By Pat Snyder
Lincoln (Illinois) Christian Church’s “Harvest of Talents for World Hunger” is a unique ministry that calls on people to use their God-given talents to raise funds to fight world hunger. It is a partnership with International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES) based in Kempton, Indiana, that has sent money and food to hungry people around the world since the mid-1980s.
When it first started in 1984, it included only the Lincoln church family (from toddlers to seniors), along with residents of local nursing facilities and shut-ins. It has grown to include participation from others in this country and around the world. Relatives and friends across the United States create and send handmade items for Harvest each year.arvest is traditional
Food, Crafts, Music, Fellowship
Harvest is traditionally the fourth Saturday in October. As many as 200 shoppers awaiting the Harvest opening are greeted with handshakes and peppermints when the doors open at 7 am. The spacious sales area is filled with hundreds of handmade items for sale, including various forms of stitchery and woodwork, baked goods and canned goods, and handmade items purchased on short-term mission trips or donated by missionaries.
Warm, homemade caramel pecan rolls and cinnamon rolls are traditional breakfast fare. The outside autumn air fills with the aroma of homemade vegetable soup bubbling in large black kettles; the soup is offered for lunch, as are slices of homemade pie.
The celebration of the 25th Harvest last year also included Christian music performers and an assortment of other food booths featuring curly fries, smoked pork sandwiches, walking tacos, snack mixes, hot apple cider, and flavored coffees.
The Maynard potato farm in South Dakota sends a truckload of potatoes annually. Most recently it delivered 650 bags of potatoes (20- and 50-pound bags) that were sold for $5.00 or $10.00 per bag. The potatoes, grown and donated by the family of former minister’s wife Karen Gerdts, are purchased for personal use or donated to local food banks and missions.
Harvest morning 2008 featured the return of the Harvest Run, a 5-kilometer run/walk, cosponsored with the local YMCA, that raises additional funds.
The morning hours included special activities for children from kindergarten through fourth grade under the direction of the Lincoln Christian children’s minister.
Early afternoon finds the craft and food shelves, now nearly bare, being disassembled to make way for the 2 pm auction, the highlight of the day’s activities.
An Auction for Hunger
Quilts pieced and quilted by Indonesian women grace the Harvest auction annually. Mei Tanbunaan of Indonesia learned the art of quilting from Lincoln Christian quilters while visiting the area. She returned to Indonesia where she now designs quilts as a cottage industry of Asia Pacific Christian Mission. The colorful quilts bearing intricate stitches have sold for as much as $5,400 at auction.
Some 90-plus items are auctioned, including quilts and various forms of stitchery made by local Harvest quilters and others, handmade furniture, framed art and photography, jewelry, ceramics, and floral arrangements. In spite of a troubled economy, the 2008 auction raised more than $2,000 above the previous year.
The Harvest has expanded to include an annual concert called “Musical Offering for World Hunger” that features local musicians performing a variety of music, from Broadway show tunes to classical selections. A freewill offering is received.
Not Just at “Harvest” Time
Other associated events occur long before “Harvest” time.
A Spring Tea offers those with the gift of hospitality a venue to display their unique gifts. The Tea, an April sellout each year, features lavishly decorated tea tables from which a selection of handmade tea delicacies are graciously served. A string quartet and colorful spring decor provide a touch of elegance.
On alternate years the Harvest offers a Spring Garden Walk or a Holiday Tour of Homes, again affording those with various gifts of hospitality opportunities to showcase their gifts in the name of the world’s hungry peoples.
A September Golf Play Day gives the men of the community a time of relaxation, Christian fellowship, and a shared meal. The variety of generous door prizes includes a hot air balloon ride.
A year-round aluminum recycling effort yields $2,000 to $3,000 annually. In addition to aluminum cans, the program now includes lawn chairs, storm doors, and other recyclable items.
The 22-member Harvest of Talents for World Hunger ministry team meets at least monthly to plan the annual event. The church facilities have expanded in recent years, affording the Harvest both a large family room and Fellowship Center in which to display the Harvest offerings. Both of these areas are closed to other church activities during Harvest week to allow time for items to be checked in and displays set up.
Displays in downtown store windows and at church, PowerPoint presentations, and a monthly newsletter, Harvest Happenings, are used to keep the Harvest before the church family and community. A 25th anniversary cookbook featuring more than 700 recipes was produced and is available for sale. A lovely, silver, limited-edition, 25th anniversary Christmas ornament bearing the Harvest logo and theme, “Building bridges of hope in Jesus’ name since 1984,” also is available.
IDES also received funds from 2008 Harvests held in Milford and Chillicothe, Illinois, as well as at Unity Christian and Michigantown Christian churches in Indiana.
The Harvest event is bathed with prayer. A prayer calendar distributed 30 days prior to Harvest contains devotions written by members of the church. During the week preceding the Harvest, church staff and elders meet with Harvest team members to pray for God’s blessing on the Harvest. The actual event begins with a devotional by a member of the IDES staff, and then prayer.
Celebration and Thanks
On the Sunday morning after the 2008 Harvest, the Lincoln church sponsored a celebration service at the Earl C. Hargrove Chapel on the campus of Lincoln Christian College and Seminary. Attendance exceeded 1,000 people. Praise and honor and glory were offered up to the Lord of the Harvest as a check for proceeds from the 2008 Harvest was presented to Rick Jett, executive director of IDES.
As of this writing, the Harvest-related total presented to IDES in the name of the world’s hungry people is $83,378.65. An additional check was to be presented to IDES at year-end. All monies raised at Harvest are given to IDES, and 100 percent of these funds are channeled through missionaries to feeding programs and orphanages in Christ’s name.
The 25 Harvests in Lincoln have raised a total of $1,355,372.85 for IDES to feed the hungry in more than 18 countries. Money, however, does not speak of the real victories of the Harvest. Those victories are demonstrated in lives that are changed, very often both givers and receivers. The Harvest brings to life 1 Peter 4:10: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (New American Standard Bible). Harvest helps many discover those special gifts that God has generously instilled in each of us as we do kingdom work.
The final event of each Harvest is a Sunday evening thanksgiving and praise service. It is a time when volunteers and participants can relax, kick back, and praise the Lord of the Harvest.
I remember a poetic drama Barb Curie wrote for the first Harvest thanksgiving service. “I Hear Voices,” spoke of a missionary’s prayer being answered by Harvest funds. It helped all of us remember that the fun, fellowship, and food of the Harvest are only side benefits. Helping relieve world hunger is the true heart and mission of the Harvest of Talents for World Hunger.For more information on the Harvest of Talents for World Hunger at Lincoln Christian Church, or about IDES, contact Lincoln Christian Church at (217) 732-7618 or visit www.ides.org.
Pat Snyder is the founder of Harvest of Talents for World Hunger at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian Church.