One hundred years ago, Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) initial efforts to help people in dire need of food in southern Russia did not go as planned.
Clayton Kratz, Orie O. Miller and Arthur Slagel, the first representatives of MCC, travelled from the U.S. in the fall of 1920 to deliver food and clothing to people in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). The three men were responding to Russian Mennonites’ pleas for help, which led to the creation of “a central committee” to co-ordinate responses from Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren. Continue reading MCC Turns Challenges into Ministry→
Even though it’s been a few years since my kids were in school, our household still settles into new routines in the fall. My wife and I sit down in September and fill out the calendar with our various commitments. While this activity has the potential to feel overwhelming, I’ve found that it readies us for the year ahead. When new opportunities arise at work or in the community, we can be ready to say “yes” if it fits into our schedule. Continue reading A Generosity Mindset→
For Alain Reimer, learning to be generous started when he was a child. “We were taught that giving was just a part of life,” he says of what his parents told their children.
On Sundays, when the family attended church, he remembers being given money to put in the Sunday school offering. “If we had something, we shared it,” he says. “Seeing my parents and grandparents always being generous was extremely influential . . . it absolutely ingrained a spirit of generosity in me.”
His parents also emphasized the importance of service; when he was in high school Alain’s family spent a Christmas break in Mexico building a house for a family in need. “That was my first experience with poverty, and it really taught me that not everyone in the world gets to live the way we do,” he says. “It really gave me a desire to give.”
Alain’s wife, Emily, had a similar experience growing up when her family spent a spring break in New Orleans rebuilding houses affected by Hurricane Katrina. “I loved being able to help in that way,” she says.
Their experiences filled the two with gratitude for what they have—and a conviction to help those in need. So, when the southern Manitoba couple married, they made a commitment to live generously.
To help guide their decision, the Reimers opened a donor-advised fund, called a Flexible Gifting Account, with Abundance Canada. Through the account, the Reimers automatically deposit a portion of each pay-cheque every month.
They receive regular statements and a charitable tax receipt for funds added to their account. They can give immediately through it, or at another time, to any charity of their choosing. “I always had in my head that I wanted to have a bank account where I could put a portion of a pay-cheque away for charity,” Alain says. “It was exactly what I’d been dreaming of.”
Recently, the Reimers had an opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit some of the areas where they had contributed to reconstruction efforts. “Seeing the impact on the people we’ve given to have brought us so much joy,” says Emily. “The results of our generosity brought us more joy than we would have ever gotten out of that money had we spent it on ourselves.”
A year ago the Reimers welcomed their first child; they want to pass on the same values for giving that they were taught. “We want to live in such a way that our kids see us worrying more about others than ourselves,” Alain says.
“Generosity doesn’t just happen—it is learned and strengthened through practice,” says Brad Friesen, a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada. With a flexible gifting account, donors can be strategic about their charitable giving, he explains.
“Whether it’s immediate, a long-term gift throughout a lifetime or potentially a legacy gift in an estate, it’s the donor that advises the timing and the charities they wish to support,” he says. As well, he adds, it’s a practical way for families to model generosity to future generations.
“As children grow, parents can involve their children in the charitable decision-making process, giving them an opportunity to take part and see the benefits of giving,” he shares. “Gifting accounts are an excellent way to make sure the whole family is engaged in learning about and practising generosity.”
With offices in Kitchener, Winnipeg, Calgary and Abbotsford, Abundance Canada is a donor-advised public foundation that enables Canadians to achieve their generosity goals though services such as flexible gifting accounts. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
It wasn’t really a bad day, but there had been enough inconveniences to put me in a bad mood. I tripped and bruised my knee. The milk was sour. I was stood-up at a meeting I’d confirmed. The zipper on my jacket broke.
None of these events were earth-shattering, but I wasn’t keen to repeat them. I decided to console myself with a cup of tea on the way back to the office.
At the drive-thru, I held out some money to the cashier. She beamed at me and said, “Your order is paid for.” This didn’t make sense. I kept holding my money out. “Pardon?” I asked. “The guy ahead of you, he paid for your order,” the smiling clerk explained. Neat! Suddenly, all seemed right with the world again.
It would have been easy to get bogged down by everything that went wrong, but this kindness reframed it for me. I gave the clerk some money and asked her to cover someone’s order. My tea-break benefactor had only saved me about a loonie, but the kindness was much more valuable. It changed my day. I drove back to work with a smile.
Sometimes, it feels like kindness is in short supply. I’ve heard it often (and said it): “I’d love to help, but I have to (whatever I’m running to or from that day).” We blame our modern lives for this disconnection, but it’s not a new problem.
