FRANKLIN — Despite his relentless efforts to always remain behind the scenes, Andy Gunn has gained rock-star status at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
He has been with the organization for more than four decades, performing a list of duties that range from dangerous (driving forklifts) to delicate (watering flowers) and all in between. His tenure spans from his teenage years, when he worked in the kitchen at Linden Valley Conference Center, to his present role as maintenance technician.
Gunn was recently recognized for 45 years of service with the TBMB.
“Andy is the go-to guy to get things done at TBMB,” said marketing manager Nicki Brooks, a longtime friend of Gunn. “He is beloved across the state. Not only is he a fixture at the Missions Mobilization Center and the TBMB building, but he is also known at events like WMU Get-Together and Summit. Everywhere you go, people know and love Andy.”
Gunn took his first job with the TBMB (then the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention) at age 15, and he has essentially been serving Tennessee Baptists — in his own quiet way — ever since.
“There is not one among us who hasn’t been helped in ways small and large by Andy,” said TBMB associate administrator Mark Procter, noting that Gunn is a picture of “humility, stability and reliability.”
Known by his coworkers for his constant smile and joyful attitude, Gunn said he considers each day at the TBMB to be a blessing. “Serving the Lord is a joy for me,” Gunn said. “I really enjoy the work that I do, and I enjoy the people. All the relationships I have formed through the years mean so much to me.”
As for Gunn’s actual job description? “I do a little bit of this, that and the other,” he said with a laugh. “Realistically, I do a little bit of everything.”
Brooks, who has worked with Gunn for 21 years, agreed that it is hard to pinpoint what Gunn does, simply because, really, he does it all.
“I have no idea what his actual job description is — but I can say this: After all these years of working together, I have never asked him for something where he didn’t work hard at offering a solution to that problem,” she said. “Andy takes his job very seriously and loves to do a good job. But he also loves to laugh and have a good time doing it.”
Vicki Hulsey, childhood specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and another of Gunn’s long-time coworkers, said, “Andy is a friend to everyone — the TBMB staff and to TBMB churches. He often does things without even being asked, expecting nothing in return. For almost 20 years, I have appreciated Andy’s heart to assist me as I serve churches, as well as his heart for serving my family. I am thankful to call Andy my friend.”
Gunn’s journey with the TBMB has featured many twists and turns, but has also been marked with consistency that he has provided.
His connection with the TBMB started when Gunn lived at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home as a teen.
“I met up with James McDonald, who was the business manager of the TBC (now TBMB) at the time,” Gunn recalled. “He hired me to work at Camp Linden for the summer and I also did some work at the old TBC building on weekends.”
He said his primary duty at that time was in the kitchen. “They hired me to wash pots and pans — and let me tell you, that was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had.”
After graduating high school, Gunn briefly did some other jobs outside of the TBMB — working for the state of Tennessee, then at AMCO and later, as an electrician — before moving in 1979 to Michigan, where he worked a series of jobs. “I lived in Michigan for one year and 23 days,” he recalled with a grimace.
While there, Gunn wrote a letter to McDonald, asking if he would help him find a job. McDonald wrote back and said, “You can call me — collect — and we will talk about this. So, I did.” When the two men talked several days later, Gunn was told that the maintenance job was open at the TBMB. Gunn accepted immediately.
“I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I took the job over the phone,” Gunn said.
Roughly two weeks later, Gunn drove all night from Michigan to Nashville, eventually arriving at the TBC building. “This is the honest truth: When I got to the parking lot, I got out of my car and I kissed the asphalt because I was so happy to be there,” he said.
Gunn started work the next day. “I figured I would be here three or four years, maybe five years, tops,” he said with a laugh.
Through the years, Gunn has served on numerous mission trips with TBMB and response trips with disaster relief, including traveling to New York shortly after 9/11. He has also made two separate trips to Brazil and a trip to Jamaica, serving in various roles — from masonry work to kitchen duties — on those journeys. He’s also been to Virginia, South Dakota and Ohio, among other places.
“That’s the thing about Andy — he just has such a heart to serve,” said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the TBMB. “The biggest thing he has trouble with is saying ‘no’ to people. His heart to serve is unmatched by probably 99 percent of people in the world. He cares about people, and he wants to make them feel good. Plus, he is a Jack-of-All-Trades, and those type people are really rare these days.”
Gunn’s “no-job-too-small” mentality is often on display, such as the time he dressed as Santa Claus for the TBMB’s annual Christmas luncheon.
“He did that so the retirees could have their pictures made with him,” recalled Brooks. “It brought lots of laughter because everyone loves Andy. And that just shows you who he is.”
“Andy embodies what it means to be a servant,” she added. “He is humble, gracious, and always serves others with a smile. He shows up, again and again, for people and makes sure that they are well taken care of and have what they need.
“We all need more people like him in our lives,” she said. B&R