As frequently as once a week, a welcome visitor shows up at the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) office in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, bearing gifts. “Pie man” Tim Sauer’s gifts involve strawberries, grapes, rhubarb, apples, sour cherries – and cheques.
“I could never have been a preacher; I don’t have a good singing voice; [making pies] is one thing I can do that shows love for other people,” says Tim Sauer.
He started baking pies for his parents. After they died, he continued to bake pies to thank fellow volunteers at the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store in Waterloo. Before long, his list of organizations and individuals grew.
Retired after a career in library science, Tim Sauer aims to make an average of one pie every other day. Frequently, he far exceeds that with closer to 360 pies in a year.
Tim Sauer has honed his technique: three pies at a time, into the oven in about an hour.
“I’m exceptionally fussy about fillings,” he says – the biggest joy and the biggest challenge. Located close to the Niagara fruit-growing region, he always uses fruit (or pumpkin): usually fresh and in season. At a local fruit market, he finds deals on bulk fruit that needs to be used right away.
The largest expenditure of time is taken up with distribution. Deliveries to 50 Kent (where MWC’s offices are located) are convenient because he finds multiple Mennonite agencies under one roof.
His gifts aren’t limited to pie, though. Tim Sauer’s volunteer efforts are being scaled back as his health offers some challenges, but his chequebook still gets a workout.
“I was born into a family that had a high work ethic. I had access to an excellent education. Other people in a different places with different parents could have done just as well, but they weren’t born in a place they could get established,” he says. “They have just as much right to a good life as I do.”
“I agonized for years…I could never feel right about how much I was giving. Eventually, I decided 50 percent is enough. The rest I can spend however I want,” he says.
Tim Sauer divides his giving: half goes to Canadian organizations, half to foreign organizations, like a hospital in Tanzania, for school fees for women in Uganda and to MWC.
Due to his giving, he not only pays little income tax, he gets a sizable rebate. And the chequebook comes out again!
“There are so many opportunities. I get a kick out of giving away money.”
Sometimes, his deliveries include only a cheque and an apology: “I’m sorry, there’s no pie today.”
Tim Sauer thrives on the affirmation he receives when he delivers a pie.
One of his memorable deliveries was taking a pie made from rare, local groundcherries (physalis) to a retired pastor couple. They were thrilled by the flavours they hadn’t eaten in a decade or more. Within a few months, both had died after lifetimes of ministry and service. Tim Sauer was grateful to have blessed them with this sweet memory in their last days.
Tim Sauer demonstrates that any skill can be used to glorify God.
“We need to find young people with gifts and encourage them in developing those gifts,” he says.
“I’m lucky. How many people can write a cheque for $5 000? How many can give away $40 000 a year?” says Tim Sauer. “When I write a cheque, I am on ‘cloud nine’. I am blessed!”