Andy Van Hook

July 20, 2011

This is Andy…

He has been one of my closest & greatest friends for the last 17 years.

It is hard to describe a friend you love so much, especially one as incredible as Andy.

Experiencing his friendship has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Andy and I met when we were in 1st grade. Somehow my step-dad met Andy’s dad, and got me on his baseball team. We would continue to play baseball with each other for the next 6 years. Knowing Andy, meant knowing two of his other friends, Andy Gruel and Evan Dunn as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was joining a tripod of incredible friends, and it would take me about 4 years to make the tripod open up to a table. But it happened, and the two Andy’s, Evan and I became life long childhood friends.

We walked home together, ate sub stop together, played countless hours of N64 together, watched movies, swam, built dirt ramps, laughed, and played baseball.

This was growing up together.

In 7th grade Andy (VanHook) announced that he was moving to a place called Hallsville, Texas. Andy was going to be gone by summer, and we didn’t know what we were going to do.

I honestly thought that our friendship was over.

I couldn’t be more thankfully wrong.

Andy and I kept in touch, he would come and visit and tell me stories of East Texas and his friends, and I would catch him up on life in Oklahoma.

Every time Andy would visit, I would realize how old we were getting. He was getting tall and becoming a man, and in my mind we were still 12 playing N64.

We stayed in touch, and would switch off visiting each other every year.

We finally graduated high school and I decided to stay in Edmond and attend U.C.O., Andy headed to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. This is when I realized we were growing up, and fast.

Freshman year of college, I remember we were both dating girls at the time who we thought could be “the ones”. Andy drove up with his girlfriend (not his current wife) and my girlfriend (at the time) and we waited for them to get to my apartment, so that we could go on a double date together. I still remember opening the door and laughing the second we saw each other.

Without planning…

We were wearing the same shirt.

We went to dinner in matching shirts, and laughed a lot. Needless to say, the only relationship from that night that still exists is the friendship between Andy and I.

I visited Waco often, and loved getting to know the guys that Andy became friends with. They were guys that all needed a friend like Andy, someone to make them laugh, and someone that would be there for them in all circumstances.

I remember talking to Andy on the phone at length about what all college guys talk about: Calvinism, girls, and  Jesus.

Somehow we never could find the answers to our own questions, but knew exactly what the other needed to hear.

I remember when Andy started talking about this girl named MK. By the sound of his voice, I figured this was the girl he was going to marry. He was really nervous to talk to her, and I knew something was up, because Andy Van Hook doesn’t get nervous.

I remember meeting her and thinking what an incredible girl for my longest childhood friend.

I remember going down to Baylor last fall and walking around the campus with Andy, dreaming up ways for him to propose.

I remember Andy driving up on my 22nd birthday to surprise me.

I remember coming down in December for the night that he proposed.

I remember that she said yes.

And I will never forget this past weekend, watching him commit his life to her.

It has seriously been one of the greatest joys of my life being Andy’s friend. He is someone that changes the people around him, and makes them into something better.

He is kind and genuine.

And I have yet to cross paths with anyone that even remotely resembles him.

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A couple weeks ago I got to celebrate the 16th birthday of a girl who is an orphan.We call them foster kids in America, but I think the bible would call them orphans.A friend of mine has decided to pour her heart and time into this girl’s life, and she is actively helping rewrite this little girl’s story.

It’s really beautiful.

My friend decided to throw this girl a surprise birthday party for her 16th birthday.She asked a couple other friends to be there, who asked some of the high school students at my church to be there, and when it was all said and done about 25 people showed up for this girls sweet 16.

25 people who had only encountered this girl a couple times

25 people who decided that on this Friday night, they would be doing something for someone else.

What transpired that evening is something I will never forget.

Never.

I arrived at the party about twenty minutes after the surprise had happened, the kids were eating and enjoying themselves and I walked over to ask my friend how the surprise had gone. My friend told me that when she asked the girl if this was her first surprise birthday party,the girl responded,

“this is my first birthday party ever.”

Huh?

16 years old.

Never one, single birthday party.

16 years old.

Not a single gift.

16 years old

No candles to blow out.

16 years old.

No car waiting in the driveway.

16 years old.

No song of celebration ringing in her ears.

16 years old.

“This is my first birthday party ever”

As her words echoed in my mind the rest of the night, the cake was brought out and the candles were lit.

Everyone started singing Happy Birthday

A song that was clearly written for this moment

for this girl.

And then she bent down to blow out her candles and make a wish, her first birthday wish.

As she blew the candles out, they relit themselves.

(They were the trick candles, and so the only way to put them out is to stick them in water.)

Confused, She blew them out again

They relit

She blew them out again

They would relight

After she continued this process, I started realizing the redemption in this moment.

Every time she blew out the candles, they would relight.

Redeeming all those missed wishes

Redeeming all those lonely, quiet birthdays.

Redeeming what she had lost.

There are moments in this life where God’s kingdom is very evident,

and in the smoke from the candles

I witnessed it.

In the laughter, and joy that was in the room

I witnessed it.

God is alive in birthday parties for orphans.

Though I don’t think she can be defined by that title anymore.

Because orphans feel alone,

And this little girl does not.

My friend is redefining and redeeming this girl’s story.

And it is a very beautiful thing.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.