When is a problem not a problem? This is the question that is before us all in many ways. How do we turn the problem of our inner conflict into something that is not a problem? How do we undo the problem of our desires opposing God's will? How do we deal with the problem of people who mistreat us? How do we make it to work on time? How do we make the problem of our sin no longer a problem? Truly, this is a persistent question that underlies all that we do here on this earth. You may already know the answer, maybe you don't.
When I walked in to the restaurant where I met Andy Garrett, I did not know what to look for. I did not know what he looked like nor what he sounded like, but I did know two things about him: he is a house church shepherd and he has cerebral palsy. Now you know at least two things about him. I'd wager that one of these strikes you more than the other, and it isn't the fact that he's a shepherd. I'd wager that's true because I was thinking the same thing when I walked into that restaurant.
When I walked out I had a story far better than the one I walked in with. I could tell you about cerebral palsy. I could tell you about Andy Garrett's fight with cerebral palsy. I could absolutely tell you about Andy Garrett's daily victory over cerebral palsy. As I sat in that chair asking questions and listening to the answers, I decided that these might make good stories. I decided that I would not tell you a story.
Instead, I'll tell you about Andy Garrett’s problem that isn’t a problem.
I'll tell you that he has been a house church shepherd for 8 years and has been with Apex for nearly 12 years. He started as a pastoral intern for Rob Turner. As Apex embarked upon the house church initiative, Andy was there watching and learning how to guide house churches as they formed, grew and multiplied. He has been an integral part of multiple new house churches over the years. He has helped grow new shepherds as they have begun their ministry serving our Lord. Even now he's preparing to multiply his house church yet again and has already helped train the shepherd for the new one.
These are all amazing accomplishments and what I respect most about him is that he talks about the Lord's work in his life far more than he talks about himself. His answers demonstrate how we decrease as He increases. It was quite some time before Andy even mentioned his physical condition. He spoke of his service. He spoke of his family. He spoke of house churches, of Jesus and of growing His kingdom. He did not speak of his problem, because to him, it isn’t.
So… no. I will not diminish the Lord's work in Andy's life to tell you a story. I'd rather that you know of his heart in which you will find no room for problems because it is filled with God's purpose. He'd rather I speak of the Lord's work. So I will tell you how Andy Garrett's heart and life are signposts pointing the way to Jesus. Because as Andy made clear with what he didn't say, these things that we choose to see as problems simply aren't. When we keep our eyes focused on Jesus and the work He has set before us, the problems disappear. They are too small to even mention. They have no need to even enter our thoughts. For we have He who surpasses all. We need merely to abide.
Thank you, Andy, for showing us that each of our problems, really isn't -- not when you abide in Jesus.
Author: Jonathan Allain
Photographer: Angela Jekeli