Gibbs Wilson is a man whose heart beats for generosity, but there was a moment in his life when he didn’t have a heartbeat at all.
On December 14, 2002, life abruptly came to a halt for Gibbs when he suffered a severe heart attack, one that doctors often refer to as a widow-maker. “I was playing tennis when I collapsed on the court. I was unconscious, I wasn’t breathing, and I didn’t have a heartbeat,” Gibbs explains. “It was a likely dead-on-arrival situation according to the medics who didn’t expect me to make it.”
Gibbs’ wife, Lori, was 10 weeks pregnant, and they had just found out that they were expecting twins. As she waited anxiously at the hospital, Lori couldn’t help but think that she might be forced to raise their children alone. After emergency surgery, the doctors informed her that Gibbs had been placed on a ventilator and was in a medically-induced coma. They estimated that he had a two percent chance of survival.
But with his Sunday School class, and other friends and family earnestly praying, Gibbs made a total recovery over the next eight days. “The hospital called me the Christmas miracle because I wasn’t expected to live,” he says. “I felt that God let me live and that he would use me for whatever purpose he kept me alive for. The whole experience gave me an urgency to steward my remaining time well.”
Then, in 2008, Gibbs and Lori found themselves facing another dire situation. But this time it was his business that was on life support. “The Great Recession hit, and my business, Alpha Omega Title, lost money for the first time since I started it in 1983,” says Gibbs. “We were losing tens of thousands of dollars every month for a year. Lori daily and vehemently urged me to shut the company down as we could see our security and savings quickly slipping away. But I did not feel that the Lord had released me to do that.”
So the couple held on through the extraordinarily difficult economy, and by God’s grace alone, the business survived. Gibbs says, “As it turned out, many of our competitors went out of business, and their customers had to find other title agencies. By surviving, we roughly tripled our market share and were able to hire some very good title professionals who had been let go during this financial meltdown.”
Through all these challenges, Gibbs’ faith was growing.
“One of the things that happened as I was spending more time with the Lord and in his Word, I became more generous and I wanted to give more,” Gibbs says. He and Lori committed to tithing and additionally made a significant gift to their church for a building program. Then an amazing thing happened.
Gibbs explains, “After giving away more, I would have expected that we would have less. Instead, God poured financial blessings back to us, so we had more to give. It reinforced our understanding of Luke 6:38, as it states, ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'”
As his desire to give increased, Gibbs learned about a new way to give from some of his friends who were giving a percentage of their businesses through the National Christian Foundation (NCF). As one of the founders and the current board chairman for NCF Tampa, Gibbs was familiar with innovative giving strategies.
But for the first time, he felt that the Lord was leading him to give a portion of his business as well. “I talked to Lori, and she agreed. So, we gave private business interest stock, and any time there were profits that we took, we gave the appropriate portion to NCF, which then went into our NCF Giving Fund. From there, we can recommend grants to the charities we support.”
As Gibbs explained to Lori, giving stock in his business wasn’t that much of a stretch. “We’d already decided that we were going to tithe, and if we tithe with stock in the company, it puts teeth to the decision of tithing within the business. We have to do it because we’ve given the stock. That brought us to a point of no return, and full surrender to giving. As an added benefit, we got an IRS tax deduction in the year of the gift, according to the appraised value of the company stock.”
Another thing that Gibbs became aware of through his NCF community is now a central focus for his giving – the issue of indentured servitude. He says, “I learned that in one particular country, people get into debt to the owner of a company, and they must pay their way out of the debt by working for that person until it’s paid off. But many owners are dishonest and the whole family, even the youngest child, ends up working to pay off the debt from sunup to sundown, seven days a week, often for the rest of their lives.”
In October 2017, almost exactly 15 years after his life-threatening heart attack, Gibbs traveled to one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, to experience the issue of indentured servitude first-hand.
“It was really touching. I’ve never been to a place where I thought its very possible that I may not come back alive. Christians there are being killed for what they believe every day.”
With the help of local Christian leaders, Gibbs has set up a ministry to redeem families who are indentured. So far this year, 12 families have been rescued from servitude and transitioned into stability within their native country. “So far, all 12 families have remained free!” Gibbs says. They’ve got new apartments and food, and most have already transitioned to new jobs. They’re joyfully out of the vicious cycle of servitude and out of debt.”
As Gibbs’ and Lori’s vision for giving continues to grow, their family and their NCF community are experiencing amazing things. “When the Bible talks about God being able to do ‘exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to His power that works within us,’ these are things that we are seeing take place,” Gibbs says. “It’s a privilege and honor to be just a little part of something so beautiful. You know, abiding in Christ is an amazing adventure. All of us are God’s workmanship, created to make a difference in the world by his power and for his glory alone.”