Joyful Giving in Action St. Martinâ€™s Annual Giving Campaign
DEB JOHNSON Although I've been a Christian all of my life, a friend introduced me to the Lutheran Church when I was a mother of three young children. I discovered the beautiful gift of God's unconditional love and GRACE. Stewardship is such an important part of being Lutheran, and I understood for the first time that not only is giving of ourselves the responsible thing to do, but it truly comes from our hearts. Because God loves us so much, we want to give to others. Joyous giving is summed up in the Johnny Appleseed song/table grace: “The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need — the sun, the rain and the apple seeds." An offering prayer from Lutheran liturgy states it best, though, and this has always been my guide for giving. It reads, “Merciful Father, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us, ourselves, our time and our possessions, signs of your gracious love. Receive them for the sake of Him who gave Himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
BILL & CONNIE GROSSKOPF We certainly have been influenced in our giving practices by the examples set by family and friends and the teachings of Christ. Everything we have is a gift from God, so we are only sharing what we have been given. We know that we are very blessed, and believe that it is our responsibility to use the gifts we receive from God to help others. But this sense of responsibility is not what leads us to “joyful giving.” We see so many opportunities to give time and money to help others and find that we enjoy giving time where we can help directly and giving money when we see an organization with needs or sometimes just when someone asks. Joyful giving makes us feel good. We have seen the results of our gifts in many ways. I see the happiness in people that St. Martin’s supports through giving to Meals on Wheels and Mobile Loaves and Fishes. We have been witnessing by delivering meals to clients at MOW for almost 10 years. It has always been that the client gives us back so much more than what we can deliver, and yet we know they depend on us. From these visits, I have had "payments" for meals with hugs, and I have learned that family is so important and have been included like a family member with announcements of births, deaths, and family traditions. I feel that my giving helps them to keep dignity and me to keep faith. Also, our church small group has a monthly run for MLF, and we are asked often about St. Martin's as we pass out food. So many times the homeless are asking God to bless us for our good work at St. Martin's, but I think that it is us, as members of St. Martin's, who are blessed because we see the results of our giving. Making someone else’s life better makes our own life better. Most of our financial giving is close to our home and hearts at St. Martin’s. It is so easy to see the money at work through St. Martin’s as the congregation provides witness and support for its members and help to the community. We are truly amazed that when we make a commitment to the church that seems to be a stretch for us, it always works out, and we are never wanting. For the operating fund at St. Martin’s, we give through an automatic charge to our checking account at the beginning of each month because it is such an easy way to make sure we stick to our commitment. Also, the automated giving feels like the first use of our resources each month is to do God’s work. Having met this commitment, we can consider other giving opportunities including St. Martin’s benevolence choices, the Endowment Fund, the Building Fund, or the needs of other organizations in our community. Giving is like any challenge. You don’t really know your capabilities until you try, and you don’t know how far you can go until you stretch.
JASON & MEGAN BOULETTE My wife and I starting giving to the church shortly after we joined. As our giving became more regular, we talked about whether to start tithing. At the time, we decided we would start by giving five percent of our take-home pay, instead of ten percent of our gross pay. (A bit of “negotiating” with God produced this number as a sort half-way point, with taxes working in our favor!) Once our giving became regular, however, we quickly discovered that the act of giving has an odd sort of momentum, and we found ourselves slowly giving more and more. A Benevolence Focus here, a relief effort there, all the while becoming more and more comfortable giving. Then, in June 2006, I decided to leave the job I had held with a large, national law firm for several years to start my own private practice. Although my wife and I were nervous, we agreed (after much prayer) that having more time for the new family we wanted to start was more important than a steady paycheck. Ironically, it was our genuine belief that we were giving up financial security forever that gave us the courage to commit to tithing. As you might guess, it is easier to agree to give God ten percent of whatever you earn, when you honestly believe you may earn nothing at all. So, throwing caution to the wind, we put our future in God’s hands (where it had been all along), let go of the idea that we were in charge, and started our new life of financial insecurity. We have been amazed daily ever since. When times are good, we have the joy of knowing we are supporting God’s will on Earth and giving back to Him who gave us everything to begin with. When times are tough, we are reminded that others have it far tougher than we do and thank God for keeping us humble as we make good on our commitment. And when tragedy strikes, like it did in Haiti, and the church steps forward to meet the overwhelming need, God rallies us to dig a little deeper, to give a little more, not out of guilt, not out of pride, but out of joy.
