Thoughts on our 20 Year Anniversary

Originally published in The Global Voice, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2016.
You can read the full 20-year edition

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

There are so many good things in this text. I’m sure it’s already speaking to you.

Here are some paraphrases to highlight some of the main ideas:

God’s people should be characterized by their connection to God (holy), their devotion to him (beloved), compassion, kindness, humility, simplicity, and patience.

Forgiveness should be a resolve for any conflicts, and love should be the covenanting device for commitment to bring about unity, harmony and a sense of peace that gives people security.

The rule of Christ should be taught and used as the source of encouragement, direction, decision making, and even art, all to be coupled with thanksgiving. So that whatever is done, conceptually, or in actualization, it’s done with the reputation of Jesus in mind, giving thanks to the Father for his life.

Gregg Garner, Jason Roufs, Robert Munoz, Tara Garner and team. Kenya, 1999.

Gregg Garner, Jason Roufs, Robert Munoz, Tara Garner and team. Kenya, 1999.

20 years went fast. It always does, right? Thanksgiving is a major term in the above passage. So, I give thanks to God. He is the source of all the good that we are experiencing. He is the One who has allowed us to share in His work and experience his blessings. He has given us mission, purpose, meaning, hope, love, and community. He has given us his Son as an example for living the holy human life. He has given us his Spirit to empower us into a work that is not inherited by our flesh, that is, our human effort. He has given us a command to love one another — to remove the insecurity thrust upon us by this world, by knowing that we can depend on one another, and that we have friends who love with the sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated for us — to lay down our lives for one another (see John 15).

I hope you enjoy this final print edition of the Global Voice that covers just a glimpse of all that the Lord has done these last 20 years. I felt compelled to end this section by also saying thank you to those who, over the years, have helped write this story, but no longer live nearby, have moved on to serve the Lord in other things, have passed to be with the Lord, or were instrumental in key moments of the organization’s history:

Darrell and Gerrie Garner, my grandparents, for believing something could come of all this when I asked them for the $500 to pay the initial application fee for IRS tax exemption in 1999.

Bill and Sandy Roufs for hosting our initial team gatherings with such great hospitality.

Robert and the late Belinda Munoz for allowing us to live at their house when we wanted to save money on rent so we could support kids to go to school around the world.

Phil Shackleton, my favorite music theory professor, who never stopped me in my unconventionality, but enjoyed it with laughter and supported me in my ministry pursuits.

Donna Bearman, the School of Music administrator, who encouraged me to continue in service despite the challenge of a lack of network and finances.

Bob and Betsy Cates for letting Tara and me stay in their home while we saved money to get to Tennessee, and for encouraging us that we had a future serving the Lord.

Ken, Jen and Kenny Bishop (Tara’s parents and brother) for helping Tara and me move to Nashville when we couldn’t even afford the gas to get here.

Arlene Huffman, Tara’s grandmother, who faithfully supported us for about 16 years with $30 a month and always sent handwritten notes to encourage us.

Terry and Sue Goodrich who encouraged Rob in his move to TN, and who have faithfully sent support for over 16 years helping us do many good things.

Don and Amy Rogers from Empowering Lives Int’l, who gave us a chance at ministry when we didn’t deserve it.

Samuel Teimuge and his wisdom on service - “Promise Low, Deliver High.”

Kathy Kitchen, the principal at the high school I taught at when I first moved to TN, she was a very kind advisor and friend — she helped me a lot.

Billy Edmonds, who took the time to share with us his experiences in ministry, and as an organizational guru — he believed in what we were doing and walked it with us for years.

Barbara Eggleston for helping us organize hundreds of students to go and serve in Appalachia, and had the best attitude doing it.

Frankie and David Spates who have, on several occasions, generously helped us meet crucial needs in the developing world and encouraged us to continue in the work.

Steve and Julie Francis, our first Board Members and Chairmen, who helped us raise funds for ministry, but more so gave us friendship and guidance as young married couples.

Mike and Nympha Garner, with friends in ministry in the Philippines, 2006.

Mike and Nympha Garner, with friends in ministry in the Philippines, 2006.

