It’s taken me some major time to stop, sit, and be still. So many things have been happening within Travis and I this summer that it’s almost so difficult to put it all into words. We have had feelings of restlessness and uncertainty for quite some time, but overall our restlessness really began during our journey to South Africa. It was there Travis and I began to feel a heavier burden to do more for others. We have always viewed our marriage and relationship as a team: one in which we are serving others and one another, yet we are doing it for the One who desires to be known within this world, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
After just a month of being married, Travis and I were offered a position as relief houseparents for an aftercare home for teen mothers and their babies. We jumped at this chance to serve our Lord and the girls. Little did we know, we would then be asked to have an extended stay at the ministry’s teen maternity home because one of the girls had challenged the previous houseparents so much that the houseparents left in the middle of several girls’ stay. We then fell in love with the most “challenging” girl (she wasn’t challenging toward us at all!), and decided to take on the position full-time. It was there that Travis and I began feeling like a team: trying to serve our Lord while growing our relationship and be the godly influences for our “daughters” who would come through our doors and capture our hearts. Thus, we began to feel our hearts receive a burden to be Jesus to others.
After serving a little over a year with the ministry, we decided it was best to leave and move back into our home. We searched high and low for a church to become involved in: one that we felt welcomed and where people immediately greeted us when we were in the pews, one where there was programming for couples our age, one where the teaching was deep and directly from the Word (not just topical), and one where they offered community outreach. Let me tell you, it was quite the adventure to search for an area church where all of these desires were met. But, we did end up finding one where we felt God was leading us toward: one that was Bible-filled and where people began calling us by name the second Sunday we attended!!! We tried to become involved in a young-marrieds’ Sunday school class at College First, but it conflicted with the service we desired to attend. We began going to people’s homes once a month for dinner with three other couples, but most of the couples were always 20-40 years older than us. We truly enjoyed meeting these amazing couples, but our desire to find friends nearer our age was still on our hearts.
It was hard because we really felt we were spiritually growing because of the teaching we would receive weekly, but ultimately we weren’t really settling in because we didn’t feel many of the people our own age were desiring to be involved in the church community or desiring to become friends of ours. We would attend some social functions the church offered, but ultimately it was rare to see anyone our age who would understand our situation (28, in school, and childless). This became hard to really want to continue attending, but ultimately we truly felt God wanting us to continue because we truly were being fed with His Word. How could we begin searching for another church when we really felt God led us to this church in the first place?
In the mean time, I began experiencing some crazy health issues, had some surgeries/procedures, had a lot of fears, and really began suffering. We found some major supports within the church which again, helped us to continue growing spiritually. There were so many times I just wanted to wallow in my physical and spiritual pain because I didn’t see God, I couldn’t see him in my anxiety and physical issues. But ultimately because of the love and support we were given we persevered, yet we lost some of our service-minded desires along the way. It wasn’t until I began my internship at Pathways this spring that God began using my situation and drawing me closer to Him. I was given an opportunity to be under a woman who had lost her husband five years prior, and as time went on I received bits and pieces of her testimony. I have learned so much from her: from her testimony, her interactions with clients, her methods of counseling, and her desire to support me through this final step in my graduate program.
Through my time at Pathways, I have grown spiritually and my desire to serve others has crept back into my heart. Travis and I had the amazing opportunity to go to South Africa while I’ve been involved at Pathways. What a gift it has been to become re-charged by what we witnessed in SA! We came back with bits of our hearts left in Mamelodi, and yet we still desired to share Jesus with others. Not too much later after we returned, the church began presenting several short-term mission opportunities. With Travis’ abilities in construction and my love for children, there were two different mission trips that sparked our interests. One was in New Mexico doing construction on a reservation, and the other was in Buffalo, NY working with a new Haitian church and working with two couples who began an inner-city after-school mission for children.
