Each month we will be sharing the testimony of one member of our community’s experience of and commitment to our life together. This month’s story comes from Tom Ewing.
Heritage Presbyterian Church is my home in many ways. I was born in Olathe and have lived here all my life. My first wife, Margaret, and I lived in a portion of what is currently part of our church building. It is now called “Old Possum.” It was our home from 1970 to 1999, and we farmed the land that surrounds HPC. We built the barn now used to host special church services, and events like the Living Nativity and music programs.
Olathe’s growth finally arrived at our doorstep, with developers wanting to build the houses that currently surround us. So, we sold a portion of our farm to developers and relocated to 80 acres in a rural area near Spring Hill. We built the house and outbuildings on that property, and actively farmed the land. Margaret died in 2001 of ovarian cancer.
In order to manage my sadness, I participated in a grief counseling session at the Nazarene Church on the Mid America campus. It was there that I met and then married Gracie, who was also going through the loss of spouse. We married in 2002.
Throughout the years up to 2005 I was a loyal member of the First Presbyterian Church of Olathe. I was particularly dedicated to participating in an active prayer life and became very bold about witnessing for Christ. It’s my understanding that a good witness is willing and capable of communicating our faith, particularly as it is offered to us in the Bible. I try to share what I have heard about Christ’s teachings, and tell others about everything Christ has done for me and all of us.
Witnessing is also shown in our willingness to serve, so I have given much time as an elder and a member of committees that make the church work for everyone. Those were contributions I made at First Presbyterian Church, and continue to make here at Heritage. I credit our Pastor Clare for encouraging me to become even more dedicated to Christ and a life of prayer. The prayer ministry at Heritage has strengthened my relationship with God.
Among the activities in which I have either led or participated are Habitat for Humanity projects, serving dinners at Olathe’s Center of Grace, and assisting the students and families at Central Elementary School. At Heritage I have assisted with Bible School, Day Camp, special events like hayrides in the fall, and overall property maintenance. I participated in many mission trips and enjoy providing service any way I can.
To me, mission both locally and in other areas is a fundamental part of being a good Christian. To be mission-focused is more than individual service. While I am personally dedicated to service and witnessing for Christ, it is even more important that I am a member of a family of like-minded people. Values and principles must be at the core of who and what every family member is. Only by loving and supporting one another can we—as a Christian family—be effective in the way Christ asks us to be in helping humanity. That is what stewardship is to me, that my dedication to service and mission is possible only when it is part of the work of like-minded people.
One principle that is especially important to me is tithing. Stewardship is described as giving of our time, talent and treasure. Putting a number or percentage on “time” and “talent” is impossible. But treasure is different.
In our men’s group we discussed the meaning of “tithe,” which is defined as ten percent. In Jewish history a tithe was to support society and the priesthood. It was an expectation in terms of income, whether that income was in the form of harvests or financial gain. Offerings were different, in that they were given to atone for sins.
However, Jesus defined “tithe” and even offerings much differently, as found in Matthew 23: 23-24. Jesus said that our giving should be an acknowledgement of the importance of God’s law, judgment, mercy and faith. Theologians interpret that to mean that tithing is a regular reminder of our dependence on God as the source of all blessings; it allows us to demonstrate our gratitude for his care.
That is what I believe about Heritage Presbyterian Church. Gracie and I became members of this church soon after its formation, and my family donated property so our congregation no longer had to meet in basements, shopping centers and schools. We contributed to the physical expansion of the building and continue to tithe in the knowledge we depend on God’s blessings and are grateful for what we have been given.