by Carol Guenther
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit. John 15:5
What does faithful listening to God’s call look like?
There are as many different answers to that question as there are members in our congregation, but each example will likely share the common elements of love, generosity and service.
Russ and Ann Hillman, members at St. Mark’s from 2004 until their deaths in May and December of 2011, provide one such portrait of faithfulness grounded in love for one another, their four children, and for and the countless men and women they encountered in their 40 years of formal ministry in the ELCA.
Ann and Russ will be remembered by many at St. Mark’s for Russ’s numerous, heart-felt hugs and the sparkle in Ann’s eyes during worship. They were regular leaders of the Sunday 9:45am Worship Team and the music group was their second family.
Their 32 years of service throughout the world as part of the Lutheran Marriage Encounter Ministry was another passion that they brought with them to St. Mark’s and their love and devotion to each other in marriage was visible and inspiring to all.
Russ and Ann were also committed members of St. Mark’s Stewardship Team. They had a special dedication to teaching children the principles of joyful giving and responsible stewardship of all God’s gifts. They were especially committed to helping our congregation pay off the debt on our new building and they were instrumental in helping decide our best option when we refinanced our mortgage in 2010/2011.
One of Ann’s last projects at St. Mark’s was to introduce us to new system that distributes manufactured goods to those in need. Always smiling, inherently hopeful and deeply grateful for all of God’s gifts, Russ and Ann embodied lives of faithful listening and responding to God’s call.
And so, it was no big surprise earlier this year when we learned that Ann and Russ had included St. Mark’s in their will. What was surprising was the size of the gift they were able to make. In spite of their simple, modest lifestyle, through careful planning and generous spirits, we were gifted with over $191,000 from their estate! This gift will be carefully used in four ways, supporting the ministries that were dear to their hearts for years to come. We are so grateful to Russ and Ann for their faithful presence and example among us and for their great generosity that will continue to bless us for years to come.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food…” Matt: 25:34
Russ and Ann’s obedience to God’s calling throughout their lives produced much fruit through the ministries they embraced that touched so many people and through their gracious monetary gift to St. Mark’s. As we continue our theme of “Listen…. God is Calling”, we invite you to reflect on how God is uniquely calling you. In what specific ways are you hearing God’s call to use your time, talent and treasure in the spirit of love and generosity? What first step can you take today to develop God’s call?
For more information about the many ways you can leave a living legacy at St. Mark’s Lutheran by the Narrows, please contact any member of the Endowment Committee:
Christian Anderson 272-2227
Kristi Gaimster 752-6605
James Gallegos 212-0253
Carol Guenther 752-4966
Tom Hulst 460-2683
Don Reinkensmeyer 857-7977