"What was your third favorite christmas present last year?" That was the question senior pastor Steve Wheeler asked Cross View Lutheran Church members right before challenging them to give away the church’s entire Sunday offering on one of the biggest giving weeks of the year. This was the culmination of a special project with the slogan: “Redeeming Christmas: Changing up Christmas To Change Lives.” The goal was to supply as much equipment as possible for a newly constructed dental clinic at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya.
Thinking back to that moment, Wheeler noted that most people had a hard time remembering what their third favorite present was. Many even had trouble thinking of their most favorite. The leadership of Cross View challenged their church to do something radically generous. By giving up that third present or holding back on things like new decorations, they were challenged “to give something up to change someone else's life.”
Success for this project was defined as “doing as much as we all can do; to think beyond ourselves for others.” When asked what he thought might be possible Wheeler said, “I’d be happy with $30,000. I’d be even more happy with $40,000 or $50,000.”
Not knowing what would come in, he was blown away by the response. When the final tally came, donations totaled $114,296. Wheeler says that “it was the largest single mission offering in the history of the congregation and allowed them to virtually furnish the entire clinic.” He notes that one of the most amazing parts is how everyone participated. “This was not just a few larger donors but children with bags of change, adults—everyone contributed.” Everyone gave up something to pass on a lasting gift to people they would never meet. The church also collected toothbrushes, held a fundraising bazaar and wrote personal notes to go along with the gift.
Dentist Dr. Tim Clavin was their connection to Kenya. He regularly gives of his time to do missionary dental work in Kenya and shared how deep the need is. “When we see them, they have truly life-threatening conditions that could have easily been prevented by what we know as regular dental care,” Clavin says. One individual suffered from swelling the size of a grapefruit that could have easily been helped by a regular checkup.
Clavin saw this as an opportunity to resource the local clinic so that these simple things could be addressed. He adds, “Ten years from now, people will continue to be served and lives saved because of this church. It is easy to talk about materialism in the United States. But when you see a body of people have the faith to give up traditional Christmas things for people they’ll never see, it knocked me over.”
In celebrating the completion of this project Wheeler says, “It took a long time and a lot of prayers for this project to come to completion, but God be praised that all of the equipment made it to the clinic. The prayers of God’s people were answered most beautifully. None of the equipment was stolen or lost.”
The dental clinic officially opened its doors in Kenya over the summer to much fanfare, including visits from dignitaries like the president of Kenya.