Friday, 31 July 2020

“A child named ‘Charity’”

As both a faculty member and President of ICS, I have to move between the academic world and the very different world of philanthropy. From listening to and learning from my students and academic colleagues, I must move to listening to and learning from the wider ICS support community. Hearing people’s stories about why they support ICS—including what they hope and wish for from it—always ends up encouraging me in my sense of why ICS is important, and how it must continue to honour your support by making a meaningful and transformative contribution to the growth of wisdom in our chaotic and dangerous times.

In moving between these conversations, I am also struck by the overlapping concerns of the two groups: together we all act from the conviction that God in Jesus the Messiah calls us to be a healing and transformative witness to a good yet suffering world. Recently, ICS received a generous gift from the children of a supporter who has been with us since our earliest days, and who shares this conviction. The family let me know that the gift was made to honour the wishes of their recently widowed father, who had impressed upon them his love for ICS and its mission in Christian higher education.

When I called the father to thank him, I could not have guessed what he wished to say. “I have five biological children,” he told me, “but long ago my wife and I adopted a sixth child, whom we have named ‘Charity’.” It took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t talking about an actual adopted sixth child, but was rather providing me with a metaphor to explain his philosophy of giving. Simply put, he had decided to bestow upon his five, no six, children a pre-inheritance. Of that money, he instructed his children to divide the sixth portion between five charities that he and his wife had faithfully supported, one of those being ICS.

I’m still pondering with wonder this donor’s philosophy of giving. He could have simply held back the sixth portion from his children, and donated that amount to the charities himself. Instead, he involved his children, like executors of a living will, and directed them to reach out to the charities on their own. Doing so allowed me to have meaningful exchanges with these good folks, which graciously provided me an opportunity to form new relationships with them. I guess what strikes me most is the wisdom behind this gesture, to have the donation become a form of witness on many different levels—to ICS, to his children, and, through my telling, to you, ICS’s wider community of support.

This donor’s wisdom, finally, led me to ponder charity as a form of love. The English word ‘charity’, as is well known, derives from the Latin caritas, which was used in the Vulgate to translate the Greek word agape. In a world that relies too heavily on charity as a band-aid to cover the wounds of injustice, we must also not forget that, even so, charity remains an act through which we may become conduits of God’s never-ending love for the world. And whenever we receive these cheerful gifts, we feel that love, as well as the responsibility to extend it to everyone we serve. Thank you for your generous faithfulness, friends! Be well!

-President Ronald A. Kuipers