July 24, 1977 ~ April 6, 2007
Michael Jay Gardiner was born on July 24, 1977 in Inglewood California to Whitley and Judy Gardiner. Growing up in Hawthorne he attended Centinella Bible Church where he also attended school. Mike's one passion growing up was soccer which he played until he went to Long Beach State, even earning the MVP award at Hawthorne High School. But what he enjoyed more was the time he spent in the mornings surfing with his brother Ed. Mike was always involved in church either in AWANA, youth groups, or Sunday School which is where he met Amy. It was on a trip home from Magic Mountain where Amy was sick in the back seat of the car and he reached hand back to comfort her, because the driver gotten lost this short ride ended up being a four hour ride. Needless to say Mike showed interest but failed to talk to Amy for another 3 months when he finally built up enough courage to ask her out on a real date. Amy and Mike spent their the majority of the Junior and Senior year together. This included two missions trips to Mexico that changed Mike in a way that would direct his future. The first mission trip changed Mike's heart. Although he had attended church his entire life, he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus until he returned from this trip and realized that Christianity wasn't a religion it was a relationship. The second trip he was the leader and this trip sparked his interest into going into the ministry. Following this trip, more opportunities were opened up to Mike to fan the flames in his desire for ministry. As Mike was thinking about going to college and seminary in order to train for ministry, he was encouraged to get his undergrad degree in a field he could use should the ministry not be able to support him.
So, after taking a year off after high school, Mike started at El Camino Community College where he played soccer and even received the coach's award. But after realizing that soccer was becoming nothing more than a distraction, he transferred to Cal State Long Beach (GO BEACH!) where he majored in Kinesiology. He went on to earn both a General Ed. and an Adaptive PE credential. These weren't just degrees for Mike, though. He truly loved working with students who had physical and developmental disabilities. This no doubt began the desire to help, love and serve people for the remainder of his life.
Following his graduation from Long Beach (GO BEACH!), he started attending the Master's Seminary. This was a great balancing act for him as he had to find time to study, go to class, be a substitute teacher at Gardena High School, and be involved in ministry at Carson Bible Church, where he began attending shortly before. Mike's nose was constantly in a book of some sort and he would study for hours on end, but this only intensified his passion for the Lord and His Word and moved his heart to have an even greater desire for people.
During his time at seminary, Mike became more and more involved at Carson Bible Church, helping in the student ministries and eventually taking on the GAP - the college ministry - as its beloved leader. He was extremely faithful in ministry to the church and God kept moving him towards greater effectiveness among the people there. All along the way Pastor John was grooming Mike for leadership in the church and he was soon affirmed as being an elder, serving is its most concise secretary (which was Mike's favorite job ever). After his graduation Mike was brought on staff at CBC as its Associate Pastor (without pay, of course) which was a step in the plan that Pastor John had for quite some time in transitioning him into the role as the next lead pastor at Carson. That transition and event took place in March of 2006. This was a great challenge for Mike, but one which God used in a marvelous way creating a union between Pastor and people that was unparalleled. He continued to pastor the college students which he loved, even though it entailed spending many late nights with them (well past his 9:00 bed time) and countless dinners at Taco Sinaloa and IHOP. But ministry was never a chore for Mike because his great passion was to see people grow in Christ. He truly loved being a pastor and genuinely desired to share Christ with everyone he could. What God did over the past year through Mike was a blessing beyond everyone's expectations and reminds us of God's faithfulness to build and bless His church no matter the situation or circumstance.
It was also during this time that the second greatest event in Mike's life took place - his marriage to Amy, which took place on June 27, 2003. It took 10 years of convincing and a firm resolve no matter how many times she shot him down, but his persistency finally paid off. Mike always said that he knew he would marry her; it just took God's supernatural work to bring it to pass. What came as a result, though, was a marriage filled with blessings, challenges, companionship and most of all love. They were more than just marriage partners, they truly were the best of friends.
Although Christ was his first passion, a close second was his love for sports. Mike loved ESPN; he loved to talk sports, watch sports, play sports, or anything else that had to do with sports. He could watch basketball for hours. He loved random teams, such as North Carolina, the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Cubs (Go Cubbies!).
Other things that Mike loved were his family and his dogs! He loved spending time with his nieces and nephews, and with the recent purchase of his new home he found many hours to work with his dad fixing it up. Whit even got him up off the ground for several days which impressed all of us. As for his dogs (or as he called them, his boys), he loved being walked by them! In the morning, it was his time to think and pray before starting the day.
Though it seems like Mike's life was too short, it was lived to the fullest. As he taught the college students over and over from the book of Ecclesiastes, enjoy life and pursue the impulses of your heart with the understanding that all these things will be judged by God; and above all to fear God and keep His commandments. Mike epitomized this philosophy and motivated all those whom he ministered to live the same.
Mike had a love for Christ that poured out to everyone he met. He spoke the truth without compromise, yet did so with love and grace. One of his favorite authors (outside the Bible) was John Piper and although he used many quotes from Dr. Piper, the one that he used most often and loved the most was this: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him!" Mike was satisfied in Christ! He needed nothing more in life to be happy than His Lord. He was a true example of how loving and generous a person could be.
If you could sum up Mike's life and ministry it would amount to 3 things: joy, worship, and love. Biblical joy is the overflow of God's love in meeting the needs of others, and Mike was truly full of joy. For worship, Mike loved to sing praise throughout the day and worship God on Sundays. Though he could not stay in tune he would sing with all his might and provoke others to sing louder so they could keep on the melody. And then there was love. Mike loved God, he loved his Savior, he loved his family, and he loved people. He simply loved to love!
In the end, Mike left a legacy as a faithful servant of the Lord - a legacy that should and will be followed for years to come. Praise the Lord, for He is good and His faithfulness endures forever!
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