BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 15 September 2005


This is a true story.  In 1884, a shabbily-dressed little girl had come to the Sunday School of a tiny church in Philadelphia.  Her name was Hattie May Wiatt.  The minister of the church was an entertaining and powerful preacher, and the crowd was so great that 5-year-old Hattie was afraid to try to get through the crush and into the Sunday School, which was crowded as well.  The Minister arrived, and saw Hattie’s distress.  He picked her up and carried her through the throng.  Later in the week, the minister saw Hattie in the street by chance, and they got into conversation.  They talked about the overcrowding, and they agreed they hoped that one day the church would have a bigger building, and so would the Sunday School.  But they were a small church, and the Minister couldn’t see where the money would come from.


Hattie and the Rev. Conwell developed a friendship, and Hattie committed her young life to Christ.  One day, the minister was called to Hattie’s bedside, where he found her very ill.  He prayed with her, and shortly afterwards Hattie died, aged seven.  At Hattie’s funeral, her mother gave the minister a small purse containing 57 cents.  It was money Hattie had been saving up to help build a new church.


The minister showed the money and told the story the next Sunday.  One of the congregation offered to buy one of the cents, and in moments, every one of the cents had been bought for a total of $250.  And 54 of those cents were given back.  The $250 and 54 cents were turned into 25054 coins, and each one of those was sold ; and within a week, the church had $30,000.  A businessman sold them a plot of land worth $30,000 – for 54 cents.  He then donated those 54 cents to the church.  A local newspaper printed the whole story, and donations from readers came flowing in.  $250,000 was in the kitty, a vast sum in those days.


And so was built the 3,300 seater Temple Baptist Church with large rooms for the Sunday School.  The church went on to found the Temple University and its hospital.  And all because a little girl had a vision for God’s purposes and scrimped and saved 57 cents.


The moral of this is that no one’s contribution is too small if it is inspired by God.  Are there 57 pennies in your purse?


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See for Rev Conwell’s sermon of 1 December 1912, from which the facts were gleaned