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Small Rural Church Raises Money for Others to Attend CHIC

\What do you do once your youth group’s trip to CHIC is fully funded?

If you’re Pastor Rich Moore at Evangelical Covenant Church in Sloan, Iowa, you raise support for someone else. In this case, it’s four students from Mending Wings, a Native American youth organization in Washington that serves sixth- through twelfth-grade students of the Yakama nation and their families.

“We want to be able to share and to encourage others to be able to go,” Moore said.

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Youth with Mending Wing dances her prayer

“There’re very few groups that could say they have met their fundraising goal by the first of April,” Moore said, but that’s more or less where the Sloan group found themselves this year.

So how do you raise support for another group?

If you’re Moore, you rock.

Moore, the three CHIC-bound youth from Sloan, and the two other adult sponsors are holding a twenty-four-hour rocking chair Rock-a-Thon starting at noon on Saturday, May 2. Each of the participants has obtained pledges for each hour that they are able to sit in a rocking chair, with brief periodic bathroom and stretch breaks. The event will be at the church, and will end with the regular Sunday service on May 3.

To support the Yakama students, Moore is donating all of his pledges to their fee and travel expenses. He plans to join the Rock-a-Thon at midnight and rock for the last twelve hours of the fundraiser, which would include leading the church service from his rocking chair.

“I was really encouraged that the congregation bought into my doing it for another group,” Moore said.

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Rich Moore getting ready to rock with his favorite reading material

Moore first approached Jorden Meyers, ECC manager of events, last year about helping another youth group raise money. “We normally don’t get calls like this, saying ‘Hey, we want to give money somewhere,’” Meyers said.

Moore originally thought of students who were potentially coming from Alaska, since he knew they would likely have significant travel expenses. Then in March, Meyers thought to partner Moore with a church that was thinking of bringing students to CHIC this year. That church decided that due to the cost, it wasn’t going to be an option for them this time around. So Meyers suggested the Yakama group.

Corey Greaves is the president of Mending Wings, which he co-founded with his wife, Gina, in 2006. Today it is one of the largest Native American faith-based youth organizations in the country.

Greaves works closely with several Covenant congregations and will lead a CHIC workshop on rethinking missional paradigms, especially short-term summer youth mission trips. He invited his students to demonstrate Yakama dance and music at the workshop and help give other youth at CHIC an idea of what it’s like to follow God in a Native cultural context.

To help cover the trip costs, Greaves has some ideas for fundraisers that his students will do over the summer such as car washes, but considering “the realities of the reservation,” there aren’t a lot of resources to tap.

“I guess that’s why we’re really relying on some other folks to help us get there, and in return we would give them what we have to offer,” he said. “That would be our gift back.”

Greaves expects that this will be a unique experience for his students.

“I don’t know that they know what to expect,” he said. “I think the big thing for them is that they’re really excited that they can come and share their faith and spirituality as Yakama followers of the Jesus way.”

For his part, Moore has high hopes for any students going to CHIC, wherever they’re from or whatever their background. “I know what a benefit having a student go to CHIC is,” Moore said. “I’ve seen the difference it makes in the lives of the students at our church.”

“If me sitting in a rocking chair for twelve hours will give some other student the opportunity to do that, bring out the rocking chair!”

This is not the first time the church in Sloan has helped out another student. Three years ago they helped pay for a young woman from a different church in Iowa to attend CHIC 2012.

Moore said the Sloan church has an average attendance of 40 on Sunday mornings, but the small congregation has always been very supportive of the youth ministry and CHIC. “We did talk about how it would be nice to find another group, to be able to help them,” Moore said. “Our church understood that we’re very fortunate.”

“I think it’s a way to show the students that the world is bigger than us,” Moore added.

“You don’t have to be a big group to make a difference, you just have to have a heart to want to do something bigger than you.”

For Meyers, it has become increasingly evident that for lower-income churches, “sending the students to CHIC seems like a big justice issue.” Meyers said he and the CHIC organizing team have been considering how more partnerships could be established between youth groups with different resources.

“We’ve been trying to figure out what’s a good model that is sustainable,” Meyers said.

If you’re interested in making a Rock-a-Thon pledge, contact Pastor Rich Moore at revrjmoore@gmail.com. You can also send a check directly to the church at P.O. Box R, Sloan, IA 51055; include a note that it’s for the Rock-a-Thon and the Yakama youth.

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