A Heart for Missions

December 23, 2013 • United States
Help Build A Church

A 16-year-old girl raises money to build a church in South Asia and inspires a 10-year-old to do the same

Last year, Leanna Morris raised more than $4,400 for Children’s Heart Project. The money was enough to bring two needy children from their homes in developing countries to North America to receive life-saving heart surgery.

As soon as she dropped off the check at Samaritan’s Purse headquarters, she began talking about her next fundraiser. She flipped through the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog, and two items caught her eye. The first was a $3,500 gift to build a house for a needy family overseas, and the other was $15,000 to construct a church. The 16-year-old girl set her sights on the big one.

South Asia Church Rebuild Donor

When 10-year-old Mary Maxwell found out about Leanna’s mission, she decided to get involved by selling earrings.

“I just felt like I could do something bigger,” she said. “I was looking through the magazine again, and I just felt like that’s the one I needed to do.”

For Children’s Heart Project, Leanna’s family hosted a spaghetti dinner at their church to raise the funds. But this time, although they joked about cooking $15,000 worth of spaghetti, they knew they had to do something larger. First, nine people in their church agreed to form a committee to help raise the money. Then the planning began.

Leanna came up with several ideas. One of the easiest was to write a letter to the hosts of the syndicated radio show “The John Boy and Billy Big Show” asking for a shout-out. But when John Boy received the letter, he wanted to do more. He and his wife donated $5,000 to kick off the project.

“That was our motivator,” said Leanna’s mother, Christy.

It was encouraging for the committee to see that they already had a third of their goal before they even started actively fundraising. They planned a silent and live auction and asked Stomping Ground Coffee Shop in their hometown of Greer, S.C., to donate 10 percent of their proceeds one day. All the musicians who played at the coffee shop that day also donated their tips.

The auction brought in $11,000. Leanna had already met her goal, and Stomping Grounds hadn’t even donated their money yet. That added around $1,650, and individuals continued to donate.

Leanna’s actions inspire others

As Leanna continued raising money, she met a 10-year-old girl named Mary-Maxwell Chambers. The young girl had been collecting information about missionaries and prayed for them each night.

“A mutual friend was like, ‘I have a great role model for your daughter,’” said Mary-Maxwell’s mother, Lora Gaines. “‘I want her to meet this girl that’s 16 years old that’s on fire for the Lord.’ She knew Mary-Maxwell had a heart for missions. This was a perfect fit for her. We’re just excited to be a part of this program.”

Mary-Maxwell decided to help Leanna by making earrings. She sold them at school for a couple of days and then to other friends and family. She raised more than $1,000 to contribute to Leanna’s growing fund. By that time, they had reached $26,000.

South Asia Church Rebuild

Leeanna presents her check to Samaritan’s Purse COO Ron Wilcox

Once again, Leanna’s family decided to bring the money to Samaritan’s Purse headquarters. This time, Mary-Maxwell and her mother came along. Since selling earrings for the church, Mary-Maxwell has worked to raise money to buy a lamb and is considering other projects. Her mother said she’s just starting.

“I think that what happens with Leanna, it gets to be contagious,” said Marney Hannon, one of the committee members at the church.

Leanna was the perfect role model for Mary-Maxwell. She showed her how to take her passion for praying for missionaries and turn it into supporting people around the world. Now Mary-Maxwell’s dreams are as big as Leanna’s.

“I love missions and I love Christ, and hopefully when I grow up I can do what Leanna did,” she said.

The two girls have already made a big difference for the people who will attend the church that’s being built. Only weeks before Leanna decided to raise the funds, Samaritan’s Purse had received a proposal from a pastor in South Asia to build a church in a mostly Hindu and Muslim area. The congregation is currently meeting in a temporary structure.

The estimate for the church building was slightly above $15,000, so Leanna’s gift can help cover the extra cost. Also, the extra money can help complete phase two of the church, which could include installation of carpet and the purchase of furnishings such as tables and chairs.

Most importantly, this building will allow the congregation to better reach others in their community with the message of the Gospel. For Leanna and Mary-Maxwell, that’s the important part.

“It’s good because they’re going to have the experiences I’ve had in my church,” Leanna said. “I want it to have a positive effect. Hopefully it will grow.”