December 24, 2016

To Fund Adventist School, Two Argentine Boys Sell Paper Airplanes in Kyrgyzstan

Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission

Christian Müller, a Seventh-day Adventist volunteer in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, was surprised to find his two young sons selling paper airplanes on the city street outside their home.

The boys—Lukas, 7, and Thomas, 6—had dragged a table into the road, decorated it with colorful flowers, and filled it with the homemade planes, which they were trying to sell for 10 Kyrgyzstani som (15 U.S. cents) each.

Thomas, left, and Lukas Müller, right, sitting at home, with their homemade piggy bank, in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

The boys wanted to donate the money for new classrooms at Heritage Christian School in Tokmok, a city of about 53,000 people located a 90-minute drive east of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek.

“The children became very excited about the project, So they decided to fundraise.”

“The children became very excited about the project,” said Müller, who serves as development director at Heritage Christian School, raising money for the school. “So they decided to fundraise.”

The boys had spent the previous month listening to their father speak about the project at churches in their home country of Argentina, as well as in the United States and Spain, during the family’s annual leave. The Adventist-owned school, with 330 students enrolled in kindergarten through high school, was turning away 40 students a year because of a lack of space and needed $400,000 to construct a new three-story building, Müller said.

About 700 Adventists live in Kyrgyzstan, a predominantly Muslim country of 6 million people bordered by China and three former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Müller said his sons appeared to have caught the mission spirit by listening to his fundraising presentations and his daily prayers to God for help during family worship. But he said he didn’t want them to sell paper airplanes on the street. So he suggested that they try to sell them on the school campus.

A construction team at work on the classroom building co-funded by Lukas and Thomas Müller.  Credit: Andrew McChesney/Adventist Mission

Plane Sales Take Off

The boys went straight to the school’s cashier, a native of Kyrgyzstan. She agreed to buy two paper airplanes for a total of 20 som (30 cents).

Then the boys approached their father.

“They came to me, and I said, ‘OK I will buy one,’” Müller said in an interview in his home on the school campus.

But the boys told him: “No, no. For you, it is not 10 som. It is $20. You are a foreigner.”

Foreigners in Kyrgyzstan are sometimes charged a significantly higher rate than locals.

Another man at the school also met with rejection when he handed over 10 som for a paper airplane. The boys told him that the plane cost 100 som ($1.50).

“Why?” the man asked. “You sold the planes to the cashier for 10 som each.”

“This is a special plane,” Thomas said. “It flies better than the rest.”

The boys’ fundraising efforts didn’t stop with paper airplanes. They built a cardboard box to collect money for the school at the local grocery store. Their father liked the idea but suggested that it might be better to place the box in the school.

“The principal thought it was a good idea and assigned the boys’ father the task of placing the box in the school.”

“I told them to ask the principal for permission,” Müller said. “The principal thought it was a good idea and assigned the boys’ father the task of placing the box in the school.”

When the boys received cash from relatives for special occasions, they contributed it to the school project instead of spending it on toys or candy, their parents said. Lukas lost two teeth and put them under the pillow at night. The $20 and 5 Argentine peso bills that he found the next morning went to the construction fund. The boys, who love soccer, decided not to go to the stadium of their favorite team, Barcelona, while visiting Spain because they didn’t want to spend any money that could help the school.

Putting Mission First

Müller said he was pleased that his children were putting mission first.

“I am happy that they understand the mission that we have as a family,” Müller said. “It is special to me because I have realized that I am not alone in my work. We are all committed to the same goal.”

The school has raised nearly all the funds needed for the new classrooms, and the building is expected to open in time for the new school year in September 2017. Fundraising work is now starting on another building: a multifunctional center where students will be able to attend indoor physical education classes during the cold winter months. The center also will contain a large auditorium where students can gather for meetings; serve as a center of influence with a soccer school for 100 underprivileged children; and provide conference facilities for events hosted by the church’s South Union Mission, whose territory includes Kyrgyzstan. The Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in fourth quarter 2017 is to cover $300,000 of its $400,000 cost.

Lukas and Thomas Müller, meanwhile, have contributed about $150 to the classroom project, and they are continuing to look for new ways to raise money. The boys have a homemade piggy bank where they collect som banknotes and coins.

“I don’t need to buy more toys because God has blessed me with many toys,” Lukas said in an interview.

His brother remembered hearing his father say that 40 children are turned away from the school every year.

“I want to help so more children can come study in the school,” Thomas said.

The boys’ enthusiasm for the school has built the faith of many, including Konstantyn Kampen, education director for the South Union Mission.

“When I saw how these children were sacrificing, I realized that we would finish this project,” he said. “If God can touch the hearts of these kids, then He will touch the hearts of the adults, too.”

A portion of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for fourth quarter 2017 will go toward the construction of a multifunctional center at Heritage Christian School in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan, which is part of the Euro-Asia Division.