By: Maggie Fipps
From left to right: Anna Grace, Elli, Will, Christy, William, David, and Lily Galkin
“They’ll be here in five minutes!” Christy Galkin warns from the front of the trailer.
Anna Grace, William, Lily, David and Eliana Galkin frantically clean up their personal five-square feet of living space, tidying the bunk, throwing underwear in a drawer, and bumping into each other to wipe down the bathroom. Their home sways a bit as they scramble to make themselves presentable.
Soon, the typical pastor and his wife enter the 519 square-foot travel trailer and smile as they look around at where the Galkins lived for the past 15 years.
“Wow, it’s so much bigger in here than it looks on the outside!” they predictably exclaim, as they admired the fold-out dining table, the compact desk, and the fully furnished kitchen, privately marveling at how a family of seven could coexist here.
As they follow the family back to the first bedroom where William and David sleep, they slide open the pocket door to the bathroom adjoining the two bedrooms.
“It just keeps on going!” they laugh. William and David smirk at each other.
“They literally said that every time,” William said.
To most, the Galkins’ life sounds like a novelty. Before Anna Grace, William, and Lily settled at Cedarville University, every week their family drove to a new church, set up weeklong services and reached out to the community. Their dad, Will Galkin, felt the call to start his evangelistic team after he traveled with a similar ministry.
“I actually had a pastor come up to me and go, ‘Hey, are you booking meetings yet?’” Will said. “I had not even declared that I was going to travel in evangelism. In doing the will of God, many times you have your own desires and your gift sets, but when others affirm our gift sets, then that gives an assurance that that’s what we should do.”
35 weeks a year. Hundreds of churches. Thousands of people. Thousands of miles. Countless trailer set-ups, and countless trailer tear-downs. 16 years. 160 team members. 5 kids. 2 parents.
This was Galkin Evangelistic Ministries.
Will and his wife Christy hit the road in 2001, and Anna Grace was born soon after. For the kids, the constant road trip of their lives was ordinary.
“I had no other thought,” William said. “It’s kind of like if you were to ask someone who’s lived their entire life in one place, ‘When was there a moment where you felt like you wanted to quit living in one place?’ There was never really a thought of what life would look like if I did stop traveling.”
While most kids formed relationships with kindergarten classmates and had sleepovers with BFFs, the Galkins developed rhythms to meet new people every week.
William approaches a kid who stands alone in the corner of the church gym and prepares for a conversation he’s had hundreds of times.
“Hey! I’m Will, what’s your name?”
“Oh hi, I’m Jack.”
“Hey Jack, do you go to this church?”
“I don’t actually.”
“Oh, me neither.”
“Where are you from?”
“Well, that’s a hard question to answer. My dad is a traveling evangelist. I travel around the U.S. He preaches at different churches, and I live in a fifth-wheel trailer.”
“Wow, that must be so strange! So, like, what’s your favorite state that you’ve visited?”
“Probably Florida. I have friends there that I really love.”
“So you’re homeschooled then, right?”
“Yes, I’m homeschooled.”
“Well, of course, you know you can’t go to a normal school.”
William smiles a knowing grin and pictures where the conversation normally moves from here.
“Man, you must be really close with your family!”
“Yes, I’m really close with my family.”
Each week, the family began new relationships, poured into them for a few days, then left, and repeated the cycle for months at a time. This lifestyle could have been draining, but their parents always emphasized this was a family ministry, and every member was important.
“My parents communicated that God actually called our whole family to do this, and this is his will for our family, so we all need to be on mission together,” Anna Grace said. “If any one of us was griping about it or complaining about it, it would totally affect the dynamic of the family.”
While the small trailer may have confined them, it also created tight familial bonds as the siblings did everything together.
Dressed in their church clothes after an evening service, the kids all climb into the boys’ bunk bed, snuggled up with their Goldfish. Lily sets up the screening by propping open the TV cabinet with a wooden sword and pops in a VHS. The familiar whistle of the “Andy Griffith” show theme song starts to play, and the kids giggle together at the same Barney and Andy antics they’ve seen a million times.
They were definitely in each other’s business, whether they liked it or not.
“I can’t tell you how many times we would just slide open the door to the boys’ room and one of them was changing,” Lily said. “Everyone was screaming, and we’d have to run back into our room. That happened probably every day.”
Their family also increased by six every year, as new young adults would join the Galkins on the road. While the family slept in their trailer, their team members would stay in host homes the churches provided. Still, the trailer became the center of memories made on the road.
“We would sometimes have the team over, and play Mario Kart with them,” Lily said. “It was fun because each team member would have a specific character that they would always
choose, so I would always associate a team member with a Mario Kart character. For example, Jared (a team member) was Bowser every time and I was always Koopa Troopa.”
These people weren’t simply their parents’ coworkers, they were family. As the Galkins grew up, they began to miss the easy closeness they found in those relationships.
“They allowed me to relate to people on a deeper level, quicker,” Anna Grace said. “Translating that to my peers, it can be hard to find people who you can relate to on that level. I just had to go through an expectation change. Like no, I don’t need to find people who are like me or who I want to like. It’s OK if I can’t relate to them on everything.”
However, today, the Galkins have no shortage of friends and are heavily involved on campus at Cedarville. If you sit in the SSC for any length of time, you will see Lily, 18, and president of the freshman class, as she dashes off to a class council meeting. Just making it through the SSC is like a relay race, as five people stop her to say hi.
William, 19, keeps busy winning speech competitions and pouring himself into his honors classes.
Anna Grace, 21, invests in the Cedarville community in her last year as an RA in Maddox, faithfully providing study sessions or tea times in her unit to create community.
They are each ready to jump in, get involved, and get to know people, all products of the ministry lifestyle that they led for so many years.
“I feel responsible for a lot of things in my life,” Anna Grace said, (her full, color-coded Google Calendar would agree). “I’m pretty task-driven, but also love relationships. I had to be personable. I couldn’t get away with just sitting in the corner by myself, reading. That’s not why we were there.”
For William, the time he spent alone on the road shaped his personality.
“Since we traveled a bunch I only had a week to read a book if it was from that church,” he said. “So I read voraciously growing up, and I loved ideas, and I loved the development of ideas, and I love talking about things deeply.”
Today, the Galkins are finished with their life of constant movement and have settled in Utah. After spending their summers there to help plant churches, they made the move permanent in 2018. Will Galkin now serves as the Outreach and Strategic Multiplication Pastor at Gospel Grace Church in Salt Lake City. The younger siblings, David, 16, and Elliana, 13, are homeschooled and participate in sports and music extracurriculars.
Today, the trailer is sold, three of the kids have moved from Utah to Ohio, and they are now able to cultivate deep friendships with roommates and teachers. They soon found out that these relationships are messy.
“I started realizing that I had to deal with these friends all year round,” Lily said. “It’s not like I left these friends and I’ll see them in a couple of months. I have to see these friends in their hard times. I think it was that year I realized how good it is to be with your church.”
In a few months, Anna Grace will graduate from Cedarville, the location she’s lived the longest. In years past, she had her family beside her in that trailer. Now, she has the friendships she’s forged over the four years of school to guide her on the road trip of the rest of her life.
“When I think about leaving Cedarville, I think of leaving people I now know and love dearly, and about how much we’ve invested in each other,” Anna Grace said. “To be completely honest, I don’t necessarily think of Cedarville as a home. It’s more like a needed bed and breakfast. I’ve got a pit in my stomach thinking about continuing this journey, but friends have a way of seeing each other after a while.”
“God is so faithful.”
*photo provided by Anna Grace Galkin