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Up-Close and Personal

Article Type: Life Stories

For Matt and Jen Viel, generous living isn’t done from a distance. Instead, they aim for front row seats. 

“Most of the people we support are very personal to us. We’ve met them, hugged them and have seen their ministry,” says Jen.

For example, it was after meeting a missionary who rescues abandoned disabled children that they first began supporting her ministry. “Margaret spoke in front of church, and our hair was standing up on our arms,” recalls Jen. “We just fell in love with her.”   

Matt and Jen eventually traveled with their teenage sons, James and Seth, to Africa to personally visit Margaret and help her deliver shoes to children living in slums. “Our kids were of the age where we wanted them to see ministry more clearly.”

This deeply rooted, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-involved approach to generosity has been instilled in Matt and Jen from the very beginning.

“We both have wonderful, loving Christian families, and that’s how we’ve been raised,” says Jen. “It’s more than financial giving, but seeing the need and doing what you can. It’s joyful; you want to do that.”

Matt and Jen use their Stewards Fund, Barnabas Foundation’s donor-advised fund, to maintain their support for missionaries like Margaret and a number of other deep ministry connections.

“A favorite Bible verse,” Jen says, “is 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NIV) – ‘…just as a body, though one, has many parts but all its parts form one body, so it is with Christ.’ Even though we can’t go to Africa right now, we can still be a part of ministry. We can be one of many that sends, that helps support the missionary.”

The Stewards Fund helps prioritize the Viels’ giving. “The money in the Stewards Fund is set aside first so it’ll get to the people we support,” says Jen. “No matter what happens, they’re going to get their money. They can count on it.”

Living and teaching heartfelt generosity is an obvious priority for Matt and Jen.

“We came from the same backgrounds of giving, but now we’re our own family,” says Jen. They celebrate the moments where they observe generosity taking root in the hearts of James and Seth.

“They used to have three jars to split their money: spending, saving and Jesus,” remembers Jen. “They’d go shopping with me to buy a gift for kids whose parents are in jail or something like that. It is such a beautiful thing to see.”

There’s no telling what the future of generous giving holds for the Viel family. But what won’t change is that they will remain deeply involved in Kingdom ministry, as God leads and provides.