Goshen, Indiana, USA – From an early age, Myrl Nofziger, a real estate developer from Goshen, Indiana, USA, learned life-shaping lessons about philanthropy, benefiting many Mennonite organizations, including Mennonite World Conference.
“My father talked and lived giving every day,” says Nofziger. “For him, giving included not only one’s money but also one’s intellect, feelings, volunteerism and ethics. Tithing was just the beginning, not the end, of giving.
“Recessions had no impact on his giving. He would even borrow from the bank in order to give to the church or an organization in need of funds.”
Myrl said he and his wife Phyllis – as well as his first wife Ardith, who passed away in 1988 – have lived with the same values that giving includes one’s whole self, and goes way beyond tithing.
They also feel strongly about encouraging their children and grandchildren to live by similar values. Myrl has prepared not only a will but also his “testament” that spells out his hopes and expectations for the next generations.
The testament includes the following statement: “In my Will there are stipulations that money be given at certain times to each of you, only if you have been faithful to a holistic lifestyle. We know that we cannot force a certain lifestyle on you; we only hope that we have been good role models for you.
“It is important that you think ‘globally’ and not just locally or about yourself,” Myrl writes in his testament. “Issues such as immigration, persons of different ethnic backgrounds, how you treat the poor, people who are or have been incarcerated, peace and justice issues; the list goes on and will change from time to time.”
In 1948, Myrl’s father brought the whole family all the way from Ohio to Goshen – a long trip by car in those days – to participate in the fourth MWC Assembly – the first to be held in North America.
Myrl became more directly involved in MWC by being solicited to help provide funds after the 1967 Assembly in Amsterdam and again after the 1990 Assembly in Winnipeg. He and Phyllis also created an MWC endowment fund in the late 1990s.
In addition to his family’s attendance in 1948 he has attended the last four assemblies: Winnipeg (1990), India (1997), Zimbabwe (2003) and Paraguay (2009, with Phyllis).
Each Assembly, starting in 1948, has broadened his understanding of what it means to be a Mennonite Christian, going beyond the rules and restrictions that seemed to define a Mennonite when he was growing up.
“Watching Africans dancing, watching worship styles from different parts of the world, and observing different lifestyles, I have come to see that there is far more to Christianity than my own limited understanding and my own experience,” says Myrl.
When asked why he thinks everyone should support MWC, Myrl comments: “MWC provides the structure that permits us to interact at a world level. We in North America hold much of the world’s wealth, and it is our responsibility to share our resources.
“Today’s church is much bigger than one’s own congregation or even one’s own city. Our congregations used to be self-contained communities, but now we live in a world community, which means we all need to expand our practice of benevolence.”