Travis and I left every church every Sunday with more and more information on both trips, but we never made a specific decision to go. I then received an email asking if Travis and I would be interested to go on the New York mission due to our past experience in SA, our involvement in the church’s Kid’s Club, and the idea that we may be positive role models to some of the teens going on the trip. With that email, we decided we would go. Again, God truly knew what He was doing! 🙂
As a team, we began meeting to work out various details and beginning developing relationships as team members. There were a number of people Travis and I did not know, some we knew just by sight, and some we had had short surface-type conversations with. Travis and my schedules were absolutely crazy, which made it difficult to plan or sometimes even attend a few of the meetings. My attitude regarding the trip began forming as I struggled to attend and also due in part to the vagueness of what we would be doing when we got to New York. We found out where we would be staying, some of the things we were going to be doing, yet there was still so much left to be desired (especially after coming away from a mission trip from across the world which was highly regimented).
My attitude became increasingly negative where I was complaining to Travis quite a bit, telling my family how much I didn’t want to go on this trip, and talking to my supervisor about how much I didn’t want to go. Yet, Travis in his calm and laid-back way kept encouraging me that everything was going to be fine. He kept saying he thought things were going to go well, even after my insistence that I knew not all of the personalities were going to mesh (or that certain personalities were going to drive me absolutely crazy, especially if I was going to be stuck in a university van for the drives!). I owe a lot to Travis for being such a rock and calm-force in getting me to go, because when July 18th came around little did we know my heart would be forever changed!
The drive to Niagara was pretty uneventful, especially considering God allowed me to ride in one of our group members’ mini-van. No loud 15 passenger van for me! 🙂 We arrived, found the home we were staying in for the next week, received our room assignments, and were off to have a pizza dinner and “orientation” with the couple who we were going to be helping over the next four days for their Hope Club. We walked into the couple’s restaurant and gathered our seats for dinner. Travis and I happened to not follow our group’s lead and sat across from two little girls. I had no idea at the time that I had chosen the best seat in the house!!!! Precious Charity and beautiful Raven sat across from us and I introduced myself. Both girls’ bright eyes looked at me and both girls answered questioned when I asked about them. They were 4 and 5 amazing years old, and little Charity chatted up a storm! But selfishly, it was Raven who caught my attention the most, I think because I could see how special and amazing she was (not that Charity wasn’t special or amazing! She was!).
Here was a girl who was sitting in a special chair (a high-tech, scientific-type stroller chair…that’s the best that I could come up with to describe it). 🙂 I could see immediately that Raven had constricted hands, had difficulty speaking, and didn’t have the control to keep saliva from running down her chin. She was an amazing beauty to me! She was African American in a white, two-parent home where she was the only child. I began asking Joanne, Raven’s mother, about her adorable 5 year old daughter. I even asked if Raven was adopted, and Joanne briefly told me, with Raven’s help, her adoption story. My heart melted at that moment! I could tell this family was going to be an amazing group of servants! We had more light conversation with Raven, Charity, Joanne, and Denny before leaving for the evening.There we started to get t a little more excited about what was to be happening on the first day of our mission: Hope Club children (K-5th graders) were going to be coming to hear about Jesus, sing Bible songs, select a few workshops including: crafts, singing, woodworking, and sports, and receive lots of candy and a few prizes.
When we came back to Denny’s Kitchen across from Niagara Street Elementary School on Monday, we began setting up for the arrival of the kiddos. As we were setting up, Joanne and Travis were walking with one another in lieu of completing a task when Joanne told Travis she and Denny were going to be recruiting the two of us to join the Hope Club team and move to Niagara. Travis sort of laughed and said “Sure, we’ll come!” and left it at that. After we had completed setting up, I spotted the biggest smile I had ever seen when I walked into the restaurant. Raven was sitting there with other children, yet she looked at me with the largest smile ever! My heart leapt as I went over and talked with her…she just smiled and eagerly answered my yes and no questions.
God was truly with us that first day as everything seemed to run by trial and error…luckily, I believe it was all trial and no error! Each one of us met some incredible kids and we were each eager to see how we were going to be used. Every time my path would cross with Raven’s she would smile the largest smile, which in turn would make me smile and send me charged because I had such an amazing little friend who seemed to like me! 🙂 I admit, it made me feel sooo good!!!! We had several conversations throughout the day’s events, and as we were packing things up I was given the opportunity to have a longer conversation with Raven. Granted, I don’t remember specifics about what we talked about, yet I do remember I could understand a lot of what she was saying and it made my heart so incredibly happy!