WHITNEY & BRISTOL MYERS For us, “joyful giving” is about giving consistently. It is a consequence of growing up in families who attended their churches regularly and supported them faithfully. We learned by our parents’ examples that contributing financially to the church on a consistent basis is simply the right thing to do. Every individual act of giving doesn’t always feel “joyful.” Sometimes it is harder to give than others, but joy for us is found in the steady discipline and moments of grace that show up along the way. There is joy in an ordinary, average Sunday at St. Martin’s. Joy is found in baptisms, weddings, and confirmations. Joy is watching young people grow in faith. Joy is a poignant sermon, a challenging Bible study, and a moving hymn. Joy is knowing that that our money is used to support the greater Church & missions of it. Giving back & giving consistently is a blessing to us.
JUDY & DAN MCGOOKEY Our lives are blessed. Life is good — but it wasn't always this good. Our family of five faced devastating challenges years ago when Collin was diagnosed with leukemia. We felt we truly understood the meaning of the word "devastation" at that point. But our families as well as our church family at St. Martin's was right there with us throughout this time — from prayers, visits, rides for Cheryl and Audi to activities, and financial help for medical bills or to attend Camp Chrysalis … to the memorable and much-needed distraction of the Confirmation camp-outs at the "mud hole" on the family ranch. Our church family has meant so much to us and has helped raise our children in a Christian way. Our crisis stabilized (thank you, God!) and we were able to resume a more normal way of life (such as live at home rather than at the hospital). Though we had career and job changes, we were blessed to have our income remain steady enough to joyfully give to the church for the many blessings we have received from the friendship, fellowship, and support of St. Martin’s. So, now we are grateful to have our turn, to joyfully give, and support St. Martin’s and others in our extended church family.
A It is very difficult to think of specific events in our lives that stand out from others and motivate our giving. We have lived a long time and have been especially blessed too many times to mention, starting with we met and married, and now as we near the end, have ten grandchildren, five greatgrandchildren and still counting.
We as Lutheran Christians do not believe that these blessings are earned or deserved as a result of our giving. Rather they are truly unconditional gifts from God in the same way that we receive forgiveness through grace alone. So ask the obvious question, “Why give?” For many “joyful giving” is an attitude taught to us by our parents at an early age. We are taught to share with siblings and friends, the offering at church, etc. This kind of giving stays with us all our lives and it always feels good, but the giving we are talking about here goes beyond simple sharing. Many years ago we were asked to share our attitudes on giving, we did so then, and they have not changed. We think back to those confirmation days when we had to memorize the small catechism and there was a phrase used over and over: “ We should fear and love God …”etc. Over the years we came to understand what it meant to fear God, but still didn’t know if we fully understood what it meant to truly love God. Yet at the same time, we did fully understand what it meant to unconditionally love each other, the children, our parents etc., … and all those God calls us to love. Epiphany! So how does this enter into our giving? Probably the first truly meaningful giving experience many of us had was the first time we independently gave a gift to our parents. With it went all the love, praise and gratitude possible, as a token of our response for all the unconditional love, devotion, sacrifice and blessing they had given us over many years. Remember the wonderful feeling experienced with this giving? This gift was truly meaningful because it may or may not have been required or needed, no one helped to pick it or obtain it, it symbolized a love exchange between the child and parent and the joy in this giving experience was mutual. If we can have this kind of relationship with our earthly parents, isn’t it also right to have this kind of relationship with God our heavenly Father? Are we not taught during our formative years that although our parents love, guide, sacrifice, provide for and protect us, God is infinitely more to each of us if we love and trust in Him? Doesn’t it just seem right to give thanks and praise to God, our spiritual father, by returning to Him in a significant way part of the many blessings He has given us? God has asked us to give back the very best each of us can to support that part of his Kingdom here in the ministry at Saint Martins. This is not only financial support but also your time and talent. As for us, we will continue our financial support to the end. God be with you as you consider your gift to God.
