By Belinda Jo "B.J." Mathias, Columnist for the Hattiesburg American
One tender-hearted 7-year-old Hattiesburg girl took "making a list and checking it twice" in a very different direction this past Christmas. Unlike most children her age, Zora McLemore, daughter of Greg and Christy McLemore, was making her list not for herself, but for others.
"Zora had been asking for several months to do something to help orphans," Christy McLemore said. "We're not sure where she got the original idea, nor is she. She had mentioned several times that she wanted our family to adopt and that when she grows up she will adopt kids." Zora's desire to help children in need did not change over the months that followed. "In fact," said her mother, "she continued to think of ways to help until one day she came up with an idea. She would do something for orphans for her seventh birthday on November 30."
She wanted money that would be spent on her to be given to help the children. At this point, she had no idea who those children would be or where they lived, but that was all about to change.
Photo right: Zora McLemore presents her pastor, the Rev. Chris Young with an envelope of money for missions.
"One day our church's newsletter had an update from Will and Ella Faircloth, missionaries supported by our church," Christy McLemore said. "They had just adopted two girls from the Methodist Children's Home that they work with in Costa Rica. Suddenly, it clicked. This is how Zora can help the orphans!"
Thus began a labor of love for one little girl. The first step was to pray.
"I prayed about it, then emailed the Faircloths to see how we could help," Christy McLemore said. "With their school year beginning in February, we began collecting money for the Methodist Children's Home with an end date of November 30, with all funds collected going toward school clothes and supplies." At this point, Zora added, "And maybe something fun, too."
In October, when Oak Grove United Methodist Church celebrated its annual Children's Sabbath worship service, Zora asked to say a few words, asking people to help the orphans around the world and even to consider adopting, "so they can have homes that love and care." Many in the congregation that day were deeply moved by this plea so sweetly given by such a young member of their church family.
Their whole family, including big sister, Sophie, 9, hit the ground running with Zora's mission. Over the course of two months, through bake sales at their homeschool co-op and then at the Fall Festival at Oak Grove UMC, they raised $605, and yet, until that last moment when the total would be tallied and the check cut, Zora continued to set her mind on ways to build her gift until the very last day, when she handed over her tooth fairy money, one solitary dollar, to her mom and dad to add to the fund.
On a Tuesday morning in late November, Zora placed the check in the hands of her pastor, the Rev. Chris Young, who forwarded it to the missionaries. "Zora was an inspiration to the entire church with her love of God and love for the children," Young said.