Hi everybody, my name is Andy Gerstner. I’d like to share a little about my walk with the Lord, how at times I’ve strayed but how he is faithful to seek me out, even in the darkest times of my life.
I was brought up in a blue-collar home. Dad was a mechanic, always working on cars or trucks and mom managed a deli. She always had her hands in something - cooking or serving people. I came from a good home here in Topeka, was brought up in church and graduated from high school. Unfortunately, when I was about 14, I started making some bad decisions and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Without even knowing it, the decisions I was making began setting the course for my life. I was 17 and driving under the influence when I got a DUI, which started some legal troubles and more bad decisions.
I first came to the Rescue Mission in 1995 after separating from my wife. I found the Rescue Mission to be a very welcoming place, a comfortable place where I could get my life back in order and start making better decisions. Over the years, I have taken refuge at the Mission during times where I found myself homeless and in need of guidance. I could always count on the Rescue Missionfor necessities like a safe place to sleep, food to eat, toiletries, a listening ear and guidance to help me on my path. I’ve always enjoyed the chapel they have every night and always got a lot out of each service. I’ve been a part of two Christmases at the Rescue Mission and that’s been a very meaningful time in my life, helping me get back to the true meaning of Christmas.
In 2008 I made the decision to join the Servants in Training (SIT) program, which is the year-long program the Rescue Mission offers. Nell Ritchey was the director of the SIT program at that time and she was a great teacher, friend and mentor. I really admired how she used her gifts and so freely shared those gifts with everyone. The biggest challenge I faced at the mission was learning to live with other people and their different personalities - some who were going through the same struggles as me, some different. Despite these challenges, there’s always a peace around the Mission that I believe comes from prayer. I graduated the SIT program in February of 2009 along with four other people. At that time my walk with the Lord had grown, so I was sharing my gifts and God’s love with others and myself. There have been some times in my life when I wasn’t able to love others well because I wasn’t really loving myself. The Rescue Mission taught me how to do that and show others how Jesus changed my life and gave me the opportunity to let my light shine.
I have been at the Mission now for four months and am currently the supply coordinator at the Distribution Center. I help fulfill supply orders for the shelters and the kitchen. I also stock a lot of shelves with food and help distribute it out, which is always a joy for me. I love to see firsthand the people from the community that the Rescue Mission is able to assist. It’s a joy to work here - to be able to do as Jesus taught us - when you see those in need, you give them a drink, some food to eat, shelter and most importantly – tell them that Jesus loves them.
I will be moving out of the Mission soon because I was accepted at Oxford House. I will be able to take the next step in my life and I’m very grateful to the Rescue Mission for once again showing me how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. (UPDATE – since Andy shared his story he has achieved his goal. He is now living at Oxford House!)