My husband, Ryan, and I were asked to share our Financial Stewardship Testimony with our home congregation of MPCC yesterday. We are beginning our second Capital Stewardship Campaign in April for our Family Life Center. Between now and then, people in different stages of life from our congregation will be sharing their stories. Ryan wrote the testimony; I acted as editor, and we presented the testimony together. I wanted to post it here for those of you who might not know the financial part of our family story. There is much more we could share, had we been given the time. Maybe Ryan will break down and teach a workshop with me sometime.
(In case you would like to know who shared what – Ryan’s parts are in conventional text and mine are in italics. Now you can hear our voices in your head…)
In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe portrays a General named Maximus who motivated his troops before a battle by exclaiming, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
We were asked to give our testimony on financial stewardship. I am Ryan Mott, this is my wife Deanne, and we have been members here for over 12 years. By no means are we experts on the subject of financial stewardship, but we are willing to share out story. It begins in 1996 with our marriage. Every month, God was getting our left-overs. Often we would look at the checkbook balance on Sunday morning and give a portion of the remaining balance, if there was one. God had blessed my life. He had given me a beautiful wife, a woman who first took me to church, which led me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then He blessed me with two healthy children and a job that allowed me to provide for my family. There was no reason to not give more to God.
In 2005 Ryan and I facilitated the program Financial Peace University with our small group. We were finally working a plan to get out of debt and moving towards a debt free future. One of the key parts of this program is a zero-based budget. Every penny of your paycheck is earmarked before you receive it and is spent the way you marked it. This changed our financial situation drastically, in a good way. For the first time in our almost 10 year marriage, we were tithing. We were not only tithing our 10%, we were also sponsoring a child through World Vision and paying towards the original Capital Stewardship Campaign for MPCC’s Family Life Center. In three years we paid off approximately $38,000 and were debt free except for our mortgage.
At this time Deanne shared a heaviness that was on her heart, a call to add to our family through adoption. Adoption is not a cheap process, but I wanted us to do this on our own. We had gotten ourselves out of debt; we could certainly put aside enough money to adopt. Why not take a portion of the tithe every month and put it towards our adoption? This started a trend of tweaking the budget to suit our plans. We paid approximately $4000 towards the adoption…and lost it all. I began to doubt that this was a path we were truly supposed to take. But, once Deanne arrived home from her trip to Ethiopia, God made it clear to both of us that we were called to look after the orphans. We went back to giving our first fruits to God, and handed the concern of the adoption fees to Him. We returned to the zero-based budget and our tithing of 10%. God began showing us again what He could do with our finances. Matthew 19:26 reminds me of this, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Since our rededication to financial stewardship we have already been able to pay adoption fees doubling the amount we had lost in our first adoption attempt.
Our intention is to give above our tithe to the building fund, and we are planning to do this as a family. The kids will be giving a portion of their chore compensation for their own pledge. By no means is this going to be an easy task. God loves a cheerful giver, and this is one of my struggles, to look at the budgeted amount for charitable gifts each month and not think of how I could use it for my own plan or for pleasure. But will a new shotgun, rifle or fishing rod bring glory to God? Our building is bringing glory to God each week. Show up on any Big Wednesday. Over half of the children there do not attend our services on Sunday. Mt. Pulaski Christian Church is bringing the message of Jesus Christ to those in our community who may not be getting that opportunity elsewhere.
God sacrificed His Son. We will never have to endure such a sacrifice, but we can sacrifice financially. We can all give to the point it hurts. A sacrifice in the checking account, such as forgoing the new furniture or the latest electronic miracle may not be our plan, but we have found it isn’t our money to plan with. The parable of the rich man in Matthew reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus expects, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”