By Rev. Mark Gooden, Vice-President for Development

I was recently thinking about the first time Judy and I moved to a new church. We were leaving Sequatchie Valley where I had a two-point charge. I had just finished seminary and we were moving to a church in Chattanooga. When we must change or adjust to something new, is there not often anxiety and stress? As I prepared for this move, I was carrying around a lot of fear because of the uncertainty of the future. I was asking myself questions like:

What if I fail?

What if I can’t do this?

What if we do not connect to the congregation?

Still, there were other questions for me that were more basic: How will we pay the down payment for the electricity and water services?

We had a mere $50 in our checking account, and we were moving that morning.

A family from a nearby farm loaded all our valuables into a cattle truck and I closed the door to the parsonage – a single-wide trailer. I began walking toward my green Chevy Caprice, still wondering how we were going to pay for things we had to have at the new parsonage. Before we left, I noticed a car pulling into the driveway. It was a member of the church, and she was carrying an envelope in her hand. She walked over to me and said, “Mark, I am not sure why I am here, but I felt God nudging me to give you this gift.” She placed the envelope in my hand, hugged me and Judy, hurried back to her car, and left. I opened the envelope and there was $600 in it (Remember this was forty years ago!) which I know this person sacrificed to give us. I showed it to Judy and we both wept and offered thanks to God and for this precious woman who listened to God’s call upon her life to be generous.

Over the years I have often thought of that person’s generous gift to us and the difference it made in our lives. This gift of generosity comforted us in a time of great unrest. This gift of generosity also drew me closer to God by reminding me that God is good, God is faithful, and God is always going to show up when we need God the most. I could tell you so many more stories, from over the years, of the generous people who loved God and wanted to be obedient to His calling to comfort others with the resources they had available.

As the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Someone asked me why I chose to come out of retirement to work with the Foundation. My reply was and continues to be because I believe in the work that the Holston Foundation is doing to the glory of God. I wanted to spend this season of my life helping others learn the value and richness of generosity and the joy of responding to God’s call to comfort others. We are generous, are we not, when we realize how generous God is to us?

I would be happy to come and do a planned giving event at your church, preach, or simply enter into a conversation on how to comfort others as you have been comforted. As always, the staff at Holston Foundation is here to serve you!

In closing, I want to offer a part of a prayer from the book Walking In Wonder by John O’Donohue:

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer,
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.