Our “joyful giving” experiences — whether it be financially, giving of our skills and talents, or simply giving of our time — have allowed us to enjoy and appreciate the blessings God has given to us in ways we likely would not have otherwise. Finding ways to give back to the Lord and his mission, regardless of the size of the contribution — in both good times and bad — has provided a sense of satisfaction that few, if any, other experiences have.
SHAWN & JESSICA KASPER
Specifically, we have taken great pleasure in the seemingly mundane, routine giving to the general operating fund or building fund of the Church. While on the surface it may appear difficult to see the immediate impact or result of such giving, it doesn’t take long to see the true benefits made possible with such giving. These benefits may manifest themselves where you might least expect it, such as seeing a new face (or a family of new faces) in Church nodding in agreement to another thought-provoking sermon, or “hearing” that same new face enjoying the music presented by a world-class music program, or seeing that new face admiring the architecture of the beautiful place of worship with which the Lord has blessed St. Martin’s — all the while being kept cool in the middle of a sweltering Texas summer (or warm in the dead of winter) — none of which would be possible without that “mundane, routine giving.” Additionally, for us, the many outreach programs with which St. Martin’s is affiliated has really brought to life the words of Jesus from Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Seeing the sincere appreciation and thankfulness from the recipients on a Mobile Loaves and Fishes run, or the individuals receiving a warm meal and a warm place to sleep on a “Freeze Night,” or hearing the real life stories from those on a mission trip spreading the word of God — all of which would not have been possible without the contributions of the members of the congregation — have affected us emotionally and spiritually in ways we never would have thought possible. Finally, with the many challenges faced by parents trying to raise a family in the 21st century, the value of a Christian education may never be higher than it is now. Our giving towards Christian education opportunities — from support for the earliest levels of daycare all the way through scholarship funds for the final years of seminary — have provided a sense of “making a difference” in ways not easily attainable through other means. Joyful giving is something that is unique to each and every person. We hope that reading about some of our experiences may bring you to consider how your own “joyful giving” story would sound.
BESS & JOHN SOMMER How does one come to experience the joy of giving to God? As I ponder an answer that pertains to me, I have to look at beginnings in my life. I suppose, like most persons, that I experienced the joy in receiving gifts of things, including love, at an early age. Then, as I grew in years, I also learned the joy of giving to others. In my family, worship was regularly attended. Along with attendance I recall that offering was always a part of Sunday School and worship. Although times were hard for my parents, giving to God via the church was always a part of the picture. I came to understand that this practice had its beginnings in earlier generations, and the practice was merely continuing with my becoming a giver in response to God’s gifts to me. When Bess and I married, we soon determined that our views on giving were almost identical. She, too, had experienced years when finances were limited in her family, and sharing/giving became a regular practice. Having grown up in farming communities where a set income in not the norm, we were thankful to graduate to vocations where a monthly income was guaranteed. We understand the ease of planning financially when you know the amount available for spending. For these reasons, we are strong proponents of planned giving, recognizing that such a “plan” not be considered a ceiling. Instead, it should be adjusted upward when possible. We find pleasure in supporting the work of the Church. Although we designate some of our contributions to specific causes, much of our giving is done with no strings attached. What God decides to do with “our” monies is entirely up to Him. We simply do not worry about that. We are thankful that we can participate in the work of the Church in this small way. If we have any regrets at all, it would be that we should do more of those things that make a positive difference in the lives of God’s children.
BUNNY & JIM OLIVER You can't â€œout giveâ€? God! Hearing that years ago and embracing that fact has given us the opportunity to experience the joy of sharing the blessings we have received so abundantly. One of the greatest blessings is our church home and family at St. Martin's. Doing our part to support the programs, staff, and operations is a very important part of our budget ... at least as important as any other of our budget items. Benevolence outreach is essential, too! Giving time, using talents, and making monetary contributions is vital. Knowing our contributions have helped young Hondurans achieve an education, have helped provide a place of worship for Agua Vida, or have helped feed the hungry in our community and around the world brings us untold joy. By sharing our blessings, they are multiplied ... both for others, and ourselves.
GARRETT & ALYSSA MARTIN Throughout our lives, God has proven that He is always there. We should be faithful to Him to provide for us everything that we need. Joyful giving is a celebration of the peace and contentment in knowing and loving our Lord and Savior. It is also a means for furthering Godâ€™s ministry and witnessing the joy that comes from the light of God shared among many.