Category Archives: Dwight’s Family

Churchfunding: 2018 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? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us purchase this house. However, there are changes to our church planting activities which I will share at the end of this post.

(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 2018, we owed $48,037.50 in house loans. By the end of 2018, we owed only $41,937.50. Here is how that $6,100 difference breaks down.

We repaid $5,470 in loans in 2018 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. One declined $500 in principal as well. We are thankful for this generosity!

In total, we were forgiven $630 in principal and interest in 2018. $630 plus $5,470 equals $6,100. This means our house debt declined by $100 more than we expected in 2018.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 7 years—before the end of 2025.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is tighter than I predicted a year ago that it would be. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books (extra over this holiday season), but my number of piano students plateaued in 2018. I temporarily reached 23 students, but finished the year with the same number I had a year ago—about 18. On the positive side, as was true a year ago, I have a handful of students planning to resume or begin lessons in January. If I could reach 30 students, our cash flow would be more manageable.

Our largest expense in 2018 was buying a “new” (2002) Toyota Camry to replace an old Jetta. We were not sad to see the Jetta go, though we received less than we asked for it, and slightly less than the buyer promised to pay. Other “extra” expenses included a Greek class for me (highly recommended—see here), cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters, and some business tax I had overlooked.

House projects in 2018 were very minor. A hall closet finally got proper shelving:

And, much to the mutual relief of thirsty neighborhood children and a mother weary of distributing drinks, we installed a fountain in our front yard!

The dead backyard trees and leaky shower and unusable basement entrance I mentioned a year ago are still awaiting their turns.

Meanwhile, we experienced our first significant flooding in our basement just this past week, due to heavy rains.  A leaky and inadequate city sewer line through our yard exacerbated the problem. Priya and I carried out about 100 gallons of water in pails. I expected this would happen sometime. Now we know where the “weak points” are. I am hopeful we can seal off some of the leaks and slow the flooding next time.

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $188,000. It predicts the value could increase by around 15% in the next year to nearly $216,000. God knows and time will tell.

Church Changes

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

  • 23 Sunday morning church gatherings (avg. 13 in attendance)
  • Several Bible study sessions
  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and fountain with neighbor children
  • Sharing food with hungry people knocking at our front door
  • Hosting international students for Thanksgiving
  • Homeschooling our children

In early November, however, the couple who invited us to Atlanta to join them in church planting decided to step out of this church planting effort. The Smuckers are focusing instead on other learning and ministry opportunities in the community. As a result, Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta is no longer an active gathering.

Our family is seeking God’s direction for this changed situation. We have opened up ourselves to the counselors who helped us during our decision to move here. Meanwhile, we have been attending a church on the east side of the city, Cellebration Fellowship, where my Choice Books supervisor and his family have also recently started attending. The pastor and church there have shown us grace.

We realize that many of you who supported us in our churchfunding house loan project did so in part because you were excited about supporting a church plant effort. We have not given up on this possibility, but feel a need to re-evaluate this goal in light of changed circumstances.

We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for life and ministry in the coming year. If you have questions or counsel, we invite you to contact us privately.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich

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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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