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Interviews

April 2004


Books by
Andrea Jaeger


FIRST SERVICE


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Andrea Jaeger


INTERVIEW

April 2004

FaithfulReader.com contributing writer Marcia Ford interviews author Andrea Jaeger, who stunned the world of professional tennis when she retired shortly after injuring her shoulder in 1984. Just four years earlier, at the age of 14, Andrea had turned pro, eventually becoming the number-two ranked female player in the world. Equally stunning was her decision to dedicate her $1.4 million in lifetime earnings toward helping cancer-stricken children.

Today, her Silver Lining Ranch and Foundation in Aspen, Colorado, gives cancer patients and their families a place to enjoy life, have some fun, and appreciate the beauty of God's creation. All of Andrea's proceeds from FIRST SERVICE, her debut book, will be donated to children's charities and ministries.

FR: What prompted you to write FIRST SERVICE at this point in your life?

AJ: God made me aware that it was time to share my faith. I was focusing on running children's cancer programs and fundraising, and God came upon my heart and spirit. He shared that it was time for me to write a book about my spiritual journey and faith so others could learn how God loves His children and provides for them.

FR: What do you hope to accomplish through this book?

AJ: I am excited for people to learn about the power of prayer and the importance of having a personal relationship with God. Faith is an incredible way to step forth. It can be easy to get caught up in daily routines. God wants people to reach out to Him for all their needs so He can line people up with their purpose and calling in life. There are eternal blessings in coming to the Lord. The book also shows how it is important for people to realize the responsibility of protecting, supporting and helping children. 100 percent of my writing proceeds are going to help children in need, so that is an added bonus to the book.

FR: Aspiring writers, as well as readers, would no doubt enjoy hearing how you found a publisher for the book. Tell us about your experience in L.A. last year that led to selling the book to HCI.

AJ: God instructed me to write the book, and I stepped out in faith. It was a great deal of hard work, countless 20-hour days. I had nearly completed the first rough draft when I found out in booking an LA hotel reservation that Book Expo America (BEA) was in LA at the same time I would be there. I had less than a week to get the manuscript out of my computer, do a spell check, place page numbers and get a pretty plastic cover and binder on it.

Walking into the Book Expo to register I saw a gigantic banner overhead stating "Make plans for next year's Book Expo June 4-6 in Chicago." God let me know that my book would be published for that book expo, as I was born in Chicago on June 4th.

The next morning I confidently walked in, fully knowing God would direct me. He did. I found my way to the HCI booth. The convention center was full of booths, publishers and countless areas to visit. It could have been overwhelming, but I knew God had a plan. I went to the HCI booth, and one of the founders and the president, Peter Vegso, was there. I introduced myself, explained that I wrote a book that still needed editing, along with the last chapter, as I wasn't finished yet. Peter was very excited. I knew God's plan was working. I received hotel information from Peter to drop off the manuscript and immediately went to do that task. God was my agent. I stepped out in faith that the one place I walked to, the one person I spoke to, was the one God arranged to publish my book.

In a week I had follow up calls and details about a contract. The Chicago June 4-6 Book Expo? I will be there with my published book.

FR: Most celebrity authors use ghostwriters or co-authors, but you wrote this book on your own. What was the writing process like for you?

AJ: I had help indeed --- not a ghost writer but the Holy Ghost. I look back and I am amazed at the process I was able to complete. I did work 20-hour days for a long time, because I would work on fundraising and children's cancer programs during the day and write the book at night and the early mornings. The more I wrote about God's influence on my life the more I enjoyed it, so I added more day hours to write. I loved the entire writing process even though there were hurdles along the way. Going back through my entire childhood and professional tennis career was interesting. There were incredible blessings in both areas but also learning experiences that were challenging. There were occasions where I would laugh with sheer joy at recalling how God was always picking me up throughout my life as I stumbled along so hungry for a closer relationship with Him. It became so apparent that even as a young child God was embracing me with His love, sending me angels, blessings and protection because I called out to Him with childlike faith.

