Spending boldly at the Pennsylvania Relief Sale

It’s party time for Brethren in Christ and Mennonite folk here in south central Pennsylvania. On Saturday,  a couple thousand of us, along with sundry others, will head to the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg for the annual Pennsylvania Relief Sale. I go for the quilt auction. My husband looks forward to the great food. We both feel free to spend boldly, knowing that proceeds from the sale benefit Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

That said, additional justification of my bidding ways is always welcome. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a reference to the “long buy” impact of gifts to MCC in a newsletter from the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving (Indianapolis, IN). It comes from my friend Bill Enright, founding director of the institute and longtime champion of growing givers’ hearts.


When dealing in futures markets, smart investors “buy long.” Buying long is a way of investing for long term gains. When it comes to charitable giving, what is the futures market? Where ought one to look for long term gains? It strikes me that religious givers play the futures market right when they invest in children and young people, in programs that seek to alleviate hunger and poverty, in entrepreneurial ventures that empower others and become game-changers for hope.

Recently I was reminded of what it meant for a congregation to “buy long” in their charitable investments. I had taken my wife’s car for a service checkup, and the service manager asked me the usual set of questions: name, address, home telephone number, work number. Then he asked: “And what do you do?” I told him that I worked at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University where I directed a program on faith, giving, and philanthropy.

Instantly a deep smile circled his face. “Religion and philanthropy,” he mused.  “I’m here in this country because of faith and philanthropy. I’m a native of Chile where my family was interned in a refugee camp during the Pinochet regime. When I was seven a Mennonite congregation found me via Mennonite World Service, rescued me and my family, and brought us to United States. I’m here because of faith and philanthropy.” Then, looking me square in the eye, he said: “Please, never underestimate the long-term benefits of helping someone. Now, I live my life to give back. Every day I tell my wife and three children that we are here for one purpose: to give back and via our giving back to say ‘thank you!'”

In 1974 members of the First Mennonite Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana, “bought long” when they invested in the ministry of the Mennonite Central Committee.  As I listened to Nelson’s story, I felt as if I was collecting the dividend on a “long buy.”

What a lovely reminder that generous matters — today and for the long-term.

For more on this topic, see “photos of a generous church in action.”

2 responses to “Spending boldly at the Pennsylvania Relief Sale

  1. Rebekah,
    As a product of this congregation myself, and later, pastor of the congregation during Nelson’s school years, you might imagine how moved I was to read this. As one who also knows Bill Enright, I marvel at the intricate weaving of God in the tapestry of all our lives. May I have permission go repost via my blog?I

  2. Please do repost this article, Mark. The more people there are who read Nelson’s wonderful testimony to the eternal possibilities that flow from faith-focused giving, the better. And as you note, it is amazing the overlapping circles that we develop over a lifetime journey in the company of God’s people.

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