When my great-grandmother came to Canada from Russia in the 1920s she was widowed and destitute. She remembered when she and her husband and owned vast tracts of agricultural lands in the old country, lands given to the Mennonites decades earlier by Catherine the Great. There they enjoyed great prosperity. Understanding their wealth as a gift from God they needed to share with others, my great-grandparents provided substantial support for any number of enterprises, including mission work and education.
Then came the chaos and fear of the First World War and the ensuing Russian revolution. In the end, the Mennonite people were driven out of their homes and everything was taken from them. Fearing for their lives and desiring religious freedom, they came to Canada to rebuild their communities.
Being a widow and elderly, my great-grandmother was cared for my her family. She had no physical needs and yet her great sadness was that she had nothing to put in the offering plate on Sunday. This privilege had been taken from her and she felt it keenly. It was a sadness that she expressed time and time again.
One day after she and her family had been in Canada for some time, a check arrived from the United States. Soon it was followed by another and another. The checks came from a young man she had known in Russia who had gone to Germany to study theology. Now a minister in the United States, he wanted to repay my great-grandmother for making it possible for him to become a minister. My great-grandparents, never expecting repayment, had funded a number of men in their ministerial studies in Germany.
My great-grandmother was overwhelmed with joy. She could put something in the offering plate again! The first thing she did was to go to the church and begin giving the money back to God–the God who had blessed her very life.
Author Maya Angelou once said, "When we cast our bread upon the waters we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never see who are downstream from another will profit from the grantor's gift."
This stewardship story comes from Volume 5 of the Giving: Growing Faithful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine with the theme of "Let God Lead". The magazine includes an easy-to-use, adaptable stewardship emphasis plan.
Each of the 15 volumes of Giving focus on a different timeless stewardship theme. Additional theme materials and worship and study resources that accompany each issue are available in the ESC web store.