Jesus told the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked on the road, robbed, and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite pass along the same road, but both avoid the injured man. Then a Samaritan comes along and, despite historical enmity between their peoples, stops to help. He disinfects and bandages the man’s wounds, then brings him to an inn to recuperate. In the morning the Samaritan gives two silver coins to the innkeeper, saying, “Take good care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, put it on my bill. I’ll pay you on my way back” (paraphrase of Luke 10: 25-35).
I wonder how the Samaritan’s charity affected the traveller once he recovered. Did he remember the robbers’ cruelty and shape his life by that memory? Or did he remember the Samaritan’s generosity and shape his life by that debt? Did he “pay it forward” to others? Jesus ends his parable by asking, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 36-37 NIV).
I’ve recently been trying to emulate the good Samaritan, paying more attention to those around me. I am being more open with my money, but, as that cup of tea bought by a stranger taught me, kindness is more than that. I am also seizing tiny moments of kindness each day—holding the door, letting someone else go ahead in line, taking time to interact with the store clerk.
Our schedules will always be busy, no matter what time of year or stage of life we’re in. But by practicing simple gestures of kindness, we might change someone’s bad day into a good one. Kindness might even change the direction of a life. I think we all have time for that.
Sherri Grosz is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a confidential, no obligation free consultation.
Like more than half of all Canadian adults, Roger did not have a will. As a child, he had been adopted into a wealthy family and, although he loved them deeply, he struggled to form a strong relationship with his siblings. When their father also died, Roger and his siblings each inherited a significant fortune. Roger discovered his siblings squandered theirs, which he felt was shameful and did not honour their father’s hard work. He mentioned to a friend that he had not yet drafted a will. He had never married, had no children, and had just never gotten around to it. His friend warned him that without a will, he might be shocked at how his estate would be managed.
Since Roger was not married and did not have any children, if he died without a will his estate would default to using the legislation set out in his province. A general guiding principle is, “If a person does not formally indicate how they want his or her property distributed upon death, it is presumed that the person wants it to go to family members.” Roger was disturbed to realize that the fortune he had received from his father would be given to his siblings, who had misspent what they had already inherited. He also realized that not having a will prevented him from optimizing his estate’s tax efficiency. Even more alarming, he discovered that there would be absolutely no plan for donating anything from his estate to the charities that were near and dear to his heart. He made up his mind to do something about it and sought the guidance of Abundance Canada.
Like Roger, many people only create their will when a crisis or life event grabs their attention and motivates them to put a plan together. However, a proactive and enthusiastic approach to estate planning is far more rewarding. At its core, estate planning is an act of stewardship over all that you have been blessed with. It can be a delightful experience to take the time to reflect and carefully consider who will be blessed by the assets you have accumulated over years of hard work. Will and estate planning also provides an opportunity to share your values and help determine what impact your wealth will have in the world. After all, the greatest financial gift many of us will ever make is through our estate.
Although focussed on the future, estate planning is a good starting point to establish strategic giving today. With a carefully-thought out plan in place, you can give during your lifetime, while creating a legacy that is in-line with your values. A donor-advised, charitable foundation like Abundance Canada can help you think strategically about giving, setting in motion a ripple effect of generosity that will continue to impact the world for many years to come.
Peter Dryden is a Gift Planning Consultant at Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a no obligation free consultation.
I am so glad that summer is on the horizon. Spending time outdoors was a huge part of my childhood. My family shared many weekends at a small one-room cabin on a river, fishing, swimming, canoeing and just enjoying the beauty around us. We would watch the beavers make their way up and down the river, hope to see a deer come out at dusk for a drink, and listen to the wolves howl at night.
Through those long summer days at the cabin, my parents passed on their values of living contently and taught us to steward nature and share it generously with others. We learned to appreciate what the Lord had given to us, including the abundance of natural beauty. I have always found that enjoying God’s creation refreshes my soul and helps me keep a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Recently, several scientific studies have confirmed that spending time in nature is good for your overall wellbeing and mental health.
A recent study by Holli-Anne Passmore of the University of British Columbia examined the connection between personal wellbeing and taking a moment to look at something from the natural environment. Passmore was “overwhelmed” by the descriptions of emotions submitted by the study’s 395 participants– their happiness, sense of elevation and their level of connectedness to other people. Another study by Dr. Andrea Mechelli of Kings College in London concluded that the positive effects of a single exposure to nature – for example, walking the dog, going for a run, or spending time in the garden – can last for seven hours after an individual has experienced it. The study also found that individuals at greater risk of developing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, benefit even more from getting outdoors than others.