After Monday, we had no idea how our hearts were going to become heavier and heavier for God’s direction for our life as the Gingerichs. Tuesday came, and as we were beginning the day’s registration Joanne came up to me to ask if I would be able to go across the street with she and Raven later in the evening as a reward for Raven doing so well with the potty. Raven had asked if her new friend Faith could come along and get an ice-cream cone! It was as if she asked me to go with her to meet the Queen. I was so honored and excited: It would give me more of an opportunity to get to know Joanne and Raven both! The day’s events moved forward with the children learning more about our awesome God, but to tell you the truth, many of the events are fuzzy except for my ice-cream and conversation time later that evening with Raven and her wonderful parents. We spent time eating, but most importantly we spent time talking about Hope Club, Denny & Joanne’s goals and desires for a youth center for the kids of Niagara Falls, talking about the neighborhood and its needs, real estate around the area, talking about what Travis and I did for a living, and anything else you could discuss with new friends before having to leave for dinner.
Tuesday night’s dinner was with another family that is involved with Hope Club. But it wasn’t until after dinner that Travis and I were again hit by God with a statement… Steve Hosler stood up and talked a little about the needs in the community and especially about the needs concerning church plants. He specifically looked straight at Travis when he made this statement, and I believe my eyes immediately filled with tears. Two days in a row of people mentioning the needs of the community, and looking directly at us as if to say “We know God is working in your hearts, and we want you here”. Thus, settling in for the night was filled with conversation between Travis and me. I filled him in on what my conversation was like with Joanne and Denny and we spent a lot of time talking about our restlessness in what God wants to do in our lives.
Things progressed so nicely throughout the week at Hope Club. There were six decisions for Christ and numerous seeds planted! It was so amazing to get to witness the joy each child had when the “Big House” song came over the sound system, when it was super-prize time, and even when a few child-volunteers were suckered into swallowing some crazy concoctions. What God did and how He moved will continue to be felt in so many of the people involved in the festivities at 2502 Niagara St. on July 19-22, 2010.
It was such a gift to come back each evening to our living accommodations to spend time in devotion and discussion. Both Travis and I had some incredible moments where we knew God was moving and guiding us to something, but the “something” was/is in the dark. One of our devotions even included cotton balls for our ears. They represented the idea that we have filled our ears with things around us such as iPods, TV, business, video games, etc… that we need to take them out of our ears so that we may have the opportunity to better hear our Creator and Lord. What a fitting object lesson for us!
Our late-night conversations and laughs were just gifts from Him. We spent a few nights in deep conversation with some of the other adults in the group talking about our own community and its needs. One statement that truly hit me in the gut was when I was relaying my concerns about our lack of friendships around this area and within our church, when one amazing person said “Faith, maybe God hasn’t brought you friends to bring about this restlessness, so that you may be more willing and able to follow His call”. I totally had never thought of that before! By the time Travis and I would go to bed, our minds would be filled with more questions about where God is leading us. Even with our short involvement with Yotvata Church, there were statements of “When you guys move here…” or “You can have all the Haitian food you want if you come…” Yes, some of these statements were given in jest, yet something in our hearts took hold of them.
So, with all of that said we’ve been back now for exactly a week and we have no clearer answers upon our lives. We were talking the other day that we would just love to have God give us a clear sign, like say a buffalo cross the road in front of us, or someone coming to our door and offering above and beyond what we would like for our house, or some audible call from our Lord saying where we should go/be. Should we move and go to Niagara/Buffalo to work with Hope Club and influence the community there in some way? Should Travis stay in teaching where he’s not necessarily happy? Should I try to seek a position in the agency where I’m placed right now? Is there some way we could serve better in our church (counseling, ministry, etc.)? Or do we serve Christ and be his missionaries in our own home by adopting children needing to be adopted?
There are just so many questions overwhelming our hearts and minds at this moment in time. We know God is faithful in all things, we know He moves us in His time, and we are continuously thankful He is growing us; therefore, we seek Him and His will earnestly. Waiting is not easy, and waiting patiently is even a harder challenge! But ultimately what we have learned throughout these past weeks is the need to be earnestly seeking Him (with a good attitude!), while still being Jesus to everyone around us. I was greatly modeled that by one amazing 5 year old!