I AM AN INFLUENCER…BECAUSE I WAS INFLUENCED
by Linda Gingerich
Last Sunday, March 15, 2020, was a day of firsts and an emotional day for me.
For the first time in 33 years, my Home Church…Cape Christian, the church my husband and I moved to Cape Coral, FL in 1986 to begin…did not meet in the church building for weekend worship by request of the Center for Disease Control and our President.
This request went out to the whole nation to limit gatherings of no more than 200 people because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the church service was online. We offer church online every week…but this was different.
As I listened this Sunday morning to Pastor Cory Demmel’s Saturday’s pre-taped message that we are all Influencers I became, once again, keenly aware of the importance of influence.
In the middle of a crisis, i.e. Covid19…it is easy to succumb to panic and fear. As Pastor Cory said, we in the United States of America fear to lose our personal control, comfort, and convenience. And the message of remembering that we are all influencers was on point!
The reoccurring line in this message was:
“You have no idea of how one conversation, one word of encouragement or one expression of love might change someone’s life.”
We each impact the lives around us daily…for good or…not so good. We were reminded that who we are matters, what we do matters, and the world is watching!
Maybe you are thinking that what you do doesn’t matter or make a difference. If you know me personally, you may also be tempted to think that it is easy for me to be an influencer since the church we began – with 6 people – now reaches thousands weekly.
As Pastor Cory said, “true influence always begins with people and not a platform” and each of us can think of someone who influenced us.
I want to tell you about the woman who influenced my life. I think I can say, that along with my parents, she and her husband had a paramount influence on my life.
I must give a little back story on the woman who changed my life.
My parents Fred and Carolyn Augsburger moved to Youngstown, Ohio in 1952. A young couple in their 30’s with two young girls at that time. Their goal…to start a church that loved ALL PEOPLE. This was a major thing! Partly because they made a drastic move from church planting in rural Wisconsin to an inner-city community of African Americans. Youngstown was, as many American cities were at that time, suffering from the effects of the Civil Rights Crises and Movement. Maybe that also had an influence on my life.
After their first few years in Youngstown, the Ohio mission agency that appointed them and multiple other couples to church plant across Ohio thought it would be beneficial to give these families an annual week of retreat—a time to get away, to relax, be refreshed and renewed.
I met my life influencer and mentor at that annual weekly retreat. I was all of 2 years old. Over the years, as these ministry families gathered at this church camp, she became dearer and dearer to me. I wanted to grow up to be like her!! Young girls need good female Christian models and mentors and she became mine. She didn’t even know it.
I loved the way she carried herself…poised, beautiful, happy, always smiling, and always paying attention to us little ones. She always spoke words of encouragement and affirmation.
I attended these annual mission family retreats until I was in middle school. And, as a 12-year-old, I attended a girl’s week retreat at the same campground. Guess who my cabin counselor was?? Yes!! Still unknown to her… it was my mentor. I will never forget that week. What people say to you as a child lasts forever. That is influence.
I learned that week that I was valuable. I was struggling in my pre-teen years and did not feel I was worth much. That week, I felt special, important, valued and loved by her. I still remember the verse she taught us that week. From the New Testament book that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
I was valued and loved by her and by God!
My mentor and her husband moved to California soon after that, but I never forgot her. I wanted to grow up to be like HER! I wanted to make a difference and add value to everyone I met. Growing up in inner-city Youngstown, Ohio in a church planter’s family also gave me a desire to make a difference in other’s lives. I witnessed the love of God change hundreds of lives as I grew up. I decided that I wanted to marry someone with the same passion.
Through family connections, I was anticipating meeting Dennis Gingerich my first year of college in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I heard he had a passion for others and ministry. Maybe this was “The One!” I was the first person he saw when he arrived on campus from Oregon. Fast forward…Dennis Gingerich and I married on December 27, 1974…our junior year in college. We both felt God was calling us to plant a church. To begin from nothing, a church that would be for all people, and meet current needs in a contemporary way.
Our first church pastorate was in Elmira, New York. Maybe this was the place…we thought. But God had other plans and after 7 years in Elmira, it became evident that we needed to move elsewhere to continue the vision we felt God had given us—a church for families, a church that made a difference in and for the community it existed in.
God divinely orchestrated finding out about Cape Coral. This a story of its own. When we made the decision to move our family of three young children to southwest Florida, far away from any of our families, we were told there were two couples prepared to be a foundational part of this church start.
God loves to please us. To give us the desire of our hearts. And He has a sense of humor. As it turned out, we had prior connections with both of the couples committed to beginning this church. Rod and Virginia Troyer, business owners in Cape Coral, had crossed paths with us in Virginia, at the seminary Dennis attended. And the other couple was a retired pastor couple coming from Clearwater, FL to assist with the church plant.
We knew the Troyer’s lived in Cape Coral, moving here 10 years earlier with a desire to help start a church in this small growing city. But when we were told who the retired pastor couple was… I KNEW this was a divine connection! The couple’s names were Tony and Ada Hostetler.
“Ada Hostetler!” I cried to Dennis! “She has been my mentor all my life! She is the woman I have always wanted to be like!” Never having heard of Tony and Ada Hostetler, I told Dennis of our history, our story, our life connection and that I had never forgotten Ada and Tony. As a couple they were dynamic. Ada was who I wanted to be like…and it was her I modeled my adult life after! This was a GOD orchestration.
Maybe I can say at this point, that the rest is history. But as Pastor Cory so eloquently told Cape Christian today…we make a difference in the lives of those around us more than we may realize. And in the midst of a crisis, we must be dealers of hope.
We have the opportunity to make a difference. We can share that one word, have that one conversation, give one expression of love and hope that will change someone for a lifetime!!
I speak from experience. Through Cape Christian, my husband and I are influencers in Cape Coral. I am an influencer as a labor and delivery nurse. I was influenced by someone named Ada, who helped give me the passion to make a difference in people’s lives. Ada Hostetler has had a significant influence in Cape Coral, Florida. Largely because she influenced me to make a difference, to be passionate about adding value to everyone I meet, just like she did for me. And the cherry on top is that God moved Ada to Cape Coral to influence Cape Coral WITH me!! I had the joyful opportunity to thank Ada over and over for making a difference in MY life.
Epilogue: Ada Hostetler moved to heaven in September of 2009. Tony joined her and Jesus in Heaven in October of 2012. Together, they influenced hundreds of children, youth, and adults in Cape Coral through Cape Christian their last 25 years. It is because of their influence on growing numbers of new believers at Cape Christian, that those our children’s ages wanted to make sure the café built on our campus in 2014 was named… “Tony & Ada’s.”
Linda Gingerich and her husband, Dennis are the founding Pastors of Cape Christian. She has a huge heart for people and loves without measure. She is a gift to me and continues to be a voice of influence as we go after God’s vision for this church. Thank you, Linda, for being a mentor to so many lives here and giving your life to the vision of God!
– Cindy Grasso