This research is compelling, but you don’t have to be a scientist to understand the power of spending time in nature. From the very beginning, people have delighted in God’s wondrous handiwork. Countless songs and stories throughout history describe the beauty of the natural world. In Psalm 19:1-3, David writes of how nature reveals God’s magnificent beauty and truth: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.”
My father once told me of bringing my ailing grandfather to our cabin to enjoy the pristine wilderness setting he loved for the last time. As they sat on the bench outside, taking in the serenity, a black bear swam by just a few hundred feet away. My father says he knew that this rare event was a gift from God – a demonstration of His love and generous ways. Framing my own experiences of nature as an extravagant gift that God freely gives has inspired me to deeply appreciate these gifts and to respond by giving generously from the resources God has entrusted to me. Rather than just sharing a snapshot of a pretty view, I am inspired to share the blessings that allowed me to experience that snapshot.
Everyday, we’re surrounded by amazing displays of God’s creation: a sunset as we drive home from work, birds twittering in the neighbourhood trees, or a weekend hike in the woods. As the weather warms and we start to spend more time outdoors, I hope we all take more notice of these little gifts. Perhaps instead of just capturing a photo to share this summer, we’ll be inspired to respond with renewed gratitude and generosity.
Pamela Miles is the Director of Gift Planning at Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a no obligation free consultation.
 Holli-Anne Passmore & Mark D. Holder (2016) Noticing nature: Individual and social benefits of a two-week intervention, The Journal of Positive Psychology,12:6, 537-546, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1221126
 Bakolis, I., Hammoud, R., Smythe, M., Gibbons, J., Davidson, N., Tognin, S., & Mechelli, A. (2018). Urban Mind: Using Smartphone Technologies to Investigate the Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time. BIOSCIENCE, 68(2), 134-145. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix149
By Harold Penner, Gift Planning Consultant, Abundance Canada
Lately, I have had several conversations with people about downsizing or simplifying their estates. Some talk about rearranging their financial affairs to make life easier for their executors someday. Others face the physically and emotionally demanding task of moving from the homes they have lived in for many years to smaller, more manageable accommodations. Furniture, accessories, and various collections accumulated over a lifetime are sorted, re-homed, or discarded.
Reality TV promotes the fantasy of valuable items being discovered amongst the jumble, but downsizing our possessions rarely leads to unexpected riches. However, a little investigation when simplifying your finances might reveal some overlooked treasure, and a new opportunity for generous giving.
Just like downsizing a home, simplifying our finances requires us to take stock of what we own, and decide how we want to manage it. Demutualized life insurance shares are an often-overlooked financial asset that needs to be considered. You might be asking yourself, ‘what are demutualized shares?’, and you wouldn’t be alone. Demutualization is the process by which a mutual company owned by groups of members changes to a joint stock company owned by shareholders.
Several years ago, four major life insurance companies (Sun Life, Manufacturers Life, Canada Life, and Clarica Life) demutualized, and each current policy-holder was issued shares in the new corporation equivalent to the accumulated value of their policies. At the time, some people took advantage of tax rules that allowed them to donate these shares to charity and avoid paying tax on the capital gains. Others sold their shares and used or invested the proceeds in other ways. However, a substantial number of people took no action at all, simply allowing their policies to convert and their shares to remain untouched. Those individuals may still have shares in their names being held by a third-party broker or trust company.
When simplifying your estate, it’s a good idea to review what life insurance you held prior to 2000 and whether you may still be the owner of demutualized shares from those insurance companies. If you are not certain, you can always contact the insurance company and ask how to confirm your ownership of any demutualized shares. If you discover you do have some shares, you’ll have some exciting options to consider.
You could sell your shares, but it is important to talk to your accountant or tax professional about the tax implications before doing so. You received the demutualized shares at zero cost, so if you sell them you will incur a taxable capital gain. Alternatively, you could seize this discovery as an opportunity for generous giving and donate the shares to charity as an in-kind donation. Selling might give you a little extra money today, but donating your shares could make a long-lasting impact on the people or causes that you support.
Shares donated in-kind provide a welcome asset boost to the charity of your choice, and also avoid the tax on capital gains associated with selling your shares. Perhaps you know you want to donate the shares to charity, but you aren’t sure exactly where you want to direct your giving? Donating your shares to Abundance Canada and placing the proceeds from the sale in a donor-advised planned giving fund allows you to take more time to make this decision. The consultants at Abundance Canada are ready to help you evaluate your options and guide you through the donation process.
