Leaders in Generosity
Ask disciples Bill and Carolyn Isham why they so generously give of their time, talents, and treasures to St. John’s and their quick answer is, “Habit!” Probe a little further and you’ll find that their motivation for giving actually goes much deeper.
Carolyn explains, “God has given me everything that I have. How can I not give back to God what already belongs to Him?” With her quick wit, she then adds, “God even gave me my husband Bill. I’ve been trying to give him back ever since, but God won’t take him!” Sitting next to her, Bills shows an ornery smile on his face and echoes, “Nope, God just won’t take me back!” Despite their joking with one another, their love for each other, for Christ, and for Christ’s church is glaringly evident.
Carolyn shares that she learned the importance of giving back to God from the example of her parents. “When I was a little girl, the church we attended had two-sided envelopes. One side was for missions and the other side was for the church. Each Sunday, my parents would give me 25 cents to put in one side and 10 cents to put in the other. I guess I just never stopped.” As Carolyn’s childhood memory clearly demonstrates, learning the importance of faithful financial giving to the church starts at an early age.
Carolyn grew up in Beardstown and began her career as a preschool teacher at Trinity Lutheran School here in Springfield. After earning her master’s degree in counseling, Carolyn went on to work for the Illinois Department of Child Care Services. Bill was born in Normal, but grew up mostly in and around Springfield. He retired from Trinity Lutheran School where he worked as a custodian for 20 years. Bill also is an accomplished artist, gifted in both pencil and ink drawing.
Carolyn matter-of-factly shares, “Our friends and family think we’re nuts for how much we give. We’re very fortunate.” Bill adds, “Things haven’t always been easy, but I think the hard times have made us stronger.”
Bill and Carolyn find the most joy in giving from knowing that their giving helps those who are in need. In addition to their generous giving to St. John’s, Carolyn volunteers at the Grace Food Pantry where she also serves on the Board of Directors. Her passion for the Food Pantry is evident: “I will work at the Food Pantry until I can’t lift a bag!” Bill also finds joy in helping others, having participated in several St. John’s mission trips to Marion, Virginia. “It just makes you feel good,” he shares. Together, they have been vital in helping get our neighborhood outreach ministries off the ground.