The Power of One
It wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a quick read. Just one missionary book among several that church members were asked to read during the 2007 church year.
But when one of those members, Terry Thomas, turned the final page of “The Power of One” by Rev. Ellen Decker, he realized he couldn’t simply finish his assignment and move on. The book’s story stayed with him. He realized he had no choice but to act.
Ellen Decker was raised a world away, as a missionary kid in Africa. What she experienced growing up - and as a pastor and denominational leader as an adult - led her to experience firsthand the value of the child sponsorship program. She knew the power it held to change lives. The book she would go on to write included a compelling chapter on child sponsorship.
After reading, Terry and his wife Jan embarked on a journey as advocates for the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries child sponsorship program. At the time, they were attending Indianapolis Westside Church of the Nazarene and were members of the Berean Sunday school class. The couple asked for the chance to present the ministry of child sponsorship to their fellow class members. The class instantly decided to sponsor four children as a result of their appeal.
When asked why she presented the case for child sponsorship in her book, Rev. Decker says, “Part of it was knowing the twins featured in the first story of the chapter. Seeing first-hand the incredible difference that sponsorship made in their ability to receive an education, which literally impacted their entire future, energized me to share their story. Today both of them are Christians, serving the Lord, and involved in their local churches. How can you not share amazing child sponsorship stories like these that are being replicated all over the world?”
The Thomas family didn’t stop there. Every year they presented the program and shared their enthusiasm. Interest grew until there was enough money committed to sponsor 11 children. Jan even had the opportunity to meet one of these children when she went on medical mission trips to Honduras. During one visit, she and their sponsored child worked together volunteering in a clinic. These experiences encouraged her to keep spreading the joy of sponsorship.
Rev. Decker has continued to advocate for sponsorship herself. Her entire family took up the cause and they’ve collectively sponsored and corresponded with 5 different children over the last 20 years. Her adult sons have continued the tradition in their own families, and as college kids even got the Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team to raise funds for an ongoing sponsorship. She says, “We really enjoy hearing from the kids and knowing we are making a difference in their lives, and we’ve been exceedingly blessed to meet several of our sponsored kids in person … giving a child the gift of knowing that God loves them because He sent someone to express His love in tangible form - well, that is priceless!”
A few years later, after a few members of the Thomas’ class started attending a new congregation, Jan and Terry worked hard to make sure all 11 children would remain sponsored. They encouraged their new Sunday school class to take up sponsorship, and six of those children transferred to the care of the Kingdom Seekers class at Indianapolis Grace Pointe church.
The remaining five are still sponsored by the original class across town, so support remained consistent through these changes. Members of the Kingdom Seekers class have adopted this cause with enthusiasm, sharing letters with their sponsored children who currently hail from Jordan, Kenya, Honduras, South Africa, and Bangladesh.
The title of Rev. Decker’s book proved to be true – there is power in just one person to make a difference in the world. From Ellen to Terry and Jan and their classmates, the heart for sponsorship continues to grow, changing lives both around the globe and right here at home.
We’re grateful for advocates like Ellen, Jan, and Terry! All it takes to spread the word is a heart for kids in need and the willingness to share with your family and friends.
Who can you tell about sponsorship? We have tools and resources to help you! Visit ncm.org/2020share to learn how.
- Jan and Terry Thomas have spent their lives in the Midwest, living in Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. The daughter of a Nazarene pastor, Jan has spent her life involved in various areas of ministry, with a focus on missions. When she and Terry were married, Terry soon developed a heart for missions as they went on several mission trips with the denomination.
Their concern for children in need caused them to adopt a 4-year-old girl from Korea and make her part of their family. She was welcomed by two brothers and a sister. The family now includes 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. It is that same desire to make a difference in the life of children that continues to drive the Thomas family's advocacy for the child sponsorship program.
- Rev. Ellen Gailey Decker is a missionary kid from Swaziland, Africa, and has lived on three continents and traveled to almost 30 countries; more than half of those have been in Africa. Rev. Decker is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. She has served as an associate pastor at two Nazarene churches and on district staff as Mid-Atlantic District Communications Director. For seven years Ellen was the Communications Coordinator for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and the founding editor of NCM Magazine. She has served in Nazarene Missions International positions at the local, district, and general church levels for more than twenty years.
Ellen is also the author of four books: The Power of One, Africa’s Soul Hope, From the Ends of the Earth, and her latest, World Changers. She has been published in multiple magazines and periodicals, and as a contributor to various books. Ellen and her husband, Hank, have three adult sons, three daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren. They are all actively involved in ministry.