Today, Canada’s senior population is growing rapidly. Baby boomers are starting their own retirements even while they care for elderly parents and relatives. Downsizing is impacting multiple generations at once. Faced with these difficult circumstances, simplifying your finances may seem a daunting task. However, taking the time to thoroughly investigate your financial assets might reveal an unexpected new pathway in your generosity journey, and that’s a step worth taking.
Harold Penner is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a confidential, no obligation free consultation.
In checkout lines I am almost certainly asked the perfunctory “How are you today?” Most customers will respond with the innocuous “Fine” or “Okay,” and some will be too preoccupied to respond at all. However, I was recently challenged, during a sermon by my local pastor, to reframe these interactions with a novel response: “I’m grateful.”
His sermon focused on Luke 17: 11-19. In this passage Jesus encounters ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem. They plead for his mercy, and he miraculously heals them, instructing them to go show themselves to the priests. Only one of the lepers turns back to give thanks for his healing. Jesus tells him “Your faith has made you well.” It is a faith rooted in a heart of gratitude to a God of abundance. Is ours?
We don’t know for certain why the other nine men kept walking. Perhaps they felt entitled to healing after such suffering, or perhaps they were afraid that their healing wasn’t real or wouldn’t last. When we survey our circumstances, do we see the provision of God in our world? Or do we have a sense of entitlement? Are we letting fear stop us from practicing gratitude?
Certainly, there are times I have been afraid to be grateful, worried that I might somehow jinx myself or shouldn’t celebrate for fear my good fortune might not last. But that is not what God wants of us nor for us. He wants us to be like the one who turned back and worshipped with a grateful heart.
In my role at Abundance Canada, I am grateful to work with so many people who are like “the one.” They understand that all they have is from God, are truly grateful for it, and want to turn back and say thanks through generous giving. Recently, I was inspired by working with Susan (not her real name), a woman putting her gratitude into action. With real estate prices in her area soaring, Susan’s property sale left her with more cashflow than she’d ever had before. She was grateful for this financial blessing and wanted to do something meaningful with the proceeds.
After hearing about Abundance Canada’s Flexible Gifting Accounts, she made an appointment with our office. Susan and I worked together, planning and organizing her way of giving back. Of course, she had to balance the tension between giving freely and determining how much to keep for her own needs, but gratitude empowered her to overcome the fear of not having enough. Funds were transferred to Abundance Canada, timed so that the resulting charitable donation receipt was most relevant to Susan’s income tax situation. She blessed more than a dozen charities with generous donations. As she gave in this way, Susan’s trust in God increased, and her gratitude with it. She went on to replicate those initial donations two more times. She says it is very fulfilling.
We aren’t all in the financial position Susan is, but gratitude is not a trait that some have and others don’t. Gratitude is a choice, one that becomes easier the more we practice it. We all have so much to be grateful for each day, it should be our greatest joy to give our thanks to God. But we must start by intentionally cultivating a heart of gratitude. I challenge you to begin by simply answering many “How are you?” questions with a quick reflection on your blessings and a heartfelt “I’m grateful.” Imagine the conversation you’ll start! It might be one you’ll both be grateful you had.
Marlow Gingerich is a Gift Planning Consultant at Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit abundance.ca or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a no obligation free consultation.
For many years my wife and I raised our family in an older community with many beautiful boulevard trees, but very few young families. Despite our best efforts, our neighbours were aloof and at times confrontational, but we loved our little home and the family we were building there. Last summer, we made the big decision to move.
Although it’s a short distance away from the old house, our new neighbourhood is completely different. The week we moved in, neighbours came out of their houses to welcome us to the community. People passing by stopped to chat. We found ourselves surrounded by families with children eager to welcome new kids into their games. It wasn’t just a surface friendliness that wore off once we got settled; over the past year, we have been blown away by the kindness and generosity of our neighbours.
This football season, my son ran home from a playdate excited that our neighbours had offered us two tickets to the CFL game that evening. We love sports and the game was starting right away. My wife and I quickly discussed the logistics and sent my son back out to let the family know he and I would love to join them. Unfortunately, we had taken a bit too long and they were already driving away. My son broke into tears of disappointment.
Reaching for my cell, I called them and they assured us the tickets were ours if we could get to the game. Meanwhile, the retired couple from across the street had noticed the commotion of us trying to flag down the departing vehicle and quickly offered to drive us to the stadium so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking. I was amazed! What a gift! My son and I enjoyed the game immensely thanks to the generosity of our neighbours.
