Early in our married life, things were pretty tight. I was working as an Assistant Youth Director at Bethany while Tracy was finishing her last year of college. Just as Tracy completed school, our beautiful daughter, Abigail, was born. As we welcomed this new bundle of joy into our family, we were unsure how things would work out. We knew that living on my youth ministry income alone would stretch our already strained family budget, but the options in front of us were limited at the time. What we did not know is that this would also be a season that helped us grow to trust God as our provider. The amazing generosity of friends, family, and this church showed us how God uses each of our lives – and our finances – to be part of his work in peoples’ lives.
In the first few days after bringing Abigail home, she was struggling to eat well and get the calories she needed to grow. A friend of ours came to visit and could see our stress and confusion we had as new parents. She knew that we were reluctant to spend more money on supplies and professional expertise due to our income at the time. As she left our home, our friend gave us a handful of cash and insisted that we spend it on a feeding specialist. That helped us get Abigail eating more and she had no problem growing into a healthy (and kinda chunky) baby after that.
As Abigail continued to grow in that first year, there was a Bethany member and youth group volunteer who regularly dropped off a new package of diapers for us. She would always ask what size Abigail was wearing, and then show up most Sunday nights with the diapers for me to take home. What seemed like a relatively small gift added up (a lot!) over time. Looking back, this generosity saved us untold amounts of money and lightened the financial stress in our home.
When Abigail was 18 months old, I began taking seminary classes to work towards a Master of Divinity degree and continue in the ordination process. We knew that seminary carried a hefty price tag, but we did not know how we were going to pay for it yet. Some family members were generous to help with a portion of the first few semesters to get me started. The Bethany Foundation gave me scholarships with funds that had been donated and invested by Bethany members over the years. I was eventually able to get scholarships through the Rio Texas Conference because of someone’s generosity to invest in seminary students like me. Through the generosity of my family and my church, I was able to graduate from seminary debt free!
During those first couple years of parenthood, our date night budget shrank significantly. We did not have the money to eat out much at all, so we got used to doing things that were relatively inexpensive. One day, some friends let us know that they felt God leading them to give us a date night. They gave us $100 to spend on a night out! We hardly knew how to spend that much money in one night at that point. We graciously thanked them and had a wonderful evening eating food and seeing a movie that we would have not been to pay for on our own. Their generosity blew us away and provided time in a busy season for us to reconnect and invest in our marriage.
As I reflect back on these acts of generosity, it helps me realize how much the generosity of others has really made a difference in my life and family. I really don’t think we would have made it through the early part of being parents without our friends, family, and church community supporting us in the ways they did. Generosity really does make a difference.
As Tracy and I find ourselves in a more stable financial place now, we are looking more at the ways God is calling us to be generous towards others. This has led to us increasing our giving to Bethany this year because we believe in the work of the local church and know that so much good happens through the Bethany community. We also give to support our friends who are missionaries in South Africa and give to the Shalom Home in El Salvador where both of us have served in ministry. In addition to all of this, we are starting to set money aside each month to ask God where he would have us give it to bless others, because we know God sometimes calls us to spontaneous acts of generosity. It is exciting to be on the other side of the generosity equation where we can now give instead of receive, because we know the impact generosity has had in our lives. Now we are praying that our generosity can go forth to be part of God’s work in the lives of others.
As you consider God’s generosity in your own life and how God is calling you to give during this next season, remember that your generosity really does make a difference. Every little bit counts. I hope you can join me in getting excited about what God will do with our collective generosity at Bethany and in our surrounding community!