Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Hospitable Barbarians and Homeless Hearts

We gave him one safe night, a shower, laundry services, a meal and a half, prayer, and an invitation to change his mind. It was all we could do.

Yesterday friends from out of state contacted us to let us know a young man from their community was in our city. He had chosen a homeless life, recently turning down a job offer in favor of a life that he thinks will be a greater adventure of imitating a homeless Jesus and telling others about him. But when he contacted friends back home yesterday morning they learned someone had tried to rob him since arriving in Atlanta. So our out-of-state friends contacted us, also giving us some background on the young man, background that includes attendance at their church gatherings and some family history that would be challenging for any one of us to process well. We gave our out-of-state friends permission to pass our contact information on to the young man, and he called me yesterday afternoon.

So I picked him up at Centennial Park, and he spent the evening and the night with us. Last evening I put him on the phone with our out-of-state friends, giving him a chance to hear their concern and their desire that he come back home. But he admits little sense of the dangers of his chosen path, so was not deterred. Then we called one of the shelters downtown that he had heard about, to see if they had a room for the night. As I expected, they didn’t. “Come at 6:30 in the morning,” they told us. So he slept on our sofa instead.

Just now I returned from the shelter, after helping him find the line of men waiting for a bed or other assistance. When we first pulled up, a couple men along the sidewalk wondered why we were there. They saw the young man’s guitar; “Are you here to sing?” When they learned he was looking for a room, I heard them wondering why he was carrying a guitar. Actually, he was carrying a guitar, a big backpack, and an over-sized duffel bag—about three times as much luggage as any other man I saw there. Does he realize this may make him the target for more robbery attempts like the one he experienced at gun point the other night? And will the shelter allow him to keep that much luggage there? Will he manage to keep it all dry as the tale end of Hurricane Michael blows through here the next few days (as I showed him last night)? How long will his laptop survive if his phone has already broken during his first week on the road? What will he do if he loses communication? How happy will the over-worked shelter be to host someone who purposefully left home and declined a job offer just two or three weeks ago? They are overwhelmed already with people in desperate need, people mastered by addictions, people without anyone who is calling them home.

But he has the armor of God like Ephesians describes, he told me last night. And when I asked him how I could pray for him, he told me he’s not really concerned about his safety. Rather, he wanted me to pray that he can have good conversations with people about Jesus and that he will find other church people along the way as he hikes northward. Church people who will need to host him while he declines their advice that he choose a safer, self-supporting life? There are plenty of people where he came from who need Jesus, our out-of-state friend reminded me on the phone last night. Why couldn’t he talk to others about Jesus there? Why not stay near people who know him, who truly care when they see signs that he is making dangerous choices?

You seem to have lived your life between two poles, I told him last night—between the southern state you left and the northern state where you are headed. And he’s usually traveled between the two, he acknowledged, at the wrong time of the year. So now he’s heading north just as the weather there is turning cold, expecting to arrive within six months but without any real travel plans. He has been homeless once before, he said. But that was in the South. Things will be much harder northward as winter nears. But the other pole is pulling again, and I think he hopes to find himself on the road there.

And so, as I left our young friend at the shelter this morning, I felt a sinking feeling inside. “You know how to find me if you need me,” I told him before I left. It was still dark.

Last night after dinner we read the first half of Acts 28, which tells of how the shipwrecked Paul received hospitality on the island of Malta from the hands of the “native people.” That’s the ESV’s nice way of translating a term that more literally means “barbarians” (i.e., people who didn’t speak the Greek language that civilized people used). As we read this passage with our new young friend at our table, I couldn’t help mentally noticing that we were cast, ironically, in the role of the hospitable barbarians. Unlike the barbarians in Acts 28, I’m under no illusions that our new friend is a god. I’m pretty sure he’s not an apostle, either. (We might be barbarians, though.) But he did need some hospitality, so we gave it as best we knew how.

Northern friends, if you see our friend or one of his brothers, consider helping him a little if you can. He will probably thank you for a meal or a chance to read the Bible together. You might even, as I did, see a bit of yourself in his face.

We gave him one safe night, a shower, laundry services, a meal and a half, prayer, and an invitation to change his mind. It was all we could do.

PS: I wonder how often God feels the same way about me…

Thoughts? Share them in the comments below. And thanks for reading. 

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A Story in Greek

In December I had the opportunity to take a two-week Greek immersion class in Pennsylvania. There were about seventeen students and five teachers, depending on how you count. We had lots of fun, with over 4 hours a day of stories, role playing, and dialogue in New Testament Greek!

Joseph Neill telling a story about a man who made a great feast. Here he is inviting the class to identify (in Greek) the food that was served at the feast.

Since New Years we have been continuing studies with weekly three-hour video conference classes. The main teacher of the course is Joseph Neill. He exhibits considerable knowledge and patience and enhances our learning through good use of technology (Google classroom, Google docs assignments, video recordings of our classes on Zoom, audio excerpts, etc.). I’m really enjoying this opportunity to dig into NT Greek, especially since this program uses some of the same materials that I had selected for self-study several years ago.

