‘Like catching lightning in a bottle’: Embrace Church members multiply $40,000 reverse offering

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In early December, congregants at the Embrace Church received something out of the ordinary; envelops containing cash. This reverse offering was given with the instructions to do something creative with it to benefit others, and if possible, to double it. KELOLAND News checked in Monday to see how that process has gone.

Travis Larsen and his wife Cassie are members of the Tea Embrace congregation, and they have more than doubled their offering. The Larsens’ envelop had $20 in it. Larsen says that he isn’t exactly the most creative of people, but between himself and his wife, they came up with an idea.

“We were watching football and somebody was over at my house and had mentioned how great the blankets were — then we kind of came up with the idea that we wanted to try to put together money to buy as many blankets as we could to provide to whomever might be in need,” said Larsen.

Larsen took their idea to Facebook, posting about it and asking friends to donate. “I am stepping outside of my comfort zone here,” wrote Larsen before diving into his pitch. Initially, the goal had been $1,000. Within 24 hours, that goal had been fulfilled. With a friend matching donations up to $1,000, the Larsens had raised $2,765.

Having seen success, the family updated the goal, raising it this time to $4,000. Three days later, Larsen gave another update, announcing they had broken their $4,000 goal, officially hitting $4,520.

That was Friday, December 17. As of Monday, Larsen had another update.

“This morning I was tallying everything up, and it ended up being $5,005,” said Larsen. That’s shaking out to be a lot of blankets.

“The ones we’re buying are from Sam’s Club,” said Larsen. “I think it’s going to be right around 340 blankets.” Larsen has already ordered 200 blankets with the donations that had been coming in, and will be ordering the rest promptly.

Larsen says that he never expected this much of a response. “We had no idea,” he said “but we’ve got a pretty great group of close friends and family that helped out.”

The exact destination of the blankets has not yet been determined, but Larsen says he’s reached out to East River Foster Parent Network, Clothing Closet and Street Corner Revival, and plans to reach out to a few more.

Asked if he thinks this is something they could recreate next year, Larsen was cautiously optimistic. “It’s pretty cool, the way that it’s gone — it’s like catching lightening in a bottle — you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to do it again, but we’ll certainly give it a shot.”

Larsen said that raising all this money for a good cause feels cool, but that he believes the best part is yet ahead. “I think the warmth is still to come with dropping them off,” he said, without acknowledging the expert blanket themed pun he’d just dropped.

Embrace Church lead pastor Adam Weber is pleased with the way things have gone this year.

“The challenge was to bless somebody else,” he explained “just to go and show kindness.” Weber says this is the second year the church has done this reverse offering challenge, and that the point is to activate the congregation.

“I don’t want to just pastor a church that’s inward focused,” Weber said. “What’s important is what we do outside the walls.”

Weber says the $40,000 came out of the church’s budget, and that it’s an increase over the $15,000 they gave out last year. While that’s a lot to takeout of the church budget, Weber says it’s worth it. “The crazy thing about generosity is — the more you randomly give away; it’s like kindness — the more you give it away, somehow, someway it comes back.”

The response he has seen has made Weber say he knows he wants to do this again next year. “One person took a $50 bill, and it’s now over $6,000,” he said “and [the person] is working with local principals to find families that don’t have food.”

This is just one example that Weber provided of the ways his congregation has used their portion of the offering. Another person started with $20 and raised enough to buy gifts for all the boys at McCrossan Boys Ranch. A teacher took her envelop, doubled it, and bought winter clothes for a child in her class who had none.

Going forward, Weber wants what he calls the heart of generosity to continue. “That it would be more than just lip-service, but that it would be something that’s lived out in our day-to-day lives,” he said.

“This isn’t something special,” Weber emphasized. “It should be the norm — we’ve been given so much, all of us — and it should be the norm to help and bless other people.”

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