Ministry Dreams Winners 2011

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To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we’ve spent a
year making your dreams come true! Meet the five final winners of
our Ministry Dreams Come True contest!

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Watch our winners talk about their dreams and what they’ll do with
the funds! Go to childrensministry.com and click on the
Children’s Ministry Videocast link to view winners’ videos!

It’s official: Children’s Ministry Magazine is 20 years young! As
this major anniversary approached, we wanted to celebrate in style.
And we wanted the celebration to be all about you, our faithful
readers and subscribers! To honor the amazing, important work you
do day in and day out, we decided to spend a year giving back —
giving away $20,000 in awards to 20 ministry dreamers. Over 1,000
of you sent in your ideas, plans, hopes, and dreams for your
ministries. Each essay was packed with heartfelt hope and
passion.

Our team has been blessed to read your ministry dreams. It’s been
a thrill — and a real challenge — to choose 20 winners to receive
$1,000 as our way of affirming and supporting the eternal,
wonderful ministry you’re doing.

So read on to meet the five final winners of our Ministry Dreams
Come True contest — and go online to childrensministry.com to check out videos of
the winners and their follow-up stories of how they used the money.
And as you do, be encouraged. Although we couldn’t award every
essay $1,000, we certainly have celebrated every one. We’ve spent
the year celebrating you, praying for you, laughing-and sometimes
crying — as we read your dreams and aspirations for impacting the
lives of children. As we like to say around here, “Yay, you!”

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KRISTA BRANNON and VALERIE BARNES
San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas
Krista wrote: Although I’m in ministry, my ministry dream
isn’t for myself but rather for my best friend, Valerie Barnes.
Valerie is the children’s director at Scotsdale Baptist Church in
El Paso, Texas. Since meeting in seminary six years ago, Valerie
and I have shared our personal and ministry hopes, dreams,
successes, and struggles with each other. I don’t know how anyone
survives or succeeds in ministry without a confidante and prayer
partner like her. Since taking our first ministry jobs out of
seminary, we’ve laughed together, cried together, shared
frustrations, and of course, celebrated together as we watch God
work through our imperfections. I like to believe that I’m
qualified to share her dreams as if they are my own. Among other
things, Valerie has inherited a preschool area built circa 1970. As
certified early childhood educators, we know the importance
environment plays in the development of young children. Valerie
wants the children to be free to play and explore in a safe,
loving, and stimulating environment. She’s worked hard to improve
the area in cost-effective ways. The truth is the area is still in
desperate need of a makeover. She wants to show parents that the
church views young children as significant and worth investing in.
She would love to add age-appropriate furniture, learning
materials, and a storytime carpet to each room. As Valerie strives
to minister to families with young children, I’d love nothing more
than to support and encourage her by helping to provide the
resources she needs to make her ministry dreams come
true!

Our photographer Craig DeMartino met Krista in El Paso, Texas, to
surprise Valerie with the ministry dream win — and then go
shopping!

“This is amazing,” said Valerie when she learned her best friend
had submitted a dream essay on her behalf. “This will make a huge
impact on what we can do with the early childhood area. It’s so
important for parents to see that we value their children, and
making the area more appealing and age-appropriate is a giant step
in that direction!”

MELISSA WAGNER
Huntington, Indiana
Melissa wrote: I’m a part-time children’s pastor at a small
church in a rural town. Our church sits caddy-corner from an
elementary school. It’s “that” school that the rest of the town
wouldn’t want their kids going to. Families are mostly at poverty
level and many parents are unemployed. Although we’re small (about
50-75 adults) on a Sunday morning, God has used a bus ministry and
mid-week program to reach kids in our community. We average between
30 and 50 kids — and growing. My dream is to take all of these
kids to camp for a week. Many have literally never left Huntington.
I want to get them away from the hurts and distractions that keep
them from Jesus. I want them to experience a world bigger than the
few blocks around them. I want them to experience God in nature, to
worship him with other kids, and to have the most fun they’ve ever
had.

After learning that her ministry dream was chosen as a winner,
Melissa said, “I am so grateful! Winning $1,000 for my ministry
dream means that my dream of taking kids from our community to camp
will become a reality. This fuels the passion I have for reaching
our community for Jesus. I know that kids’ lives will be changed. I
believe that those who follow Jesus will catch a vision to reach
their friends, and that we’ll reach even more kids in the community
after camp as we continue our ministry each week. I also know that
this will build community in our church and among the leadership of
our children’s ministry as we have something so exciting to work
toward. I can’t wait to see the fruit God will bring!

