--By Liz Lennox--
During Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi's Day on the Greensburg District Day in mid-February, representatives from a Latrobe UMC Sunday School class presented her with a gift bag. Inside was a pile of one-dollar bills--308 of them--for her camping initiative. Each bill bore a printed seal with the letter J.
Inspired by the Bishop’s “Leap of Faith” from a balcony at the 2017 Annual Conference, Ellen Piper of the Latrobe church knew that she wanted her active Sunday School class to contribute in a meaningful way to the Bishop’s Camping Initiative. “Not only did she (the Bishop) decide to do that leap for the project, but then the spontaneous giving afterwards was really impactful. The moment was spectacular and was not planned or announced. We wanted to continue that in our own Sunday school class,” Ellen explained.
During a time of fellowship, two members of the class were discussing dollar bills and the significance of the various numbers, letters and seals printed on the bills. One seal is the Federal Reserve seal, located to the left of George Washington’s face. In the United States, 12 different Federal Reserve Banks are responsible for printing money. The letter in the middle of the seal identifies where the note was printed.
The group decided to collect dollar bills printed with the letter “J” --f or Jesus. “J-notes” are printed in Kansas City, making them a bit hard to find in Western PA. They didn’t want their collection to be easy; they wanted to be continuously thinking and praying about the camping initiative as they actively searched for the specific dollar bills.
Once the decision to launch the project was made, the Sunday School class of approximately 25 people set out to find “J-Notes”. Their excitement spilled over to their families and people in the community, who also began examining every dollar bill that passed through their hands. Even the local scrap yard looked through stacks of dollar bills to see if they had any to contribute. Ellen Piper joked about one member of the group who was particularly successful in her search. “While everyone was excited to find one or two bills a week, Patty Mullen would find 15. She had a whole network of people looking.”
The group initially planned to present the Bishop with $100 worth of “J” bills and they reached this goal a few short months. However, they held off on presenting the money until closer to the launch of the capital campaign for camping and retreat ministries. Named the Deeply Rooted, Upward Reaching campaign, the campaign is in its "quiet phase" when leaders and pilot churches of varying sizes are recruited and trained. The Conference-wide campaign will officially launch at the 2018 Annual Conference.
The Latrobe Sunday School class used the extra time to collect more J-notes and tripled their initial goal by the time they presented the money to the Bishop. The group will continue to collect the bills. Ellen Piper encourages other Sunday School classes to try a search on their own or come up with other ways to feel the excitement of contributing to the Bishop’s campaign in a unique way.