Crystal's Ark

By Peggy Reiff Miller 4-16-2018

Just as Noah stepped out in faith to build his ark in the Biblical story, the decision that mother Crystal M. made to raise money for a Heifer Gift Ark has been a leap of faith.

Soon after she and her children, Amelia and José, began attending the Goshen City (Indiana) Church of the Brethren in 2011, they fell in love with Heifer International and its mission during the church’s annual Living Gift Market. “Ever since,” Crystal said, “I’ve wished we could do something for Heifer.”

In December 2015, Crystal picked up more information at the annual event and was told an Ark is $5,000. She laughed at this seeming impossibility for a mother who struggles to pay her bills on a cook’s wages and prorates her annual tax refund over the course of the year to cover her expenses. She sat around a table that Friday night joking with friends about buying an Ark. The next day she realized, “If I quit smoking, I could save $2,000 in a year’s time! If I can raise that much by myself, so can everyone else. Together we can buy an Ark!”

She and Amelia went to the grocery store that night and bought nicotine patches. To strengthen her resolve, Crystal asked for the rite of anointing the next morning at church and hasn’t had a cigarette since. Amelia, 15, and José, 14, are proud of their mother. Ever since Amelia could talk, she has pleaded with her mother to stop. “She’s tried everything to quit before,” Amelia said, “even hypnosis. But she couldn’t.” This time around, with Heifer in mind, success has come.

“In the beginning,” Crystal said, “instead of going to the gas station every day and buying a pack of cigarettes, I would go to the church and donate the $6 I’d have spent.”

Crystal’s commitment inspired others in the congregation to join her efforts. By June 30, over $2000 had been raised. Crystal was accepted into a Habitat program, where she had to pay down her debt. Her weekly donation to Heifer was now going towards that effort.

But Crystal was still hopeful “I decided to take a leap of faith,” she said, “and continue putting money aside, not knowing where it would come from. The same week I spent my tax refund, without my having asked for it, my church offered to start paying me $35 a week to cover expenses for volunteer cooking I’d been doing for their Wednesday night program. So there was my Heifer contribution!”

Crystal continued to work towards her goal of donating an Ark and received a wonderful surprise from her fellow church members. Goshen City Church of the Brethren, helped her reach finalize her goal of donating an ark to Heifer by designating their Christmas Eve offering on her behalf. Crystal was elated to be able to reach so many families through her gift of an Ark.

Crystal’s story challenges all of us to help end hunger and poverty through special giving during Lent, VBS or through Christmas Gift Markets. Heifer has free resources to help your congregation and your family see how they can make a difference by working together. You can learn how congregations all over the U.S. are giving to Heifer through

Peggy Reiff Miller

Peggy Reiff Miller is an author, historian and archivist. The granddaughter of a seagoing cowboy, Peggy has been instrumental in documenting the history of Heifer International.