Houston’s First members Walter and Julia Wright tied the knot 11 years ago when they were about 40, in established careers — and debt free. That, however, didn’t keep them from sharpening their financial skills in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). The principles they gleaned continued to positively affect their generosity, the lives of extended family and the young couples they teach in the Newlywed and Close (NWC) Life Bible Study.
After completing FPU in 2007, Walter was compelled to pass on to others what he and Julia had learned. So in addition to being a faithful choir member, he led 13 sessions of FPU over the next five years at Houston’s First. Avoiding consumer debt is a key FPU precept the Wrights had adopted early and continue to practice. “We both drive older cars,” said Walter. “We’re driving the ones we’ve had since before we married —1997 and 2000 year models.”
Publicly sharing their financial practices serves a higher purpose. “Walter wants to present financial options from a biblical perspective,” said Julia, “offering advice that helps people get stable financial legs.” Students in their class appreciate the sound advice Walter shared in NWC.
Tim and Casey Dutton, married two years and former members of NWC, began attending the Wrights’ class at the start of the month-long financial module. What they heard affirmed the knowledge and application of biblical finance they had learned in Financial Peace University. “The Wrights are beautiful examples of stewards God commands us to be,” said Casey. “They radiate peace, generosity and passion to fulfill God’s commands as leaders and mentors in the Body of Christ.” Tim and Casey started their own business last month. Casey was able to quit her full-time job to attend to the start-up, and the couple was able to pay off more than $20,000 in student loans prior to beginning the new venture.
“Go to Google and find a mortgage calculator that tells you the price of home you can afford — and then laugh and ignore it,” said Emily Yeh, describing Walter’s advice when she and her husband Norman attended NWC. “He gave us a scenario where one spouse may lose a job, and the strain on a marriage that would result if the mortgage required both salaries to make ends meet. And we appreciated the counsel to focus on investing in God’s Kingdom, wherever that leads us.”
Walter and Julia’s intentional planning and personal purchasing decisions are rooted in deeply held convictions of stewardship and a commitment to building the Kingdom of God. Three years ago, they heard Pastor Gregg preach on MISSION 1:8, the two-year generosity initiative at Houston’s First, and decided to make a change in their living arrangements. They gave up the lease on their luxury downtown loft, located within walking distance of Minute Maid Park. The 850 square foot condo they moved to is both lovely and in a beautiful part of Houston — but less expensive than the downtown lifestyle.
“We called the condo our MISSION 1:8 house,” said Julia. “We loved the loft and the lifestyle, but it was just stuff! Streamlining our lives gave us more flexibility to be generous. It was worth the trade off.”
Recently, Walter felt an urgency to invite Julia’s parents, who had retired to Florida, back to Texas. “Walter initiated the idea of finding a home where we could live together,” Julia explained. They found the perfect home to accommodate two generations in Humble. “It is perfect for us,” said Julia. “My parents feel honored and have peace of mind about the future.”
Making intentional choices about living simply — building financial margin into their lives — allows the Wrights the luxury of being a blessing to church, to family and beyond the walls of the church. As they closed on the home they now share with Julia’s parents they think about the steps of faith it took to get to this point in their lives. “God knew more than we could ever dream,” said Walter, “far more than we could ask or imagine.”