Most of us have received gifts of money for our birthdays. On their own, these small gifts don’t seem like a lot of money, but what if you combine the birthday cash of hundreds or even thousands of people? What could that money do?

This was some of the thinking behind BJU Chancellor Dr. Bob Jones III’s initial vision for WORLD Fund, a program that asks students to donate money on their birthdays to fund education for international students.

Nearly 25 years ago, Dr. Bob experienced an increasing burden for churches outside of the United States. The University had already trained hundreds of pastors through the Timothy Fund, a program that pays for international students to study ministry at BJU so they can return to their home countries as pastors or in some other full-time service position. While these students returned to their homelands well educated and well equipped for ministry, Dr. Bob realized they needed some support.

“It dawned on me that we had foreign national pastors all over the world who needed trained lay people in their congregations,” Dr. Bob said.

So Dr. Bob devised a companion program to the Timothy Fund: WORLD Fund.

“WORLD” is an acronym for “Workers of Righteousness Lending Dollars.” To fund the program, Dr. Bob asked current students, faculty and alumni to give the same amount of money as their age on their birthdays. So if you were turning 21 years old, you would give $21, if you were turning 35 you would give $35, etc. This money is collected and used to help pay for the education of international students, with the idea that when they graduate, these students will return to their home countries and serve in some sort of ministry. The WORLD Fund has already sent hundreds of lay workers out into the far reaches of the world.

The number of WORLD Fund students has fluctuated over the years, but currently there are three WORLD Fund students at the University.

Gabe Brea De La Cruz, a junior actuarial science major, is one of those students. He first heard about the program in the Dominican Republic through his school principal, who was a BJU graduate and a WORLD Fund participant. Cruz wanted to travel abroad for his college education, but he hadn’t seriously considered BJU. Then he heard about the WORLD Fund, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. He applied and was accepted. All along Cruz has known he will return to the Dominican Republic after he graduates, but, through his education, God has changed and is still changing his desires for how he should best serve in his home country when he returns.

“I want to prepare as best I can so I can go back and serve my country, whether that be by starting a business or being a youth pastor in my church or reaching out to more rural areas,” Cruz said.           

For Janine Militar, a senior music education major from the Philippines, the WORLD Fund was a fortuitous blessing. Militar has always had a burden to teach in her home country, and a few months from now when she graduates, she’ll have that chance. Militar heard about the program from her music director and from Dr. Bob himself, who came to her church and explained the program. Militar is excited to return and give back to the institution that gave so much to her.

“It’s a neat thought,” Militar said. “It helps keep me focused [on] studying. The more I learn while I’m here, the more I’ll be able to take back home.”

Dr. Bob encourages students to continue contributing to the fund.

“[Giving] is not just for the old folks or graduates,” Dr. Bob said.

You never know how far that birthday check from Grandmother could go.