"And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:15, NIV).
As a young man, George Jetter was the first in his family to attend college. He worked his way through the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, then took a position in a manufacturing company. Early in his career, he was inspired by the life of R. G. LeTourneau, an industrial philanthropist who was instrumental in building a Christian university in Texas. George never forgot LeTourneau's testimony that God had helped him give 90 percent of his income for ministry and live on 10 percent. To George, LeTourneau was a spiritual giant, fulfilling a call to ministry as a Christian businessperson. George prayed that he, too, might be a generous, Christlike businessperson.
Mel McCullough, president of the Church of the Nazarene Foundation, visited with George a few years ago. Then, George humbly confided that God had helped him to reach this goal. As George shared their story, the couple seemed like generous spiritual giants.
While George was a college student, he met a classmate, Larry Moore, whose father was the pastor of a Nazarene Church in Lockland, Ohio. George frequently visited the church and parsonage where he saw a photo of Larry's sister, Esther. She was away attending school at Olivet Nazarene College (now University). Although George had not met her, he decided that this was the girl he wanted to marry. After three years of persuasion, Esther agreed to marry George, and what a team they became.
In time, George realized he could do his best if he were in business for himself. Consequently, he resigned his position at the manufacturing company and purchased Fort Recovery Stirrup Company in Fort Recovery, Ohio, a manufacturer of metal bound wooden stirrups. The stirrup factory is now a thing of the past, but Fort Recovery Industries, manufacturer of die-cast metal parts, under the management of three of George's sons, has succeeded it.
The Jetters placed great value on education, which prompted them to provide funding for the Free Enterprise building and the Family and Consumers Science Center at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. George wanted no recognition, but after his death, the School of Business was named the Jetter School of Business to honor his years of service as a trustee and supporter of the university. In addition to giving financially, the Jetters often encouraged and helped support young people seeking higher education. Frequently one of these students could be found living with the Jetters while working at the factory to earn money for college expenses.
As the business grew and more money was available, missionary Louise Robinson Chapman encouraged George to build a church and parsonage in South Africa in honor of each of his children. When the seventh church was completed, George gave money to build the eighth one. Then, George said it was now time for the Africans to stop praying that the Jetters would have more children.
George and Esther cheered and prayed for their children. They prayed for the oldest child on Sunday, the next oldest on Monday, and so on through the week until the youngest was prayed for on Saturday. Their global vision was caught by the family as they continue to make a difference in strategic places including Asia, Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, and South America in compassionate ministries and mission initiatives.
Together they nurtured those 7 children, 21 grandchildren, and at last count 12 great grandchildren. Many of their offspring graduated from Nazarene universities. The legacy includes a pastor and missionary, businesspersons, lawyers, doctors, artists, professionals in information technology, educators, foreign service, and several who set aside professional careers to be mothers and homemakers.
When George Jetter died in 2009 at the age of 96, his minister son, Paul Jetter, chose as his funeral text, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8b, NIV).
The Jetters gave generously to build churches, parsonages, schools, and wells for clean water around the world.
At George's memorial service, an international student, Joel Laborde from Haiti, told of how his wife, Eunice, had lived with the Jetters while she worked at Fort Recovery Industries and attended college. Eunice is now making a difference as a medical doctor. Frequently, the Labordes return to Haiti to provide medical assistance.
George fulfilled his call to finance the work of building Christ's Kingdom, joyfully and faithfully. Like LeTourneau, the lad with some barley loaves and fish, a widow with a tiny offering, and a man named Barnabas ("a son of encouragement") who sold some real estate and laid it at the apostles' feet, the story of George and Esther Jetter will live on to change lives and inspire their family and others to service.
Note: This is one in a series of articles for "Modeling Generosity," a series where Holiness Today partners with the Church of the Nazarene Foundation and other entities. Learn how God's people model generosity in their lives. Help inspire others to leave a lasting legacy by sending your stories, or the story of someone you know who lives generously, to email@example.com.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2011