For more information about the Biblical Greek Program, including a chance to sign up for the next class, go here:

And to learn more about the “living languages” approach taken by this program, go here:

One of our homework assignments this week is to record ourselves reading part of a story in Greek. We discussed the beginning of the story together in class, then we were each asked to write our own endings.

Here is a video of me reading the entire short story—the first half written by Joseph Neill, and the second half written by me. I must credit the Gospel writers for a couple lines I adapted!

You may notice that the pronunciation sounds different than you expect. The first reason is that, unlike most seminaries, we are following a pronunciation scheme developed by Randall Buth. This scheme is designed to more closely mirror the actual pronunciation of Koine Greek that was used in the time of Jesus. The second reason why my pronunciation may sound different is that my pronunciation, even by this scheme, is still amateur.

Here is the text of the story:

ὁ παῖς ὁ πτωχὸς ἐπείνασεν σφόδρα.
ᾔτησεν οὖν τὸν πλούσιον ἄνθρωπον ἄρτον.
ἐγέλασεν ὁ πλούσιος καὶ προβὰς ὀλίγον ἐξέβαλεν τὸν ἄρτον.
ἰδοῦσα τὸν παῖδα λυπούμενον ἀπέστειλεν γυνὴ δοῦλον αὐτῷ.
Πῶς ἔχεις; εἶπεν ὁ δοῦλος τῷ παιδί.
Κακῶς ἔχω, εἶπεν ὁ παῖς. ἐγώ πεινῶ. θέλω ἰχθύας. ἰχθύας ἔχεις;
Οὐ, ἀλλἀ ὑπάγω ἁλιεύειν, εἶπεν ὁ δοῦλος. Ἀκολούθει μοι καἰ ποιήσω σὲ ἀλιεῦς.

Here’s a rough translation:

A poor child was very hungry.
So he asked a rich man for bread.
The rich man laughed and, going on a little farther, threw away the bread.
Seeing the sad child, a woman sent her servant to him.
“How are you?” [Literally, “How do you have?”] said the servant to the child.
“Not good” [Literally, “I have bad”], said the child. “I am hungry. I want fish. Do you have fish?”
“No, but I am going fishing,” said the servant. “Follow me and I will make you a fisherman.”

Thanks for listening! If you have any questions about the Biblical Greek Program, or any stories about learning biblical languages, share them in the comments below. Blessings!

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Churchfunding: 2017 Year-End Report

Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? Very well, thank God! We remain deeply grateful for our house and are making monthly repayments as planned.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2017, we owed $55,112.50 in house loans. By the end of 2017, we owed only $48,037.50. Here is the story of that $7,075 difference.

We repaid $6000 in loans in 2016 at the planned rate of $500 per month. All our “older lenders” have now been fully repaid and we have started selecting lenders of all ages for repayment, using prayer and a random number generator.

Another $1,075 in loans was forgiven this year. Two lenders turned loans into gifts, and a third clarified she didn’t want any interest after all. What a blessing!

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 8 years—before the end of 2025.

(Note: Careful readers may notice that the figures here don’t match what I reported a year ago. My figures last year were too high. When we first invited loan pledges, we received more offers than we needed, so we declined several of the last offers. A simple glitch in our spreadsheet, however, made it record these offers as if we had actually received them. It was a pleasant discovery midway through 2017 to find we owed over $5000 less than I thought! If any lenders have questions about this, please contact me directly for more details from our records.)

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow has stabilized a lot over the past year. It helps when you don’t have to install a $10,000 AC and heating unit like last year! I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, and piano teaching is growing. I had about eight students a year ago but I finished 2017 with about eighteen. I have another half dozen ready to begin this month. Unlike a year ago, income is pretty much equivalent to expenses, thank God.

Some of our largest expenses in the past year included braces for our oldest daughter, a new washing machine, and our biggest 2017 house project—finally installing a kitchen sink! Mark and Marj Otto and their family generously volunteered several days to help us with this project.

Here is a “before” picture:

Zonya patiently endured the above for 15 months. Can you understand why she looked like this when things improved?

Here is a photo of the kitchen sink area today:

We hope to replace or add a couple more cabinet sections over coming years, but the most urgent kitchen renovation is definitely now done.

For 2018 I expect to turn sights elsewhere, probably first to unfinished closets and hopefully to several dead trees looming dangerously in the backyard. Other projects such as a leaky shower and an unusable basement entrance will await their turn.

“The house that God bought” has seen many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • Many house church gatherings
  • Overnight guests, including Irma evacuees
  • Lending a listening ear to senior piano students
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and cups of water with neighbor children
  • A couple video discussion evenings with neighbors and friends
  • A “living room recital” with piano student families
  • Sheltering neighbor children during a domestic dispute
  • Hosting international students
  • Homeschooling our children

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters, and we welcome prayers that we will faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich

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