Mike Garner, my father, for his instrumental activity in the formation of the Institute and his tireless efforts to teach dozens upon dozens of courses, which created the rubric for content the teachers hold to today. Nympha Garner, my mom, for some of the most memorable times of transformational prayer every person in this organization will unanimously point to. Mike and Nympha deeply contributed to the formation of many of our present leadership.

Chris and Cheryl Pinch from England who hosted us at their home, gave us refuge, took care of our teams when we would show up to serve, and encouraged us with many inspiring conversations, dreams and even funding to advance our work with the fatherless.

Ernesto Santana and his family, for teaching us about the healing presence of God and hosting us with the best fish tacos.

Juan Serrano for treating us like brothers and opening up his life and ministry to us so we could learn about working class ministry in Latin America.

Elias and Irene Rukenya, who served as our regional cooperatives in Kenya for 5 years, hosting and teaching us so much about life in the developing world.

Nicholas Njiru, Ssospeter Mutembe, Erastus Kanjogo and Jon Gatanga for walking the roads of Africa with us and teaching us how to see what was not so obviously in front of us.

Donna and Mike Coppersmith, who have been the most faithful prayer supporters of both our organization and Tara and me personally, their sensitivity to the Spirit and willingness to share has strengthened us on so many occasions.

Terry Hardy, who has faithfully supported us for years, and always given us such wonderful words of kindness appreciating the work we do.

Paul and Heather Olson, who gave ten years of faithful service in a variety of areas, including leadership, to see the cause of Christ advance in our ministry.

Jon and Heather Blankenship, for bringing their youth to our events and encouraging them to move into ministry.

Buddy and Munko Mathews, who basically let us live at their house anytime we were ministering in East TN, they also fed us and entertained us southernly.

Aric Carroll, whose kindness brought many tender moments to friendships in our ministry.

Isaac and Jodi Thress, who learned together with us for years, and labored here amongst child birthing mothers, and also in Africa.

The late Joey Gifford, for encouraging us to be passionate about what we do, and encouraging our art.

Dave and Sara Hampe, for being the most perfect hosts in Iowa, but also for being our friends and encouraging us to continue on the narrow path.

Billy and Kelly Fly with their youth group, at a NSHVLL service week, 2015.

Billy and Kelly Fly with their youth group, at a NSHVLL service week, 2015.

Billy and Kelly Fly, who have always brought us into their churches and hosted us in their homes, showing us hospitality and giving us friendship.

Keith and Patsy Cameron, for always accommodating our weddings at their church, but also for promoting our educational institution and missions as a very biblical way to serve the Lord.

John and Jodi Novak, for believing in us to the degree that they would invest in our alternative ministry ideas an advise us in matters of business.

Al and Gail Anderson, for teaching us what the Lord taught them over their years of faithful service on the mission field in Guatemala.

Vern and Kyme Aaseby, far right, with their grandchildren at the Academy for G.O.D. Grandparents Day, 2016.

Vern and Kyme Aaseby, far right, with their grandchildren at the Academy for G.O.D. Grandparents Day, 2016.

Vern and Kyme Aaseby, whose frequent visits light us all up, and whose generosity has allowed us to further this work of ministry in so many ways.

Marshall and Suzi Watson, for their generosity, but also for their kindness in opening their home to us and sharing their stories of faith.

Karen and the late John Kurtz, who faithfully supported our work in Africa, and helped their son Josh to kick off our water works program.

Grandpa Don Davis, who has helped his grandson Seth to further his ministry as a farmer, teaching life-saving food production techniques to the poor.

Lindsey and Braden Etcheson, for believing in what we do so much, they would send their students from their churches to participate in everything we do.

Richard and Ali Fenning, for hosting us on their farm in England, and for also inspiring us with their ministry and intensity to serve the Lord.

Gary and Cathy Germeraad, for always responding to the needs of others with dependable and prompt generosity.

Gayle Cox, for faithfully printing our print editions of the Global Voice for years now, and being so patient with us every time we needed it rushed.

Thank you to everyone who, over the last 20 years, has helped us to further this mission of GOD. We love and appreciate you all so much. You are in our prayers and we will never forget the love you have shown us. God bless you and enjoy this final print edition of the Global Voice.