Making Our List, Checking It Twice

At our house we make a lot of lists, especially in December…the grocery list, the Christmas card list, the gift list, the event list, the prayer list, and the end-of-year giving list. Now, during this week between Christmas and the beginning of the New Year, all of the items on those lists have been checked off and completed except for the final list. Today we are working on our end-of-year giving list, a list that includes the ministry initiatives and charitable organizations we freely choose to support.

Throughout the year, we give a tithe of our income to the ministries of our church. We understand a tithe to be the first tenth of our earnings. For us, tithing is first and foremost an act of obedience to what we believe the Bible teaches. Through the years we have also observed that the cumulative ministry projects of a local church make the most significant impact advancing the cause of Christ in the local community and around the world. So as an extension of the work of our local church, every December we give an offering beyond our tithe to our Christmas Missions Offering that supports missionaries around the globe.

Amanda and I are blessed to be able to contribute to a few other ministries and organizations that we are passionate about, but most of our end-of–year-gifts are centered around our church because we believe “this is where the action is.”

This year, the process is much easier because we have converted to electronic giving. Most ministries and charitable organizations, including our church, now have an “online giving” link that enables us to transfer our gifts directly from our account to the designated recipient. Of course you can still mail a check or personally deliver a contribution, but we have discovered electronic giving to be safe and immediate, and electronic receipts are provided for good record keeping.

The Bible teaches us that “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

As you designate your end-of-year giving, be cheerful, generous and wise. And remember, as you prepare your end-of-year gift, the IRS requires that all contributions for this fiscal year must be received, electronically transferred, or postmarked by December 31.

So today, we are making our list, checking it twice, and then hitting “send.”

(Barry Howard serves as the senior minister of the First Baptist Church in Pensacola.)

A Memorable Visit to Pearl Harbor

 

As a kid growing up in rural Alabama, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to travel broadly. For us, making the journey from Anniston to Eastwood Mall in  Birmingham  was like a mini-vacation.

 

Going to an exotic location, like Hawaii, seemed out of the question.  However, in 1995 I made my first trip to Hawaii, and of course, Pearl Harbor was high on my list of sites to visit.

 

I was raised near Pelham Range and Fort McClellan in Calhoun County.  Seeing military convoys traveling the highways and hearing artillery fire from the range was a routine part of life.  Later, when I served as an associate minister at the First Baptist Church of Weaver, near the army base, and even later, as I taught on the adjunct faculty at the college on the base, I developed significant friendships with military personnel.  As long as I can remember, I have had a deep sense of gratitude for veterans and profound sense of gratitude for all of our military personnel.

 

I think anyone who visits Pearl Harbor is overwhelmed with emotion.  As I watched tourists and veterans alike walk around the monument reading the list of names with reverent silence and then gaze in the water at the rusted vessel, I thought about the families who never saw their young men and women return home.

 

Mostly due to a missions partnership we had developed through our church, I made subsequent visits to Hawaii in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. My most memorable visit occurred in 1999.  That year I had the privilege of taking my friend, Mack Jones of Corbin, Kentucky, on his first trip to Hawaii.  Mack’s brother, Edward, died January 5, 1944 in the aftermath of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and is buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as “Punchbowl.”

 

On a prior trip, a group of us, including Mack’s wife, Wylene, had visited Punchbowl, located the headstone for Edward W. Jones, taken a few photos, and then did a pencil tracing of the gravemarker to take home to Mack.

 

The next year, we were privileged to return, and this time Mack went with us.  First we traveled up the hill to Punchbowl and visited Edward’s grave.  Then we traveled to Pearl Harbor to visit the memorial.  As a group of us stood alongside our friend, whose brother never returned home to Kentucky, we were even more aware of the sobering reality of war, and even more appreciative of the sacrifices of those paid the price of our freedom with their own blood.

 

Since I have moved to Pensacola, I have conducted over 100 services at Barrancas National Cemetery located at the Naval Air Station here.  As a minister, I am honored to share words in memoriam for veterans of all ages.

 

And today, as I think about that memorable visit to Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl, and my many other visits to Barrancas, Eisenhour, and Arlington National Cemeteries, I am also praying that the Christmas “peace on earth and goodwill to all humankind” will become our global reality.

 

(Barry Howard serves as the senior minister at the First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida.)