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Alabaster offering and Elizabeth Roby Vennum

"Give up a want to meet a need"-- Funding for facilities for global ministry

Where did the idea for the Nazarene "Alabaster offering" come from?

For years, small cardboard containers about the size of animal crackers boxes with the word "Alabaster" printed on them have been sitting in Nazarene homes. There, they have served as collection containers for millions of dollars for world evangelism.

The Alabaster box idea began during Elizabeth Vennum's dozen years of service on the Nazarene Missions International Global Council. In the late 1940's, the Church of the Nazarene was experiencing a crunch in mission funding. At the 1949 General NMI Council meeting, Elizabeth was asked to come up with a promotional idea that could raise funding for land purchases and building construction needs in Nazarene mission areas. As she rode the train home to Florida from that council meeting in Kansas City, Vennum said the Lord gave her the details for the Alabaster offering. "And the rest is now history," said Nina Gunter, former general NMI director.

photo of Elizabeth Vennum

The offering promotion was based on the story of the woman pouring perfume on Jesus from a ontainer carved from soft alabaster stone. Building on that Biblical story, Mrs. Vennum decided to ask Nazarene women to put off buying that new perfume for themselves or postpone getting a new dress and to give that money to world missions instead (in sort of the same way that the woman gave her bottle of perfume to Jesus).

Mrs. Vennum promoted her offering idea with the slogan: "Give up a want to meet a need." Since its inception, that semi-annual Alabaster offering (in February and September) has generated more than $100 million dollars for land purchase and construction at thousands of sites throughout the world.

Without public fanfare, Mrs. Vennum also encouraged and financed the education of national pastors and evangelists in several Third World countries. She also personally mentored numerous young preachers and Christian lay leaders in the U.S.A.

It seemed particularly serendipitous that Mrs. Vennum's homegoing occurred during Alabaster's 50th anniversary year.

The Alabaster box wasn't Elizabeth Vennum's only creative moment. Along the way, she also developed materials and methods for Christian education at the local church level. As an ordained Nazarene elder, she was also innovative in leading people to do share their faith with friends and family members.

Elizabeth Vennum's father was a Nazarene pastor. Feeling a call to ministry, she began her training in Nashville at what is now Trevecca Nazarene University. She transferred north to Eastern Nazarene College in the Boston area, graduating from that school in 1932. She married Earle Vennum in 1934. Together, they served the Lord as a pastoral team for churches in Florida, Indiana and Tennessee.

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