Norman and Arlene Leenhouts have been married 61 years. Four years into their marriage, they began tithing — giving at least 10 percent of their income back to God — and their finances didn’t suffer.
“Fifty-seven years — we were just counting, my wife and I, about how generous the Lord has been,” said Norman Leenhouts when reached by telephone at his home near Rochester, New York. “I really believe you can’t outgive the Lord.”
The couple learned that God blesses and guides people who give generously and trust in Him. Although the humble pair are reticent to discuss their many charitable contributions, the Leenhoutses support a variety of organizations and educational institutions.
“Norm and Arlene feel very strongly about what Jesus says in Matthew 6 — not letting your right hand know what your left is giving. When they give, they give anonymously,” said Doug Langford, the senior pastor of Edgewood Free Methodist Church in Rochester. “They don’t want anybody to know what they are giving except the Lord. This has been in great contrast to much of the giving that is done in society as a whole. … Norm and Arlene are a team in their generosity for the Lord’s work.”
The Leenhoutses learned early in their marriage to give generously while trusting God.
Our favorite Scripture verses are Proverbs 3:5–6,” Norman said.
The verses state: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Part of that submission includes giving time. Norman — a certified public accountant and real estate broker who founded Broadstone Real Estate LLC — has served on the boards of the Free Methodist Church – USA, Roberts Wesleyan College, Northeastern Seminary, Edgewood Free Methodist Church, University of Rochester, Charles Finney School and Heritage Christian Services Foundation.
He said he did not look forward to the FMCUSA Board of Administration meetings because of “the couple of flights or the long drive” required to get to Indianapolis, but “when I got there, I was so inspired that I was always happy that I went. I feel like what the Free Methodist Church is doing is amazing.”
Norman and Arlene have appreciated the opportunity to go on multiple mission trips — primarily to Asian countries — that have allowed them to see what God is doing around the world through the Free Methodist Church.
“It’s more fun for us to go on a mission trip than it is to go on a vacation trip,” Norman said. “We’ve been so inspired by the trips and the missionaries.”
He has become familiar with the work of Free Methodist educational institutions through more than 20 years on the Roberts Wesleyan College Board of Trustees.
“I’ve seen the results,” he said. “Our society needs education on the spiritual side of things for people to have whole lives.”
Although the Leenhoutses prefer to give quietly, their generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed. Norman has received a Rochester Rotary Award for being a “community member who most exemplifies the motto of Rotary International: ‘service above self.’” The Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Genesee Valley Chapter honored Norman and Arlene with its Outstanding Philanthropist Award “given to an individual or family with a proven record of exceptional generosity who, through direct financial support, has demonstrated outstanding civic and charitable responsibility, and whose generosity encourages others to take philanthropic leadership roles,” according to the Rochester Business Journal.
It’s harder to keep donations secret in this Internet age. An online search reveals a variety of causes to which the Leenhoutses have contributed from medical research to the United Way, but they are especially devoted to the Free Methodist Church.
Langford, their pastor, said that Norman once commented, “The motivation for giving should not be the church budget, and it’s hardly even relevant. The motive should be to return what belongs to the Lord. If you desire to support the budget due to the need not being met or because of your love for the church, you would give beyond the tithe for which you will be blessed.” Langford repeated that comment in a sermon on tithing.
The pastor added that Norman has encouraged reluctant givers by telling them that they can begin with graduated tithing — starting with a lower percentage and then increasing the percentage as their love for giving grows.
The Leenhoutses continue to inspire others to give more and trust the Lord. Their efforts were recognized two years ago when the Charles Finney School’s middle school and high school choir members sang a song written in honor of Norman and Arlene. According to the school’s Facebook page, the song, “Trust in the Lord Evermore – TITLE,” was based on Proverbs 3:5–6.
The Father Life magazine published an interview with Norman in 2007. While addressing a question about how to balance career, marriage and fatherhood, he said, “I think you should also add community service that is doing for others where we have an obligation too. I started out spending very little time in this area at the beginning of my career, so I have tried to make up that time since. … I have tried to divide my time by thirds among family (marriage and fatherhood), community service and work.”
When Roberts Wesleyan College’s Roberts Today magazine profiled Norman in 2012, the publication described his giving philosophy as matching 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
For the Leenhoutses, it isn’t difficult to be cheerful while giving.
“There’s no greater joy than helping others,” Norman said. “It’s fun, and it’s a great blessing to be able to do that.”