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For 51 weeks of the year, the front lobby of Willowdale Chapel’s Kennett Square campus is an airy space with cozy chairs and a café. But one Sunday each December, the room transforms into the HOPE Market—a vibrant, bustling marketplace operated by the church’s youngest entrepreneurs.

The wooden tables where people usually chat over coffee instead display greeting cards and candles, wooden clocks and mini-marshmallow shooters, all handcrafted by the children at Willowdale. With each sale, the kids work toward paying back the small loan they received from the church to make their item. Once that’s done, they give their profits to HOPE International. Last year, all their work totaled up to being a significant gift of $5,000.

“Part of our church’s vision is to love the world that Jesus is working to restore, and we wanted our youth to really learn what that means and to be a part of it,” says Jodi Byrne, who serves as a children’s ministry pastor at Willowdale Chapel, a church network in southeastern Pennsylvania that partners with HOPE.

The kids are invited to explore the role they play in that restoration during the three months leading up to the HOPE Market.

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Youth group jumping rope

At the end of February, eight members of the Mountville Mennonite Church middle school youth group set out to make a difference through a “Jump Rope for HOPE” jump-a-thon. The group was motivated by a visit to HOPE’s Pathways out of Poverty exhibit in the fall of 2012. Located at HOPE’s headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Pathways provides a multisensory look at the stories of eight individuals living in poverty around the world and invites participants to respond. Continue Reading…