Two years ago, Mackenzie Howell, then a 5-year-old student at Langham Elementary School in Nederland, Texas, was riveted to the TV by a children's documentary about the devastating earthquake. She was deeply moved by what she saw, and God touched her heart to help children who, in her words, "had lost their moms, their dads, their homes and their schools."
But how could she help? How could a child make a difference for children in need?
Mackenzie started off selling homemade crafts and cookies to help children in Haiti, and her proceeds went to help with a Baptist Global Response school project there. When that was completed, Mackenzie began thinking about what else she could do.
She wondered: What if she wrote a book about a child who makes a difference?
Now 7-year-old Mackenzie is promoting her story, "Leila's Big Difference."
Mackenzie's mother and grandmother helped her learn about Haiti through a contact with the Baptist relief organization and a prayer guide provided by the International Mission Board's Kids on Mission website. Mackenzie used what she learned to dream up a storyline. Her mother helped her pull the story together.
Meanwhile, a friend, 9-year-old Jace Theriot, created illustrations.
Mackenzie's family had 100 copies of the book printed, and she set a goal of raising $500 to help children in Haiti. The family promoted the book among members of Hillcrest Baptist, where Patrick Hunter is the pastor. Plans were made to sell the book at a nearby mall.
"We originally ordered 100 books, trusting God that we would be able to sell them and send $500," said Mackenzie's mother Alison. "But word about her book has rapidly spread in our community, and since the event at the mall, we have continued to get many requests for copies. Some of those requests have been large orders."
A church in Houston, where Jace's grandfather attends, ordered 50 books to distribute at a prayer breakfast. First Baptist Church in Nederland asked Mackenzie to set up a book table for their VBS Family Night. A member of a church in a nearby town heard about the book from Jace's dad and purchased a book for every child participating in their Vacation Bible School, which already was planning to focus on the needs in Haiti. Mackenzie and Jace were invited to read their story to all the kids attending the VBS.
"Mack and Jace were nervous to speak in front of almost 100 people," Alison Howell said, "but they did great."
The initial print run of 100 books led to a second run of 100. Those also went quickly and another 200 were ordered.
Mackenzie had sold nearly 400 books by the end of July. The proceeds -- more than $2,000 -- will be sent to Illinois Baptists to help with work in Haiti that follows up on work BGR conducted in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
"This has been a wonderful experience. It is so exciting to see how God is moving," Alison Howell said. "Our goal is to bring Mackenzie to Haiti during the summer of 2015. Until that time, we will continue to pray and give."
Jo Brown, who with her husband David leads Baptist Global Relief work in the Americas, was herself deeply moved by Mackenzie's heart for children in need.
"To think that a child 5 years old had such a burden for people she has never met -- and followed through with raising money her own way," Brown said. "Adults do not do that. And it hasn't stopped but carried on as Mackenzie has gotten older. It just makes my heart sing."
Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response, online at www.gobgr.org. "Leila's Big Difference" is available through the Hillcrest Baptist Church website, www.hbcnederland.com. Visit the Kids on Mission website at www.kidsonmission.org. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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