By: Christa Meland
Thanks to the generosity of Minnesota United Methodists, more than 2 million meals are being sent to hungry children, a promising student from a developing country will learn about how to advance food production there, and new volunteers will have the opportunity to engage in mission work around the world.
As of the end of June, $110,667 had been given to those causes through the 2014 Love Offering—and donations are continuing to come in. The 2014 amount given to date is higher than the Love Offering totals from any of the past few years. Between 2011 and 2013, donations totaled between $92,000 and $97,000 each year.
Eighty percent of this year’s Love Offering, an annual offering that benefits mission projects, will go to Feed My Starving Children. Meanwhile, Project AgGrad and Volunteers in Mission scholarships will each receive 10 percent of the total amount donated.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of the churches and individuals who gave to the Love Offering, and we celebrate the life-changing work that God is doing in and through us,” said Barb Carroll, the Minnesota Conference’s director of finance and administration, and treasurer.
This year’s Love Offering had two components: a cash offering and a hands-on effort to feed the hungry.
In February, Minnesota United Methodists were challenged to pack at least 1 million meals through Feed My Starving Children, which provides life-saving meals to people who need them most all over the world. Churches and individuals within the conference have collectively packed more than 2.2 million meals through this initiative, called the “Million Meals Marathon.” Meal-packing took place at three Twin Cities-area Feed My Starving Children locations, at three “mobile pack” sites in Greater Minnesota, and at the 2014 annual conference session in St. Cloud. Love Offering funds given to Feed My Starving Children will help cover the cost of the meals packed.
Project AgGrad, one of the two other recipients of the 2014 Love Offering, addresses the root causes of hunger in developing countries. It selects promising students from those countries and supports them as they pursue an advanced degree at the University of Minnesota. Upon completing their degree, the students return home to work on food production for the rest of their career.
Volunteers in Mission, meanwhile, is a program of the United Methodist Church that provides opportunities for teams to spend up to two weeks working on a mission project either domestically or abroad. Most of the Volunteers in Mission teams from Minnesota are engaged in hands-on projects that build the infrastructure to ensure that our nutritional, medical, and educational programs in developing countries become sustainable and locally run.
The conference’s Missions Promotion Team determines the recipients for each year’s Love Offering and helps generate awareness among churches.
“Awesome—that is the word that comes to mind,” Karen Thompson, chair of the Missions Promotion Team, said when asked about the conference’s response to this year’s offering. “It’s just a confirmation that, together, we can do so much more than we can do individually.”
The hands-on component to this year’s Love Offering was a new approach and one that Thompson said worked well.
“It gave people different ways to participate,” she said. “There are more parts to mission than just hearing about it, learning about it, and supporting it financially.”
Churches have a strong history of giving generously through the Love Offering.
“The Love Offering makes the United Methodist connection more visible,” Carroll said. “Most of our connectional giving (apportionments, Special Sundays, UMCOR, Advance Specials) happens almost in isolation, with each church sending its offering to the conference office via a lock box address. With the Love Offering, we all bring our gifts to annual conference session, we see all the participants put their offerings in the basket, and we get a preliminary total the next day. This makes it more visible and more relational.”
Because Love Offering gifts come in throughout the year, the total will be announced after closing the books for 2014.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church