San Diego, California, U.S. Cheryl Hareb watched the breaking news video of the March 11 tsunami that slammed parts of Japan after an 8.9 earthquake shook its coast.

Then she opened her instructor’s guide to review the 5th and 6th graders’ Sunday school lesson for the next morning at Mission Church of the Nazarene. The lesson theme was about how God can give His people the strength to reach past themselves to touch others.

The timing couldn’t have been better.
About 15 to 20 kids, aged 10 to 12, attend Club 56 on Sunday mornings. About 12 to 15 also come on Wednesday nights.

During class, Hareb played some of the news clips for the children, who then discussed what they were seeing and how they felt about it. Then they divided into smaller groups to brainstorm what 10- to 12-year-olds could do to help the stricken Japanese people.

The children finally decided they would like to send tangible expressions of their love and prayers to people in Japan. They planned a Fold-a-Thon, during which they would fold pieces of paper into hearts, using the Japanese art of origami. They would collect donations for relief work in Japan in exchange for every origami heart they made.

During the next few weeks, at a donation table people wrote down prayers and well-wishes on pieces of paper.  The kids also spent a Wednesday night teaching each other how to make origami hearts. Then, the children gathered at church on Friday night, April 8 and folded 1,100 of the prayer notes.

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The kids also created a letter to send with the origami hearts to churches in Japan.

“We were devastated when we saw the videos of you and your families and the tragedy that was happening all around you.  We couldn’t even begin to imagine how you were truly feeling at that moment and even in to today,” the class wrote. “We didn’t want to just sit back and do nothing.  So we came up with a plan to reach out to you with both our God’s love…. Please remain confident and strong knowing that we share a very powerful and loving God.  Don’t give up. He is with you even now.  You are very loved!”

The Fold-a-Thon raised $1,500, which the children sent to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries which has a Global Disaster Fund.

“I didn’t know you could make such a difference when you are so young,” said Claire Christy, 12. “I didn’t know that something so little can be so big.”

Sean Romero, 11, said he learned that “God’s there, even during times of destruction and need.”

“They really made that project very much their own, it was so theirs,” Hareb said. “They were excited about what they were doing and that they could do something.”