Engaging children in local and global mission is a founding principle for members of First Presbyterian Church in Southampton, the  oldest Presbyterian church in the United States.  The 500-member congregation in Long Island Presbytery relies on Heifer International program resources for their yearly mission event.

“For decades, we have participated in Heifer International’s ‘Living Gift Market’ program to engage the children,” said Ann West, co-director of the congregation’s Christian education program.

Through the Living Gift Market, church members have an opportunity to buy food and income-producing animals ― chickens, goats and heifers and even bees for resource-poor families working to improve their lives. “We spend an entire month talking with children about how they can make a difference all around the world.”

In addition to raising money, First Church’s spring campaign focuses on creating awareness about hunger and poverty.  “Sunday School teachers pick animals to talk about with children and we pass out a calendar and coin collection boxes,” said West. “This year we completed our efforts to fill an ark with animals, a $5,000 total.” 

Heifer International is a global nonprofit leader of sustainable agricultural development for smallholder farmers. Family-oriented, community-based development models remain at the core of Heifer’s programs, along with the “Passing on the Gift” process where families agree to give the first offspring of their donated animal to another needy family. 

“Research tells us that an estimated 868 million people in the world suffer from hunger,” said Pat Keay, national community engagement director for Heifer International.  “We will need to double food production over the next two to three decades to keep up with worldwide demand. Support from churches like First Presbyterian Church in Southampton is critical in helping us reach our goal of helping 2 million families annually.”

The Living Gift Market at Southampton was held during Christmas season in the past but has been moved to spring. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to get involved,” said West.  “Farmers bring in chicks, ducks and rabbits and the kids love it.”

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