Despite Looking 'Udderly' Ridiculous, Pastor Keeps Promise to Kids
After Sunday school students at Oak Creek church raise thousands to aid African village, pastor follows through with his pledge to preach sermon wearing a cow costume.
Dressing up in a cow costume and preaching to a crowded church on an 85-degree summer day probably wasn't the easiest thing the Rev. Jas A. Mortensen has ever done.
But after the Sunday school students at All Saints Lutheran Church in Oak Creek raised $1,000 to purchase two cows for an impoverished family in Africa, that's exactly what Mortensen did to thank the kids for their efforts.
As congregation members laughed and took plenty of photos, Mortenson — whom most people call "PJ" — stood at an altar with cow balloons in the background and delivered a sermon that contained more than a few dairy-related puns.
When the service concluded, Mortenson posed in costume for photos with the Sunday school youngsters who wound up raising about $3,000 for a program called God's Global Barnyard. The program, part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's World Hunger initiative, enables ELCA churches to provide water, crops and animals for those in Third World countries.
"Each month, throughout the Sunday school year, we have asked the kids to make donations so we could buy items for the farm all year long," said Dena Olsen, superintendent for All Saints' Sunday school. "We started with crops, then we got sheep, then we got goats, then we got a fish pond for them, then at Easter time...we got 100 chicks."
After that, the students raised enough money for a water well for their African family. And as the Sunday school year was winding down, the students were challenged to raise enough money for one more purchase — a cow that costs $500.
It was a steep challenge for the youngsters, who had already come up with about $2,000 for the crops, well and other animals. To motivate the kids, Mortensen agreed to dress as a cow if they came up with the $500.
It turns out, the students — with a little help from a last-minute donor — actually raised $1,000, and were able to purchase two cows.
Throughout the school year, the students raised money by doing extra chores around their homes and earning change that was put into a cardboard bank shaped like a barnyard. The kids brought the banks to church every few weeks.
Olsen said the students learned a couple of lessons through the project.
The youngsters were taught that the size of a contribution isn't important; even a little bit helps. For example, the baby chicks that were purchased for the African family only cost $1 each.
"This is also bringing awareness to the kids to say, your donation doesn't have to be $100," Olsen explained. "If you bring in 50 cents or a dollar, it all helps."
Most important, Olsen and the teachers at All Saints want their students to know that their efforts have truly made a difference in the lives of others.
"For someone who has nothing, this lets them know someone loves them," Olsen said. "And that's the message we want to get to the kids."
Editor's Note: Mark Maley is a member of All Saints Lutheran Church.