By Chelsea Pardue, writer for Samaritan’s Purse
In the distance, a bomb drops. The flare lights up the window beside a child’s dirty mattress. The child lies awake with wide eyes, trying to cover herself with tattered blankets, but is still scared to fall asleep. In war-torn countries, falling asleep could mean losing the opportunity to run to safety.
Thousands of miles away, in Wilmington, N.C., Rebecca Hennis is playing with her two children, Jude and Sydney. When they go to bed tonight, Rebecca will tuck them into a warm bed with stuffed animals surrounding them. Five-year-old Sydney will snuggle down in them as she safely falls asleep. She hopes that the little girl thousands of miles away will soon find some comfort.
Last week, Sydney, Jude, and their cousin Riley visited Samaritan’s Purse to donate money for more than 100 “Jesus Loves Me” lambs. Ruth Bell Graham came up with the idea for a musical stuffed lamb to encourage suffering children with the melody of “Jesus Loves Me.” We pack these lambs in Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes and distribute them all over the world.
The children formulated this idea at Rebecca’s birthday. She didn’t want gifts for herself, so she decided to take the opportunity to teach her children about the importance of giving to others.
“We’re so blessed to have so much stuff, so I said, ‘Y’all pick out something that we can send to somebody else that doesn’t have anything,’” she said. “And so they both decided to pick out the lamb to send. And then we talked about these children who live in countries where they might be hearing war outside and they don’t have anything to comfort them and how scared they probably are, and that’s when Jude said he didn’t just want to send one lambie, he wanted to send 100 lambies.”
But Jude didn’t stop there. His goal grew even bigger after a conversation he had with his father, Scott.
“He first said 100, and then they asked a little bit later how many people there are in the world,” Scott said. “And I said it’s about 6 billion, and so he said they wanted to do 6 billion. We figured that was about $24 billion.”
The Hennis family decided a goal of 6 billion “lambies” might be a bit much, but they did decide to aim for 100. Sidney started raising money with a lemonade stand. Later, the family attended the Azalea Festival Parade, an annual event in Wilmington. They took water and snacks to sell. Their last event was a yard sale, which resulted in a final amount of more than $400.
“[People] were giving extra money,” Rebecca said. “I’d try to give them change, and they’d say, ‘No, just keep it since it’s going for the lambs.’”
Although the children were initially hesitant to sell some of their toys, they decided to go through with it. Once they started to see the donated money, it became concrete that getting rid of some of their toys would allow children who don’t have any toys to have something to play with.
Now that they’ve met their goal of 100, the children are already planning their next gift. Sydney and Riley want to continue raising money for toy lambs, and Jude wants to also start raising money for sports equipment for children in developing countries. Sydney’s next fundraising idea is for a hot chocolate stand in the winter.
“Hopefully this is the beginning of their lifelong giving to others,” said Rhonda, the children’s grandmother. “It’s good to start them early. We want them to understand that it’s important to give to others because we have a lot.”