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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Brotherly Charity

By John W. Kennedy
Oct. 16, 2011

A pair of business-minded brothers for decades has contributed mightily to the financial well-being of Assemblies of God institutions around North Dakota and beyond.

In a 50-50 partnership started 56 years ago, Jon and Si Liechty pooled their efforts. Jon, now 85, focused on farmland. Si, 79, has concentrated on manufactured housing sales. All along the way, the brothers made a practice of giving generously to godly causes.

The Liechtys grew up in a Christian home in North Dakota with five other siblings. Their parents put God first. Every day before chores, the family gathered for a Bible study and prayer.

Even early on, Jon and Si seemed to find more business opportunities as a partnership — and they pursued them aggressively. Through connections, the brothers kept expanding their operations, always making sure never to work on Sundays.

Jon attended North Central Bible Institute (now known as North Central University) in Minneapolis for a year, then served in the U.S. Army starting near the end of World War II. He began farming in 1948 at the age of 21. As he walked through his field and looked at the crop that summer, Jon asked God to be his business partner. He vowed to give 20 percent of the profits from the harvest to ministry — 10 percent to the local church and 10 percent to missions. Jon had a tremendous yield that year.

Every year afterward, Jon made the same promise. Some years he gave away 30, 40 or even 50 percent of the profits. He says bankers never refused to loan him money, even though they realized how much he gave away to charity. Jon details provisions of God’s faithfulness in his 2008 book, Out Behind the Barn.

Si graduated from Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, N.D. (then known as Lakewood Park Bible School in Devils Lake, N.D.). He moved to Jamestown, N.D., in 1955 to become co-pastor of First Assembly of God, forgoing a salary. He bought a mobile home in which his family resided, then sold it and turned a profit. Thus began a career in manufactured home sales outlets, land development and apartment building enterprises.

Numerous ministries have benefited from the success the Lord granted to Si, who often donated 50 percent beyond tithes and offerings.

“Our mission on earth is to make disciples and to help mentor people to follow the Lord and to do His will as good Samaritans,” Si says.

Jon and Si started in business together in 1955, Jon handling farming operations and Si focusing on manufactured housing developments. The brothers have jointly given away millions of dollars to charities over the years, regardless of their own profit margin. At the end of each year, the brothers divided their profits, or, less frequently, their losses. Jon remembers he could only harvest 80 of 3,000 acres in 1976 because of a devastating hailstorm.

“We started the business by ourselves,” Si recalls. “Nobody but the Lord was our partner at the time. Jon and I would talk about ideas in each other’s area of responsibilities, but we never had a squabble.”

“After discussion, we each made our own decisions, but we had the same goals,” Jon says.

In the beginning, Si continued along a bivocational path, wearing a suit and tie for pastoral and sales duties, changing into coveralls for setups and service calls. The Lord so blessed the manufactured sales business that Si found he could no longer devote himself adequately to full-time ministerial duties, although he continued as an adult Sunday School teacher for 48 years.

God always has been faithful, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, one February Jon made a pledge for improvements at the AG North Dakota District campground near Devils Lake. But when the donation came due in June, Jon didn’t have a clue how he would come up with the cash. Just then his secretary discovered that Jon had made a checkbook error, marking two ledger entries to pay the same tax bill. The difference meant Jon could pay the campground pledge in full.

Jon’s three children attended North Central University in Minneapolis, as did two of Si’s three offspring. The Liechty brothers bought a mansion for the campus that is appraised at $850,000 and is now used for offices and classes. Both North Central University and Trinity Bible College have named buildings after the brothers. Si is on the board of trustees at Trinity; Jon is on the board of regents at NCU.

Jack Strom, president of Trinity Bible College, says the family’s generosity goes beyond finances.

“Trinity has been the recipient not only of their giving, but also of their wisdom and their involvement in the management of the college,” Strom says. “There has been a defined participation through servanthood, service and stewardship. They are entrenched in every aspect of helping the college focus on our vision.”

Leon D. Freitag, superintendent of the AG North Dakota District, says the brothers have heeded the advice of Jesus to do much with what they have received.

“They have had an entrepreneurial spirit in which they have never been afraid to step out and make some investments,” Freitag says. “They have gotten some good return, and they never have forgotten the work of the Lord.”

Jon’s wife of 59 years, Fern, died of cancer in March. She had written 50 monthly checks to missionaries and mission agencies for some 25 years — about 15,000 individual gifts to ministry.

Jon and Si have worked on dozens of Assemblies of God World Missions MAPS teams, constructing Bible schools and orphanages. They have mixed cement in Portugal, built furniture in Argentina, laid cinder blocks in Guatemala, and erected gypsum wallboard in Belgium. Si also works with U.S. Mission America Placement Service from his motor home.

The brothers have attended Jamestown First Assembly of God for more than half a century. Jon served as Sunday School superintendent for two decades.

Regarding his career, Jon has discovered that quitting is difficult. Repeatedly he has sold farm equipment after a harvest, only to buy other implements the following spring.

“I’ve had five different auction sales trying to retire, but I’ve never got it done yet,” Jon says. “Opportunities come, and I take them. We’re farming more now than we ever did.”

Jon’s only son, Jeff, handles the lion’s share of business dealings involving farming and apartment property management. The families own farmland in nine states, which they cash rent to others, and lease several other farms locally, which they sharecrop as a joint venture.

“I’m not that brilliant a person, but God has helped give me ideas,” says Si, who has been married to his wife, Martha, for 59 years. “I ask the Lord for wisdom every day. Our wives allowed us to think and act outside the box. That, plus loyal, intelligent, long-term employees, has greatly added to our success.”

Si officially retired 15 years ago. His only son, Curtis, is president of Liechty Homes, Inc. The family firm employs 40 and has operated manufactured home developments or apartment complexes in seven states. Headquarters is located in Jamestown.

“We’re not special people,” Si says. “We were just a farm family that had a good upbringing with entrepreneurial, Christian parents as an example.”

“The Lord has been good to us,” Jon says.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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