See that can over there? Why don’t you pick it up?
It was the third soda can Barb Reindel had walked by that morning on her prayer walk, and she recognized the insistent voice in her head as the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. Bringing it home, she told her husband, Louie, “It seems that God wants us to pick up cans.”
Louie Reindel pastors the Church of the Nazarene in Bradford, Ohio. He and Barb have served this small congregation since January 2007. A bivocational minister, Louie also engages his community by driving the local school bus.
In 2014, Louie was invited to travel to India, where he toured the Trichy District with the district superintendent, Selvaraj Jayakumar. While there, Louie observed the economic struggles of this district and heard about discouraged pastors who lacked the resources to support their families while remaining in the ministry. He also heard passionate dreams for outreach involving water purification systems, computer training centers, and a new district car.
Returning to Bradford, Louie shared the needs with his local church and invited members to consider how they might be involved. The congregation decided to try to raise money to replace the aging district car. The vehicle had nearly 300,000 miles on it and often broke down, forcing passengers to get out and walk.
However, the cost to replace the car would be about $31,000.* Collecting this sum seemed impossible for this church of 45 people with an annual budget of less than $50,000. Instead of giving up, Louie challenged the congregation to pray for a creative means of raising money, trusting that God would open the necessary doors.
Through Barb’s prayer walk, collecting aluminum cans seemed to be one way God was leading them.
So that’s what Barb and Louie did. They began to collect cans while they walked, not only beginning to fill a one-car garage with cans but also cleaning up their neighborhood. People noticed and asked the Reindels what they were doing, giving the couple an opportunity to share the story of how their church was raising money to help Christian pastors in India. Neighbors began to drop off bags of cans or ask Barb and Louie to pick them up.
Ohio doesn’t have a can deposit and redemption program. Cans are only worth what scrapyards will pay. About every six weeks, the Reindels borrowed a trailer to transport 800 pounds of cans 30 minutes away to get the best price of seventy cents a pound. That made each can worth just a little over two cents.
While the goals seemed insurmountable and overwhelming, Louie was continually reminded of the words of Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Opening Doors in the Community
Louie believes that the relationship with the Indian pastors was God-ordained. At the 2013 General Assembly in Indianapolis he had signed up to be a host through the “Be My Guest” program, which pairs volunteers with guests from another part of the world for a meal.
After a series of missed appointments, Louie was reassigned to take two district superintendents from India out to lunch. A friendship was born and the invitation to visit India soon followed.
“Why would God send me to India? There are other pastors on my district who are more qualified, better educated, and better speakers,” wondered Louie.
“But I believe that this is really an answer to prayer as God is opening doors in our community that never would have been opened otherwise. I’m confident that there will be more people in heaven because of our efforts.”
Joined by Other Churches
In the early stages of the fund-raising the district superintendent suggested that instead of saving for a vehicle, the first $2,500 be used to provide a Christmas celebration for the pastors on the Trichy District. The district was able to provide each pastor with two books for their library, a set of dress clothes, and some cash to purchase gifts for their families.
Since June 15, 2014, the Bradford church has raised about $5,000 simply from cans, and about $20,300 from additional cash gifts and fundraisers. Two other churches from the Northwestern Ohio District heard about the project and dedicated their Christmas offerings to help, raising an additional $23,600 to support Nazarene ministries in India.
Through this creative fund-raising, leaders in the Trichy District have purchased farmland for growing vegetables and tea. They’ve bought three cows and nine pairs of goats, contributing to the agricultural ministry supported by the church. In addition to food, these agricultural projects provide financial support for the district pastors.
Computer training centers are being established to help the poorest receive a free education. Generators will ensure those centers can function despite rolling electrical blackouts. And the original dream of replacing the district car is finally being fulfilled.
As Louie and Barb walk each week, they continue to pick up cans to raise money for Nazarenes in India.
And they continue to pray. Their prayers are not only for their brothers and sisters in India, but that God will continue to use this ministry to connect with those right in Bradford, Ohio. Louie shares that two people accepted Christ as a direct result of the can collection ministry and both are now attending the church and reaching out to others in their circle of friends.
Jon Twitchell, an ordained elder, is vice president for gift planning with the Church of the Nazarene Foundation.
*All funds are quoted in U.S. dollars.