Generosity In a Difficult Time
In August 2001, no one imagined what would happen in the following month. I stepped out of my comfort zone and launched a $7 million capital campaign. The campaign seemed outlandish because UGM normally had a budget of about $1 million a year. We had secured an amazing $1 million lead gift, but the project felt way over my head (but not at all over God’s head). The first couple I sat down with to discuss support for the campaign showed generosity, godliness and biblical qualities. God had blessed them with a creative business in the travel-hospitality industry in which they showed gratitude. They believed in giving to those less fortunate. The Bible encouraged Christ-followers to give to the hungry, oppressed, poor, imprisoned, homeless, and thirsty.
I had fundraising coaches tell me to set a certain amount for each donor - ask big to get big results.
My boss, Jesus, told me to humble myself and speak the truth with love. I laid out our vision to build a LifeChange center, and asked the couple to pray about the opportunity - I told them I trusted their hearts.
I didn’t know at the time, but this couple had developed a habit of praying, and they personally wrote down what they believed God led them to give. When they did, their numbers matched clearly indicating to them that they heard God. The number they received from God happened to be twice what my coaches told me to ask them for. Yay God! They made a multiyear pledge.
Then, the next 30 days unfolded when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers and the unthinkable happened. Jets remained grounded, and the travel industry went in the tank. I wondered about the pledge, so I called my friends and let them know I understood if they could not meet their pledge.
Their response stunned me - they told me that God had given them desire and the amount to give. They did not see their urgent circumstances as a reason to back off their commitment. They believed that God would supply the provision they needed to do his will, and they never missed a monthly gift.
Eventually, the travel industry rebounded, and their company outpaced everyone else moving them to the top of their trade. Their lives prospered the most with the years that followed.
Jesus said plainly, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap (Luke 6:38).” It takes faith to take God at his word. Success does not always happen within a decade as it did for them. It isn’t always measured in this world, yet it is true.
UGM Stories of Generosity are by Executive Director at Union Gospel Mission, Bill Russell. Bill has been a leader at Union Gospel Mission for 25 years. He is the co-founder of Union Gospel Mission’s LifeChange recovery program. LifeChange helps men, women and children escape abuse, addiction and homelessness to transform their lives.
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