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Giving Hope: From One Farmer to Another
The following was taken from
Faces of Generosity: Inspiring Stories of People Impacting Lives Around the World
, a new book published in the fall of 2016.
Often, farming is a family affair. For Becki and Tom Thompson of Forest City, Iowa, farming and giving are both family affairs. The Thompsons, long-time corn and soybean farmers in northern Iowa, say they’re basically retired, yet they still help their farm manager oversee a 2,600 acre farming operation. They also have a seed plant that conditions soybean seeds for other farmers. As “serial farmers,” the Thompsons sold their initial farming business and set up a foundation through the National Christian Foundation (NCF) so they could, as they put it, “give meaningful gifts to respond to what’s on people’s hearts.” When they sold their second farming business, they set up another foundation — a family foundation so their three sons and 11 grandchildren could be involved. “God has been very good to us,” says Tom. “He has blessed us beyond what we deserve and we want to give generously back to Him.”
The Thompsons meet as a family with their sons and their daughters-in-law at least once a year to talk about and make plans for their giving. Two sons have formal roles in the family foundation — as treasurer and legal counsel — but the purpose of the family meetings is “to see where everybody’s heart is,” says Becki. “We do give locally in addition to internationally, including to the local Christian school where our boys went and an organization here that focuses on disabled people. The foundation helps keep our children in the giving mode. Several times, the children have wanted to give to an organization they feel strongly about, and along with their personal gift, our foundation will match it. The foundation is certainly not a replacement for what they want to give, but we do want it to help augment their gifts in certain instances.”
Adds Tom, “Our sons have known from the time we sold our first company that we were committed to giving, and they have been fully ‘on board.’ In fact, they’re all excited when we get together to give it away.”
The Thompsons stayed close to home for one of their substantial gifts — helping fund a new athletic complex for University of Northwestern, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where all three of their sons attended. They have also given generously to Hope 4 Kids International, a faith-based non-profit run by a close friend of theirs in Phoenix, Arizona. Hope 4 Kids serves children living in impoverished environments by establishing economic, spiritual, water, orphan, and feeding programs. It appealed to the Thompsons not only because it helps children in desperate need, but also because it’s centered on the bounty that can come from land in the right hands and with the right tools. Hope 4 Kids helps villagers become productive farmers so they can grow crops, drills wells in areas where there’s no clean drinking water, builds small churches, parsonages for the pastors, and medical clinics.
The Thompsons feel strongly about Hope 4 Kids’ vision: Healing and empowering destitute communities with hope and necessary care to raise a new generation of healthy individuals who can break the generational curse of extreme poverty. “They build on the four pillars of hope — health, dignity, joy, and love,” says Tom. “This organization really exemplifies the spirit of Jesus, showing that all children are worthy of a prosperous life and a bright future.”
Hope 4 Kids also helps Ugandan women learn to become more self-sufficient through its “Victory Gardens” program, providing funds and seeds to a Ugandan ministry partner. The use of oxen and plows helps the women with their gardens, which now number 1,500 throughout Uganda. The organizational umbrella also includes Water 4 Kids, Education 4 Kids, Hope 4 Women, and Dress a Girl Around the World.
The Thompsons’ sons also believe in the mission of Hope 4 Kids — in fact, two sons have been on trips to Ugandan villages supported by the organization, helping with farm tool donations so the villagers could learn to grown their own crops. Tom and Becki also hope to one day travel to see firsthand some of the farmland their giving has made possible.
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Faces of Generosity,
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