Written by Gregg Brekke
After 11 days of red wagons filling up with healthy food, thousands of letters sent to Congress, sermons delivered by cereal boxes and purple hippos, 11-foot rocket ships and peace signs made of cans of food, pastors evicted from pulpits due to growing mounds of food donations, a pumpkin patch of bags filled with food, and monetary donations pouring in, Mission:1 ended successfully Friday, Nov. 11.
"This has truly been something we felt like we could get behind and contribute to along with the whole church," remarked Kelly Barefoot of Calvary UCC in Thomasville, N.C.
Mission:1's goal was four-pronged: to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks; to raise $111,111 for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief; and to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide by sending more than 11,111 letters to Congress.
By campaign's end, the letters goal had been tripled and the food goal had reached 1.25 million items. The online tote board used to track accomplishments was left online over the weekend so that churches caught in the early winter snows the weekend of Nov. 6 could complete their Mission:1 efforts.
"We thank God and our people for the fabulous response and we thank our national UCC for the terrific idea," said Norma Klemme of Zion UCC in Union, Mo.
On Sunday evening, Nov. 13, monetary donations received for hunger-related ministries had topped $91,000 and monies for East Africa relief stood at more than $94,000. However, tallies of committed funds to the two causes not yet received by the UCC's national offices in Cleveland added up to more than $130,000. An updated total will be announced in a few weeks.
"It is very clear that we are going to exceed all our goals," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries. "Perhaps in the end, we will collect more than $300,000, $400,000 –– even half a million dollars."
During Mission:1, congregations across the United States found new and innovative ways to spread the spirit of the campaign motto, "that they may all be 1" (John 17:21), throughout their local communities.
The Sunday school at First Congregational UCC in Bedford, Mass., held a walk-a-thon even after a sudden snowstorm caused power outages throughout the area. In Corning, N.Y., youth from First Congregational UCC slept outside on the church grounds the evening of Nov. 4 –– when local temperatures dipped into the 20s –– in order to raise awareness of the people without adequate shelter or heat.
Churches took humorous approaches to advocacy and food collection as well. The Rev. Jeanne Lischer of Immanuels UCC-Holstein in Missouri kicked off the church's Mission:1 celebration dressed up as a box of cereal. At St. John UCC in Wood River, Ill., the Rev. Mike Southcombe delivered his Nov. 13 sermon dressed as a purple hippo –– the result of a bet lost to St. John youth, who exceeded 1,111 items of health food collected for local food pantries during Mission:1.
Sun Lakes (Ariz.) UCC collected 1,389 food items during Mission:1. "We are a small congregation in a senior retirement community," said the Rev. Vernon Meyer, "so this was a big success for us."
Across the United Church of Christ, from urban settings to rural communities, local churches expressed thanks for a mission campaign that connected to the denomination and yet stressed the importance of the local community.
"Our church is in a time of transition and this has helped to bring some new energy and hope for our future as we reach out to the many in need here at home and around the world," wrote a pastor from Maryland.
First Congregational UCC in Silverton, Colo., formed a partnership with the local school to foster education about hunger-related issues and collect healthy food items. By Nov. 1, the community and church had already raised 100 pounds of food.
A pastor in
Connecticut summed up Mission:1 the best: "How do you make many into one?
Ask the many to join together in one mission, one goal, one heart of
compassion. Ask, and you will receive …"
Check out the Mission:1 tally board along with Mission:1 stories from around the UCC.