That was just one of the many insightful observations Gary Woelfle, made when I sat down with him at a local coffee shop to talk about his long history of serving and sharing his talents with others.
Gary became a part of the Foothills family around the year 2000, and served in many capacities. His love of people motivated him to serve in children’s ministry, in youth ministries, and on missions trips. Gary talked about the connections and relationships that were made while serving on a three week missions trip to El Salvador. The team had just wrapped up an evangelistic rally, seeing many people saved and baptised. When the time came to part ways with the people they had been serving, Gary said emotions were running high, “Those connections we made were amazing. You just never forget an experience like that.”
When I asked Gary how he felt about the impact he makes on people he serves, he answered with another story of service. “We did the church cookout a couple weeks ago,” Gary said, “My role in the cookout was to tell the church how much food they needed to buy and then show up on Sunday and make it happen. One of the guys who showed up to help was Shawn Taylor. I told him one of the first things we need to do is cut up the seven watermelons. Shawn told me he didn’t exactly know how to do that. I showed him how to quarter the watermelon and cut it up into wedges, making it easy for people to handle. In the end, Shawn told me that he hadn’t planned on helping with the cookout because he doesn’t really like cooking, but this wasn’t cooking, it was learning.” Gary’s observation was that he wasn’t just working at food preparation; he was passing along a skill to make someone else more efficient in their ability to serve.
Why has Gary dedicated most of his life to serving others? His answer was simple, yet profound. On that same missions trip to El Salvador, the team had a busy schedule, but sometimes things would come up and nothing would happen for two hours. “I learned that serving people mattered, not the schedule.” I asked Gary what he would say to someone who might be thinking about serving in the church. “I think the giving part is way better than just receiving. You get way more back than you ever give.” While Gary has plans to retire in the near future from his work as the food manager at the Oregon State Hospital, he has no plans to retire from serving others. “I want to go wherever God wants me. That’s top of the list. I want to be willing and ready to do. I’ve seen some amazing people at church who are older than I, do some really great things, and I don’t want to quit.” I’m fairly certain that quitting just isn’t in Gary’s vocabulary. I for one, am very grateful that Gary is a part of the Foothills family.