20 years ago this month

December 5, 2008

A couple of years ago, Erin created a scrapbook with various things I’ve written – small notes, ideas, whatever she found amongst my mess of files that she thought was significant and represented my spiritual journey. When you open the book, on the first page, there is a paragraph I wrote in 3rd grade. Of all places in Africa, I wanted to go to Mali because I knew a missionary family living there that my church supported. Stories they told about life in Africa fascinated me. I wanted to know the people they lived among.

Years later they moved to France. In the summer of 2000, I did my undergrad internship with Don in France. Now, 20 years after originally writing a note about living in Africa, I have an opportunity to finally travel there and do what I described below, even if it is for only 2 weeks.

What I Want to be When I Grow Up

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KENYA!!

December 5, 2008

The following I wrote a few nights ago concerning my upcoming trek to Kenya. If you are interested in supporting me, please email me at andygingrich@fairfax.cc and I will get you the appropriate info. Thanks!!

Dear friends and family,

Through the highs and lows of life, God has shown me how intricately he has woven together my personality, my natural and spiritual giftedness, my education, my experiences, the people he has brought into my life, and his very presence within my life. This being true, I value the opportunities a given day possesses. And my love of ministry in the context of relationships has directed many of my decisions. In May, I accepted a position at Fairfax Community Church (FCC) to serve as a Small Group Director. Essentially, I oversee small groups and small group leaders – 50 at the moment – meeting with them regularly to provide encouragement, direction, support, and resources to help them best facilitate their groups.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to travel to Kisumu, Kenya with Alan MacDonald, the Pastor of Global Engagement at FCC, to the Kima International School of Theology. After prayer and consideration, I agreed to go. I leave on February 13 and will return February 26. KIST is located in the highlands of Kenya, near the equator, and about 30 minutes from the shores of Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile River.

To explain my role on this trip, I thought it best to share Alan’s words with you directly:
I invited Andy to join me on the upcoming trip to Kima International School of Theology (KIST) and I’m thrilled he is willing to travel with me. KIST is a ministry partner of ours in Kisumu, Kenya. They are training pastors and Christian workers from several East African nations. I am going to KIST to explore ways to strengthen our involvement in support of the important work that is being done there. Since the primary focus of KIST is theological education, Andy’s participation is very strategic. While I’ve been involved in cross-cultural missions for 30 years, I don’t have seminary training or experience with theological education.  Andy will play an important role in the discussions with the leadership at KIST.  The president of the school has already asked to have Andy speak in chapel as well as lecture in the theology classes. I know that God put Africa on Andy’s heart from an early age and I feel privileged to be along side of him as he goes for the first time to Africa. Andy’s involvement in the trip isn’t something that has been budgeted for so Andy cannot make this trip without your help. I encourage you to consider how you can support him in this endeavor through your prayers and giving.

I am building a team of senders – individuals who that can commit to praying for me, our team, and the ministry of KIST before, during, and after the trip; and to help support me financially.  I have been asked to raise $3200 toward the total cost of the trip for airfare, lodging, local transportation, and food.  If you are willing to be part of this sending team, please fill out the attached form and return it to Fairfax Community Church by January 30, 2009.

I look forward to this experience and sharing it with you when I return!

By grace and in love,

my signature

In Alan’s note, he references that Africa has been on my heart since an early age. I’m going to try to dig up something that hung on my wall through college. If I can find it, I’ll post it later tonight (or when I find it!)

a pause

December 3, 2008

So apparently I had a lot to express when I got this up and rolling. A lot of inertia from breathing deeply and finding a healthy place of ministry and just in life. Working at Fairfax CC is a blessing everyday.

About the time I paused in July I realized something. With a healthy surrounding, I exited the survival mode I had been operating in through seminary and my first couple years in northern Virginia. When that happened I realized with stark clarity that I had a lot of internal unhealth. So I’m dealing with that. I started a journal. Some of that I may throw up here in a retroactive kind of way.

I’m reading The Shack currently. Actually I’m listening to it. I’ve never done the audiobook before but it works for me. I’ve read a lot of books but most of which were for academic reasons. The idea of reading for leisure is greater than the reality of me actually reading. I’ve never been much of a fiction reader though Erin has poked me with that stick for years. So, in my pursuit of more honest living, I’m embracing the fact that I’m an auditory learner, I have a 30 minute commute to church everyday, and I focus best with external distraction. So an audiobook in the car…genius! I really wish I had started doing this years ago as I’ve had no less than a 30 minute commute everyday to whatever I’ve been doing for the past 7 years. Jeesh, what a waste of constructive opportunity! I think Mike & Mike already miss me.

