The Bersons, who live in Scottsdale, Ariz., believe that giving one’s time and talent is just as important as financial giving.
“It is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, that motivates our giving. We simply want to share that hope to the ends of the earth,” stated Sue Berson in a recent phone conversation with Concordia Seminary magazine.
Jim Berson, her husband, couldn’t agree more. “God has blessed us over and over, and we are compelled to give,” he added. “We are challenged to give, and are reminded that you simply can’t out-give God!”
These days, the Bersons spend most of their time serving at their church and school, Christ Church-Lutheran (CC-L), and Christ Lutheran School, in Phoenix. Both Jim and Sue are substitute teachers at the school. Jim also enjoys playing guitar for chapel as well as accompanying the students when they visit local nursing homes. Sue is involved with music there as well and accompanies two choirs at the school.
They both sing in the small group, Chorale, for church services and Sue serves as a Stephen Minister at CC-L. The hope that they have in Christ is at the center of their activities and their lives.
That was also true when their son, Eric Johnson, was diagnosed with stage four melanoma in September 2011. Throughout his cancer journey there was always hope.
Many of their friends and family members prayed for a miracle, an earthly healing. But it was not to be. “The hope of eternal life with Jesus was the firm foundation on which we stood,” Sue remembered. “We knew that Eric claimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior, so that was the comfort and that was the hope!” Eric claimed his victory in Christ Jan. 7, 2014.
After Eric died, the couple chose to support the Seminary in a new way and also to honor their beloved son. They established the Eric C. Johnson Operational Endowment Sept. 13, 2014, three years after their son received his cancer diagnosis.
“It is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, that motivates our giving.”
In speaking with their longtime friend, Mike Flynn, the Seminary’s director of principal gifts who went to college with Sue in Saint Paul, Minn., they learned how helpful an endowment would be to support Seminary operations. “Eric would have been all over it, with a focus of making things better,” Jim said. “He also saw the value of maintaining and improving what was already in place.”
“He could fix anything,” Sue added. “He was a hands-on kind of guy and had a drive for excellence!”
Jim and Sue know that sustaining the Seminary’s facilities is essential. In supporting day-to-day needs — like having warm rooms in the winter and working plumbing — the endowment helps the Seminary community keep the real reason for its existence in the forefront: the proclamation of the Gospel around the globe.
“It’s like a pebble,” Sue said. “It is the rings, the circles, that go out and out and out.
“The Seminary is not just about training workers for the field,” Sue added. “It’s about the spreading of the Gospel well beyond St. Louis.” Jim and Sue are both studying the book of Acts and they claim this verse as the real reason they give:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV).
This is their motivation to give and this is their passion to live: that many more would claim, as Eric did, Christ’s victory!