So often when we begin to look at the subject of stewardship we consider the expense of an operation. Are we being thrifty? How much does it cost? Where can we cut expenses? Another infamous statement says, “a fool and his money are soon parted”. Though it is our desire to be responsible and practical with our resources, we often panic when the numbers don’t add up.
All too often the Spirit beckons us to walk where we cannot see and move beyond what is reasonable and practical. Let’s face it; the thought of not having enough chokes us with fear. In the midst of struggle, there is a tendency to forget the mission and forget we are promised to have all we need to accomplish his work. Holding on to anxiety can move us from operating with spiritual insight and purpose, to simply getting through life by managing assets.
Stewardship requires balance. Sometimes the urgency of paying bills overshadows the importance of the mission. All too often faith is secure when the numbers add up positively. Then, and only then, is there a sense God has called us to do the mission. I wonder how this attitude expresses good stewardship or could be conceived as an example of our trust in the One who gave us this work.
It is when I am most overwhelmed, I find myself thinking and reflecting upon the stories of men and women throughout history who left difficult situations and tragedies to find new beginnings. Each person did not know what lay ahead of them. Yet, they moved ahead confidently. Their journey and the story that unfolds is the stuff out which faith is made.
Isaac Evans, a businessman from Waynesville, Ohio, was such a man. After the death of his wife, Isaac found himself moving to Richmond, Indiana. Shortly after his arrival, he met Mary Ann Buffam, a local teacher at the Earlham Boarding School (precursor of Earlham College). After a while they decided to begin a new life together.
Isaac oversaw the construction a home for him and his new wife while seeking out business opportunities. Construction was completed in 1855. As the couple settled in their home and began a family, Isaac and Mary realized they were blessed with a resource that could welcome a weary traveler, brighten the day of a person down on their luck or simply provide a place of comfort and safety for anyone who graced their doorstep. The Evans home became great place of welcoming for those who were personal family visitors, business travelers, or people who simply needed a place to stay.
As Isaac and Mary became more and more involved in the life of their Quaker meeting, First Friends Meeting of Richmond, the members soon became confident the Evans House could always be a place for teens to gather and a joyous place in which to hold the meeting’s Christmas party. It seemed the house lit up with vitality every Christmas. One could hear carols sung, enjoy great food and see beautiful decorations each and every Christmas. Even the driveway up to the Evans home would be lined with luminaries and lanterns lighting the way for the carriages. The Evan’s had the ministry of hospitality. They were a special couple who felt called to share all their blessings and minister to anyone who needed comfort and care. They were a family who loved others and loved life.
Their stewardship of hospitality was evident in good times and in bad. During the time of slavery and the abolitionist movement, the Evans family were said to be involved with assisting run-away slaves escaping to the North. Their ministry of helping people who were seeking a new life and new beginnings mirrored the ministry given to them as they began their life in Richmond, Indiana.
Isaac and his younger brothers became quite successful businessmen. Isaac oversaw a linseed oil mill in Richmond while his brothers oversaw grain mills in Indianapolis. Eventually they owned and operated the Acme-Evans Company which produced E-Z Bake flour and E-Z Bake cornmeal.
But, the talent and wealth were only secondary to the Evans family. They believed God had given them a special gift, stewardship — demonstrated in the rich and kind hospitality toward travelers and guests.
After their deaths the Evans home was sold. Many years later their grandson, Isaac Woodard, who was born after their death, purchased the Evans homestead. Isaac felt led to carry on that spirit of hospitality that was so evident in his grandparents. He established and formed the Quaker Hill Conference Center (QHCC) in 1939 to serve as a hostel for Jews escaping and fleeing from Nazi persecutions. The refugees traveled from Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Luxembourg to England and eventually to the United States of America. Fifty-five of these individuals found safety and care in Richmond, Indiana. These people left a difficult and tragic situation, not knowing what lay ahead for them. At Quaker Hill they found acceptance, a place to be welcomed and belong, and a place to live and work. They learned a new language, and were trained with skills affording them the opportunity to gain and keep employment.
It seems that over time God has used Quaker Hill Conference Center to carry out the re-occurring purpose of renewal, new beginnings and new directions for those who grace its doorstep. The mansion and the grounds, indeed, have been a resource for blessing.
Those serving at Quaker Hill, continue a heritage of care. We find ourselves entrusted to a form of stewardship that takes shape through a special ministry that is not easily quantified. It is difficult to measure the impact of a safe place in which one can retreat, a place of quiet listening and a time of discernment. How does one quantify times of fellowship, laughter, and the space to dream big dreams? The Evans and all those who have followed have lived in a time where problems were to be confronted. All have understood with problems comes a time where trust in God must be found while finding the courage to embrace the possibilities of a not-so- clear future.
At the end of the day, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) To the Evans and to us who follow along their footsteps, these words encapsulate the stewardship of life that has been graced with the love of God. The bottom line is not numbers adding together to create a profit; it is caring to the best of our ability for the life we have.
“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” (Rick Warren).
Rod Waltz is a native of Richmond, Indiana, and has enjoyed his association with Quaker Hill Conference Center where he serves as its director. Rod came to Quaker Hill after serving several years as executive director of Hayes Arboretum in Richmond, Indiana. He has remained an active Bible class teacher and presently serves as an elder with his local congregation. Rod is married with three children.