During my transition leave from active duty in the Marine Corps to calling #2, I felt privileged to speak for the Rev. Brad Kelley, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in West Union, South Carolina. After sharing my story that beautiful August Sunday morning, I was stunned by the generosity of Ebenezer Baptist to help launch Lead with Liberty. Such giving reminded me of what I shared in part with Pastor Kelley’s church – the story of how God freed me to trust Him completely in my finances.
Throughout my adult life I had paid my tithes regularly to churches I attended, but I had not been generous with the other ninety percent. I focused on my family (a little) and me (a lot) with what was left and had not recognized that all of it was God’s – he had just entrusted it to me. I rarely ever gave an offering in addition to my tithe. I was in a figurative prison: stinginess with my money.
Within days of the accident on December 14, 1997, I was crushed to realize I owed $20,000 in funeral bills, since my pregnant wife Jenny and five-year old son Danny were not covered with life insurance. I had life insurance policies on only me, since, by my calculations, as a Marine I would die in training or combat and precede Jenny in death.
The first bill was for grave plots – $6,000 for two grave plots and perpetual care at a cemetery in Greenville, South Carolina. Some in Jenny’s family wanted me to have her and Danny buried at that cemetery. I began to panic, knowing I only had enough money in our savings account to purchase one plot.
Pastor Raymond D. Burrows contacted me on Tuesday afternoon, the day I returned to South Carolina from Arizona. He told me the Faith Temple church board and he had agreed to offer me two grave plots in the church’s cemetery. I questioned him about this kind offer, since I was not a church member. He graciously pressed the offer, stating that it was a gift to help me, if needed. After mulling over the two options, I accepted Faith Temple’s generous gift the next day.
I later asked Pastor Burrows why he would help me since he didn’t know me. I could have been the most foul, reprobate, adulterous military man out there. (He only knew me as Jon White’s brother.) Pastor Burrows’ response impressed me: “Brother Danny, if we can’t help hurting people, then we might as well close our doors,” he said. I saw his strength of character and tremendous leadership at Faith Temple and remain grateful to this day. Our friendship continued to grow as January approached
To be continued