“Give” is the word of the season. We give thanks in November, and we give presents in December. While “getting” is a very enjoyable part of the end of the year, I also believe that “giving” can be just as enjoyable, if not more so.
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” – Deuteronomy 16:17
As God’s children, we have been charged with the call to be good stewards of what He has blessed us with. Nothing we consider ours is truly something we gained on our own. Everything we have is a gift from God. The more we realize this principle, the more blessing we will begin to see in our lives.
4word Board of Directors Member, Erin Botsford, has the most incredible testimony of being obedient to God’s call to give, even when it seems impossible. 4word has benefitted greatly from Erin’s insight and guidance throughout her time on our board, and I will forever be grateful to her. I asked her to share this story with you today.
“My husband, Bob, was an Air Force pilot, and in 1985, we were stationed in Bitburg, Germany. We connected with a group called Officer’s Christian Fellowship. The couple who led our group had six children, all under the age of eight. Dave and Sally were missionaries, so they had to raise their own financial support, which required a lot of faith, especially considering they had a total of eight mouths to feed.
One evening, Bob and I confided in Dave and Sally that we were really struggling financially to make ends meet. With me not working, it was becoming increasingly hard. Dave asked us a simple question, ‘Do you tithe?’
Truthfully, neither one of us had ever heard the term before so it was easy for us to answer. ‘No, and we have no idea what you are talking about.’
Dave explained that tithing was an Old Testament concept, where people gave back to God the “first fruits” of their crops. He showed us several Old Testament passages which clearly laid out God’s commandment to give back the first ten percent of their earnings, which came in the form of 10% of their crops or grain or whatever form of earnings they had back in the day. In particular, he pointed to a scripture found in Malachi 3:10, which says, ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’
What The Old Testament was saying is that giving or tithing is not merely a suggestion, it is a command. But better yet, a command with a promise, a good promise. The cool thing about this verse is that God didn’t ask the people in the Old Testament to just “do it.” Instead, He gave them a way to test Him and to prove His faithfulness (‘Test me in this ….and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven’).
Of course with bills piling up and money short,at the time, I thought the lesson was fascinating, but I also thought Dave and Sally were a little bit off their rockers. After all, we had just confided in them that we were running out of money and here’s what they told us to do: Start giving 10% of our money away! The first 10% no less, not the money we had left over. Of course we had none left over. This was ludicrous to me, and I quickly dropped the subject.
Bob was very quiet that night on the way home. Normally, we would talk about what we had learned but that night we didn’t. When we got home, Bob very directly told me he wanted us to start tithing. I said, ‘What! Are you nuts?’
He said no, and went to the Bible and re-read Malachi 3:10 to me out loud. I hate to admit that we got into a very heated discussion over the subject as I ranted and raved about how, if we did this, it would drive us into bankruptcy. Still, my husband persisted and gave me a challenge. He said, ‘Let’s just try it for six months and see if God makes good on His promises. If not, we’ll stop.’
I was still very reluctant, but I gave in and we started tithing 10% off the top of our income. This was in October of 1986. I wish I could tell you that I had a good attitude about it, but I didn’t.
About the same time, I was getting bored and antsy staying at home with our three year old. Prior to moving to Germany, I had spent about eight years working in the title insurance business, so I knew a lot about real estate. I was particularly adept in the knowledge of how a military person could use their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits to buy a home when they returned to the states. I found myself coaching folks who were getting ready to rotate back to the States on how to buy a home when they returned.
Every Friday night at the Officer’s Club, someone would corner me and ask me questions. Seeing this, one of my friends, Donna, came up to me and said, ‘Hey Erin, you know so much about real estate, you should really start teaching a class on the subject.’ I sort of brushed her off, but the idea of doing something productive and having a positive impact on people with knowledge I had acquired became very enticing. I went to the office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), where they taught continuing education classes, and met with the program director. When I told her my qualifications and my desire to teach a class, she said, ‘Great, when do you want to start and how much do you want to charge for the class?’
I said, ‘Well, I guess I could start after the first of the New Year but I don’t want to charge anything for the class. I’m just a stay at home mom looking for something to do.’
She taught me a very valuable lesson that day by saying, ‘If you don’t charge anything for the class, no one will come. People value what they pay for.’ On a whim, I said, ‘How about if I charge $25 per person?’
She said, ‘Great. We take $5 per person for advertising in the catalog, so you will get $20 for each attendee.’
I created a syllabus for my new class and then the materials to market it, something I had never done! Between caring for my child and going to school four nights a week, I stayed up late at night working on my course curriculum. Since the base did very little in terms of advertising their classes, I hired a graphics person to help me design and create flyers. I also paid high school kids to post the signs for my classes in all of the stairwells on the base so people could read about my class as they returned home from work.
