When Cornerstone Evangelical Church in Arkansas, a congregation of about 30, decided to respond to the Fuller Center Haiti Home Church Challenge, the overwhelming results surprised even them.
After discussing the challenge to sponsor a home at a congregational meeting, minister Walt Barfield counted the promised gifts at $3,800. But by the end of last Sunday’s worship service, the total jumped to $12,000–or four houses in Haiti. And in the past few days a few more phone calls from church members brought the total to $21,000.
Though the church is not Baptist, Barfield has a relationship with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship National Disaster Response Coordinator, Charles Ray, and The Fuller Center. Barfield told Ray in February that he was asking and praying that his church sponsor a modestly-priced $3,000 home. That alone was enough to catch Ray’s attention.
"I couldn’t get his dream out of my mind and began thinking that if little Cornerstone could build a house why couldn’t others?" Ray said.
He traveled with another CBF coordinator, Ray Higgins to Cornerstone for a visit on March 7. Barfield announced the $3,800 pledge. Ray and Higgins spoke to the 24 attendees.
"I told the group about the email from Walt and how moved I had been," Ray said. "Because of Walt’s compassion I was going to begin making other groups aware of the need, and to urge them to follow Cornerstone’s example."
After they sat down, a woman called out from the congregation, bringing a check for $3,000 forward. Ray said the dynamic of the room changed, calling it "spirit-filled." Soon another woman brought a check forward. Whatever the church raised, she announced, she would match.
"If you have lost count, that’s four houses and $12,000," Ray said. Since then, another three members of the church have donated bringing the total to seven home sponsorships.
"The Spirit of the Lord prevailed," Barfield said. "We were all overwhelmed at the response."
But the story isn’t over. Ray shared the response of the small congregation at a Haitian Roundtable Conference held by the Baptist World Alliance in Washington, D.C.
"I received a call from Paul Montacute, Secretary General of Baptist World Alliance (BWA) asking how they might become involved in the house project," Ray said.
Yesterday, he sent word that their commitment was $30,000. (Look for more updates on this as the plans and partnership grow.)
Since The Fuller Center issued a challenge for each church in The U.S. to sponsor a home in Haiti, the response has been incredibly positive and hasn’t slowed down. Nearly $300,000 in home sponsorships are either pledged or fully donated–most from within the faith community.
"That’s commitments for the first 100 families before we have even dug the first foundation," Kirk Lyman-Barner, director of the Faith Builders program, said. "This is unprecedented in terms of The Fuller Center, but the need is so great. Our challenge is to increase commitments by 10 fold and then 100 fold."
"To accomplish this, we need pastors and lay leadership in the faith community sharing our story and vision hope for Haiti. We intend to be building in Haiti for a long, long time," he said.