My name is Gina Hinshaw, I am 29 years old. I have a 10 ½ month old, Gabriella, who is a very beautiful and a very happy little girl. You will have to meet her. I am here because Ryan asked me to come and tell you my story. I can honestly tell you that I love my story and I find joy in it. In my life there are happy days and some very hard and painful days, but I love my Lord and I love how he works in me and I love that my story can be an example to others. And that is why, even though this is very new and very scary for me, I am very honored and excited to be here.
So here we go, 2 weeks ago Ryan and Sarah came to see Gabby and I and the rest of our family to celebrate the life of Chris Hinshaw, my husband. Chris had Stage 4 Melanoma. It’s a skin cancer that grows rapidly into your lymph nodes and then your organs. At stage 4 he fought cancer for 5 years with several different experimental treatments, never giving up. Then this past October, Chris’s strength started draining and the cancer began to rapidly take over his body. He died on February 13th and as you can imagine, the only strength that is allowing me to be here today is the strength that comes from God. My hope is that you will hear my story and understand that hardship, loss and suffering can be and will be used for good if we say “yes” to the Lord. I will back up to the beginning so you can get to know me and my story better.
I am the first born to parents who are both legally blind. My Mom and Dad are great parents and I have been very well taken care of. My family is different and there were many things that we had to do differently from other families but for the most part I had a very normal childhood. I first learned and accepted Jesus as my savior when I was 6 years old at VBS. My parents had just recently accepted Christ as well and they wanted their children to grow up in the Lord. We went to church regularly and we prayed at meal times. I worked hard to memorize verses for AWANA. My parents enrolled me in a Christian school when I was in 3rd grade. I knew my parents were Christians because they told me and we all went to church. My mom loved to sing worship songs and my Dad worked hard with me to memorize all of Psalms 121, an assignment for school. I really appreciate all they did for me, they helped that little spark in me to stay lit for a long time.
In high school I loved my friends who were also Christians, I loved my youth group that I was involved in, I loved my school and the worship times we held every Monday. I loved my life. I had a yearning to be more and do more for God, but I was also very content and happy. I worked for 5 years with an organization called Child Evangelism Fellowship and learned to get out of my comfort zone and share Jesus with kids of all ages. I loved that God was using me to “save” these children. However, something else was growing and lurking in a very hidden part of who I was. The inside of me looked very different than the outside of me. I struggled with bulimia and self-image. I struggled with deceit and lying. I struggled with being a complete hypocrite.
With some of these struggles I found healing once I was able to tell someone and bring it before the Lord. However, some of my struggles I kept bottled inside and I was to scared for people to find out who I really was, I was suppose to have my life all together. For the most part I did have my life together. I married my best friend and we both loved each other very much. We were teachers and youth group leaders. We had great friends and traveled with family. Chris had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma and he finished his last chemo treatment right before he proposed to me. For the first part of our marriage Chris was in remission and very healthy. We grew closer to each other through the challenges but my relationship with God was very different. I had a cancer growing inside of me. I allowed things to fester and grow and I knew it was sin.
About 4 years ago I had a very rude awakening. I was asked to leave from a job position. I wont get into details but the loss and failure that I felt created in me a heart that desperately wanted to get things cleaned up and start listening to God. I began to pray a lot more, seeking the Lord and what His Word says. I fell in love with God all over again, only this time I didn’t care what I had to do to make things right, I was done living life my way. I repented and asked forgiveness from my husband, Chris. I shared openly with family and friends what God was doing in my life and how I was responding. It was very freeing. My perspective grew as I read books like “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan and “Radical” by David Platt. The small spark in my heart ignited into a flame. Chris’s heart was changing along with mine and we would have real, open and honest discussions with each other and friends of what the Bible really says and how we should really live as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. When we realized that we were not living with God as Lord of our lives we prayed, listened, read and sought answers to how we could be true followers of Christ. We made some adjustments to our life.
James 1:26-27 says “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” So we started the process of becoming foster parents.
Luke 9: 23 says “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” So we gave a much higher percentage of our income away. Enough that it was uncomfortable and we had to trust God to provide.
Once we started saying yes to God, it was truly amazing. Now I have to say that it was not easy by any means. Chris’s cancer had come back as stage four and he was on several different experimental treatments over the years. Some allowed him to live a normal life and others had some pretty harsh side effects. I realized that my prayers began to change, I always prayed for healing but now, I came to the realization that we were both healed in a much more important way then just physical. I prayed for God’s will to be done in our lives, that every thought or word or action would reflect Christ and that our trials would be used for His glory.
Chris and I became foster parents to four kids overnight. We said yes to the first call we received. They had to adjust our license, and we had to buy a van, bunk bed and furniture, clothes, hair-ties and toys, but it was worth it. Everyday was an adventure of faith. There were days with tears and days with laughter but it was all joy and all peace. There is a tremendous peace when you are in the will of God. I grew and matured daily as a true follower. Every day I surrendered my own will to the will of my LORD.
Loving people is a lot easier when you truly love God. Not only do we love those four kids like they were our own, but we love the two moms that now take care of them. They are my second family. Loving people is a lot easier when you love God first. The money we gave away to Compassion and other organizations was not missed and every time we had a need there were others in our community who stepped in and helped us.
By the time we got to the point just this last October where Chris’s health began to rapidly decline, we both were already taking the step to daily lay down our desires, take up our crosses and follow the Lord and His will. People wondered how we could have a peace in a time like this or were amazed at our faith and continued love for the Lord despite the pain and very dismal prognosis. But doesn’t Jesus say in John 16:33 “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Growing up I had this belief that the Christian life was easy and comfortable and rewarding, but it’s very much the opposite. I realize now that following Jesus as your Lord is a promise to follow him IN the storms and IN the pain. The flame in my heart is burning high enough that people notice it now and it shines. It has lots of room to grow and unlike before I am not content on being stagnant. I am a completely different person then I was before and it’s an amazing way to live. Jesus is my Savior but He is also my Lord. He is my strength, He is my joy, He is my rock and I am devoted to following Him wherever he wants to lead me.