Unsung Heroes: An Interview with Fred and Joe Gonzini

Fred and Joe Gonzini serve on the Trades and Engineering team at Willow Creek Community Church.
Fred and Joe tour the new Promiseland space during renovations. The father and son duo have a played key roles in transforming the space.
Joe spent time on a serving trip to El Salvador building ovens for local families.
Joe currently works as a full-time technician with the Trades and Engineering staff.
Fred went on a serving trip to the Dominican Republic where they built additions on a Willow Creek partner church.
Fred continues to use his gifts by actively serving with the Trades and Engineering team.

Fred and Joe met me at Dr.B’s at our South Barrington campus. Fred, Joe’s dad, began telling me about his upbringing—how he and his wife both grew up Catholic, which influenced them to do the same with their own children.

With Joe sitting next to him, Fred told me about the trouble he had raising Joe during Joe’s high school years: “I was looking for help, but I didn’t know how to get it.”

It was during that time that Fred came to Willow for the first time. “We came a few years ago to see the Special Friends’ play, Annie, Jr., because our cousin’s daughter was starring in the show.” When I asked him what brought him back after that play, he told me that two weeks later, he decided to tell his wife he was going back to Willow to check out a service for himself.

Fred sat in the back during his first visit. He was moved by the worship, so much so that he started crying, but didn’t know why. “I’d never cried before!” he told me. That same morning, he heard a clear, compelling message from the stage, and said the message was all he could think about. He went home, convinced his wife to come with him the next time, and made his way to Willow’s website. It was during that Internet search that Fred found information about Willow’s Recover program. “I didn’t know what I wanted. I just knew I wanted more.”

It was at that time that Joe spoke up. “My dad asked me to come to Recover. He begged me, actually. I’d been doing drugs and when I showed up for the first time, I really felt welcomed. I felt like everyone truly cared about me and wanted to help.” Joe had attended a few services when he decided to check into an outpatient program. During his rock-bottom moment, his dad Fred joined a Monday-night Trades & Engineering volunteer team and invited him along. Joe knew he was ready to give up drugs and turn his life around. “Recovery became easy once I was ready,” Joe told me.

With the help of Recover and the men from the volunteer Trades team, Joe was encouraged to begin serving at Willow, a place that had been so central to his recovery journey. Five years ago, he filled out an application for Campus Care and has, over time, found his way to serving full-time on the Trades & Engineering staff as a technician.

Over the past couple of years, Fred and Joe have found much solidarity in navigating their recovery journeys together. The men from their Recover and Trades communities have served as representatives of God’s goodness and faithfulness in each of their lives.

Last year, in response to God’s faithfulness, and out of a desire to do more, Fred went to the Dominican Republic to serve with a Trades team there. Later that year, Joe took a similar trip to El Salvador. Both trips were transformational, providing opportunities for Joe and Fred to use their gifts and to serve others—just as they had benefitted from others encouraging them in their journeys.

Currently, both Fred and Joe are instrumental members of the Promiseland renovation team. They showed me around a few of the spaces that are being restored for the kids in our church. It was an honor and a privilege to see the work that these two men have contributed behind the scenes to make our church better. In actuality, this is their story, too. They’ve both been restored by Christ and the church, in more ways than one, and are now carrying out the redeeming work of Christ—in our church and in our world.

If you want to get involved with the Trades and Engineering team, go here, select "Trades & Engineering" from the Ministry filter, and find out how you can serve!

Volunteer with Promiseland Renovations

Do you enjoy doing demo or construction projects? The Willow Creek Trades & Engineering is leading a Saturday work team to help make history at Willow South Barrington. This team will begin to demo, prep, and build the new spaces for kids in Promiseland now and years to come. Choose the date you wish to serve to sign up:

February 17
February 24
March 3
March 10
March 17
March 24
April 7
April 14
April 21
April 28

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