As for The Shack, it’s elicited as much of a love/hate response as anything I’ve ever seen. Actually that might not be true. This presidential election was pretty fiesty. Anyway, I’ll give my 2 cents when I’m done listening to the book. As for why I’m listening to it at all…I caught an interview live at a conference I attended in Atlanta in October. Williams Paul Young was strikingly genuine and transparent. I don’t personally know any best-selling authors but you’d never know this guy was one. It was as if he was sharing his story for the first time. That motivated me to read his book.

ps. thanks to Matt for kicking my butt to get back on my blog

29 going on 42

July 3, 2008

One of the things that took some getting used to after college was the broadening of my peer base. While my peers once were those kids that were within a couple years of my age, it now seems accurate to describe anyone who I wouldn’t call Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so as my peers. This is true even to the extent where early in seminary (which I started immediately after college) a friend who was turning 40 once told me that he never thought about our age difference (I was 22 at the time) until I brought it up. So I shut my mouth and just reveled in this newfound life reality.

Yesterday, during our staff meeting at FCC, it was announced that there were two birthdays in July, mine and Kyle’s (one of our youth pastors) who’s turning 42. I found myself, for just a moment, tuning out the couple dozen colleagues sitting around me and wondering what I want to do or have accomplished when someone announces that I’m turning 42. It’s a random wondering…

So, in 13 years – or when Luke is about to start high school – what can and will be said of me? I’ve never been one to think in terms of specific goals or dreams. But what the heck, happy birthday to me and here’s my list:

  1. Celebrating my 20th Anniversary in another week!
  2. Have two kids…3? (this one intrigues me the most)
  3. Doing something in ministry that requires or at least involves traveling internationally resourcing, equipping and coaching others in ministry – if we’re not living internationally ourselves
  4. Publish my first book, most likely with a coauthor who provided credibility to me publishing anything
  5. Debtless, save a mortgage (kids aren’t in college yet)
  6. Speak in chapel at Cedarville
  7. Go to the Summer Olympics
  8. Run a marathon & compete in a half triathalon (1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run)
  9. Coach my kids in whatever sport they play – so pretty much it’d have to be soccer or swimming
  10. Travel internationally with Erin – she’d prefer Europe, specifically Tuscany
  11. Go skydiving
  12. Design a beer
  13. At least working on my PhD

I’m sure there’s a hundred things more important than a lot of this stuff but it’s what I thought of on the spot. Here’s to the next 13 years!

Yesterday media from ABC was at Fairfax Community Church.  At FCC, we have a woman, Loretta, who was an ABC White House correspondent for more than a decade. She’s a devoted follower of Christ and also happens to be the wife of one of our Youth Pastors. She now leads this organization, Clarity Communications Group. Apparently a study is coming out which, in part, states that a majority of religious Americans believe that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. Tonight ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson is said to air a piece on this report as well as (to the best of my knowledge) a sampling of comments from interviews of people interviewed here at FCC yesterday following Sunday services.

Loretta called me Friday evening asking me to be one of those ABC talks to. My name came up because I’m “articulate” and “cool.” That made me laugh. Maybe that should be what I request as my epitaph. Just throw in husband and father – “Here lies Andy. He was an articulate and cool husband and father.” Yup, that’ll work! Anyways, after I got off the phone with Loretta my mind immediately began filtering through my thoughts on the subject on whether Jesus is the only path to heaven and whether I have a personal relationship with God or something more abstract. I even called up one my closest friends who I did youth ministry and seminary with in Dallas to get his thoughts.

As it turned out, I never spoke with ABC. I was ready, standing outside after our first service, chewing the fat with people arriving for the second service, waiting my turn in front of the camera. Before getting to me ABC needed to wrap up. Funny but I wasn’t bothered, upset, or disappointed, nor did I feel jipped. Of course I would have loved to share my thoughts but God reminded me while I was brushing my teeth Sunday morning that this wasn’t about me at all. What God wanted to be revealed about himself would happen regardless of my involvement. So I was at peace before ever arriving at church. Not to say I wasn’t nervous, but I was also cool with whatever would happen. And I would have shared this story here regardless of what went down yesterday morning. It just so happens this will be the only place that will be the avenue of what Andy Gingrich would have said to ABC. Tonight we’ll hear what God allowed to be known.

