My Dad is my hero. Many girls can say that, but few are given the opportunity I have had to write about it. Recently, Daddy was nominated for a Service to Mankind Award by a local club. I was asked to write an essay about Dad to go along with the presentation. Because of how proud I am to be his daughter, I wanted to share it.
Commonly in our society, problems are discussed at a theoretical level. People talk about issues, coming up with simple solutions or bemoaning the lack of them; however, rarely are those discussions accompanied by actions. This is not true about Rev. Stephen Gettinger. When Rev. Gettinger encounters a problem, he examines it, develops compassion for those impacted, and works to enact change. From children to the elderly, from local causes to those around the world, with people from diverse races and backgrounds, Rev. Gettinger has worked throughout his life to show up as an agent of change for those who are hurting. Compassion has prompted his involvement in racial reconciliation in Anderson and his co-founding of several orphanages in India. Because of his work in the community and around the globe, Rev. Stephen Gettinger has been nominated for the Service to Mankind Award of the Sertoma Club.
Since moving to Anderson, IN, with his wife, Lyn, and three children in 1989 to serve as pastor at Whetstone Christian Church, Rev. Gettinger has worked to strengthen the community, especially among churches. Being the son of a pastor, he recognized how more work could be accomplished with unity among Christian and Christian leadership. What he found, however, was a divided community, especially when it came to different races. Instead of only attending community meetings and functions where white pastors met, he also took opportunities to form relationships with the African American pastors. He intentionally listened to these people from background different from his own which helped him see the hurt that they had experienced. The compassion that developed urged him to actively participate in the Racial Reconciliation Picnic starting in 1999, coming alongside Dr. Thomas Robinson and others to support the healing efforts of the African American people.
The Racial Reconciliation Picnic gives Christians of various racial backgrounds an opportunity to interact with each other, thus knowing each other’s cultures better. This yearly event invites all area churches to volunteer their time and talents to join together with Christ as their common denominator. Politicking is not allowed during this time as the focus is on the uniting power of Christ. Besides volunteering on that day, Rev. Gettinger was instrumental for many years in the planning of the community-wide event. When Dr. Robinson passed away in 2014, Rev. Gettinger was asked to lead the coordination of the event as he had worked as interim chair during Dr. Robinson’s illness. Because of his influence and service, this community event continues to draw hundreds of people together. His work and compassion to those of different races has earned him the trust of many leaders in the African American community, evidenced by them asking him to counsel their parishioners or pray at Martin Luther King, Jr. Day services.
In addition to work in our local community, Rev. Gettinger has made an impact around the globe. While on a missionary trip doing evangelistic conferences in India in 1996, a native pastor, Rev. Johnson, expressed his desire to start an orphanage for underprivileged Hindu children. Rev. Johnson had seen how the Christian churches in India had done a good job helping to educate and care for Christian children there, but saw how many Hindu children had little future without resources enough to go to even the public schools. Without stable parents to provide for them, survival for poor Indian children is difficult, and many are abused or trafficked. The future, if there is one, is grim. Together with his friend, Rev. Tom Curry, Pastor Steve prayerfully considered how he could be used to help. Out of the compassion stirred came Friends of Hope, co-founded by Rev. Gettinger. This non-profit organization partners with Indian churches to meet the needs of destitute children utilizing culturally-sensitive strategies. One of the most evident ways it is accomplishing that is through founding orphanages. Children are not only protected from hunger and the elements, but they are also given education and love. These opportunities provide the children with hope for the future. Not only did Pastor Steve research and write the proper documents to establish this non-profit organization to assist the efforts of the native workers, he also has served on the board since its founding in 1998, even hosting the first fundraiser for the program. Over the last 20 years, Rev. Gettinger has taken several trips to India to see the orphanages, encourage the workers, resolve problems, listen to those with boots on the ground, and renew vision for this ministry. Currently Friends of Hope has founded or supported four orphanages in various parts of India, housing over 100 children at any given time.
These grand projects have been accompanied by the many other ways Rev. Gettinger has impacted the community. Leading church camp for children and teens, visiting the sick or homebound, counseling individuals, training pastors in India, serving on various boards (for example, the Southdale Towers and Longfellow Plaza, Christian Counseling Center of Madison County, Christian Clergy Association of Anderson, Concerned Clergy of Anderson, Operation Love, and others), planning 9-11 remembrance ceremonies, volunteering with the Lions Club and Cub Scouts, and giving the pre-race blessing for the Anderson Sertoma Club’s Mayor’s Cup Grand Prix are all part of what makes Rev. Stephen Gettinger an example of compassionate action. His demonstration of Christ’s love has impacted past generations and will filter down to generations to come.
The work that Rev. Gettinger has done locally and internationally makes him a prime example of what it takes to be awarded the Service to Mankind Award of the Sertoma Club. Examining a problem, developing compassion, and pairing that with action are defining qualities for him. Whether or not the greater world will acknowledge his service, it is certain that his family, his friends, his church members, his community, and, most importantly, his God recognize that his ministry, defined by him as “the ministry of showing up”, has impacted change on some of society’s problems.