Hospital created a “Santa Shop” where children receiving treatment for cancer could pick out items to give as gifts to their siblings and families.
  • One man gave his $100 to a man he met in downtown Louisville who needed it. The giver later felt he should have done more with it, so he launched a campaign that provided $62,000 worth of medical supplies to the Dominican Republic.
  • $100 became $5,000 and created a Special Olympic Basketball team.
  • $100 became $2,500 and bought gifts for children at Maryhurst.
  • $100 became $2,000 and clothed 500 kids on a shopping spree at Wal-Mart.
  • One man rang the bell for the Salvation Army and raised $2,000.
  • Someone bought eight goats through a charity called World Vision, and those goats, given to needy families in Third World countries, sustain those families.

And the list goes on and on. So what do you think?

Can you change the world?
There’s plenty that needs changing! What could you do with $100?

I don’t know where your $100 will come from, or if it’s enough, or if what you would choose to do could have a lasting impact. But I do know it’s not a bad place to start.