Monday, February 18, 2008


Gary Wiley and Barack Obama--seventh cousins!

Six Degrees of Separation

I have had an interest in my family tree for more than 30 years. Early on most of my information came from older family members, family Bibles, and occasional trips to libraries with genealogical sections. Now the internet has brought a wealth of information, especially census records, to my computer screen.

A few months ago I was able to connect my Oden (mother's side) family tree with an early immigrant by the name of Mareen Duvall. Mr. Duvall was a French Huguenot who left France for England, and then settled in Maryland in 1650. Sarah Duvall, his great-great-great granddaughter married Elias B. Oden, my great-great-great grandfather. Mareen Duvall "The Emigrator" as he is known is my nine-great grandfather.

Saturday afternoon, before going into work, I was indulging in one of my weaknesses, watching coverage of the political process. I had tuned into "Ballot Bowl" on CNN and they were showing excerpts from the stump speeches of the different presidential candidates. I heard Barack Obama mention once again "his cousin Dick Cheney" and my curiosity got the best of me. I googled "Barack Obama's cousin Dick Cheney" and found the article that told about the family connection between Mr. Obama and Mr. Cheney. Their common ancestor is none other than Mareen Duvall "The Emigrator." As it turns out Barack Obama is my seventh cousin.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Why I Am in Manhattan...

It's 1:35 a.m. and I just got home from another closing shift at Barnes & Noble. The store was exceptionally busy tonight, due in part I'm sure to the lousy weather that kept people home Friday night and because Sunday night many people will be home cheering on the hometown Giants in the Super Bowl.

On my way home, waiting for the #1 train to take me 60 some blocks uptown before walking another seven blocks, I was reflecting on my day and what it means to live in this city and what it takes to live and responding in my head and heart to the question of why I live here. The answer is almost as complex as the city and as varied as the activities and involvements that each day presents.

Today for example, after sleeping in until 9:20 after another closing shift, I spent some time with God and with Charlotte (a rare commodity it seems these days). I was trying to clear my head from my nighttime dose of Nyquil (another pesky cold)! Around 12:20 I made my way up to la Iglesia Presbiteriana on 174th and Wadsworth where a program called Outreach Exodus Inner City meets six days a week. My first cousin once removed, J.J. Pickett, volunteers there on Saturdays. He invited me to meet the executive director Matthew Mahoney. Outreach Exodus provides tutoring after school for students in Washington Heights. On Saturdays they offer a Bible club among other things. Through our Upper Manhattan Missional Community (Origins Church) we are hoping to partner with Outreach Exodus perhaps as tutors, but especially as volunteers to invest in the lives of these at risk kids and by God's grace give them hope for a brighter future. I was privileged to meet some of the volunteers as well as have lunch with Matt, J.J. and Dave.

I left there encouraged and excited about the difference we can make in Jesus' name in our neighborhood as we live the teachings of Jesus in the culture and rhythm of the city. Then I headed off to work and while it seems routine and maybe mundane, that too is a place of ministry.

The air was crisp on my walk home. I saw a drug deal go least that's what it appeared to be...I felt no danger because this is the city that never sleeps and there were others walking home after their long day of work. I am thankful for God's call on my life. I have some strong dreams and desires that I am asking of God, that I would love to see come to be as I live and minister in this city. But I know that all things are in His time. And I am learning to be content.

Blogs I enjoy reading

Manhattan Diary

There are so many opportunities unfolding to partner with God in bringing in the Kingdom. I'm learning more about justice and being stretched on a regular basis. I love partnering with Charlotte to strengthen marriages and prepare couples for married life.

What I'm reading in October 2009

  • Love Is an Orientation
  • Movements that Changed the World
  • ReJesus
  • When Heaven Invades Earth

About Me

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New York, New York, United States
Seeking to live intentionally; bringing the Kingdom of God to contested space!