The “Friends of Show-Me” Annual Fish Fry and Multi-Miracle
You can’t miss it. The large blue building is the central landmark and most recognized feature of Show-Me. The Multipurpose building, or “Multi,” is the hub of life at the main campus. Daily, within its walls: K-12 school is taught, office staff conduct business, counselors listen to kids’ concern, visitors cheer on our athletes, and God is praised. Each year, nearly 500 supporters will unite during our Annual Open House, former kids and their families will return “home” to share a meal at the holidays, and tears will be shed as a once struggling young person crosses the stage to receive their high school diploma.
Even more impressive than all the ways the Multi is used, is the story of how it came to be. It is the Show-Me version of the miracle of the fish and loaves. The testimony of how a childlike faith passed from one group to another sparks an overflowing of blessings that continue to multiply from generation to generation.
Rain, Rain, Go Away…
“What do you do when the weather gets bad,” Kirk Bruce asked while touring the La Monte campus in 1990. “Pray! There is not much else we can do,” housemom and current Director, Karen Culler, said with a smile. Kirk continued, “what is something Show-Me could really use, but that you feel is not such a pressing need that you should ask for help?” Karen responded that a dream would be to have an area where the kids could play on a rainy day. A space large enough where all the families could gather as one big Show-Me family at the holidays or for special events.
Driving home, Kirk and his wife, Bonnie, talked about the 40’ x 60’ metal building that he had recently built on his property for a cost of $14,000. Why couldn’t they build something like that for the kids at Show-Me? A simple shelter would give them a safe place to go when the weather turned bad. He had the skills to build a shelter like that; all he needed now was the money to do it.
A Challenge to Christians in Action
The Bruce’s decided to approach the 25 members in their Christians in Action (CIA) Sunday school class about the need. He challenged them to raise $15,000 toward the project. “If we are going to do it, let’s do it right!” Bill and Donna Crockett exclaimed. The group decided to hold an all-you-can-eat fish fry fundraising event. These “Friends of Show-Me,” as they called themselves, resolved to “give it a try, and with God’s help, see what happens.” As they brainstormed ideas, each member took stock of what talents, gifts, and connections they could bring to the project.
Smiling Faces and Fish Guts
Donna, a mother and former city council woman, utilized her organization and delegation gifts to lead the project. She turned the group’s idea into an actionable plan. “Mom never met a stranger,” laughed Tim Crocket, Donna’s son. “She was never afraid to ask for help. She could see the talents of others and know exactly how she could use them to fill a need.” Friends reached out to friends. Soon, everyone wanted to join the cause from the church to the wider community in Columbia, MO.
Local businesses donated oil, cups, and other supplies. Donna found a fisherman in Louisiana, who caught 1,800 lbs. of fish. The CIA class met to clean and prepare the fish. Bob Fletcher, a member of the class, stored the fish in his industrial freezer near the venue. The Church family prepared desserts and side dishes. Greg Johnson, the pianist at Westside, provided the entertainment. On the day of the first event, Donna had lines of men waiting with their fryers. “Everyone had a great time,” recounts Kirk. “It didn’t matter if you were gutting fish or washing plates.”
All-You-Can Eat Fish to Satisfy the Multitudes
The event, held at the Kemper Arena outside of Columbia, MO, exceeded even their wildest expectations. By the end of the night, they had fed 1,200 people raising over $20,000. “After the success of the first event, everyone wanted to do more,” Kirk remembered.
Daring to Dream
They dared to dream bigger. The group vowed to hold more events each Spring. What started as a building project for a simple covered shelter transformed into an indoor recreation “hall of many uses.” The new plans included an indoor gym, kitchen, stage, tutoring and preschool facilities, as well as much needed storage. Looking to centralize operations under one roof, they added administrative offices, a counseling area, a print shop, and a library. Bill Crockett, an architectural engineer, offered his expertise to ensure the construction process would be a success.
“The more people we get, the more things we can do,” Donna encouraged. Kids held “change for children” coin drives. Kirk donated all the tips from his barber shop. Other members of the CIA class made large donations. A young man from their church even wrote a $6,000 check. He said he felt compelled to give the money that he saved since his company was paying for all his expenses while he worked overseas in Africa.
The “Friends of Show-Me” Annual Fish Fry continued for the next four years, each year seemingly larger than the last. From 1990 to 1994, the “Friends of Show-Me” raised a total of over $125,000.
In 1994, construction began at Show-Me. Volunteers helped with the finishing work on the interior part of the building. On July 8, 1995, the new Multipurpose building was dedicated at the Show-Me Open House event.
Why Can’t We!?!
The biggest impact could not be measured by a dollar sign. More significant than the money raised was how the project opened the hearts and eyes of all those who were involved. Hundreds of people, who had never heard of Show-Me, sat down to a great meal, and left with a new awareness of a place where struggling families could get help. Scores of volunteers, who first got involved to help do a “good” thing, caught the passion, and become faithful supporters.
“Mom’s (Donna) goal was to get people to think about the kids in our community who needed a safe place like Show-Me,” stated Tim. “As she would say, family does not end when a person turns 18 years old. Everyone needs a place where they can come ‘home.’ If these kids do not have a place, then why can’t we make a place!?!”
The Real Miracle
The Show-Me Fish Fry miracle was never about fish; it is about what can happen when we have faith like a child to respond to a need we see in our community. A need that even some of the Lord’s disciples might think is too big to attempt. God’s miracles rarely involve the sky opening and manna from heaven descending. More often, they occur when ordinary people accept His invitation to be part of the solution.
God will show us the miraculous when we look at what we been given, and have the courage to offer Him even those little gifts. Then, He will multiply it to be more than enough as we pass the basket to invite others to share in the blessing.
“You realize that the blessing is pouring yourself out,” stated Elton Fay, a member of the CIA class and Show-Me board member. “The truest blessing comes when you do something for someone that can never pay you back.”