Eleven-year-old donates vacation money to IMB, challenges others to match it

It didn’t seem like much—just $32.20—but it was all this 11-year-old had. The small stash represented 6 months of household chores and errands, not to mention the self-discipline needed to save instead of spending it on treats.

The more Abby Cavanaugh* thought about the money, the more her heart prodded her to pull it out of its secret hiding place. She counted it one last time and took all of it to her parents who were still sitting at the table after family devotions.

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The family of seven had just finished praying for an estimated $4 million shortfall at the IMB due to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. IMB president Paul Chitwood announced that the impact of COVID-19 resulted in a shortfall of giving just as the agency needed to evacuate and relocate many personnel due to a variety of reasons including “expiring visas, closed borders and special health or family circumstances.” Some were required to leave everything behind and start a new life in another harvest field. The Cavanaughs prayed that God would provide for the 3,000-plus Christian workers—like their own family in East Asia—sharing the light of Jesus around the world.

“I know it probably won’t help much, but I don’t need it for the beach anymore,” the 11-year-old said, laying the $32.20 on the table. Like almost everyone else around the world, her vacation plans with grandparents back in the United States were canceled. “I want to gift it [to the IMB] … to help.”

Her mother wasn’t surprised that her generous and soft-hearted child wanted to share what she had with others. But when Abby hung her head, as if embarrassed that the gift wasn’t big enough to make an impact, the parents jumped into action.

“What if it’s not just you giving?” her parents asked.

They each pledged to match the $32.20 gift, giving a total of $96.60 to the IMB. The family went one step further and took to social media, issuing Challenge 32 to their friends and family. Abby shyly explained that they dropped the 20 cents in the challenge because “32 sounded better than 32.20.”

So far, 108 people have pledged to donate $32 to the IMB. At face value, Abby’s gift has multiplied to almost $3,500 but many of those donating gifted $32 for each person in their family. One fellow Christian worker donated based on every child on his ministry team—15. Even the IMB president accepted the challenge.

“I don’t even know 100 people,” Abby said, excited and in awe of the response. “That’s a lot of people but maybe we can make it even bigger with God’s help.”

The money goes to help others know about Jesus through projects like Abby’s family did recently. They prepared COVID-19 care packages for their neighbors in East Asia. These included some pre-packaged snack food, toilet paper, manga comic tracts and the book of John in gift bags. They tied it to doors in their apartment complex—paying close attention to the country’s isolation guidelines. Inside the package was a special message of love from their family.

Chitwood affirmed in a statement about the budget shortfall that even with social distancing guidelines in most countries, there is a need for Christian witness now more than ever. Workers all over the world are finding unique ways to reach out to their hurting communities. He encouraged Southern Baptists to rally together through giving and praying.

Abby’s Challenge 32 not only responds to Chitwood’s call but is also reminiscent of another challenge issued by Baptist women in the late 1800s. Back then, women saved small amounts of money from selling butter, eggs and knitting. Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon challenged these women to pool their “egg money” to support missions. They realized there was strength in their collective giving as they surpassed their goal of sending one Christian worker to the field by sending three.

“It’s kind of like the widow’s mite,” the 11-year-old explained, referencing the Bible story from Mark 12. “God wants us to give whatever we have to him. It doesn’t matter how small, he’ll use it.”

To participate in Challenge 32, go to https://www.imb.org/give-now/ or give through your local church or the SBTC to the IMB. Consider telling your local church, SBTC or the IMB that the gift is in response to Abby’s Challenge 32.

*Name changed

Sue Sprenkle is a freelance journalist. This article was first published in Texas Online on May 19, 2020.

This article was originally published by the International Mission Board at imb.org

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