BEREA, Ky. (KT) – Travis Lynch loves the life of faith that God has ordained for him and his wife.
It’s not easy. He doesn’t know how the next bill will be paid or who the Lord will decide to put in his path. It may be someone who abuses drugs, or it may be someone who needs to understand what love means. Some may need a hug and others a kick in the pants.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way, because he knows the one thing they all need – a relationship with Jesus.
Say hello to Travis and Christie Lynch, who for the past dozen years have lived on faith and given godly advice to dozens of troubled youth through the Gilmin Group outside of Berea, Kentucky. They minister to at-risk youth 12 years old and older who are from families in crisis. Their mission is to transform lives through the power of God’s love.
They live in the house with them – as many as 17 with them at one time – and more than 160 have come through their doors since the ministry started. Youth are taught work ethic, basic life skills, marketable job skills in automotive, construction and culinary arts. But they also learn that being totally dependent on God is the best tool they can take with them.
That lesson comes from the couple who runs the program and lives that statement every day.
A dozen years ago, Travis Lynch walked away from a 14-year teaching career – and the family’s livelihood - after being told he couldn’t share his faith on the job. It was a freefall leap of faith.
“God made it clear that I was going to quit my job,” he said. “If I had known the journey God was going to put me on, I’d have said, ‘God, are you serious?’’’
It was a struggle, even with wife Christie, before it all started coming together. But when it did, the blessings haven’t stopped coming, making the early days of the ministry seem like ancient history.
“She said, ‘You can’t quit your job,’’’ Travis said of his wife. “I’m transparent. I grew up kind of hard. I stood up in the middle of my bed and threw a 20-second tirade. I felt God’s hand say, ‘If I told you, I will tell her.’ I said, ‘Check.’’’
They were paying bills but piling up credit card debt, he said. “Finally, she said, ‘Someone else has to see the vision and help us.’ Within six weeks, it was done. One of her cousins came and lived with us and helped us get things started.”
With that simple boost, the Gilmin (God Is Love Ministry) Group began the job of working on broken young lives. Lynch said every person that has been with them falls in one of three categories: abusing drugs, trying to get clean from drugs or broken families. They have taken in young men and women, he said, and homeschool them as well because of his educational background. They also have jobs they perform on his campus, which include a mechanic’s garage where they have refurbished and given away 16 vehicles, and a woodworking shop.
The mission is totally faith-based but the Lynches, who are also Kentucky Baptist Convention Mission Service Corps volunteers, said they never miss a payment owed. They don’t charge tuition but rely on God to move in hearts to donate. Their faith has been strengthened by God’s provisions.
“I don’t believe you honor God by not paying bills,” he said. “I have never ever asked a person for a dime. Ever. We’ve had as many as 17 people in the house at one time. It goes back to without faith, it’s impossible to please God. We’re not wealthy but the things I have experienced with the Lord are better than any funding I’ve ever received. The God of today is the God of the Bible. I know that every day.”
Lynch said he worked at a day treatment center in the public school system, and when he shared the gospel with a young man, the principal told him that he couldn’t do that anymore. He was miffed knowing that a relationship with Jesus was what many of these broken young men were missing.
“I prayed and said, ‘Everyday people over me are saying I can’t speak Your name,’” he said. “He told me to quit my job and I did. For me, I have the greatest job in the world. There’s no middleman.”
His wife also quit her job and they work on the ministry in tandem. They also have a family, a son who is 23 and living in South Korea, and a daughter who turns 16 in December. They understand and have supported what God has called their parents to do, he said.
Their son finished school at 15 and their daughter graduates in December because of being homeschooled.
“My son learned how to work, how to be a man,” his father said. “He probably had 15 to 20 roommates (while at home). My daughter is going to work and save some money. Her passion is horses and we do some of that here at the ministry.”
The property has a two-story building with 1,800 square feet on each floor and a two-bay garage and full woodshop. They have central heat and air conditioning but primarily use wood to heat the homes.
Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief donated a log-splitter to the ministry last week with Keith Stinson, who attends church with the Lynches at First Baptist Church in Richmond and was among the Disaster Relief volunteers, delivering it to them on Friday.
“My whole life I’ve worked hard, lifted weights, stayed in good shape,” Lynch said. “But my body is about broken down. I was splitting logs the other day and thought, 'I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to do this.' Keith calls me and says, ‘I think Coy (Webb) is going to hook you up with a log-splitter.’ My boys were happy about it.”
It’s gifts like the log-splitter and other donations that seemingly come out of nowhere that leads Lynch to understand he is doing exactly what God wants him to be doing.
“People look at my life, I’m blessed beyond measure,” Lynch said. “They don’t understand. I’m blessed because I have Jesus. Growing up, I don’t have one positive memory of my father. Drugs weren’t my thing, perfection was my thing. Here I am, looking back at my life, what kind of God pursues a person that has nothing to do with Him? He did nothing but love me.”
And the Lynches are determined to show God’s love not only in their faith but also share how God loves with at-risk youth whom the world seems to have given up on helping.
“I can promise you this,” Lynch said. “God will move heaven and earth to hear the gospel and see it lived out.”