It’s humbling to think only 2 years ago we were getting started...seeking opportunities to partner and fund existing ministries on the ground in the 10/40. We knew we had a role to play, but what exactly and how? For reference, we know there are 5 key roles to play in fulfilling the Great Commission:
Through a lot of prayer, soul searching and gift identifying, we at BLESS came together understanding we are not goers...at least not long term and not at this stage of life. Our gifts as event coordinators, fundraisers, prayer warriors, teachers, facilitators & connectors can serve the Kingdom in different ways, offering much needed support for the goers. So, we set off on a journey to identify goers working in five crucial categories (or pillars) to partner with:
The orphan crisis
Working with the missions department at our local church, we found they had already vetted 14 candidates we could start with. We selected one from each pillar that had a project to fund and set the goal of raising $50,000 for each in 2017. Our plan was to host a Christmas concert and storytelling benefit, developing short films portraying the works they were doing and sharing their stories with generous folks in our personal networks. That December, we hosted our first annual Light the World event, combining live Christmas music, video, impactful statistics and a live charity auction to fund our collective goals. 80 volunteers and over 500 guests showed up on a cold December night at an outdoor amphitheater to learn about the incredible and heartbreaking opportunities abroad.
Charity auctions are not unheard of in Austin, Texas...after all, we're home to the Cowboy Auctioneers, who have helped several charities in town raise over $100 million over the past few years...so a lot of our audience knew what to expect. They could buy a live or silent auction package and the proceeds would fund projects from the featured beneficiaries. They also knew at the end of the auction, there would be an opportunity to raise their paddle for an outright gift. Well, as He often does, God multiplied the harvest and raised over $500,000. Exhausted and overwhelmed, we knew this wasn’t a one time event. The needs would continue to grow and we had to as well.
So, we formalized our board of directors and hired an amazing executive director. We dreamed big and prayed bigger. Before we knew it, we had our second annual Light the World planned at Austin City Limits-Moody Theater in downtown Austin. We prayed for an entertainer that could help fill the 2,000 seat venue. We prayed for generous hearts to show and for volunteers, underwriters, sponsors, beneficiaries, production and more.
One day we got a call from the venue, they said Amy Grant called and wanted to play a Christmas show at ACL and for it to be part of a benefit. We were blown away. They told her about us and she loved what we were doing. God answered our prayer.
We filled every sponsorship opportunity we could think of, sold every table, filled every seat and God raised over $1,000,000 that night to further fund and advance His mission. Amy lead the crowd and every voice sang Silent Night, as she told the true Christmas story of baby Jesus, and how He saved her and forever changed her life.
Hers was not the only life forever changed that night. Many in the room were as well. Beyond that, the funds raised will change countless lives in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
As we take a moment to look back over the last 2 years and reflect on the beginning of our journey with BLESS, we kneel in awe of His grace, and the abundant capacity to love across the aisle, the street and the globe.