I first met my other George at Bear Trap Ranch (Colorado Rockies) in 1999. At the time BTR was one of InterVarsity’s regional student training camps. I was on a study sabbatical during my first 19 year stint with InterVarsity, enjoying a family vacation (in fact, before the days of Silas Perry). Our downstate Illinois friends Jeff and Sandy Yockey were running Bear Trap. George Gardner was the facilities guy and his wife Sharon was the cook. Oh, this George isn’t the same as the George from a couple of posts ago.
Eighteen years later…my ministry timeline brought me back to InterVarsity and onto the same staff team with George. This time in Graduate Faculty Ministries. George and his family moved on from Bear Trap Ranch and eventually settled in Manhattan, Kansas at K-State. Time flies. Both George and I have had our odometers flip more than once since first meeting in the previous millennium!
One of my delights in supervision is to affirm staff for their years of service. While George has been in ministry longer than 20 years, I get to make sure InterVarsity finds a creative way to celebrate his time on staff. Director’s are given a budget to spend on staff anniversaries but not told exactly what to do with it. My team might regret that at some point. But after recruiting George himself to come up with a fitting recognition, he decided a smoker would be a very practical gift. Yes, George is a smoker! A meat smoker!
When I was with him back in October, he mentioned having already used it to host an international student gathering. My guess is that smoker is going to get a great deal of use – for the Gardner family but also for future generations of K-State international students. George has recently been reporting to the team about dozens and dozens of Paraguayans he’s been connecting with. The day I was with him at K-State we met up with an enthusiastic Paraguayan named Gimena, getting her degree in entrepreneurship. She comes from a family of business owners. Gimena told me about her hopes for completing a master’s degree and returning to her home country. She was also very excited about recently being a part of one of her fellow Paraguayans coming to faith in Christ.
George, you’re doing a fantastic job! You connect with so many students through hospitality and service. You fix bikes for internationals. You and Sharon fix countless meals for students. A smoker is a small way to say thank you for your faithful witness to the university and the world. We’ll take another 20 if you guys have it in you!