Nonprofit founder, speaker, author and baseball wife — Gari Meacham is an inspiration to many for her natural leadership in a number of roles. She’s been in the baseball world for more than 40 years and the ministry world for more than 10. Gari’s heart for serving others has even led her across the world to Uganda.
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But when Gari met Bobby Meacham, her husband, she knew nothing about baseball.
The couple began dating in college and transferred from Colorado State University to San Diego State University. Bobby was a first-round draft pick for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the two were engaged that same year.
Gari and Bobby moved nearly 50 times in their first 10 years, and have been married for over 40 years now. “We’ve literally grown up together,” Gari says.
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For someone new to the baseball world, Gari quickly learned about the ups and downs that come with the career. Bobby began playing for the Cardinals in 1981 before heading to the New York Yankees a year later. From there, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Omaha Royals. Upon retirement, he began coaching in the minor leagues before moving up to coaching in the major leagues in 2006.
Gari tells a story about the time Bobby was released from the Rangers. Bobby’s agent called and asked them to get to Los Angeles as soon as they could. The couple was in Florida, and Gari was pregnant with their third child. Nonetheless, they threw everything in a van and drove to L.A. Once they got there, Bobby’s agent informed him he’d been signed by the Pirates — and they had to turn around and drive to Buffalo, New York, where he had been assigned to their Triple-A affiliate.
“That was just par for the course,” Gari says with a laugh.
But once in New York, the duo started a Bible study and built a community. It was constant chaos.
As Gari explains, “God had us where He had us for a reason. Even now, we see the fruit of those years. The things we learned about ourselves were invaluable. All our kids were born there.”
In the meantime, Gari was growing in her faith and building a platform.
She came to know the Lord dramatically as a young woman after surviving an eating disorder and suicidal thoughts. Feeling called to share her story with others, she began doing occasional speaking engagements when her children were young.
”You can’t speak what you don’t know,” she says. “For years, God was teaching me.”
Twenty years later, Gari wrote her first book using her life’s losses and experiences as material. Soon, she found herself on a number of stages ranging from living rooms to stadiums. She loved speaking to and encouraging women. But mission work abroad was never part of her plan. That all changed during her first trip to Uganda.
Gari went to Uganda in 2010 as a favor to her friend’s daughter; her purpose was to bring teachers to start a new school for orphaned children. That three-week trip turned into a journey that would last for years to come.
Gari eventually co-founded an organization called The Vine that serves in Kamuli, Uganda. The Vine is focused on empowering women, educating children and caring for orphans. Now, Gari’s stages are corn fields and mudhut churches.
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“Here, there — it’s all the same. The mission is the same,” she says.
When Gari first began serving in Kamuli, one of the biggest issues people there faced was a lack of safe water. The taps didn’t work and there weren’t any wells. They often had to pay for water, but sometimes that wasn’t possible. A partnership with Water Mission soon became the solution.
Water Mission is a Christian engineering nonprofit that builds safe water, sanitation and hygiene solutions in developing countries and disaster areas. At a Pro Athletes Outreach conference, Gari connected with Scott Linebrink, a former MLB pitcher who had been coached by Bobby in San Diego. Scott works with Water Mission and helped initiate a safe water project on The Vine’s property. Now, water is pumped through a solar-powered treatment system and piped to tap stands in the community, bringing safe water to an estimated 24,000 people per year.
“It’s life-changing when you bring safe water,” Gari says. “It serves spiritual needs and physical needs. Without water, we don’t have life.”
In her words, Water Mission is really good at what it does. The organization goes where it’s led, guided by its values of love, excellence and integrity. Its work with Gari and The Vine has been transformational for the Ugandan community.
When asked for her best piece of advice, Gari shares, “You have to commit to praying. Ask God, ‘What do You want me to know? What do You want me to do?’”
Baseball has taught Gari and her family how to pray and live in faith.
“I sometimes wish I could go back to certain times and do it again,” she says with a smile. “I’d probably do it more calmly and with less groaning. I’ve learned almost everything I know about trusting the Lord from baseball.”
Gari’s relationship with God has led her to encourage women, educate children and bless her brothers and sisters with safe water. These are a testament to her brave and faithful spirit.
Our team in #Uganda recently hosted trauma healing workshops for 150 church leaders who serve in #refugee communities. We pray that the local church will continue to facilitate God’s healing through forgiveness and reconciliation. pic.twitter.com/YmWrUVuvyb
— Water Mission (@water_mission) May 27, 2022
You can learn more about Water Mission and how you can help bring safe water to communities around the world by visiting watermission.org.
Katie Kelton is a freelance writer for Water Mission.
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