A church and children’s home in India was able to purchase the building in which they operate, due in large part to the extraordinary efforts of a Calvin College student.
Danielle Sheffield (right), a sophomore from Rochester, Michigan majoring in international development, raised $8,524 this summer to help Hope Chapel, located in Tamil Nadu, India, purchase the building in which they were meeting. Sheffield attained her financial goal in two months.
“I had a lot of doubt that this would come together,” she said. “I kind of feel like God led me through this whole experience because I’ve grown a lot from it.”
Sheffield visited Hope Chapel during a short-term mission trip to India last summer through Jenison-based Mission Possible. She was introduced to the congregation by Reverend P.C. Varghese (with Sheffield above), the founder of Good News for Asia, who had planted the church. After she preached the sermon that Sunday -- which Varghese had asked her to do a mere two days prior, Sheffield said -- she learned that the church might have to relocate.
“At lunch, P.C. mentioned that he was in the process of trying to raise $15,000 because there was a Hindu group that was trying to oust the church and the orphanage that the church had created,” she said. “The Hindu group was basically going to buy them out and use it for their religious purposes. This was the first church he had planted, and it’s already so hard for them to stay in the community.”
She and the other team members discussed what they could do.
“All I could think of was that I’m from Oakland County, which is a pretty affluent area," Sheffield said, "and $15,000 is less than some of my friends’ cars cost. It’s way less than we pay for tuition for a year here.”
Sheffield did nothing, however, until she dreamed the same dream three nights in a row.
“In the dream, I went home and started telling people about the church,” she said. “And in my dream, I was able to get the funds raised.”
With encouragement from Varghese (“P.C. never doubted I could raise the money,” she said) Sheffield returned home to do some fund raising.
She faced two serious obstacles. One was a misunderstanding about when the money was needed. Sheffield thought she had until October.
“Then I got an e-mail from P.C. saying the deadline was July 30.”
The other was her dislike of fundraising.
“I really don’t like asking people for money,” she said.
With a limited timeframe, Sheffield turned first to the people she knew best: friends and family.
“Considering the fact that they’d already sent me to India, they were very generous,” she said. Quite quickly she had raised $4,500, but there the project stalled. Then someone told her to collect change.
“I said, ‘Change? Really,’ and he said, ‘You’ll be surprised,’” she recalled.
Sheffield made up cans that said “Change for change in India” and went door to door-to varied responses. Some people were offended; some were enthusiastic. Sheffield said she was particularly encouraged by the example of a little boy who answered the door and, upon learning her mission, ran to give her the $3 in his bank.
“That was probably everything he had, and it took him forever to save it. It was really inspiring,” she said.
By the July deadline, Sheffield had raised half the funds needed to purchase the Hope Chapel building. The U.S.-based Good News for Asia board and other donors, based in the U.S, contributed the remainder of the money to complete the purchase.
The money was an immense blessing to the New Hope congregation, said Varghese, who was at Calvin this week as part of a visit to the U.S.
“They are really happy that they have their own church now.”
He praised Sheffield for her commitment to helping the congregation.
“She is a very nice young girl," he said, "and she has a vision for missions.”
“We thought it was just an awesome thing that a girl would hear that God was telling her to help raise this money for this church,” said Dave Kapteyn, a former Good News for Asia Mission Development Coordinator. “It’s amazing to see that our young adults coming up, not only hear when God is speaking to them, but take action. She exemplifies what Christian should be today: not just a hearer of the word, but a doer.”
Her family and friends echo this kind of praise, Sheffield said, but she doesn't feel that way.
“I knocked on some doors and got the word out, but I look at it as God using my minimal efforts to impact people’s hearts in a really big way.”
Sheffield said she’d like to go into missions someday, and, indeed, Varghese has offered the entire mission team teaching jobs in one of his schools.
“We would teach during the week and travel around with him doing ministry. That is something I would really love to do, she said, adding, “I’d have to wait until I graduate, but that seems so far away.”
~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson
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