The day I finished the entire manuscript and turned it in was December 12, 2003 --- the day my dad died after a two-year battle with brain tumors. The journey of writing was different from writing in my journal, because I was announcing my faith to the world, sharing how God communicates with me and how He has always been my best friend. Also, while I was writing, besides my dad going through cancer, two of my dogs went through it and died too. So I got a puppy. Little Lola was so funny --- she would topple on my computer oblivious to the hard work and labor of love going into the pages. There was innocence and pure joy all along the way. Running the children's programs and fundraising during the writing kept me well aware that God was equipping someone like me who knew nothing about publishing to do something very extraordinary, writing a book and getting it published. He loves doing that --- bringing normal people to do extraordinary things in His name, for His glory.

I also had a great team. Heidi Bookout cheered me on the entire time. Heidi and others prayed along with other people to help me. It was important to have people who believed and supported the project. That arrived in several forms at perfect times. The editor I worked with, Christine Belleris, was wonderful. God was showing how all the divine appointments He provided were all part of the book, and those stories took shape in special and sacred ways.

FR: From an early age, you had a profound awareness of the presence of God, even though you did not grow up in a strong faith environment. How did you come to believe in God and trust in Him as completely as you have?

AJ: Wow! The gift of faith. God planted a seed in me and I was so happy to get close to Him. Prayers at night, even as a child, were important to me. I always had great faith. It was easy to have that faith grow because God was frequently sending me visions, dreams, messages, signs, wonders, miracles and blessings. There was such a serenity, peace, comfort and joy when God placed His love in unique ways to me. Embracing the light and love of God was comfortable and normal for me. As time went by the experiences grew along with my faith.

FR: Your relationship with God has involved a number of experiences that could be considered mystical. You mention in your book that you have had visions at the most unlikely of times, in very ordinary situations. Describe what that's like.

AJ: God understands the way to touch someone's spirit, soul and heart. The caring nature in which He placed His communication to me showed His enormous love. Through my faith I learned to welcome what started becoming continual occurrences of God's divine presence and messaging service with me. The most major adjustment I had in receiving God's communications was in understanding that not everyone around me was receiving them as I was. Whether due to not being open, lack of faith, fear, whatever the reason, others were not enjoying the incredible divine blessings and communication I was. That was the only hard part, as I wanted everyone to experience what I was, because the release of the visions, images, details, love, light and many other profound divine experiences were captivating, incredible and certainly revealed from God with a purpose and plan.

FR: You invested your lifetime earnings into helping children with cancer. How did the people in your life, especially your family, respond to that decision?

AJ: It was an education watching the variety of people react to my commitment to helping children with cancer. My family was a bit dismayed that all my earnings they wanted for me to have to live on comfortably were given away. They were not sure I would understand the results of my consequences, that I may never again have a career such as tennis to have such monetary gain. Writing and thinking back in time about my parents' reactions when I sold my Mercedes Benz to help those in need still makes me chuckle a bit at those memories. I thought they would have heart attacks when they found that out. In time they understood the whats and the whys.

A few players from the tennis tour had complete lack of understanding in my efforts. I knew God understood my actions. Heidi Bookout not only supported my decision but also ended up emptying her accounts as well to help get the foundation off the ground.

FR: Even as a teenager on the pro tennis circuit, you seemed to know that your life was not about tennis as much as it was about helping children. What made you sense that so strongly?

AJ: I always looked at tennis as a sport. I never placed it as the only thing in life. God helped me gain that perspective. While traveling as a teenage professional tennis player I had the blessing of bringing toys to children in a hospital. I entered the Helen Hayes Hospital [in Haverstraw, New York] feeling like Santa Claus, and I left with my life's purpose. One boy had no hands and challenged me to play some video games. His spirit was engaging, and life soared from him. He had no concern about his lack of hands. I and all the players I was on tour with had careers as a result of what we could accomplish with our hands, yet I wondered if we had the passion for life as the young boy did. A young girl danced with her IV pole, allowing the metal apparatus to be her playful partner. Another child came to me and touched my long blonde pigtails as if pondering, "Wow, it must be a bother to wash and dry." She had no hair due to chemotherapy treatments and her reaction was to look at the positive aspects of the loss of hair --- no need to wash or dry it.

It was heartwarming to watch their sheer exuberance of life. People were filling the playroom where we were at to see what all the laughter was about. I felt the transformation and the pure joy in the room with all of us. I made a declaration to myself in that room: "When I grow up I am going to help children who are stuck in hospitals." God helped me make that promise come to fruition.