“I think the question of whether Jesus is the only way to heaven begins with the reality that Jesus created the world and that humanity is created in his image. We were designed by Jesus and for Jesus so the question of whether or not Jesus is the only way is not really up to any individual to decide. To have a personal relationship with Jesus is to recognize and receive the grace with which we were created to enjoy. I believe this is why so many people in so many cultures seek a god and sincerely believe their pursuit is valid. There’s a longing to know and be known by the Creator. But our confusion, pride and ultimately our sin cloud our pursuit of knowing Jesus and that he is who he said he was – the one who alone provides forgiveness for sin and the means to eternal life. It’s as if humanity is one great symphony. The question isn’t what instrument you play or what tune you want to play. The question is whether or not you are in tune. Every person is created in the undeniable image of God. To be in tune with the Creator is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus which provided forgiveness for sin and the awesome expectation of heaven. It makes total sense that people long after something greater than themselves. You are also free to play completely out of tune. But you aren’t entitled to heaven. In Jesus alone you find the tune which will allow you to be in tune, to stay in tune, forever. Jesus is eternal life and the only to find it. ”

I had thought that out before Sunday morning. But of course I wouldn’t have been that articulate or sounded that cool in front of the camera.

I’m still taking up….evidenced by the fact that I just wrote “I’m still taking up.” I think my brain’s just a little woozy from small group saturation. Concurrently I’m learning how to and actually starting to interview potential group leaders, meeting and catching up with current leaders, helping develop a strategy for married and singles target events, while immersing myself in the ministry culture of FCC. Fortunately I’m doing none of the above on my own, well at least not yet. As I’ve already said and will say a million times, I’m part of an awesome team! I’m afraid a certain someone is ready to boot the little birdy out of the nest sooner than later assuming that birdy can fly. The birdy? Not so sure!

Today’s one of those days – of which I’m sure there will be many – where I just need to jump on the back of the Caribou and hope it’ll give me wings. (Sorry but Red Bull just isn’t a tasty morning beverage and I think a Caribou has a better chance at taking flight than an aluminum can anyway)

I’m sitting in the Great Room at Fairfax Community Church soaking in the reality that I’m actually sitting here in the Great Room at FCC. It’s not so much an awe inspiring reality that I’m grappling with. Rather it’s a contentedness that’s found me over these past two weeks that is slowly convincing me of its realness. At the same time, I’m becoming convinced that it is easier to know when I am content than when I lack contentedness. When I’m discontent things just don’t “feel right.” There’s always some part or parts of me that aren’t healthy and that are compartmentalized (sometimes out of survival instincts). If enough time passes my sense of compassion erodes, patience is a burden, and self-preservation becomes my most coveted pursuit. Ultimately I begin struggling with my sense of identity because I’ve adapted into a survivor rather than a learner and a contributor.

Things are different now. I sense when I’m being selfish and I want to correct it, even apologize for it immediately. My self awareness is heightened because I feel the freedom and the encouragement to be myself. I feel I can trust those around me and be trusted by them. And I feel loved and appreciated explicitly.

It’s been almost two weeks since I came on staff at FCC but it’s been seven years since I’ve felt the way I’m feeling right now. While I didn’t notice it right away, I felt trapped in seminary and I began to become something very different from who I knew myself to be. I thought after graduation that I’d been freed only to realize I went from one trap to another of a different kind. The environment and reasons were different but the result was the same. For years I’ve told students that you can only become who you’re currently becoming. I don’t like who’ve I’ve been becoming over the past seven years.

FCC has a high value on giftedness and they hire in such a way that takes the greater group dynamic into consideration while also placing their staff in a position to exercise their gifts to enhance the quality of the staff, the local congregation and whoever may fall into their sphere of influence. What I’m absolutely giddy about is that I have a much clearer picture of who I am now than I did 7 years ago. I have people around me who are intent on developing my strengths and helping manage my weaknesses well. I am excited about becoming a different person; in some respects the person I once was becoming and in other respects a different person altogether. Most of all I’m focused on being the husband and father that I want to be.

I’m content and I’m healing.