J. W. Brumbelow Keeps Faith Alive for Youth
By all accounts, J. W. Brumbelow lived according to his values: steadfast faith, responsible citizenship, patriotism, self-sufficiency. The living trust he created in 2011 clearly reflected those beliefs: an equal share of scholarships were provided annually from the trust to First United Methodist Church in Moody, Texas, and Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets to youth demonstrating those attributes.
Until shortly before his death in January 2017, Brumbelow had planned to leave his estate to those two entities, as well. But at age 97, he was still writing his story, and God was still at work with him in crafting his giving legacy.
In August 2016, he decided to leave his entire estate to First UMC Moody for the construction of a Youth and Community Center. He also provided for maintenance of the building through an endowment. Though his love for his alma mater, A&M, was deep, the needs and potential impact at his home church and community outweighed that affiliation. As his nephew, Gene Brumbelow explained, “Uncle Wilson was well aware of all the competing influences in the lives of teenagers.
Of all the social institutions operating in the U.S., the church is uniquely positioned to powerfully transform the lives of young people by exposing them to the teachings of Christ during those impressionable teen years. Forming kids in a dynamic Christian faith can set them on the course of leading fruitful, fulfilled lives. That’s the outcome he wants.”
Gene, who served as executor of J. W.’s estate, admitted that the new legacy giving strategy required more work than the original plan, but “I believe God was working God’s will, and it has been an honor and privilege to play a role in it.”J.W. predicted that Moody would be a burgeoning suburb to the growing Belton, Temple, and Waco area. And, therefore, in an even greater need for a safe place for youth to gather and a vibrant community of faith to pass on those elemental traits he valued.
Indeed, in less than two years, FUMC’s Wednesday night youth program has grown from 30 to more than 60. Some are members at FUMC or other churches, but most are unchurched. The multiracial, multicultural group shares a meal together, worships has Bible study and ends the evening with song and prayer. Wednesday night is their experience of church.
“We were in desperate need of space for our growing youth ministry,” said Joshua Pruett, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Moody, “and God provided through Mr. Brumbelow.”
The multipurpose Youth and Community Center, slated for completion in six months, will include a small gym, a commercial kitchen, and four classrooms. “The possibilities for the use of this facility are as large as the imagination,” commented Pruett. In addition to enabling the church to accommodate more and more youth, the building will provide meeting space for a wide range of classes, support groups, scouting troops, and other community events.
Like many small towns, Moody is faced with high poverty rates and rapidly changing demographics that complicate the lives of its residents. “Many of these kids have never known a stable home environment,” Pruett explained. “My family has ‘adopted’ one of these kids, representative of many others. He spends a lot of time at our home. His grades have improved. He’s a great athlete and we celebrate that - but we’re also trying to impress upon him the importance of education and nurturing an inner life. We want him and all of our kids to know, above all, that they are beloved children of God. Mr. Brumbelow’s generosity will make it possible for us to connect with more and more adolescents, assuring them that God is active in the world and walking with them every step of the way.”
During visits with Pastor Pruett at the nursing facility where he lived in Arlington, J. W. learned more about the needs of youth in the Moody community and Pruett’s vision for youth ministry there. “It all coalesced for Uncle Wilson. He realized his gift would have far more impact on the fragile lives of youth in this small town than it would at a large university with a wealth of resources,” said Gene.
J. W.’s giving story began with the gift of education to A&M from his older sister Lorraine, which he repaid in full. “That act of generosity changed his life dramatically, and he wanted to bless others as he had been blessed,” observed Gene.
Now J. W. is changing lives and keeping his faith and generosity alive by sharing it. Not only with the youth in Moody but through his personal relationships with Josh and Gene who then worked with TMF staff to help Gene fulfill his uncle’s wishes through his gift. “I was blessed to work with Charles Smith for the past two years and value his patient guidance in helping to navigate the intricacies of benevolent gifts such as this one. I was supported all the way with Christian guidance through many resources at TMF. In my mind, TMF only considered the impact for good and never the size of the gift in relation to the many philanthropic gifts you read and hear about,” Gene described.
And the potential impact for good continues to spread. Having experienced the infectious joy of giving, Gene encourages others to give, as well. “Uncle Wilson would be thrilled if his gift prompted others to consider giving to this worthy project or emulating it in other small towns.”
We keep our faith alive by sharing it with the next generation. J. W. Brumbelow continued to grow in his faith and one of his final acts was to create opportunities for growth and transformation for younger generations.