FR: Describe the shoulder injury that ended your tennis career and how it impacted your life.

AJ: I was playing at The French Open. I was up 5-0 in the first set and felt my shoulder pop while hitting a backhand. It was extremely painful. The career-ending injury mindset settled in immediately, as this was no normal injury. I defaulted then, eventually having seven shoulder surgeries. I always looked at the injury as a gift. God gave me a great tennis career, and then He decided it was time for me to help children full-time.

FR: You've seen so much suffering among the children you minister to and so much grieving on the part of the families. How do you reconcile that with your belief and faith in a loving God?

AJ: I don't question the bigger picture, as only God knows the bigger picture. The children I work with become wise teachers in many ways. They provide the answers and the questions of how we should all appreciate each day as a gift from God. The heart-wrenching sorrow and grief that the families go through is with enormous pain and suffering.

God doesn't leave during those times. The cross is there to hold on to through good and painful times. The families share and show others what can be accomplished with God's love. I know I was chosen to help the children and their families, so that is what I focus on. I have never lost my faith or doubted God. He provides the ways and means to survive the pain and suffering for the children, families and caregiver support system. The Silver Lining staff, led by Heidi, Chris [Wyman] and me, have the attitude that "the children are not dying of cancer, they are living with cancer. So, let's do our part to bring joy, laughter, fun and long-term support while the child and family are going through life with cancer."

FR: A number of well-known celebrities --- such as Paul Newman and Cindy Crawford --- have endorsed your book and support the Silver Lining Ranch. Often, celebrities simply lend their names and their money to charitable causes, but it seems that in your case, they actually read the book and became actively involved in the ranch. How did you accomplish that? What does it mean to you to see so many "names," people who could simply write out a check and be done with it, support your ministry in tangible ways?

AJ: Wow! It's all about the divine appointments. God brought those people in to help just as He has brought any person who has donated or helped with our programs. It was a big leap of faith for me to get out there and write the book. Having people endorse it with such love and support captivates my heart. I was prepared to do it alone if I had to, but God had a bigger better plan. He brought in Heidi and then slowly, one after another, people came in to be part of The Silver Lining Foundation family. We are always fundraising. It has been a continual journey. However, the exciting result of fourteen years of fundraising and even more years of praying is that we completed another day of helping the children and families. Through more hard work, fundraising and praying, if we can do it another day and another day, the miracles and blessings come together.

It is a tribute to what can be done with one person. The one person who says, "I can make a difference to help," chooses that action, and collectively we are all united in God's glory to help children. Given that, I still am in amazement at the kindness and generosity of words and spirit that people chose in endorsing the book and in general how people contribute fully with their hearts. It is an honor for me to have
each and every person's love, prayers, donations and support.

FR: In addition to the ranch, you've become involved in children's charities around the world, in particular in South Africa, where you've worked with Nelson Mandela. How are you involved with children there?

AJ: Through proceeds from the book we have already helped children in Africa by helping build an orphanage and pay for medical costs and supplies for children. This was a direct result from a young man who felt compelled to travel to Africa to help children in need there. Nelson Mandela visited the Benedict Forstmann Silver Lining Ranch, and I made a promise to him that we would help children in Africa. We have come through on the promise because of the efforts of caring servants of God. This young man, James, went to Africa and made a difference because he could. He believed, and we have joined together. Already children around the world have been brought to a brighter place because God called forth those to make a difference, and we are honored to be part of those efforts in reaching out to others in need.

FR: What are some upcoming projects for you? Any interest in doing another book?

AJ: The foundation's children's programs are year-round. I am also on a five-week nationwide tour, visiting children in hospitals, schools and juvenile prisons to share the Word of God and deliver copies of my book and fun goodies. There are about fourteen city visits on this part of the mission. It starts again in the summer and fall, with other cities to be added in. Lots of fundraising to do as well. I have a lifelong commitment to help children, and I am certainly excited to honor that.

Faith and studying the Bible are lifetime blessings too. I would love to work on a children's book. I am sure more writing work is out there for me as God calls me forth on projects.

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