The Gathering began in 1985 with a simple purpose. A few of us were interested in Christian philanthropy and needed a safe, neutral place to relax, talk, teach, listen, and learn. We wanted to serve as educators and encouragers – and be a sounding board of peers. As much as anything, we wanted to build trust.
We met originally over dinner and have now grown to a sprawling community of a few hundred men, women, children, and grandchildren across multiple generations. Learning what it means to honor God (and each other) has come from the tradition of wisdom being passed along through generations of authentic, vulnerable people knitted together over a long time, as well as welcoming the new faces and new perspectives who come each year.
Wendell Berry wrote, “Community, I am beginning to understand, is made through a skill I have never learned or valued: the ability to pass time with people you do not and will not know well, talking about nothing in particular, with no end in mind, just to build trust, just to be sure of each other, just to be neighborly. A community is not something that you have, like a camcorder or a breakfast nook. No, it is something you do. And you have to do it all the time.”
To be worthy of honor is to accept the responsibility of teaching and living in a way that matters. It has not been a sudden revelation. It has been absorbed from grandparents, parents, and children listening to each other’s lives. As you might guess, we are in this for the long haul. We hope you resonate with this vision, and perhaps consider joining us in the future?
Josh Kwan is the President of The Gathering, where he sets vision and strategy for a learning community of philanthropists motivated by their Christian faith. Previously, he was the Co-Founder and Partner at Praxis, a creative engine for redemptive entrepreneurship whose mission is to build ventures, foster community, and create content for equipping Christian innovators, founders, and funders.
Josh served as the Director of International Giving for the David Weekley Family Foundation, where he divided his time between conducting due diligence on innovative social enterprises and helping portfolio organizations scale their impact. He worked as a journalist and was published in The San Jose Mercury News, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Stanford Social Innovation Review. He also co-founded Abide, a mobile app for encouraging and enlivening the practice of prayer and meditation. He has an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He lives with his family near San Francisco.
Fred Smith is the Founder of The Gathering, which he led for three decades through the end of 2018. As well, Fred was the Founder of Fourth Partner, a local foundation in Tyler that was focused on philanthropy and community development within the East Texas area. He previously joined Bob Buford in founding Leadership Network, where he served as President for 12 years. Fred spent several years as a teacher and administrator at Charlotte Christian School in North Carolina and The Stony Brook School in New York. He is a Navy veteran and a graduate of Denver University and Harvard Divinity School.
Despite a lifetime of accomplishment, Fred will tell you his true vocation is that of a Sunday School teacher and it is this role for which he would most like to be remembered. Fred and his wife, Carol, have two grown daughters and a son-in-law. They also have three well-loved grandchildren.
Maggie Lechner is the Events Director of The Gathering. She plans the logistics for the annual conference as well as trips and receptions throughout the year. Maggie managed weddings for a venue in Arkansas before joining The Gathering. Previously, she spent several years working for Pine Cove, a Christian camping ministry, as a Lead Instructor and School Relations Coordinator for the camp’s outdoor education program, the Institute of Wilderness Studies.
A graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Maggie’s first job after college was writing podcast material for the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program. She and her husband, Coleson, live in Texas with their daughter.
Hannah Carter is the GenNext Director for The Gathering. She runs the youth program, for ages 3 to 18, during our annual conference. Hannah also works for Pine Cove, a Christian ministry with 12 camps for children and families in Texas and South Carolina, since 2008. While she was managing Pine Cove’s mobile day camp, Hannah started directing the GenNext program for The Gathering.
Hannah graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with degrees in Elementary and Special Education. In college, Hannah worked as a private behavior therapist for students with autism. She met her husband, Caleb, during one of her summer stints as a camp counselor at Pine Cove. They are raising their daughter in South Carolina.
Board of Directors
Bob and Sarah Caldwell
Raymond and Joan Conn
Todd and Karen Hendricks
Greg and Marybeth Lernihan
Todd and Susan Peterson
Peachtree Corners, GA