How One Teenager Inspired an Entire Church to Make a Difference

by Kristy O'Hara, World Vision Magazine on November 25, 2016

Shortly after Elizabeth Johnson turned 13 in 2009, the World Vision Gift Catalog arrived at her house in Ithaca, N.Y., and she started leafing through it. Her father suggested she and her friends pool their money and purchase some items.

“I brought the catalog to church and said, ‘If you have a few dollars or your allowance to help out, that would be great,’” Elizabeth says. “I was not expecting to collect $136, but we did.”

With the funds, they bought a goat, two chickens, a mosquito net, and three ducks. Elizabeth says the livestock caught her eye first. “The farm animals can multiply,” she says. “It’s a good investment for the family because it will help them for years.”

An Idea Becomes a Tradition

After the group’s success, she thought they could make it an annual tradition.

But just a few weeks later, the massive 2010 earthquake rocked Haiti. Elizabeth and her friends dedicated themselves to raising relief funds. They held a bake sale and raised $550. Then at a yard sale that summer they raised more than $1,000.

At that point, Elizabeth knew they were on to something.

Since then, she and about 15 friends, ranging in age from 8 to 17, have held bake sales and yard sales each year, along with other fundraisers. “We encourage each other to keep doing it,” she says. Collectively, they’ve raised $7,000 for disaster relief and World Vision Gift Catalog items.

Every Penny Makes a Difference

“I’ve learned to trust in [God], however the fundraising efforts go,” she says. “He knows where the money is going. Whenever we make a donation, we’re just trusting in him for the money to be used to the maximum it can be and [that] everything will fall into place when we’re organizing the events.”

Now 17 and about to start her senior year, Elizabeth is looking at colleges and anticipating that her fundraising experience will apply when she studies accounting. Before she goes, she plans to pass the torch to her three younger siblings and the kids at her church, encouraging all young people to get involved.

“Any amount makes a difference,” she says. “You don’t have to work alone. You can work as a team, and that’s one thing that’s really helped us. Don’t get discouraged, even if you don’t meet your goal on a specific fundraising event, because you’re still making a difference with every single penny you raise.”

This Christmas, your church can share a full life with children in need using the World Vision Gift Catalog. Get FREE resources here.

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