Trey Hinkle is one of my closest friends. He represents one of those lifelong friendships that don't seem to lose anything by the separation of distance or circumstance. Our giftings are very similar... so much so, we figure we will probably never work or live together under the same roof. Even so, we adore the Hinkle family, having mutually carried each other's burdens at some pivotal times in our respective households, would be perfectly happy to be next-door-neighbors. Ironically, for the first time in over 20 years, this almost happened.
As we left Central Oregon for San Diego, Trey and Peggy Hinkle answered a call to ministry in a neighboring town less than 5 miles away. Needless to say, God was consulted and asked for His rationale in all of this (followed by that deafening silence that so clearly says, "Just trust me... I have it all under control"). But we were called to come to San Diego and the Hinkles were called to be Central Oregon and that was that.
Another irony is that Trey brought a youth group to San Diego a year before I graduated from college. They did an urban immersion trip with Pastor Pete at the same church plant in City Heights where I would end up after graduation. Their second trip happened during the year I interned (post college) at Community Christian Church in 1995. It was the only time that Trey and I have ministered together since leaving our home church in San Jose. Trey had the opportunity to see me in much the same role that have now and his group did many of the same kinds of ministry activities that we still use today.
About this time last year, Trey and I got together. We were both at a crossroads and were trying to sort out what was next for our families and our careers. More than anything, I have wanted to serve in the city and it seemed like God had taken us so far away. Now that I had the opportunity to go back... to even work with many of the same people in the same community, I was unsure. I was afraid that I might be making mid-life crisis kind of move to re-hash parts of my life that were not mean to be redeemed.
But Trey's counsel and encouragement was pointed and certain... he has never seen or heard me be more energized about ministry than I was that summer in City Heights. It was clearly my element and he urged me to run... not walk, to pursue our opportunity to return. Moreover, he had this to say about what his group experienced while they were there.
"The urban immersion program challenged my kids in a way nothing else could. They saw first-hand what true American poverty looks like in the inner city, and saw how the body of Christ was living out their faith in that community. It was truly a worldview changing experience that transformed the way we did youth ministry from that point on. One of the best things I ever did with that youth group."
I am thankful for friends like Trey who help to confirm God's call on our family to be here AND who can credibly speak to the impact of what we are here to do. I want for the next twenty years to matter in the Kingdom. Trey's words, and those of others who took trips with us almost two decades ago, tell us that what we do here has a profound impact that is measured in lifetimes, not just a week or a summer. Doing what matters, makes all the difference.