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Project inspires commitment to tithing

Robin Leiserson and Tracey Waring
Robin Leiserson, Trish Newton and Tracey Waring

Robin Leiserson of the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane said the Haiti Project has inspired her husband, Michael, and her to tithe.  She also sees it influencing generosity from others.

At the main fund raiser for the Haiti project, an annual rummage sale in early September, more people help at the sale, donate items or pick up donations.  One customer haggled over paying $1 for something, bargaining down to 50 cents.  When the volunteer asked if she would like to donate to the Haiti project.  She gave $5.  Some give $20 beyond purchases.  This year it raised $3,000.

“It’s a basic impulse to give,” said Robin, who was influenced by a Seattle church to tithe—give 10 percent of her income—splitting it between the church and other charities.  “It’s all God’s.” 

When she decided to tithe, she said something changed in her.

“I became more grateful,” said Robin, who lived and worked in France and Seattle with L’Arche, communities of disabled people.

Knowing the Haiti Project needed sustained giving, she and her husband prayed and decided to increase their giving by 30 percent to make a tithe to the cathedral, designating additional funds to Haiti.

“Giving became a response of gratitude for what we have,” Robin said.  “When the church recently had a deficit, everyone was asked to give more.  We realized we could give another $7 a week.”

As Trish gives reports and updates on what the funds are doing in Haiti, Robin realizes that lives of children are being changed.  Children wake up each day, knowing they are going to school and have structure in their lives.

Robin, who grew up in Spokane and attended the University of Washington, left to work with L’Arche in France.  In 1984, she finished a degree in theology at Seattle University and worked with L’Arche in Seattle.  After a few more years in France with L’Arche, she returned to Spokane, and in 1998 she became a single mother with three children.  With two children on the verge of adolescence, she chose to be a consultant so she would be at home when they came home from school.  For six months, she was on food stamps.

“I shopped at thrift stores.  Even then I was grateful for what I had.  I was able to keep my house.  I changed from feeling embarrassed about using food stamps to seeing them as a gift,” said Robin, who did not pledge to the church for several years.  “As I gained financial stability, I began giving again.”

Four years after she and Michael married in 2005, he retired.  So while they have less income and need to pay attention to their budget, they maintain their commitment to tithe.

“When we have medical bills or the car breaks down, we find a way to continue giving,” Robin said.  “We give because we are blessed and because giving blesses us.”

For information, call 624-4872 or email ribinredrock@hotmail.com

Mission encourages giving from abundance

St. Andrew’s has had ties to a project in Honduras and also supports its Clothes Closet ministry—now located at Salem Lutheran—for recently released prison inmates in area work release programs.

Tracey Waring, who helped start the Clothes Closet, said it’s important to offer people choices so they find ministries that interest them, rather than trying to rally everyone around one effort.

“It’s important to do outreach in the community and in the world to move us beyond our comfort zone,” she said.

Tracey said there’s a difference in living with an attitude of abundance rather than one of scarcity.

“Giving out of abundance, we look at how much we have,” she said.  “Giving is not an obligation, but a response to God’s love.

“There are still bills to pay.  When I wonder whether to pay a bill or the church, miracles happen when I pay the church first,” Tracey said.  “My needs are met.  I may have a chance to house-sit to earn a bit extra or I may find $20 in my pocket.”

As a graduate student living on financial aid, she said she chooses to live in poverty, planning some day to work in nonprofits. 

She said that St. Andrew’s is a community of givers, even though it is not a rich congregation.

Last year during Lent, the church participated in the diocesan Organizing for Mission program and raised funds for an agricultural project in Honduras.  Half the funds stayed in Spokane for local feeding programs. 

Looking for a project for Lent 2012, they learned from Judy Beane, who does their books, about the Haiti Project.  With pictures of the children and teachers on their bulletin board and a brochure, funds trickled in until they invited Trish and Judy to speak. 

St. Andrew’s response amazed Tracey.  They raised $5,000 last year and $5,508 this year.  She hoped half of those attending Sundays—30—would pledge, but 50 did.

“Through our efforts in Haiti, we can plant seeds to help children grow, blossom and spread love,” Tracey said.

Tracey also shared her story of growing in a poor Stamford, Conn., neighborhood.  In the seventh grade, she was put in the gifted program with rich, white children.  She won first place for a science fair project, and her teacher said he believed she would go to college and succeed. 

In 2008, 30 years later, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Eastern Washington University’s interdisciplinary studies program, which gave her credit for her life, work and volunteer experiences.  She earned her master’s degree in social work in 2010 and is now working on a master’s in public administration.

At the Clothes Closet, Tracey said she tries to be the face of Christ to people, but finds they often are the face of Christ to her.

One day when it was closed, a man came needing a shirt.  She let him in.  He chose a shirt and said, “You are my sister in Christ.”  Tracey replied, “You are my brother in Christ.”  He told her he was going to church that night.

She finds that unexpected encounters often feel like encounters with Christ.  Her grandmother told her always to look someone in the eye, because “you may be looking into the face of Christ.”

For information, call 481-1167 or email tlwaring728@msn.com.