ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) – Most of us would admit to on occasion dreaming of being a millionaire. And if we are honest, most of us dream of being millionaires for our own benefit. Ira Leer had always dreamed of being a millionaire. However, his dream was to benefit others.
A farmer most of his life, Leer also worked at Lambright’s Hatchery. After his first wife died, he married Leota Miller in 1997, gaining not only a loving companion, but also three stepdaughters and their families. Together, they attended First Mennonite Church of Middlebury, Indiana, Leota’s home congregation. Ira Leer previously worshiped at Shore Mennonite in Lagrange, Indiana.
He enjoyed music, singing, and had a gift for memorizing Bible verses and poems. This ability served him well, as every year he would spend time in Apache Junction, Arizona, sharing Christian literature and assisting people with their roofing repairs.
Shelly Coffman, software applications architect at Mennonite Mission Network, and her family knew Ira from his time at Shore. They remembered his gift for memorizing Scripture and sharing it during Sunday services, astonishing almost everyone, quoting entire passages. “He was also generous and always willing to lend a hand when needed,” said Coffman.
Leota gave freely of her time, serving for 15 years as a member of Lunch Time Neighbors, a ministry that met at First Mennonite and provided meals and programing for anyone 65 years or older. She sang with a group called the “Singing Grandmas” and was involved in junior sewing, and vacation Bible school. She could be found teaching Sunday school and helping with Meals on Wheels. Leota also very much enjoyed participating in the Fresh Air Kids program, which brought children from Chicago to the northern Indiana country-side to provide a learning experience both for the children and the hosts.
It was after both Ira and Leota went to be with the Lord that their immense generosity was made known to Mennonite Mission Network.
Specifically, they gave a $1.8 million to Mission Network through their estate.
“This great gift came as a surprise! We are honored that they valued our work and trusted us to continue sharing Christ around the world,” said Matt Lehman Wiens, director of development for Mennonite Mission Network.
Estate gifts, like that of Ira and Leota’s, play a special role at Mission Network. They have a lasting impact over many years. These contributions are placed into an estate fund rather than put directly into the operations fund. While budgeting for an upcoming year, a percentage of this fund is planned to be used for current ministry needs. This allows Mission Network to have a reserve of resources for lean years, unexpected ministry expenses, or larger economic crisis.
These resources free Mission Network from relying on outside loans, and limits uncertainty about whether or not all expenses will be covered for the fiscal year. In the end, estate gifts translate into engaging with more ministries around the world in more sustainable ways over many years.
As Anabaptists, many of us aspire to be engaged with our communities and to live out our faith in practical ways, giving of ourselves and our resources.
While Ira achieved his goal of becoming a millionaire, we don’t all have to be one to live generously as he did in life. We may choose to share a Scripture verse, a skill, our time, or money, but generosity is required of us all.
Ira and Leota’s lives of stewardship and generosity stand as a testament. No matter how grand or small, we are called to give of ourselves.