Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Friend Named Greg

Greg Jenks spent most of his life as the quintessential United Methodist pastor. Everyone you talk to, colleagues, friends, family, loves Greg. You see instantly his humility and love for God. But, you also see an incredible love for God’s people, born from a deep spiritual mission that, over the last few years, has changed thousands of lives.

In 2004, Greg heard the testimony of a 15-year-old girl that struck at the core of his heart. Her testimony about the unbelievable needs in sub-Saharan Africa created by pandemic poverty and disease haunted Greg. What could he do? Just a few years before, he had committed to plant a new church in his Annual Conference. God was certainly not calling him to leave that mission for another new start? Or was He? It did not make any sense. First, he thought of simply organizing trips and teams. But, God kept calling for more—there was always ‘one other thing’ in Greg’s conversations with God.

Finally, to the surprise of his congregation, family, and, most importantly, to Greg himself, he left pastoral ministry and founded ZOE as a means for organizing teams and groups to address the needs of orphans, particularly in Zimbabwe. Greg found that not only was the need great, but the skills by which God had gifted him came to life in this project. After only a year, over 1,000 orphans had found assistance and love and support through ZOE. But, God did not stop there. In the next five years, ZOE expanded to Rwanda, Kenya, and Zambia. Today, there are staff offices for ZOE in the United States and Africa. The programs now include more than basic, response supplies but programs that provide for long-term support and success for those affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, especially the children. Today, through ZOE, a child, who only a few years ago would, along with his or her family, have struggled to meet the basic, daily needs, now has training and life opportunities that not only change their lives but can possibly change their communities. All because a man named Greg Jenks did ‘something’.

The first time I met Greg Jenks was at a meeting of the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund. Greg is a humble, incredibly focused, but yet, very normal man. His presence does not particularly overwhelm you--until he begins to share his passion for children and families who are hurting around the world. No, Greg Jenks in his very ordinary way has lived out an extraordinary plan for his life.

One of the first times I heard Greg speak, he told of those first days in his former life after hearing the testimony of that young girl. Greg said the first intuition was to “do something”, but that seemed so insignificant, so inconsequential. Therefore, he began to think in large, grand terms about what could be done. But, the more he thought, the more discouraged he became as he grew overwhelmed by what he had seen and learned about the pandemic and those affected. 40,000,000 AIDS orphans, 14,000 people dying daily from bad water and not enough food, intense discrimination against young girls and women, and incredibly unstable political structures made almost any plan risky and seemingly undoable. But, Greg was seriously disturbed by God’s call on his life, and He knew that God wanted him to do something. But, what could one person do? Why was God burdening his soul for such a seemingly unreachable task?

That is when Greg said the Holy Spirit intervened, and he heard God speak into his soul, “Just follow me, Greg… Just follow.” Greg DID follow, creating ZOE as his one small way to respond to the crisis, and the lives of thousands of children have not been the same since. Greg finished the presentation with these words, “I don’t know what God wants from you, but I know He wants something. It was planted like a seed inside of you from the beginning, and He expects and needs for it to grow and blossom. All you are asked to do is water and nurture it. Nothing more, nothing less. God will do the rest.”

Next Sunday, you will have the opportunity to let that seed that God planted in you take root. In the coming week, please pray about what it is God wants you to do and then on October 18th you will be able to choose from any of the many ways to serve inside the church, outside the church and around the world.

And then on November 22nd, Gulf Breeze UMC will have the privilege of hearing from Greg Jenks and representatives of ZOE Ministry. They will speak at worship services for all three campuses. Our goal over the next year is to build a partnership bridge between GBUMC’s heart for the hurting and under resourced and ZOE ministry.

I can’t wait to watch what God will do through this partnership as he broadens our scope to Africa and helps us to be the “hands and feet of Jesus” here and around the world. Please pray for Greg’s time with us, that God will unveil how GBUMC can make a difference in those dear, sweet lives who show such love but have so little.

More to come…

No comments: