A Penny Saved {aka Graham’s Missions Can}

Graham loves money.

Not like the love we are told to avoid in 1 Timothy, but a very innocent 3-year-old love of things that are shiny, clink together, and make the coolest noise when you dump them and swirl them all over a carpeted floor.

Graham has several change-collecting receptacles. He also has purposes for each one.

Piglet: “Mine own money for ice cream cones!”

Piglet was a gift from Mema and holds Graham’s spending money. He says he will buy ice cream cones. But he has grandparents and has never actually purchased an ice cream cone with his own money.


Cow: “For da BANK! They gives me a sucker!”

Graham has a savings account at a local bank. He gets prizes and treats when he makes deposits. The cow was his first prize. Obviously acquired during Graham’s ‘finger-painting’ stage…



Mama’s Piggy: “For special moneys no ones can touch!”

This was my piggy bank. My first gift from my dad. While I was still in the womb. It now contains a coin from Graham’s Great-Grandpa Leo, along with…well…junk. But, a mom’s junk is a toddler’s treasure.


Ballew Change Jar: “Mama and Daddy’s money!”

Dave purchased this vase to hold my proposal flowers at Emma’s Restaurant in Denver. We then used it in our wedding. After we came back from our honeymoon, I turned it into a change jar. It has moved all over the house, but currently resides in the kitchen. Graham loves to throw money in it, because the noise is deafening.


Missions Can: “Mine money for ALL THE KIDS ALL OVER DA WORLD!”

This was my mission can before Graham was born. He inherited it and has been filling it ever since.


This post is actually about the last can. The one that Graham gravitates toward every time he has money. We taught Graham to put at least 10% of his money in this can. Our goal was to teach him to tithe. Then, we directed him to place a large percentage in his savings {cow} and spending {Piglet}. Our plan didn’t work. But, I am not disappointed. I am actually ecstatic.

Last year, Graham decided that most of his money was going into his Missions Can. Since we meet Graham’s needs {and his grandparents have savings accounts for him}, I granted him this desire of his sweet little heart. “Mama, I want to give MORES MONEYS to the kids all over da world!” Much of 2012 went this way. With me in tears…the joyful kind, of course.

This year, we were late in emptying the can. About 3 months late. On March 15th, Graham pointed to his Missions Can. He said something to one of his imaginary friends. Then, it dawned on me that we hadn’t emptied it! Graham had been adding to it, but it was long overdue for a trip to the bank’s coin counter. I grabbed it and we headed to the bank. On a gorgeous 80 degree day. We were still in our “driving cars in the flowerbeds & digging holes & hanging laundry on the clothesline” clothes. We were covered in dirt. And he was beautiful.






“Mrs. Ballew! Graham’s Mission Can had 16 dollars and 76 cents!”  The teller was extremely excited. It was more than double his previous year’s total, but she didn’t know that. Then, she handed me the envelope. I opened it to discover SIXTY dollars. Not sixteen! No wonder she was so excited! Graham had a mini-goldmine in his Missions Can!

Graham decided to change into his Spider-Man shirt to take a photo with his hard-saved cash. “I did a great job! So I a SUPERHERO!” Yes, that is his Superhero face. Yes, I am completely in love with it.


Today, Graham finally decided what he was going to do with his Missions Money. In honor of World Water Day, and the emphasis I have placed on today, I knew he would choose water.

But, he didn’t.

“Mama, I want to buy soccer balls for all da kids who don’t have toys. All kids need soccer balls.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

I thought safe drinking water. Wells. Purification systems. We have been talking about water all month. Soccer balls never crossed my mind. Maybe milk. Mosquito nets. Christmas gifts. Goats. Literacy. Those are all things we have purchased from catalogs. Not soccer balls.

“Yes, Mama! I want to buy all the soccer balls in da world!”

Fortunately for me, Samaritan’s Purse offers this exact item in their gift catalog. “See, Mama? They play wif da soccer balls ALREADY!” I don’t have the heart to tell him this picture was taken months ago by a blogger somewhere. I will let him believe these children are already enjoying his year-long endeavor. Graham was beaming with excitement. “They play wif it! They run EVERYWHERE!” Yes, they are very happy. You are a Superhero, my dear child.

So, although a few month’s late, Graham’s 2012 money went to purchase 8 soccer balls. I can’t even fathom the number of children who will benefit from such a purchase. Children who will feel God’s love and know that He cares about the details of their lives. That God wants them to have fun. To enjoy life in some of the toughest places on earth. Places most of us wouldn’t allow our children to play. Or visit. Or see. Because the questions that accompany looking at photos and viewing videos and reading blogs make us uncomfortable. But a little 3-year-old just sees ‘kids all over da world’ and recognizes that a soccer ball can change everything.


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