The Hilltop Assembly of God Church congregation releasing balloons, each with a sponsord child's name on it.
Hilltop Assembly of God Church in Westminster, Maryland, has proven that a small congregation can pack a powerful punch. In less than a year, the church has delivered a serious blow to poverty by finding sponsors for dozens of children in need and by funding an entire Child Survival Program (CSP) in Ethiopia.
Pastor Pete Puckett fully supported the idea of becoming a Compassion church partner, but it was his wife, Joan, and her multichurch women's fellowship group that started the "wildfire" for Compassion within the Hilltop congregation.
The women's group was looking for a mission focus. They felt God was leading them to help children, but they were not sure how. Joan contacted Compassion Regional Advocates Manager Mark Pellingra, who thought the women's group would be a great source of support for a Child Survival Program. The women agreed.
The women organized their first sponsorship event in December 2007, where they raised more than U.S.$8,000 for the Child Survival Program and helped find sponsors for 21 children! "I just thought all churches were doing this and we were so far behind," said Joan.
Their success and enthusiasm caught the attention of Hilltop leadership. Since then, this small church of 147 members has not skipped a beat. Hilltop participated in its first Compassion Sunday event on April 13, 2008, and with Pastor Puckett's blessing, the entire church took a stand against poverty.
The event began with a flag procession. Children carried flags into the sanctuary representing the 17 countries of Hilltop's sponsored children. Then the children sang a worship song in Spanish. Hilltop's Compassion Advocates then presented a $20,000 check to Mark Pellingra for Compassion to support a Child Survival Program.
"It is incredibly humbling to see a church of this size making such a huge impact," said Mark.
At the end of the service, the congregation went outside and released balloons, each printed with a sponsored child's name. An international luncheon followed, making the entire day a global event.
Hilltop averages a weekly Sunday attendance of 180 people. The congregation is small, but their hearts are big when it comes to fighting poverty. Today Hilltop has 12 Compassion Advocates, 85 sponsored children from 22 countries, 63 sponsors, and one fully funded Child Survival Program.
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