This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Sky’s the limit for church building campaign

Barb Krehbiel Gehring proved the sky’s the limit when raising funds for building a new church.

Barb Krehbiel Gehring, co-pastor of Manhattan (Kan.) Mennonite Church, laughs after a Sept. 28 skydive. The jump raised more than $2,500 for the congregation’s $1.7 million building campaign. — Janet McGillivary
Barb Krehbiel Gehring, co-pastor of Manhattan (Kan.) Mennonite Church, laughs after a Sept. 28 skydive. The jump raised more than $2,500 for the congregation’s $1.7 million building campaign. — Janet McGillivary

On Sept. 28, Gehring, co-pastor of Manhattan (Kan.) Mennonite Church, skydived from 1,300 feet to boost donations to the congregation’s capital campaign. The new church, to be built in downtown Manhattan, is slated to cost about $1.7 million.

After the tandem jump, in which she was harnessed to a licensed instructor, Gehring landed safely in a field at the Abilene airport.

Co-pastor and husband Rich­ard Gehring chose not to witness the feat. He stayed home and donated to the “pay to not watch” jar. To date, that jar and the “pay to watch” jar have gleaned more than $2,500 for the cause and are still open for business.

Though it was not her husband’s idea of a fun afternoon, Gehring felt otherwise. Ever since college, she wanted to skydive. It wasn’t until 2013 that she had her first experience with a jump, followed by her second during the Sept. 28 dive sponsored by the Kansas State University Parachute Club. Both times she was harnessed to a trained sky diver.

“At Bethel College, a college buddy, Rhonda Moore, and I talked about skydiving because we thought it would be a lot of fun, but we didn’t have the disposable income to do it,” she said. “Thirty years later we heard about an event, and since we both still wanted to do it, took that jump out of the same plane.

“The first part is a free fall. You jump out and arch into a flip, falling at about 120 miles per hour. The wind rushes around you, and you have to remember to breathe. It is cold, and you are floating on a pocket of air. Then you open the parachute and help steer both of you to the ground.”

As Gehring remembered to breathe, so did about 20 college friends and church family, including mentors and mentees who used the fundraiser as their fall kickoff. They breathed easier when Gehring unhooked from the harness, happy and whole.

‘See Barb Jump’

Some of her cheerleaders included Melissa Atchison, Karen Franz and Caprice Becker, three of the planners of the sky dive fundraiser. They and other women from the church purchased the $350 skydive during an annual May fundraiser auction for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter.

They announced the fundraiser in early September by distributing fliers in the form of paper airplanes. The theme of the event was “See Barb Fly . . . See Barb Jump . . . See Barb Land.”

Before the jump, the congregation tailgated in the church basement with a potluck to celebrate Barb’s “last meal.” Handmade candy airplanes decorated the tables. The two collection jars were set up at the church and at the airport. Those who donated received Dove chocolates, because “Barb was going to fly like a Mennonite peace dove.”

“It turned out to be a really creative way for our congregation to move a little closer to having our new building,” Atchison said. “We set our jump fundraising goal at $1,000, and we more than doubled that. It was really fun to see what a bunch of church ladies could do when they put their heads together.”

Franz said the skydive fund­raiser enlarged the horizon of the congregation’s fundraising ideas and re-energized the capital campaign for the new church building. To date, $138,000 has been raised, not counting the donations for Gehring’s jump.

“When you are trying to earn money over a longer period of time, you can get into a lull,” she said. “This event put us back on the horse. And besides that, what teenagers are able to say they went to watch their pastor jump out of a plane?”

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!