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Kingdom Assignment provides love ripples

Posted: February 28 2024 at 09:00 AM
Author: by Liliana Smith, daughter of NIC Communications Specialist Lisa Smith and Rev. Matthew Smith

The ripple effect of love was felt throughout the Belvidere community and beyond when the people of First United Methodist Church in Belvidere turned $100 bills into acts of compassion. 

In September, Rev. Jim Bell, senior pastor at FUMC, gave a “Kingdom Assignment” to 60 members of the church: he gave $100 bills to each and told them to do good with the money. It was inspired by a project started by Denny and Leesa Bellisi, pastors from California, who had read the book Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  

On Dec. 17, those 60 people shared the results at the Belvidere High School Performing Arts Center. 

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One of the Kingdom Assignment groups with their donations.

Over 20 projects were initiated with the money. Some took the opportunity to partner with other members to make the money go further, some people took the money and made an individual impact, and some members reached out to other close family friends and associates and asked them to take part in their projects. 

“One of the objectives was multiplication; multiplication of partners and impact, not necessarily of money,” said Rev. Bell. “The assignments that are the most meaningful touch the most neighbors.”  

During the gathering, the church’s praise band led lively music for all to enjoy. Bell shared words of inspiration, and then those who fulfilled the assignment described their projects. 

Sue Holmes shared how her husband, Dan Holmes, used the money. He bought a loom from Midwest Mission and gathered plastic bags to make plarn (plastic yarn) mats for the homeless. They then donated these mats to Miss Carly’s in Rockford and other organizations that help those without homes.  (Learn more about plarn projects across the conference here.)

Ann Wandike, from Rock Valley College, was a foster mom of more than 50 kids. She started scholarships for young individuals coming out of foster care, with additional funding from a local foundation.  

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The Tillmas with the donated backpacks at Carpenter’s Place.

Mark and Jenny Tillema sent 33 letters to close friends and family, asking them to match the $100 or donate food and money. What started with $200 turned into $1,500. They used the money to fill 18 backpacks with daily needed items for those experiencing homelessness, like socks, food, blankets, etc. At Carpenter’s Place in Rockford, these backpacks were given out to the newly homeless. The ripples of the people receiving backpacks will continue to positively impact the community. 

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Rev. Pam Rossmiller, a retired pastor, made kindness manger kits (something like an Advent calendar) with Jeff Straight, another church member, and a multigenerational group of volunteers. The Frazier family worked with a local Hispanic church to provide Bibles for 35 youth. Terry Trip helped homeless veterans in Arizona. 

Many of the projects focused on helping children in the community, such as supporting Perry Elementary School’s gardening club; purchasing fitness equipment for those in risk of obesity; and providing reading materials, phonics equipment, diapers, and personal care items for schools and families. This increases kids’ positive attitudes and education, creating a helpful change for our community. 

More projects included breakfast for a Bible study group, providing a potato-bar meal as a thank-you for teachers, a text-message communication system for the church, and organizing a parent’s night out before Christmas.  

The church’s associate pastor, Rev. Jay Shin, said that the Kingdom Assignment shows that ”the people we have touched are the people God cares for.” 

The church plans on doing the Kingdom Assignment again next year. They are looking to add more money and to more people. Bell plans on making it open to the community and convincing other churches to offer the Kingdom Assignment. 

Visit Belvidere's First UMC's website to watch a video of the event.

Read a Northern Public Radio article about the event here.

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