Loose Change Collection Generates Gift

It is not customary to think about loose change as lifechanging, but it can be. Gathered together, coins can make quite the difference, as the members of Sandpoint Community United Methodist Church have found.

The Seattle-based church made a gift of $500 to Africa University in honor of its 25th anniversary. The gift, which represents one month’s change collection, is enough to provide health insurance cover for two Africa University students for a year or on-campus housing for one student for a semester.

“I think that the congregation and others need to know about the challenges Africa has, and the fact that Africa University is providing an excellent opportunity for its graduates to meet those challenges,” said Mrs. Phyllis Ferguson, a longstanding member of the Missions Team.

Sandpoint Community UMC’s pastor, Rev. Janelle Kurtz, says that the congregation has a passion for honoring history and legacy.Sandpoint Community UMC invests in Africa University yearly through its apportionment giving. It is a small, mission-minded church whose members include those who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, long time Seattle residents, and people from all over the U.S. who now call Seattle home. The congregation ranges in age from 1 to 101, with an average Sunday worship attendance of 65-70, and is looking forward to celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2019.

Mrs. Ferguson nominated the university for additional support through a weekly program at the church called “Melodies of Compassion”. Members of the congregation are invited to put the loose change from their pockets and purses into offering plates each Sunday to benefit ministries and organizations that are chosen monthly by the Missions Team.

As Ms. Jane Stevens, the Missions Team Leader, puts it: “The noise the coins make as they are dropped into the plates is the ‘melody’ we are making!”

Mrs. Ferguson has worshipped at Sandpoint Community UMC since 1968. She and her husband, Dr. Richard Ferguson, support Africa University with annual gifts. They have visited the campus and are committed to keeping the Sandpoint Community UMC congregation up to date on Africa University’s progress, needs, and impact.

Sandpoint Community UMC’s pastor, Rev. Janelle Kurtz, says that the congregation’s passion for honoring history and legacy as living stories is one of the many characteristics that she loves.Mission outreach on Martin Luther King Day, supporting a local food pantry.

“This is a place where the community gathers and a place where we do our best to respond to the needs of the community,” said Rev. Kurtz. “This sense of community is a driving force for our missional investment…(it) is reflected in the missions team (and our Melodies of Compassion) as we try to alternate between local, regional and global missions.”

Jane Stevens introduced the Melodies of Compassion program to the Sandpoint Community UMC congregation in 2006 when she became the Missions Team leader. At first, the congregation was only asked for small change. Later, quarters were added to the coin requests and envelopes were printed and placed in the pews so that those wishing to contribute using bills or checks could do so. Sandpoint Community UMC’s melodies program has benefitted the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Heifer International, Red Bird Mission, Jamaa Letu, and many other ministries within and beyond the State of Washington since its inception.

Ms. Stevens’ father, Rev. William V. Stevens—a pastor for more than six decades—started the Melodies of Compassion program while serving at Trinity United Methodist Church in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He first asked the congregation to give their pennies, nickels, and dimes. He chose charitable programs monthly that needed funding and each week he would give a little information about the charities from the pulpit, hoping that the congregation would learn about them and perhaps continue supporting them. The program was a great success, and Rev. Stevens introduced it to three smaller churches that he served in retirement.