This picture was taken by Logan, a member of our team, yesterday. Ronald and I met up again this afternoon to run. As gifted a runner as he is, Ronald is also gifted with patience. He gladly runs at a pace that allows me to keep up and, at least for a little while, for us to chat while running. Eventually, windedness and heat begin taking their toll and it’s quiet for the latter stages of our run.

Even more than the runs, I love the conversations we’ve had after running as we sit on the rocks nearby our finishing point. Ronald (27 by the way) is a devoted follower of Christ. His experience and perspective as a Kenyan is both fascinating and sobering.  Yesterday, Monday, we spent most of our time talking about our families. Today we moved into more serious matters. Most of our conversation surrounded dating, marriage, and AIDS. He was completely shocked that Erin and I did not get tested for AIDS before we got married. It is a reality in Africa. Ronald and I talked about the process of getting tested and the counseling you receive. He’s been tested three times in his lifetime. We talked about what dating is like and how and when you go with your girlfriend to get tested. We talked about the emotion of that in preparation of what you do if you’re negative and she’s positive – or vice versa. Today our conversation ended with me sharing pictures of my family that I brought along. It’s a simple plastic photo album including a picture of Erin, Luke and I, a couple other pictures of Luke, as well as a few of my siblings, parents, and (of course) Chandler and Joey my cats. My two favorite comments from Ronald were, “If I ever get to meet your family I feel like I’ll already know them from these pictures and from our conversation” and “wow, those are cats? Do they eat the rats?” To the latter I said no, we feed them dry cat food to which he responded, “you mean they are pets?”

I really enjoyed speaking in chapel this morning. I felt completely at peace. A couple of times during the singing my eyes drifted out the open door in front of me to the bright blue sky along with the trees swaying gently in the breeze. For whatever reason, something Alan said and showed me the other day popped into my mind right before going on stage. With his iphone, he had taken a close-up picture of the very short hair on the back of my head and called it an “African pineapple.”

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Guest house in Nairobi

Redeemed Gospel Church outside Nairobi

We arrived safely in Kisumu Sunday evening, flying from DC through Amsterdam to Nairobi. We stayed the night in Nairobi at a beautiful guest house with great security. Apparently many call Nairobi, Ni-robbery as the crime rate is extraordinary at night. Despite this, I was amazed at the cleanliness and beauty of the city and surrounding area. We spent Sunday in Nairobi before catching an evening flight into Kisumu where KIST (Kima International School of Theology) is located. Sunday morning we attended Redeemed Gospel Church. This is Charlie’s church. Charlie was one of our drivers in Nairobi as well as safari guide later in the trip. The stories he told about Masai Mara on the way to church has me crazy excited about the safari. But that’s later. I love animals and as once in a lifetime as safari is, I came to invest and be invested in KIST.

I’ve had a great time in Kisumu. We’ve been here for only 24 hours but in a word it’s been fulfilling. Phenomenal ministry conversation. There is an incredible amount of worldwide ministry experience among the people that have gathered here for the week. Not a huge team – 10 of us – but everyone is dripping with the abundance of life (joys and frustrations alike) spent serving God. I can’t remember the last time I have soaked up so much so willingly.

Tomorrow I speak in chapel. The first of a two part series as I speak on Thursday as well. Tomorrow I’m speaking on the necessity of focus in one training for and, ultimately, living a life of ministry. The apostle Paul uses three illustrations in 2 Timothy 2 that when overlayed provide a fantastic point of reference for us: the solider, the athlete, and the farmer. Thursday, the purpose involves the reality that who and what you listen to will impact what you do.

In the world of life goals, I fulfilled one today. I ran with a Kenyan. I ran with a Kenyan who was literally half my weight. Granted I have about 5 inches on him but still. I’m really glad I’ve lost the first half of my 30lbs before arriving in Kenya. In any case, I was pretty giddy for most of the run. According to Ronald we ran at a level C. I think we finished at an H. We started by running around a field a couple times and then took off down a dirt path where we arrived at the top of a hill overlooking a soccer field. We ran down to this field and around it a couple of times before running back up the hill. Ronald glided up the hill (in soccer cleats) as I lumbered behind him. We returned to the school via the same trail and began what I thought was a couple warm down loops. 1 loop, 2 loops, 3 loops, and I began to worry, 4, 5 and now I was breathing like an ox. I slowed down and he raced off. I waited for him to come back around. As Ronald approached, he started trotting, imploring me to join him. By trot, I mean that kind of run you do when you’re crossing the street and you feign quickness to the car that’s waiting to turn.  And today was simply my “orientation.” Ronald convinced me that we should run everday this week. I may lose that other 15lbs before returning…no joke.

After our run, we sat down on an adjacent rock and shared about ourselves, our families, and schooling. Ronald (not married but “searching”) and his family are refugees from a town in Kenya that was affected by civil war in the very recent past. He showed up to KIST with only the clothes on his back. Now in his second year, Don (the principal here) tells me he’s one of the sharpest students in his theology class. I have a feeling we’ll be spending some time tomorrow talking about my chapel message. I couldn’t believe how excited he was when he found out I was speaking.

That’s all for now.

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

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!)

Previewing LOST Season Five

December 3, 2008

Favorite band and favorite show team up? Magic ensues…

Coming January 21

One of these days I’ll talk out loud about why certain shows like LOST inspire me

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!