Thinking of my new neighbourhood, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark’s Gospel “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12: 31). Our neighbourhood has become a practical model of this commandment for our children, and we have found the generosity around us is contagious. It fills me with joy when I see my children emulating the kindness they see around them.
Shortly after we moved in, our nine-year-old announced he’d invited some neighbourhood kids over for dinner. My wife and I encouraged him to invite their parents as well, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner getting to know them. Another time, our son invited some of the neighbourhood boys over to play video games, and before we knew it we had a houseful of kids playing and sharing a meal together.
We’ve had more neighbours over for brunch and dinner in the past year than we did in the previous ten years in our old neighbourhood. For a school fundraiser, we bought two cases of apples, and my wife made apple pies that the kids and I delivered to some of our neighbours. In the winter, we shovel the driveway for a single mom down the street and help mow her lawn in the spring. It doesn’t feel like hard work, either. In fact, there is an atmosphere of easy joy about it.
I see this same joy when I am helping clients plan their giving using Abundance Canada services, and I feel so privileged to assist in their generosity journeys. I have always been delighted by the connection I see between generous living and generous giving among my clients. Since our family move, this connection has become even clearer to me. Each day, my new neighbourhood teaches me that it really is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And we have been blessed so richly.
Kevin Davidson is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada, serving generous people in Calgary and across Alberta. Abundance Canada is a 100% donor advised, faith-based organization and the solution for charitable giving in your lifetime and with your estate. Visit http://www.abundance.ca to learn more about our services or call 1.800.772.3357 today to arrange to meet with a Gift Planning Consultant in your area.
My father Russell Koch is a very innovative man. Thirty-three years ago he started a silo repair business. One of the reasons he is a successful entrepreneur is that he finds solutions to his clients’ problems, even if the requests are out of the ordinary.
A couple of years ago my dad had the opportunity to be innovative and use some of the spare silo materials he had stored. For many years his cousin Lloyd and his wife Earla have been involved in improving the Shirati KMT Hospital facilities in Tanzania.
In 2010 they started to search for solutions to the hospital’s water storage problem. The hospital pumped water in from nearby Lake Victoria, but their water tank was in poor shape and constantly leaked. In 2015, Lloyd approached my dad to help them repair the existing tank.
My dad thought it would be better to build a new tank. He had the parts of a Harvestore silo that, in his mind, could be a great solution to their water problem. He discussed the idea with Lloyd, and a new project was born. My dad donated the silo and booked a trip to Shirati.
My mom Hazel got involved as well. A container was rented to ship the silo parts to Tanzania and since there was extra space they, along with friends, family and church members donated items for the hospital and surrounding communities. While my dad built the water tank, my mom gave sewing lessons to women from the area and helped distribute the donated layettes, clothing, toiletries, and school supplies.
When my parents came home, their excitement and joy were clear to see. They told us how happy the hospital staff were to have enough water for their daily needs. My dad loved working with the people of Shirati who helped build the tank. “To be there, working side-by-side with such great people, there’s nothing that compares with that,” my dad exclaimed.
Their experience made me think of Acts 20:35, “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (NLT).
Columnist Sharon Salzberg writes, “Generosity generates its power from the gesture of letting go. Being able to give to others shows us our ability to let go of attachments that otherwise can limit our beliefs and our experiences . . . [and we can] carry ourselves to a state of greater freedom. In short, being able to step outside of oneself and give is an essential ingredient for happiness” (The Real Power of Generosity, http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-real-power-of-generosity).
Lloyd had mentioned the needs of Shirati to my parents two years previously, but my dad wasn’t interested. Once he went, however, the experience changed him. It impacted him so much he went back the next year for six weeks to help them build a new intensive care unit. My parents have a newfound passion for the people in Shirati. They stay in touch and are dedicated to supporting the community financially.
The fear of not having enough might be holding us back from being generous. Instead of giving, we can be prone to hold onto things to try to find happiness, but the Bible reveals that real joy is found in being generous. It may not make sense that giving up something that is precious to us (our money, our possessions, our time) can bring us joy. Yet experiences like that of my parents prove that it is true; that generosity is not only beneficial to the recipient but also provides joy to the giver.
Perhaps you’ve heard this message many times but haven’t tried it for yourself. Give generosity a try, and, without any obligation, let Abundance Canada help!
Wendy Helgerman is the Communications Specialist at Abundance Canada. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, call 1.800.772.3257 or visit abundance.ca.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference