Church Prayed for Pennies, Got Big $$

Long Island church gets surprise $3 million donation from lottery winnings.

ByABC News via logo
August 29, 2008, 11:18 AM

Aug. 29, 2008 — -- A Long Island, N.Y., congregation was praying for pennies from heaven to help expand their church, but instead they were showered with millions.

A parishioner who wants to remain anonymous donated his $3 million winning "Ba Da Bling" scratch-off lottery ticket to The True North Community Church in Port Jefferson.

The donation came as a complete surprise to Pastor Bert Crabbe, though he told the congregation the church was facing financial problems because it was growing so fast.

"Our congregation has outgrown its facility," Crabbe told "Good Morning America" today. "We're having four services a week and adding a fifth. We needed another place to meet and I told the congregation, 'Unless God drops a couple of million on us…' I was joking, I wasn't asking for it or praying for it. 'Unless this happens we'll end up renting a facility somewhere.' And then this happened."

Crabbe said he received a call from a parishioner who told the pastor "we need to talk."

"Usually when a pastor gets that call, something bad happened," Crabbe said.

But when the lottery winner revealed his decision to donate the money, Crabbe said, "at first I sat there stunned, very much in disbelief."

True North Community Church will receive approximately $100,000 a year for the next 20 years. Before using the money for the church, they will donate the first payment to a charity called Love 146 that works to abolish human trafficking in Southeast Asia, Crabbe said.

The decision to accept the money didn't come without some moral struggle.

Crabbe said he told the congregation, "Hey, look, we don't endorse gambling. Gambling is a bad way to finance a church… I said we haven't done any gambling, we received a donation. When I said that, everyone laughed."

When asked if he would have donated all of that money to the church, he answered unequivocally. "Let me answer that question clearly. No," he said with a laugh.

"Oh, yeah, the church would have got some money, but … my wife would have never let me do that."