Carolyn's Daily Posts: 2011

December 19, 2011

Seeming Pauper Donates Two Million to a Church




     He was a simple man who drove an old pickup truck, lived in a trailer without running water, and kept to himself.

     But he wasn’t poor. Upon his death he left a small rural church two million dollars.


     John Ferguson died in January 2007 at the age of seventy-one. The recipient of his gift was eighty-member Hopewell United Methodist Church in Blairsville, Pennsylvania.

     The frugal man’s will was short and simple—one paragraph—that said everything should go to the church that his mother attended faithfully until her death in 1983. Ferguson himself was an infrequent church attender whose pastor knew little of him, but who visited him in the hospital during an illness that left him non-responsive.

     Ferguson’s actions followed his mother’s intentions that, after leaving all she owned to Ferguson he was to will whatever he had to the church.


     Ferguson skillfully invested whatever money his mother left him, while living a simple life rather than spending his inheritance on an amped up lifestyle. However, if someone needed something he was willing to help.*

     In spite of his lifestyle, his seeming willingness to honor his mother’s request, I have to wonder if he didn’t’ go to an extreme. Living without running water? That seems a little on the bizarre side.

     But the question I have is how this windfall will affect the small country church in my ancestor’s community.

     These small churches are dying—the reasons are many and varied, not the purpose of this post. The gift begs the question as to whether it will cause infighting among the church members, prolong the death throes of the church, or help the church survive in a healthy manner.

     Currently, the church plans to keep the money in investments, using only the interest for its ministries. The church formed a committee to distribute the interest with the intent of addressing a cause Ferguson was passionate about—restoring local cemeteries.  They are also looking to decide if it is possible for the church to become a station church, eg. A church that stands on its own rather than being part of a group of churches served by a single pastor.

     Whatever path they follow they need to do so in prayer and with the wisdom of Solomon.

     This article was published on December 19, 2008, exactly three years ago today. In what ways has the money changed the church? I wonder…


Faithful Son Leaves $2 Million to Church, Interlink edition of the United Methodist Reporter, December 19, 2008, pp 3A




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