(A long post about the impact Gabe Martinez had on my life.)
This past Sunday, at CCC, we rolled out the first Double Your Impact (DYI) story in services. It was a great video that was edited together by Jay. A detail about the DYI video gives me an excuse to blog about someone, Gabe Martinez.
I was responsible for putting together the DYI opening animation. Once again, I received lots of help from Greg Nunamaker, who animated the water drop in the animation. When I was putting it together, I was thinking what music might work for the animation. I listened to several hundred pieces of music for it. If you know the setup at CCC, it can be tricky to find a piece of music that 3,000 people in multiple venues and service styles will like.
Last Thursday, I was done with every aspect of the animation, except for the music. I was going through my iTunes library looking for songs I would have license to use. I came across Twila Paris’ Greatest Hits, and was wondering if one of her songs might work. (Aside. As time goes by, one of the craziest times in my life is the two months Jana and I spent on tour with Twila. I’ll save it for another blog post.) I thought if one of her songs would work with the animation, I could get her approval for using the song. As I went through the album, I didn’t think there wasn’t a song that would be a good fit. And then I thought of my old friend Gabe.
I first met Gabe in the spring of 1995. I was in Elm Springs, AR, and I was going through a missionary training school. He was on staff with the ministry there. It was a Saturday, and we were playing basketball with a small group of guys at the local Methodist church in Elm Springs, AR. We struck up a conversation after we got done playing. The first of many conversations about life, sports and U2.
In the spring of 1996, I started working with Gabe on a daily basis. Gabe and Mike Novak were writing a three-act production, Beyond The Walls, that was based on Prison, the one-act play they wrote. I got involved in the production when I offered to help out in any capacity with the production. I thought I’d be a part of the tech crew. Instead, Gabe sold Mike on giving me one of the leads in the production. My role? God.
Even though I’d been in productions before, I was surprised they wanted me to act. I was new to the ministry and thought others would have all the acting roles. I was excited for the opportunity, and didn’t want to let Gabe down. So, I worked hard at memorizing my lines and making “God” not seem like a stoic in white clothes.
The production ended up being a huge success. More importantly, I became good friends with Gabe and Mike. The two of them asked if I’d be interested in being a part of the Communications Department with them, primarily a theater team that was going to tour that fall. The theater team performed original drama and then shared about God, missions and more. I’ve always been drawn to utilizing arts, communications, and culture for Christianity. This sounded like a great idea, so I agreed to it. In between the spring and fall, I was spending the summer as a student ministry intern at Westside Church in Omaha, NE.
My internship at Westside was great, but all along I knew I was going to be heading back to Arkansas to be a part of this theater team. Less than a week before I headed back to Arkansas, I found out the theater team wasn’t going out that fall. And then, I was offered a full-time job at Westside as the Director of Junior High Students.
What had happened? Well, Mike and Gabe had wanted to do the theater team. However, there were personnel needs in other parts of the ministry. The decision was made late in the summer, and the staff who oversaw HR/Personnel at the ministry didn’t inform me of what was going on till after the decision had been made.
I went back down to Arkansas, and throughout September I was trying to figure out what I was suppose to be doing. I prayed a lot. I talked to a lot of people. I did a five day fast at one point, trying to discern what I was suppose to do. Everyone I knew in Omaha thought I should return to Omaha to take the job at Westside. It was a good job at a big church that provided security to me. (Health insurance was something people made a big deal about to me.) What was I doing in Arkansas? It was unknown and unclear.
Mike and Gabe wanted me to work with them, but other ministry leaders didn’t think that was prudent. Some of these leaders thought I should be “flexible” and “trust God” by working in another role at the ministry. That role? Maintenance.
The problem was I came down to Arkansas to be a part of the theater team, to work with Mike and Gabe in the Communications Department. I liked the idea of using arts and creativity to talk about Jesus. I wasn’t called to be in maintenance, but yet there I was in maintenance without a clue of what I was doing.
I was leaning toward taking the job at Westside. The HR/Personnel staff then apologized to me for their handling of my situation. It was appreciated, but it didn’t matter to me at that point. I started telling people I was probably heading back to Omaha. A lot of people in Arkansas thought this was great. One person who didn’t think this was a great idea was Gabe.
I told Gabe that I might be heading back to Omaha, and he asked if we could get together for lunch. In the meantime, Gabe contacted Mike and told him the news. (Mike went on tour with Twila Paris once the theater team was delayed.)
Gabe and I had lunch at Hugo’s. We started talking about the situation I was in, and what I was suppose to be doing. Gabe asked some simple questions about what God had called me to do. He didn’t try to spin what had happened as God’s will, or tell me to be “flexible”. He got back to the core of the argument. What was God calling me to do? Had God called me to Arkansas to be a part of the theater team and the Communications Department? Gabe didn’t see the developments as something new I was suppose to be doing, whether it be in Omaha or Arkansas, but rather a distraction to prevent me from what I was suppose to be doing in Arkansas. And, that calling was to be working in the Communications Department with Mike and him, to be a part of the theater team.
Gabe was gracious and understanding throughout our conversation. He was also resolute, though, in me not deviating from what I thought God called me to. He told me to be patient, and that Mike and him were working on a solution to get me involved in the Communications Department right away. (After Gabe talked to Mike, Mike started talking with Oren Paris III to figure out a resolution. Oren III was one of the ministry leaders and was also on tour with Twila Paris.)
Gabe was the only person I talked to during this time that asked the questions he did. He made sure I wasn’t distracted by comparison arguments (Omaha vs Arkansas). He made sure I was focused on what I needed to be. What was I called to do?
I came back to Omaha to make my final decision. My decision was to turn down the job offer at Westside and stay in Arkansas. I was going to pursue what God called me to, in Arkansas, with the Communications Department.
Nearly everyone thought I was crazy for making such a decision. How could I turn down a job at Westside? How could I turn down a salary? How could I turn down health insurance? How could I not return to Omaha? Why aren’t you taking life seriously?
I knew what people were thinking, but I didn’t care. I knew God had me on a different path than what people expected of me.
Gabe was great. After I made my decision to stay in Arkansas, he helped me out in settling into life there. I started working in the Communications Department right away with Gabe, and began pursuing what I was suppose to be doing.
God used Gabe to help set the trajectory in my life that I’m still on today.
I sometimes wonder what would’ve been if Gabe hadn’t taken me out to lunch so we could talk. I always come to the conclusion that I would’ve had a safe life with little risk. I would’ve had a nice job and moved up the ministry ranks. It would’ve been a good and nice life, but it wouldn’t have been rewarding. Instead, I was able to have a more fulfilling life, a life of faith, a life of experience. I was able to experience ministry in a way I never would have in Omaha. I can talk about things with an authority that came through real world and practical experience. (And, I was able to meet Jana in Arkansas!)
Gabe and I would work together for two years. Lots of great memories, and even more laughs. He then started pursuing, full-time, being a musician. That’s what he’s been doing ever since. He started off as a solo artist, and now fronts the band Circleslide.
So, back to the beginning of this post. I’m looking for music to use in this animation, when I think of Gabe and have all these thoughts simultaneously. (This is normal when I think of Gabe now.) I contacted him about using some of his music in the video. I told him the purpose of these DYI videos, and he was cool with me using Circleslide’s music.
The music used in the video is from their song Home.
Our paths haven’t crossed in years, but I’ll always be grateful for Gabe. Needless to say, that lunch we had was one of the most impacting moments in my life. (Easily in my top ten, probably top five.)