Hugs and Generous Hearts

“It’s all about the hugs,” Pastor John Whitehurst said with a grin, thinking about the children at Asbury House Child Enrichment Center. One of his favorite moments as a pastor is holding chapel for the children who attend the center, which offers disadvantaged families high-quality educational opportunities for their children.

For John and his wife Jana, one of the perks of starting a donor-advised fund (DAF) with TMF was supporting the Asbury House Child Enrichment Center for years to come. Their DAF will also support Grace Crossing UMC in Longview, TX where John is the founding pastor. While generosity is incredibly important to John and Jana now, it was not always so central to John’s worldview.

“Marrying Jana really taught me a lot about giving. She has such a generous heart, and she is always eager to help others,” John shared. “She grew up in a family where tithing was important, so it seemed like a natural part of her life. Even though my family was highly engaged with the church, including tithing, they never really discussed giving and I didn’t think about it much growing up. Jana’s influence was important for me to grow in generosity.”

Jana sees giving as an excellent way to meet needs and she loves when she can give anonymously. If there is ever an opportunity to fill a need behind the scenes, she is thrilled. “When I see a need, I feel compelled to be generous,” Jana said. “And it is always amazing to me to see how that generosity comes back to you in multiple ways throughout your life.”

As a couple, the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University helped them develop common financial and philanthropic goals. The last lesson was particularly important. It was focused on “the why of giving” and in this lesson, the couple began to see how generosity was transformative, not just for those receiving a gift, but for those giving the gift as well.

The DAF was the perfect vehicle for John and Jana’s generosity. They wanted to make a large gift that could be given out over several years, but also maximize their tax advantages in 2020. The DAF made that possible; plus, it gave them the ability to direct the giving from this fund in years to come.

The couple selected TMF to manage their DAF for two reasons. First, they had strong connections with TMF. John saw incredible benefits from TMF’s stewardship teachings in the early 90s, teachings he believed bore fruit in local congregations. Moreover, he had participated in Rev. Jim Turley’s Clergy Development Groups at TMF starting in 2008 and they were invaluable to his personal ministry. “He would come home from the Clergy Development Groups discussing what he was working on in these classes, and it was so helpful to him and his ministry. You could see a change in him and how he dealt with challenges,” Jana shared.

Second, TMF’s generosity in 2020 made an impression on them both. The way in which TMF supported ministries as they were making quick and sometimes massive transitions during the pandemic was inspiring. Now, their DAF can be part of TMF’s larger work, ensuring that ministries have the resources they need to succeed no matter how arduous the challenges they are facing.

For John and Jana this matters greatly, because generosity extends the opportunity for needs to be met, communities to flourish, and Christ to be shared. “When you look at how people were taking care of one another and how they were being generous in this really difficult year, you could see Christ in them,” Jana said with a pause. “You could see the positives, even in a year like 2020.”

Perhaps one of the most important ways generosity transforms lives is the way in which it helps us see hope even in dire situations, empowering us to believe we can make a difference and urging us to do so.