CROSSLAKE, Minn. — The Rev. Mark Holmen of the Crosslake Log Church surprised 50 volunteers of his congregation Feb. 28 with a challenge inspired by his "What's Your Why?" sermon series.
"The last sermon in that series is 'Why doesn't God do something?'" Holmen said. "Because a lot of people live in a world (that asks) why doesn't God do something about hunger? Why doesn't he do something about all these things? Essentially, the response is that he has. He sees this world in need and he gave this world for us, his people, to do something on his behalf."
Holmen invited 50 of his congregation in Crosslake, Minn., in person or in the virtual service, to volunteer for a "Kingdom Challenge." Not knowing what to expect, they volunteered. Then he sprung his plan on them.
"When we did get the 50, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the 50 $100 bills and walked around and gave everybody 100 bucks," Holmen said. "I said, 'Between now and Easter I want you to do something with this. I'm not telling you what to do. Some of you may choose to invest it and some of you may see a need and meet that need.'"
Holmen saw a similar challenge while serving a church in California. His message was a reference to Matthew 25, the sermon of the talents in which the master of a house leaves home and puts his servants in charge of parts of his estate. When he returns home he punishes the one servant who merely held onto the money rather than trying to grow that money for his master.
The 50 volunteers took the sermon to heart and spread that blessing far and wide.
" Biblically we are called to take care of the needy if we are in the position. That is something near and dear to my heart. That's something we do as we are blessed to have abundance and be able to do that. "
— Jan van Rooyen.
"I was very honored to be blessed to be one of those chosen to do this because it's right up my alley," said Karlyn Anderson, of Crosslake. "I'm always looking for great things to do for the Lord, actually."
"It was an honor to be part of it and just to see and feel the ways that we could interact with people that were more needy than us," said Karen van Rooyen.
"From my perspective it's not something unusual," said Jan van Rooyen. "It's the type of thing we do. It was a great experience to be challenged by the premise to do something like that. We had no idea when he called us up what it was about."
Though the primary beneficiaries of this challenge were obviously the recipients of the donations, some of the volunteers learned quickly that they too got something out of it.
"The people themselves who are the givers are being really affected by this, really finding it's challenging in a positive way to them," Holmen said. "It's not just the recipients that are getting blessed, but also those that are doing the blessing are having a lot of positive experiences."
Anderson learned that the generosity of the challenge was contagious and grew, as others joined her in her gift. Together, a small group of people were able to make an even larger contribution.
The van Rooyens were surprised to find there were ways to make their donation grow by donating it to the right group.
"Before, I think we were a little naive," Karen said. "We didn't realize the impact of what the program would be able to do with that money. It was an investment that just exploded. They were able to get more money than we actually gave them."
"The impact is significant," Jan said. "We believe it is a good organization that made us feel fantastic."
Holmen has the particular joy of reading all the stories from the 50 volunteers and seeing the impact of the program.
"I'm the one that gets the fun of getting all these stories coming in and seeing all the ways it's being used and the diversity of ways this is being used to bless people," Holmen said. "When you start to see the stories, it is just so far and wide and so many things we would have never seen on our own as a church. But when you empower people to do it, that's pretty fantastic and inspiring. Every story is unique."
Holmen received permission from the church elders to give out the $5,000 from the church's benevolence fund, a fund dedicated to charity. He doesn't expect the church to do this program again in the future as the program felt most appropriate for the times we are living in. Holmen also said there are several people participating in the challenge with their own money.