He wrote a check

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Think generously and creatively about how you can help someone

This is a story of how a stranger changed a life when he wrote a check.

Our child graduated from high school with general interests in areas of study, the intention to earn a college degree and the hope of leaving home for a Christian college experience. But there was no clear-cut plan.

The recurring issue was money. In state or out of state didn’t seem to matter. Even with all the grants, scholarships and loans added up, every school we considered was still too far out of reach financially. The economy had done us no favors in recent years: a lost business, an upside down mortgage, aging cars and bills that just kept coming.

Deadlines were approaching and the only option seemed to be “none of the above.” Yet we also sensed God’s direction toward a certain school—one of two owned by U.S. Mennonite Brethren. We were praying, but if God had a plan, he wasn’t letting us in on it.

In a casual conversation, my wife shared our child’s college dream with a woman from our church who has an affinity for this USMB school. But there was no way it could happen, my wife said. The financial requirement was too far beyond our means.

A few days later, this woman called to say she knew of someone who had resources to make this school happen for us. “You pray, and I’ll ask,” she said. We did, and she did. And a few days later she and her husband brought us a check from this third individual. The amount was more than we thought we needed. It was more than we could have ever come up with. “To cover unanticipated expenses,” they said, and there have been those.

We were stunned—as you would expect—but you should have seen their faces. As they gave us the check, there was joy in their eyes like I’ve rarely seen. They knew, and we knew, how precious this was. The Bible says to give joyfully, and we witnessed it that day.

Because the donor ignored the normal methods of doing things and chose to target one specific need, there was no tax deduction. And there is no “thank you” letter signed by the CEO of a foundation or scholarship fund nor is the donor listed in a publication. All this donor has is a picture of a former stranger pinned to his wall. He is committed to praying for our student, and we know he will. He has the gratitude of a student and family whose lives have been forever impacted.

I share this story—and do so anonymously—for five reasons.

  1. Good news stories need to be shared. They are all too rare. We want you to rejoice with us. This lifts everyone up.
  2. We want to thank the people involved in a way that is tangible and heartfelt, without embarrassing anyone.
  3. All the glory and credit goes to God, the only true provider. So often he shows up “just in time.”
  4. We want students, especially at our two MB schools, to hope and believe that their dreams can happen, sometimes in surprising and unconventional ways. There are people around them who are watching and care enough to do something special.
  5.  We want to encourage others to think generously and creatively. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College regularly got phone calls asking for the names of students who truly needed help—maybe a lot of help? Might it revolutionize the church if we focused on the need before the tax deduction?

My hope is to someday wear that same smile that I saw across the table that day as I offer extraordinary help to someone else.

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