Christians are encouraged to give of their time, talents and treasure to further God’s Kingdom. A classic example of that takes place next month in the water at the Olive Branch Family YMCA.
Fifteen-year-old Amelia Jane Strozier of Olive Branch has a talent for swimming. The homeschooled teenager has taken the time to organize a fundraiser using the swimming talent she and others like her have that will, in turn, provide treasure, in the form of funds, to support a mission program in Haiti.
The fundraiser, called Laps for Lapila, will be held in the Olive Branch Family YMCA pool on Saturday, Sept. 22, starting at 11:30 a.m. Participating swimmers are asked to collect pledges from friends and family who will contribute money for each lap the swimmer does in the pool during a specific time period.
“The day of the event, they swim for 30 minutes as many laps as they can,” Strozier said. “Once they get the money turned in, they’ll turn it in to me and we send the money on to Uncle Fred and Aunt Joyce.”
Fred and Joyce Wall, Amelia Jane’s great uncle and aunt, have been missionaries through the Word for the World Baptist Missions in La Pila, Haiti for nearly 40 years. They run a medical clinic and a Bible school there. The couple is also in the process of building a library at that location.
Strozier was inspired to start the fundraiser last year after reading a book that challenged her to step forward in faith.
“Last year, I read a book called, ‘Do Hard Things’ and it was about teenagers doing things that people didn’t expect to forward God’s Kingdom,” Strozier said. “I really felt called to do something and it took me awhile but I know how to swim and I have missionaries in Haiti, so I put two-and-two together and started Laps for Lapila.”
“Do Hard Things” is a work written by Alex and Britt Harris. They are twins who, at the age of 18, co-authored the book to challenge teenagers to “rebel against low expectations.”
Strozier learned last year what happens when low expectations about what God can do are set.
“Last year blew me away,” Strozier said. “I was hoping to raise $2,000 and we ended up raising $10,000,” adding her goal for this year is for the fundraiser to generate at least $12,000.
Strozier said her great uncle and aunt are really thankful for she has been able to do for their mission work.
“They said nobody’s ever done anything like it before,” Strozier said. “Uncle Fred kept telling me that God was going to blow me off my feet with how much we’d raise and He did for sure.”
Amelia Jane’s father Bryan Strozier added he’s been excited to see how his daughter has stepped out in faith.
“Amelia Jane is the most introverted, not-outgoing person,” he noted. “To have her do this and push her out of her shell is really exciting to see God move her into something well beyond I would have expected.”
Part of her shyness comes out when Amelia Jane walks into businesses to seek sponsorships, which continue to be needed for the Laps for Lapila event. But she acknowledges that God is walking with her when she approaches the business community for help.
“Every time I walk into a business looking for sponsorships I get nervous because it’s my hardest part of it but I get to see how God works and it’s way better than I thought it would be,” Amelia Jane said.
“It’s exciting to see her step up and step out,” Bryan added. “Part of the funding is to create the door prizes for the swimmer who raises the most money, the one who does the most laps, stuff like that. Having sponsors who can donate prizes that’ll interest that group or fund the purchase of those prizes are needed.”
Amelia Jane said more swimmers and sponsors are being sought for Laps for Lapila. Last year a total of 26 swimmers took part. Those who may be interested in supporting Strozier’s effort may email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information. A Facebook page, “Laps for Lapila” is also available to learn more about the effort.
Amelia Jane acknowledges the sponsors and dedicated swimmers of last year. Bryan Strozier said his uncle and aunt are grateful for what will soon come from a Mid-South swimming pool to further God’s Kingdom in Haiti.
“One of the statements that Fred had told us was that in the 30-plus years he’s done most of the fundraising to support his mission. He went and did it in churches and created fundraisers in churches,” Bryan said. “Nobody had stepped up and just out on their own fund the mission work that he has been doing.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.