Like most boys at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 6-year-old Ethan Gee wanted to win the penny war against the girls.
“Like really, really, really bad,” he agonized. “The girls always win.”
He asked his mother, Sarah, if he could take some pennies from his shark-shaped bank for the contest. They emptied the coins on the table. As they pulled out pennies, they talked about the Kid City contest and how the money was for a special offering to support missionaries sharing Jesus’ love around the world.
Missions wasn’t a new concept for Ethan. Not only did Kid City teach about missions as part of a Wednesday night program at Southern Hills but he personally knew missionaries. He had family members who served with the International Mission Board and this Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® allowed them to tell people about Jesus in other countries.
As the reason for the offering swirled in Ethan’s head, beating the girls didn’t seem quite as important anymore. He fingered the quarters still on the table.
“Can I give it all?” he asked his mom.
“Are you sure, buddy?” Sarah replied. She knew each quarter on the table represented the successful completion of chores like helping to load the dishwasher, picking up toys and vacuuming. Ethan was faithfully saving his quarters to buy LEGO sets. He wrestled with the idea of parting with his “hard earned cash,” finally deciding to just go with the pennies.
The contest that night went down pretty much as Ethan expected — the girls won, again. The 6-year-old, while disappointed, couldn’t stop thinking about how he needed to do more. He had an idea, but it required borrowing his dad’s phone and the shark bank.
The family couldn’t get home from church fast enough for Ethan. When his dad finally handed him the phone, he shot off like a bullet to his room. He propped the phone up on the dresser and pressed play.
“Here’s what I’ve been thinking,” Ethan said solemnly into the camera. “So, there’s some missionaries and we’re raising money at my church for them…I’m trying to raise 1,000 and 100 dollars…but, I only have $6.
“So, if you can bring some offering, that would be wonderful,” he said, then moved closer to the camera to stress his next statement. “This is really, REALLY IMPORTANT!”
Listening outside the room, Sarah couldn’t believe Ethan’s heartfelt appeal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Gifts to this offering are unique in that 100% of it goes to support more than 3,500 missionaries and their families. Every penny—literally—goes to the work of spreading the gospel.
Ethan saw his mom and asked if he could still give all of his money to missions. The request didn’t surprise Sarah. She’d watched him think long and hard about it all day. His explanation, however, touched her very core.
“I have to,” he said, tears welling in his eyes. “I really want that Super Mario LEGO set, but I realized that giving is more important than getting something for yourself.”
Then Ethan handed his mom the phone and brought up his second idea for helping missionaries. He asked if they could put the video he just recorded online, “so maybe the whole world can help.” He was convinced that once everyone understood the reason for the Lottie Moon offering, raising “1,000 and 100 dollars” would be easy.
He got the ball rolling the very next Sunday by emptying the shark bank and stuffing it all in a pocket. He excitedly skipped up the sidewalk and rushed into the church to deposit his missions offering.
Ethan smiled. That’s $6 down and just $1,094 to go.
This article was written by Sue Sprenkle, IMB writer and published at imb.org.