I learned so much about business and marketing in those few short months, but the success of the first class was still looming out there. I was both excited and afraid. I had never spoken in public, and now I was going to be giving an eight-hour class to a bunch of strangers, assuming anyone showed up.
Early in January, Bob came home and announced to me that he had been selected for a deployment back to the United States. He and three other pilots were being tasked to go back to the Washington, DC area, and he would be there for about 10 days to two weeks. He said, ‘Hon, I know you have really missed being in the States. How would you like to come back with me and we can spend a week in the D.C. area, shopping at the malls and eating Mexican food?’
I was stunned. My response to him was, ‘How in the world could we ever afford for me to go back to the States with you? After all, you’re giving all of our money away.’
While he was clearly hurt at my response, he asked, ‘How much would you want to have to spend to make it worth your while to come back with me?’
I said, ‘At least $400. It wouldn’t be worth going back with less than that.’ (I have no idea where I came up with that figure, but that’s what I said.)
He answered, ‘Fine,’ and walked off. We didn’t discuss it any further. I knew there was no way he could come up with $400, so I put the entire subject to rest.
The morning of my first real estate class came, I was as nervous as a cat. What if a bunch of people show up? What if no one showed up? Since I had never spoken in front of a group of people, my nerves were on edge. Bob was very supportive of my efforts and came with me to open up the classroom and help me with last minute preparations. The class was supposed to start at 9AM and last until 5PM.
At 8:55AM, no one had shown up. I was devastated. But, Bob kept encouraging me. He said, ‘It’s January, the roads are slick. It’s a Saturday and people have slept in, etc.’ He did all he could to make me feel better.
Finally, a little after 9:00AM, people started walking in and they kept on coming. My little classroom wouldn’t hold more than about 30 people and it was quickly filling up. At about 9:25, it appeared all of the attendees were in their seats, and I was on my way up to the front to start my class.
I will never forget the next moments as long as I live. Bob started walking up to the front of the classroom, presumably to wish me luck and leave. I noticed a quirky smile on his face. He looked at me, straight in the eyes and asked, ‘Have you counted how many people are here?’
I said, ‘What?’
He repeated, ‘Have you counted how many people are here?’
I said, ‘No.’
His next words would change my life forever. He said, ‘There are 22 people here. You make $20 off of each person and 22 times $20 equals $440.00. So, God gets his $40 and you get $400. We are going back to the States!’
I couldn’t believe it. I was simply stunned and speechless. God had been faithful to us. Not only faithful, but He had clearly waved a big red flag in front of my face so I didn’t miss it! Since that day, my faith in the concept of tithing has never wavered, not even once. I base my entire life on the concept of generosity, because as I studied further, I found out it is not about giving ten percent. It is about giving generously. Ten percent is just a place to start. It is a good initial benchmark. But the true concept is about giving generously of your time, your treasure, or your talents. The easiest one to measure is the amount of money you give, but to limit yourself to writing checks truly limits your potential to be a generous giver.”
Every time I hear Erin’s story, I get chills. It’s such a humbling reminder to me to always keep “giving” high on my priority list. I love thinking about “giving” and the impact it has had on 4word and my journey to start this organization. Five years ago, friends and colleagues gave of their time and talents to help advise me on how best to start 4word. Along the way, generous individuals and organizations have given their resources and knowledge to help support 4word as it grew. Today, there are women in 17 cities across the country who give their time and insight to women in their communities through 4word Local Groups. The 4word Mentor Program is so blessed to have highly successful professional women giving their attention and hard-earned advice as mentors. The 4word team is so blessed to have many volunteers helping to spread the mission of 4word through the giving of their talents and time.
One of those volunteers is Erin. She joined the Board of Directors in 2010 and has been a faithful support to me and the organization as we drove to be excellent in all areas, including governance. Erin has served on our Board for six years and will be taking a required sabbatical next year. I am grateful for Erin’s gifts of her time, talent, and treasure.
In what place is “giving” in your life? Looking back over 2016, how many opportunities can you directly trace back to being obedient to God’s call to give? If you’d like to finish out this year by honoring this God-given act, I ask that you consider giving to 4word as part of your end-of-the-year giving plan. 4word can only continue to grow and thrive as we have if people like you continue to bless and gift us with your donations. Give as little or as much as you feel God leading. Know that your gift will go directly into ministering to women in the workplace across the country, and the world.
What if we could reach another 2 million women in 2017? Help us meet our $20,000 goal during your end-of-year giving and continue:
- 4word: Member Insider
- 4word: Mentor Program
- 4word: Local Groups
- 4word: Church Connect