“I’ve already contacted a local camp and set up dates for the camp
for the first week of June. And then I started praying and dreaming
about how many kids we can take, counselors, camp themes, and the
list goes on. This win has inspired and challenged me to turn a
God-inspired dream that has been living in me for a while now into
reality. God will use this week to make an eternal impact; 10 years
from now these same kids will say, ‘Remember that week at camp? I
committed my heart to Jesus there and it changed my life.’ “

SHERRI STUFFLEBEEM
Des Moines, Iowa
Sherri wrote: My dream is to help a special needs family in
our ministry. This family adopted twin boys from overseas almost
five years ago. Both boys are blind (the adoptive mother is blind
as well). When the boys first arrived, we thought they were simply
suffering from the effects of a lack of care in their orphanage.
We’ve since discovered severe autism along with other behavioral
and learning disabilities. We struggle to find volunteers who are
equipped to care for them. I’d love to be able to hire respite
workers who are trained to manage the children’s behaviors and make
positive progress with them. One thousand dollars would go a long
way toward hiring a skilled person to step in and help support this
family.

“This money will allow us to share a blessing with a special
family in our ministry — worth so much more than $1,000,” said
Sherri. “The first thing I did was call the family and let them
know that we could now minister better to them. We’ll start looking
for qualified respite staff right away. And I believe maybe God has
an even bigger plan to use this money to help us see beyond our
current efforts for reaching this family!”

ELIZABETH GOETT
Uganda
Elizabeth wrote: I have been doing short-term mission work in
Uganda since 2006, but six weeks ago I moved to Uganda and have
been working with the children there full-time. God has given me a
huge passion for children, especially the little ones of Uganda. My
focus is now on growing the children’s ministry at my
church.

The children have very little; they don’t even have Bibles.
I’d love to be able to buy them Bibles, get good resources to teach
them, and also buy art supplies. It’s a blessing to be a blessing.
I desire to be God’s hands and feet to these children and love him
the way he’s designed me to. I want to teach them about Jesus and
his unfailing love more and more. The children of Uganda are
beautiful, and through children’s ministry I hope to continue to be
able to open their eyes to who Jesus is.

Elizabeth was delighted to hear that her ministry dream won.
Through email, she responded, “I’ve already met with the pastors of
my church, Light the World, and they’d like me to get resources and
plans together to grow the children’s Sunday school! I’m really
excited to see what God is going to do with the children and the
community. Thank you so much for the big news! We at Light the
World Church feel very grateful and blessed to receive this gift.
I’m so excited to use it to further God’s Kingdom!”

BROOK HICKLE
Enumclaw, Washington
Brook wrote: My dream is to give a big, huge thanks to my
amazing group of kidmin volunteers. In the small church where I
volunteer as children’s ministries director, there isn’t a budget
for any volunteer appreciation. I want to do something to wow my
volunteers. I could share individual stories about each volunteer
and how that person has blessed me with a willingness to serve, but
you’d be reading this for six months! I’m so thankful that these
volunteers choose to use their vacation time and other time off to
serve the children in our community. We began our vacation Bible
school program in 2004 with 15 volunteers, and in 2010 we had 150
volunteers! I’d like to charter a bus to a retreat center in the
Cascade Mountains and take my volunteers on a 1-day mini retreat. I
want my volunteers to know that they are making a difference. My
hope for the retreat is that it would not only thank and refresh
them, but encourage them to continue serving and even inspire them
to serve in new ways.

“Our amazing team of volunteers work so hard to bless the lives of
children in our church and our community,” said Brook. “I can’t
wait to bless all of them with a much deserved thank-you. I can
treat and reward my volunteers in a way that I’ve never been able
to do before. I’ve been praying for a way to show them my thanks
and this is an answer to that prayer. No one in our ministry
expects a reward of any sort, so what a fun way to surprise them
and let them know they are vital to our children’s ministry
program. I’m challenged to use the money to do the very most and
make the biggest impact for all my volunteers. This will be an
event that they will remember-for sure!”

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