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Stewardship Reflection - Benner Family

When Marie Brauer asked our family to speak today about Stewardship at first I, or we, met it with a bit of hesitation. Stewardship always has the underlying notion of asking for donations and I’m not sure I’m the best person to speak about that topic. For the past ten years or more, we have given our offering monthly using Simply Giving. It is taken out of our checking account and is given directly to SOV.

However, I would like to look at the idea of Stewardship as it was presented in Dr. Mark Allan Powell’s series, Duty and Delight. It is that everything we have and everything we are belongs to God. If God were in charge of our finances and our time, how would He have us do things differently?

My grandparents were members at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Granada Hills for almost 50 years. After my grandfather retired from his job, he volunteered his time a few days a week maintaining the grounds at the church and taking care of their flowers, something he loved to do, so it was a great way for him to help his church community. He also served as an usher at church and served on Church Council. My grandmother volunteered with the Altar Guild, funeral luncheons, mother-daughter luncheons, ALCW luncheons and other fellowship functions. Volunteering and serving in their church was a of focus of their life.

I remember growing up hearing my grandmother tell me about her years in Wisconsin during the Great Depression. She told me about how hard it was to make ends meet, being a family of eight. She was the oldest of her six siblings. She worked in her uncle’s market and she always made sure that she had extra food on hand to feed anyone who came by their back porch asking for food. She told me that everyone who needed food knew they could come by her house and she would feed them out back. She continued this tradition of feeding others when she moved with my grandfather, my mom and her sister from Wisconsin to Baldwin Hills, California. From a very young age, the stories I heard were that we always had to do what we could to help anyone who needed it, because as she said “the Lord would always provide.” Although times haven’t ever really been hard for me or my family, and I am thankful that I never had to experience a time in history like the Great Depression, I value these life lessons that my grandparents taught me through their actions and the stories they shared with me.

I think each time we have the opportunity to share these types of stories with someone, we pay it forward and have a positive impact on our world. This past school year the high school where I teach started a focus on Student 360 where we focus more on the Whole Child. In a lesson on Empathy and Understanding, I asked students if they would like to contribute money to where we could help fund a loan for someone in another country who couldn’t get a loan like we can here in the U.S. My students contributed over $100 and we voted to choose the individuals we would fund. As the microloans have been paid back, from the original $100, we have continued to loan the money to even more people and positively impact their lives. After this experience, I shared my experience with my colleagues and two more teachers did the same. Something that brought me even greater pride was that two of my students loved this experience and as a result, they created the KIVA club on campus and they have continued changing lives of others in less fortunate countries. By our individual actions, we can impact others to be generous with their money and their time. I have tried to share these values with my children as well. They would each like to share a short story about their experiences.

(Russell’s) Every time Hannah or I score a goal in soccer, we sit down with my parents to go online to donate 2 soccer balls to kids in another country through World Vision. We know that kids in other countries will have the chance to have fun playing soccer like we do.

(Alyssa’s) In the summer of 2016, Hannah, Russell and I traveled with our mom to Costa Rica. We volunteered at a community center working with kids who were less fortunate than we are. We helped teach them English and art. We also volunteered at a spelling bee and speech debate at the local high school and taught local preschool children songs in English. We lived for that month with a host family who we were able to help. Our stay with them helped them to be able to buy food and medicine for several months after we left. We were able to bring so much joy to them when we visited again the next summer. Gina, our host mother, was so excited to receive small gifts from us like socks and kitchen towels, but she especially loves it when we bring her special sugar-free candies since she is diabetic, which is something that she cannot buy in Costa Rica.

(Hannah’s) I have participated in different service projects here at SOV. During Lent a few years ago, we made paracord bracelets for Operation Gratitude. We made care packages for the homeless and we made blankets, like we’re doing today after the service. I have always enjoyed participating in service projects. Last year, when I started high school, I found out that I needed to do 15 service hours each year to graduate from high school. I reached out to an animal rescue group with no success, and then I ended up volunteering at Platt Library. I didn’t enjoy it very much at all. It felt like I was doing this completely out of duty, to meet the requirement. This year, my soccer coach asked me to help out with VIP, a group of kids with disabilities that plays soccer. I look forward to playing with them every Saturday morning. I have loved every minute of this community service. I love the kids, I love their reactions and I’ve loved getting to know them. They finished their season yesterday and I wish it didn’t have to end. It has brought me so much joy seeing how much they enjoy playing the game. I’m looking forward to volunteering with them again next year. I have volunteered alongside 6 of my current club teammates and this experience with them has also brought us closer together.

For my birthday this year, Hannah bought me this sign for my classroom because as my student last year in Spanish 2, she knows that this is my motto in my classroom as well as in our family. I try to teach it to all kids that I come in contact with. Because if we can all be kind, our world would be a better place for everyone. I have tried to instill this in my kids and our family life often revolves around this common theme. These acts of kindness, love and generosity that my kids have shared have had an effect on each of us and on us as a family. It is our duty to help others, but in almost all cases, it becomes our delight.

UCLA recently opened the Bedari Kindness Institute on September 25th of this year. It is the first interdisciplinary institute researching kindness. Science has conclusively shown that acts of kindness have a self-serving upside, they make us healthier. At the institute, they hope to grow the research base on how and why kindness lowers anxiety, reduces depression and the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research by UCLA scientists already has shown that mindfulness and kindness actually alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections. So as Lutherans here at SOV there is scientific evidence that serving others benefits us. Our duty is our delight AND it helps our health!

In the article about the UCLA Kindness Institute, Harris was quoted as saying "My end goal is to have a broad platform to promote empathy and help people think about kindness. It is, in terms of the perpetuation of our species and the ability to live with each other and nature, critically important." That empathy and kindness is what we were given when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We can never repay what has been given to us, but we can love one another and care for one another by how we choose to care for everything that God has given us.

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