The 2006 Babe Ruth World Series (16 year-old) is in Monticello for the next week. As our church prayed and deliberated on how to minister and serve the community and guests in the best way, Ryan, our small groups pastor, came up with the idea (or at least he claims it!) to make “neck coolers.” They are like hollow scarves (material donated from Wal-Mart) filled with this crystalline substance that expands and turns into a gel when wet. When you immerse them in cold water, they stay cool for a good while.

Our original goal was to make 2000. We quickly revised that to 1000. Then after 3 weeks of sewing, ironing, and funneling crystals into the neck wraps for about 3-4 hours each night, we had made almost 600. Today was our first day of handing them out.

Here’s how we did it:
As people arrived, some stopped by our booth/tent where they picked an ice cold neck wrap up for free. We had “APEGL” on our signs, which reminded us to tell people who tried to donate money (which we refused) that it was “a practical expression of God’s love.”

We let them get seated in the stands, and then began taking armfuls of the cold neckbands around. When it’s hot like today (over 100), everyone wanted one. We told them that when they warm up, they can bring them back and we’ll give them a recharge. It’s pretty neat watching their faces light up in relief.

We found today that all the kids in attendance loved to help. We soon had a small army of kids ferrying warm-cold neckbands back and forth for us. One lady tried to give me money today, very insistent. I was gracious but equally insistent that our church would not take money for this. Many in the stands heard this interaction as I explained APEGL. Folks today were here from Syracuse, NY; Minnesota, Texas, and Alabama. It was a blessing to hear them all talking about what was going on.

However, this same lady came by our booth as she was leaving, angry at us. She accused us of “robbing her of a blessing” by not accepting her money. We were pretty perplexed by this and were sad that she was angry but resolved to continue to offering the neck wraps for free. She was the only one to respond in such a way.

I’ll be posting some pix of it on my Flickr account tomorrow. If you’re in and around Monticello and would like to help, we need all the help we can get. We really thought we’d hand them all out today and be done. We had no idea how God would work things out to allow us to keep re-using them. Everyone even brought them back by as they were leaving, urging us to use them again for the next few days. We’re excitedly overwhelmed. May God receive all glory, and may folks be nudged closer to a joyful, love relationship with Christ.

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