By Christie Goode, VP Advancement
There are moments in life when it is a privilege to hear certain words.
There are other moments when it is a privilege to speak certain words.
I was recently reminded of an experience I had of the latter.
In late November I was meeting with a colleague about A Rocha’s Christmas fundraising appeals. As we discussed emails and Facebook posts and various national letter appeals, we flipped from page to page on my computer, and he saw at one point an obituary that was open on my browser.
That, I told him, is Ken Smith. He died last week.
So I told my colleague the story of who Ken Smith was.
He was a businessman who had supported many, many Vancouver area charities. Along with his regular charitable contributions, he had also been a founding member of Granville Chapel, and helped found (with many others, of course) Regent College, Pioneer Camp, Honeymoon Bay Retreat Centre, and Chemainus Theatre. And A Rocha.
Way back in 2003 Markku and Leah Kostamo were trying to find a way to purchase the first A Rocha Canada property in South Surrey. They were down to one month before the deal fell apart for a fantastic property on a threatened river near an Important Bird Area. It would be a great place to establish Christian environmental stewardship programming. But they needed $100,000.
Ken, in his gentle but wise way, came through with a loan. And A Rocha Canada was on its way.
I had the pleasure of knowing Ken through my previous work for Regent College, which he had helped to get going in the late 1960s. It became an internationally-renowned graduate school of Christian studies, helping thousands of Christians around the world to develop a rich, diverse, thoughtful theology that could integrate faith in Jesus with all of life.
Lest you think that only wealthy people can have such an impact, think again. I’ve heard many stories of other aspects of his support: founding a newsletter/magazine to reach out to the Brethren communities across North America; writing and editing articles; evening gatherings to stuff and mail them once they were printed; inviting and hosting visiting professors; prayer; encouragement… Lots of gracious encouragement. Anyone who has met Ken Smith would agree – this was a generosity of spirit that played out in all his behaviour, not just his finances.
And so there I was, in 2013, sitting on this old man’s couch, looking into his gentle, wrinkled eyes, my eyes brimming with tears.
“Ken,” I said. “Thank you.”
“Thank you for the sacrifices you made, the difficult choices you made, the hours and hours of worry and work that you invested 45 and 50 years ago. Because it has forever changed my life–now, in 2014–and the lives of my children.”
And yes, when I re-told that story recently to my colleague, I was again in tears.
“That, my friend, is the blessing of participating in philanthropy. You just never know what will grow from generosity, and who will be impacted.”
So there you go. Those few sentences of gratitude to Ken were some of the most glory-laden words I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking.