ELYRIA — When teenagers ask for a gift, it’s typically something for themselves — a new phone, maybe a video game, or even just some new clothes.
Not many teens ask for a camel.
But that’s just what a group of students from Hearts for Jesus Christ want.
The students, who are homeschooled, are raising funds to purchase a camel for Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit interdenominational Christian organization that assists those who are persecuted for their belief in Christ.
Ruth Shipley, who teaches the Missions in Action class as part of Hearts for Jesus Christ, was teaching her students about the persecuted on International Prayer Day in November. People in 54 countries could be persecuted in many ways, including being killed, for deciding to follow Christ, Shipley said.
She suggested the class do something or buy something to help support Voice of the Martyrs, and the needs varied greatly — a motorbike, a horse, a scooter, a camel.
“They said, ‘Let’s buy a camel,’ ” Shipley recalled with a laugh. “ ‘Let’s have a benefit concert.’ They were very enthusiastic.”
Shipley has 33 students in her two classes. Students in Hearts for Jesus Christ are from all over Lorain, Medina and Cuyahoga counties. They are homeschooled four days of the week and then attend classes together once a week for 20 weeks out of the year. Fifty-three different churches are represented in Hearts for Jesus Christ.
All of the students’ parents either teach a class or are a teacher’s helper. Classes range from drama and choir to biology and speech, Shipley said.
She has been teaching the Missions in Action class for eight years, and each year she tries to expand her students’ world view.
“I like to stretch them,” she said. “I want them to see the nations that are different from what they are used to.”
Last year, her students raised more than $5,000 for an orphanage in Liberia.
This year, students need to raise $1,400 to purchase the camel, which will be given to a pastor in an undisclosed desert region. The camel will be used to spread the gospel, as well as deliver food and water to those in need. Anything raised above the $1,400 will go to Voice of the Martyrs.
Hannah Cook, 17, of Lorain, is taking the Missions in Action class for the first time and is really excited about what she and her peers are doing.
“It’s so important that the community steps up and does what it is supposed to do,” she said. “We should help out, not only here, but around the world.”
But a camel?
“It’s so cool to be able to buy a camel,” she said. “A camel is just odd. That’s fun. Buy a camel and spread the word.”
Hannah plans to spread the gospel herself.
She already spent two weeks at an orphanage in Haiti last summer, and she hopes to go again this summer.
“We fed 4,000 people,” she said. “To see the look on their faces when they have a meal makes everything worth it.”
After she graduates, Hannah said she hopes to attend Lorain County Community College to become a paramedic. Then she wants to return to Haiti to continue doing mission work.
While her future plans are mapped out, she isn’t quite as sure about what she wants to do for the concert.
“I may sing or act or maybe do a dance routine,” she said. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Whatever she decides, it likely will be outstanding.
“She is just a really outstanding young lady,” Shipley said. “She jumps in with both feet and all of her heart.”
The Variety Show and Benefit Concert will have a little bit of everything — singing, dancing, dramatic readings.
“It will have us laughing and crying, I’m sure,” Shipley said.
In addition to the show —which will include all 300 Hearts for Jesus Christ students and even some former students — a bake sale, silent auction and other fundraising efforts will be going on as well.
Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.