What's in
your hand?


It was still dark out as Austin and Rhoda Heise gathered around their kitchen table with their Bible, a worn copy of Our Daily Bread, and a small notebook filled with prayer requests. As was their custom, they took turns reading Scripture and the day’s devotion and then bowed their heads to pray. While most days they lifted up family, friends, and missions work, on this day their prayers turned to an important personal matter – the decision to make a significant gift of one of their most valuable possessions, their farmland.

SOWING SEEDS FOR THE GOSPEL

Both Austin and Rhoda had grown up in the tight-knit community of believers from the small denomination known as the Brethren in Christ. Austin’s great-grandfather was one of the Brethren’s first missionaries sent out to Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. Rhoda’s father had been a pastor, often preaching for nothing more than a love offering. From a young age they both heard about faraway places and the joy of giving their lives to reach those who had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Austin and Rhoda met as students at a church college in California. After they married, they first settled on a small farm near Hiawatha, Kansas, and later moved to the farm nearby that had been in their family for three generations. As his father and grandfather before him, Austin worked from sun-up to sundown farming corn, wheat, and soybeans. Rhoda remembers, “There were some hard times, but it was those times that built character.”

Even though they did not have great means, Austin and Rhoda continued their parents’ tradition of supporting missions and helping the poor. They tithed and gave generously and even traveled abroad to serve on mission trips to Spain and Haiti. Then in 2010, after retiring from 48 years of farming and with their three children grown and having kids of their own, they encountered a unique opportunity to establish a legacy of generosity for their whole family.

THE GIFT OF IMPACT

Their son, Gary, introduced them to the National Christian Foundation where they learned about the concept of asset-based giving. Rhoda says, “God asked us the same question he asked Moses, ‘What is that in your hand?’

For Moses it was a staff, for us it was a farm. We knew that we eventually wanted it to go to Kingdom work but with the needs all around us so great, we thought, ‘Why wait?’“ Austin and Rhoda decided to gift a small portion of their farmland valued at approximately $250,000 to their family Giving Fund. NCF sold the land for them and placed the proceeds in their Fund for granting to their favorite ministries. The Heises qualified for a tax deduction for the fair market value of their gift and avoided the significant capital gains tax that they would have had to pay if they had sold the land and given it directly to charity. They were able to give $75,000 more with this initial gift.

GIVING BEFORE THE SALE

In 2011, Austin and Rhoda decided to give an even larger portion of land that they owned in Nebraska. Austin explains, “We bought the farm in Nebraska 13 years ago for $220,000 and it had appreciated a lot so we knew it was a valuable asset for giving.” 

NCF Heartland’s team guided them through the gift, which involved three steps: 

  1. Austin and Rhoda got all three of their adult children involved and gave them a total of 160 acres valued at about $650,000, which they in turn donated to their NCF Giving Funds.

  2. A few months later, NCF sold the acreage for $1.1 million and each of their children received over $300,000 in their Fund and are now able to give to the charities of their choice. 

  3. Each qualified for a tax deduction for the fair market value of their gift and avoided the significant capital gains tax that they would have had to pay if they had sold the land and given it directly to charity. Overall, they were able to save $392,000 in taxes and give that instead. 

PASSING ON VALUES, NOT JUST VALUABLES

Rhoda says, “Our generation had a chance to earn more as our assets appreciated. We love how the NCF team helped us steward this transfer of wealth for God’s purposes.” Austin adds, “It was just like when Christ fed thousands with five loaves and two fish. We know that little can become much when God is in charge.”

Now their children are experiencing the joy of generosity. And Austin and Rhoda have been able to pass on their values rather than just valuables. “It’s so exciting to see the new causes that our children and their spouses are supporting. They just love having these resources to give,” says Rhoda. “We wanted our kids to know how wonderful it is to give, and to live with the Lord and know His purposes. With NCF, we learned that valuable farmland could be even more valuable for the Kingdom.” 

There were some hard times, but it was those times that built character.
— Rhoda
DSC_0332.JPG
God asked us the same question he asked Moses, ‘What is that in your hand?’ For Moses it was a staff, for us it was a farm.
— Rhoda
We wanted our kids to know how wonderful it is to give, and to live with the Lord and know His purposes.
— Rhoda