Meet GilbertAdd Comment
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Recently Dwain and Tom from Insight sat down and chatted with Gilbert Cangy, director of the Youth Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Silver Spring, Maryland. Cangy was elected to this position in the summer of 2010. Because he’s a new face to many of us, we thought it would be cool for Insight and its readers to get to know him a little bit and to learn more of his mission in overseeing the youth ministries of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. The following are some of the things we learned about this dedicated servant of God.Add Comment
Insight: Where are you from?
Cangy: Mauritius. I grew up there and had my schooling there.
[Tom has no clue where this place is (and butchers its spelling in his notes). Thankfully, Dwain asks about its location.]
Where is Mauritius?
Imagine the continent of Africa. Fly east from there to the island of Madagascar, keep flying another couple of hours to the east, and—you’ve got to look very carefully—you’ll see the island of Mauritius. It’s in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Insight: Tell us something specific about the way your parents raised you and what they did that was interesting or a blessing to you.
Cangy: Well, as is often the case in pastoral homes (my dad was a pastor), if I have vivid recollections of my upbringing, I would say my mother was the primary spiritual nurturer in our home. I remember my mother’s prayers, my mother bringing us together for evening worship . . . and I remember receiving the cane just about every Friday. I loved football, and it just happened that Friday afternoon was the day that the boys got together. It was the same scenario every Friday—they’d say, “Gil, are you staying today?” And I’d say, “No, you know, it’s Friday and I’ve got to be home early.” And they’d say, “Just till halftime.” OK. Then another 10 minutes, and then the whole game. I would travel a half hour back home and the sun would be setting—not a good feeling. I would head toward home, seeing my mother waiting for me out front. She had taken her Sabbath shower, and by the time the sun went down, the meals for Sabbath were ready, the clothes were ironed, the shoes were polished—everything was ready for Sabbath except me.
You’re coming in sweaty and unkempt and . . .
Yeah, and there she was, her hair done up in a nice bun pulled in the back, and behind her back she was holding the cane. And so that was my welcome to Sabbath—it happened fairly regularly. [Laughter]
You know, I’m just so blessed to have had a mother who taught us principles. Sure, she also made mistakes, but she was still a major influence in my spiritual journey.
I have great memories of my dad as well; he was a great storyteller, and I have sweet memories of him telling us stories when I was a kid. But I don’t have vivid memories of my father apart from those moments, because my mother was the one who was home most of the time.
Something happened to my dad, though. He had some personal challenges that he had not overcome, and so, when I was 14, my father basically left the ministry, and he left us as a family as well.
That’s a common experience to many teens, unfortunately—a parent leaving. What did it do to you as a young Christian, as just the son of a father?
Well, I couldn’t process that in terms of understanding what was going on. I just responded emotionally to the whole thing. What I knew was one day I was a PK [pastor’s kid], and the next day I showed up at church and everyone was asking “What happened to your dad?” So there was the curiosity factor, and people were more interested in what was going on with my dad. And I don’t blame them; how do you deal with a 14-year-old? So I decided that because they didn’t know how to handle this, I would not let anybody know, not let anybody into my inner world from that moment on. I developed a tough exterior because I was too vulnerable. I felt that if I let anybody into my inner world I’d get hurt too much beyond what was going on already.
The week after, we had to go find a house. There were seven of us children, and only one brother was working. My life was turned upside down.
Things affect people differently. With me, I just became an obnoxious, loudmouth teenager because I didn’t want anybody to come close to me. So I went into this whole pretend world. I just got into music, played in a band. I always went to church on Sabbath, but I had a double life going on. The seventh day was for Jesus, but the six others were for me. I ended up failing my high school years, so I was like “Now what?” I wanted to disappear. So I ended up joining the merchant navy and working on ships—I was 17 years old at the time. I left the island and just went in pursuit of travel, wealth, discovery, with no one to look over my shoulder. This was tough on my mom; she wept when I was leaving. But she remained prayerful—she prayed for me.
When I went out with the ships, the sense of freedom was intoxicating. I had gone from poverty to sitting at the captain’s table with menus. But you know how it goes—you can run away from your trials, your circumstances, you can try to run away from your problems, but they never run away from you.
One night I felt totally alone and disillusioned, unhappy. I was angry. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I had everything, but here I was, unhappy. Well, my mother had put a Bible—which I hadn’t been reading—in my suitcase. And that night I thought, Why not read? I reached out, and there God spoke to me. It was in the book of Isaiah: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns” (62:1). God was basically saying to me “I will never give up on you. I’m here for you till My plan for you comes to fulfillment.”
So the question to me was What are you doing with your life? That night I took the Bible and threw it against the wall because I said to myself, “This is not what God is like.” I thought I had to shape up, clean up my act first, and then come to God and gain acceptance. The idea that God would come to a sailor’s cabin that night—I just couldn’t comprehend it.
You did not accept that.
I did not accept it. So the next day I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You just forget what just happened to you. It was just an emotional trip. Move on.” But I could not. God spoke to me again, and eventually I went to the captain and told him I was going to sign off.
Initially I said to God, “Well, You want me to go back home, but to what? There is nothing there for me.” God would say, “Trust Me.” So I headed back home.
I said a prayer—“God, if I go back to the port and there is a job for me at home, I’ll sign off.” But there wasn’t a job, so I went back on the sea . . . until the time I just couldn’t resist God anymore. I went to the captain, signed off, and told him I was basically leaving the career.
I said another prayer—“Lord, I’m giving it up. I’m following You. There’s nothing for me at home, but I’m asking for a favor here. There’s no condition, but if You find me a job for 500 rupees ($50) just to get by, I’d be really grateful. But again, that’s no condition.”
So I went back. My mother came to meet me on board the ship. This is what she had been praying for. And when she came, she had a letter in her hand. She said that it had come for me that week.
I opened the letter and found that I was being offered a job for 500 rupees, plus five—505 rupees. God was giving me a little bonus of five rupees. [Laughter] So then began a new journey. I had been away at sea for not quite two years.
It took a while to really settle down in terms of what God wanted for me. I came home and felt safe, but did not really engage until I went to a youth camp. One night there, I felt that something really deep inside me had snapped. I had experienced a connection with God. Gradually things came together, and I became a youth leader at my local church. I asked to be used, utilized, by the church.
You know, one time I was a little upset with something in the church—I had seen something that appeared to be hypocritical—and while reading Scripture I came upon Acts 2:42-47, a picture of the early Christian church. I saw how the Holy Spirit was working with these people, and I prayed to God and said, “If this is what Your church is like, then this is what I want to do.”
I got together with friends, and we started praying together Friday nights—a small group thing—and we prayed specifically for the Holy Spirit and what He can do.
So you were developing a passion for an authentic faith.
Yeah, you know, I was not interested in a mediocre faith. If I was going to represent Jesus, I wanted to be real. I had tasted what the other side was like and turned away from it. Now I just wanted something genuine and authentic.
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