The gift of generosity

We were sitting on my daughter’s bed when my friend asked, “How does your family feel about the zoo?” I looked up at the wall of tiger drawings, and replied, “You have to ask?” This young mom told me that she and her husband started a fund for the sole purpose of blessing a different family every year. “How would you feel if we gave you a zoo membership?” Years before, when my husband was laid off, friends from church helped us with essentials like food, but the chance to watch gibbons hang upside down whenever we wanted? That’s a lavish gift. 

This fall, I made it a project to collect from our MB family as many stories of generous gifts as I could. Gifts that took them back to memories of the church as the hands of God. Some as extravagant as a house, others as simple as a sandwich, all more about the heart of the giver than the money spent. Gifts that inspire me to be generous too.

—Angeline Schellenberg

Gift-Image1 My closest friend has prayed for me unrelentingly; I can count on her to support me before the throne of heaven in any time of need. She showed extravagant love in a surprise 60th birthday party, served our family when my husband’s father died, helped clean my house when we moved and on and on. She is a giving machine, pouring out goodness to me, clearly reminding me of Jesus at every turn.

Sandee Pauls, MB Herald reporter, Steinbach (Man.) MB Church

 I was almost going under with a very ill asthmatic son, the third of four youngchildren. No one wanted to care for him because they were afraid of his life-threatening disease. A woman at church, whom I didn’t know, offered to take my two preschool children every Thursday afternoon to give me a break. She also had an asthmatic son, now grown. She recognized my absolute fatigue and knew how to help. What a wonderful gift!

—Helen Rose Pauls, MB Herald advisory board member

 Gift-image2One profound act of great love was when a team from Willow Park Church came together to create an “extreme home makeover” out of our flooded basement. (We were pastoring WPC at the time.) It was so much more than a makeover: it was a tangible expression of God’s people being the hands and feet of Jesus to us!

—Karolyn Burch, director of ministry to church planter spouses, C2C Network

Gift-PaintThis summer, while the Bethany College community waited for God to speak into our future, there was a coming together that blessed my heart. I decided to really clean and sort my area. A student texted me, offering to assist me in cleaning up my area of the school. One evening a week – all summer – we sorted costumes, props, papers. Her faithfulness became an anchor, a tangible reminder of God’s continuing care.

A large gift of paint and a volunteer couple came to transform the ladies dorm and the school hallway doors. The visual transformation was a blessing, but the peace their prayers caused was incredible. Rumours of their gift led to more donations, and on the hottest days last summer, volunteers gave 140 hours to scrub and repaint the chapel.

There’s also the neighbour who blows my snow when I work late, the person who paid my property taxes, the students who call to encourage me from the Bible and, best of all, the extravagant gifts to Bethany that allowed me to continue being part of God’s transformation in the lives of his children.

—Susan J. Schmidt Goerz, ministry arts director, Bethany College

I was waiting in line at a café near our Toronto C2C hub when the woman in front of me saw her sandwich order and declared, “That’s way too big for me!” She asked them to cut it and wrap up the larger portion for me. I returned to the church planting team, gave thanks, cut the sandwich into sample sizes and interrupted their meeting with the snack. They were very grateful!

—Greg Laing, C2C Network Ontario regional director

gift-houseSabbath rest is often a challenge with all the pressures of ministry. Time is a precious resource. There have been many times when the Lord has invited me into rest through the generosity of his people offering a cottage or a cabin for a few days of solitude and reflection. What precious gifts God delivers through his community of faith.

—J.P. Hayashida, CCMBC director of operations

The most generous people I know are my wife’s parents, who emigrated from Paraguay and became successful home builders in St. Catharines, Ont. What impacted me most was how they extended generosity to delinquent clients, refusing to pursue them through the legal system. This generosity of trust, even when it ends up being costly, respects the image of God in people and encourages the same spirit in others.

And they trusted me with their daughter! Even though it was difficult for them to release us to go to seminary and watch their grandchildren grow up so far away, they always trusted that we had heard the call of God and needed to follow it. In turn, we have done the same for our children, freeing them to pursue their chosen vocations and supporting them in the process.

—Keith Poysti, Manitoba conference minister

Gift-flakesWe had recently moved from Benin in West Africa, and Winnipeg was experiencing the coldest winter on record. When the temperature dropped to unbearable conditions (below 40 with wind chill), walking to church became extremely difficult. A church member offered to drive us on Sunday. Her generosity warmed our hearts, and we felt so welcomed.

—Esther Danhoundo, Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg

Eight years ago, we were a new pastor couple at our church in Mission, B.C. We were having trouble saving for a house. A church member gave us a gift toward a down payment ($25,000!) that made purchasing a home possible. Needless to say, we were deeply moved!

—Brian Cooper, BFL chair, MBBS Canada associate dean and assistant professor of theology

gift-bedI often travel in my work as church historian. The generosity I regularly encounter from people who put me up is truly moving. I enjoy sharing a meal and a space in the homes of fellow Christ followers. Not only do I always learn new things, but I am encouraged in my faith, and as a result, I find it much easier to make our spare room available to others passing through!

—Jon Isaak, director, Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg

In 2002, the Mennonite Brethren church and members in Dresden, Germany, suffered the effects of record flooding of the Elbe River. In sympathy and solidarity, the MB conference in DR Congo, members in the poorest country of the world, raised and sent $100 US to help out. This amounted to a quarter of the annual earnings of a Congolese citizen.

After the Japanese triple disaster in 2012, the Bielefeld church (BTG conference) in Germany took up an offering to assist the MB churches there in their witness and service to their neighbours. They raised nearly 35,000 euros, and some members asked if they could give again.

—David Wiebe, ICOMB executive secretary

At a time when we thought we would lose ETEM, former owner of Robertson College Ken Penner and his team stepped in with wisdom, systems and finances that provided us with the ability to attract students and donors, pay our staff and feel a renewed sense of hope that God has a purpose for our school. It is hard to put into words how grateful I and the team are for the significant investment the Penner family has made in enabling the school to prepare men and women for ministry in
the French world.

—Kristen Corrigan, president, ETEM, Quebec

gift-planeMy brother went through a two-year process of deterioration that ended his life last July. His five kids, his wife, and the rest of our family were all aching. But in the midst of that sadness, friends stepped forward. No less than 10 times, I flew back to Toronto from Winnipeg and every one of those tickets was an unrequested gift from a friend. Because of this outpouring, I got to be part of the team that supported my brother and each other. I grew closer to my family through this time because of the God-prompted kindness of friends. Thank you, dear friends. Thank you, Jesus.

—Brent Smith, The Meeting Place, Winnipeg

How many times did I visit my mom in the care home and hear her ask, “Is it Christmas?” I would reply, “No, Mom, the grass is still green. Christmas is months away.” She loved Christmas with all the preparations and gatherings, but her greatest desire was for her family to seek Jesus. “Is it Christmas?” This was one of the last questions my mom asked me. When she could no longer feed herself, I said, “Would you like me to feed you?” Once I asked, “Does this make you feel loved?” In a barely audible voice, she said, “Yes.” This was my last gift to her.

—Lorraine Balzer, account representative, CCMBC

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