A New Chapter

2020 will be a memorable year for the Herring family.  Of course we’ve had the pandemic and closing of on campus schooling and everything else that has come with this Covid 19 pandemic year.  But 2020 is also the year that God has moved our family out of Mexico and back to Wilmington, NC. 

When we first moved to Puerto Escondido in 2013 to run GEM and start the Manantial School we knew our commitment was a lot like a blank check to God.  We didn’t know how long we were going to be living in Mexico…or what would really happen with the mission we were founding. We just went with a clear calling and no plans or timetable for returning.  7 years later God made it clear it was our time to return to the US and serve with GEM from Wilmington.

We have been back in Wilmington for 3 weeks.  Our resettling has been easy and filled with blessing after blessing, largely because of our family and church.  We moved into the same house we left behind in 2013 and have restarted our lives here.  As Meg and I have been reflecting, we’ve notices that so much has changed…but many things are also the same. We have the same neighbors, same house, and of course our family and church are the same.  Meg and I have joked several times as we sit at our kitchen table (same table as before the move) how it feels like we’ve just picked up the life we left behind in 2013.  

But there are some significant and obvious changes too. Our family has grown from 2 children to 5, Manantial has grown from 0 students to over 220. And 1 school has grown into 4. There has also been change in our hearts.  God has taught us and shown us so much during our time in Mexico.  There’s too much to share in this blog post, but I can summarize it this way. God has repeatedly proven Himself faithful and convinced us, even in our moments of weak faith, that we can truly trust Him and praise Him no matter what is happening around us.  We believed this before we left for Mexico…it’s the reason we obeyed and started GEM. But we know this truth at a deeper level now.  

So many times between 2011 (when GEM was officially founded) and 2020 it looked like GEM was in serious trouble. We’ve faced financial shortfalls, recruiting/staffing shortfalls, immigration issues, local church challenges, governmental pressure, threats from other schools in Mexico, and on and on.  On top of that, I have struggled through the normal challenges of learning how to start and run a gospel saturated school in another country.  Countless times over the last 9 years I wanted to “throw in the towel” because of my professional shortcomings and failures.  

But I am convinced God has allowed these struggles to be a part of my journey for my good. I have been forced, through the constant challenges, to pray more and call out to Him as my only hope. This is right where He’s always wanted me, and I love Him more because I can see how He truly never left me.  

With all that said…don’t assume I have it all together! I certainly don’t! I have not arrived at some super spiritual place and all is right in life. I’m in process and all that God has done in my heart is going to be used to give me just enough courage to press on and continue to overcome in this next chapter of life and ministry.  

So what’s ahead? It looks like God desires to use GEM to reach more people and grow in our ability to impact those we serve.  We have 3 schools in Mexico, 1 in Uganda, and another opening in Colombia.  We also have several other potential school projects around the corner. God is growing GEM and its exciting!  Our move back to Wilmington is part of a big transition and step for our ministry. We believe opening an office in Wilmington will allow us to develop better partnerships, recruit and train more missionaries, and better serve all of our schools.  We have repeatedly talked about this being the start of a new chapter for GEM.  

We’re excited and can’t wait to see what God will do. We know it will be challenging and at times really hard, but that’s okay.  God has always done his best work in my heart in those times. 

Please pray for GEM as we start this new chapter. Pray for our leaders as we open our office and work to develop new roles. Pray that our ministry would grow in impact and that those who are served in our schools would truly know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.


– Casey Herring, GEM Co-Founder

Our Journey To GEM

It is crazy to think that in less than 50 days Hannah and I will be sitting in training alongside the other missionaries of GEM! Our journey to Global Education Ministries was one that we never could’ve imagined but one that our Heavenly Father ordained from the very beginning.

Well before we knew one another, our desire for missions was growing and intensifying. For Hannah, it began in high school as she had been given the opportunity to serve on several domestic missions trips and a few international trips as well. She knew that God was growing in her a passion to live radically for Him whatever that might look like. Hannah chose to pursue teaching so she could meet a practical need while also focusing her heart on being in full-time ministry. Little did she know she was taking steps towards GEM.

For myself, it began during the summer after my Freshman year of college. I had the privilege to serve as a camp counselor at a camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. It was there that I listened to several missionaries share their experiences and the ways that they saw God move. After that summer I decided to start learning more and begin participating firsthand. During my Sophomore and Junior years, I was able to experience urban church planting in several different cities as well as attend a mission trip to serve the local shoe shiners of Bolivia. Little did I know I was taking steps towards GEM.

When Hannah and I began dating we had conversations about our desire to serve in ministry and more specifically in international missions. As we continued to date and near marriage, the conversations took on a more practical tone and we began to speak with different organizations about serving overseas. We didn’t know where we would go or who we would serve with but we continued to pursue the calling we knew God had placed on our lives. After our wedding in May of 2019, the conversations became more and more serious. Hannah and I decided that we would forgo “making our home” like so many newlyweds do. Instead, we felt that now more than ever the Lord was preparing for us to go and we wanted to be ready. Little did we know we were taking steps towards GEM.

In the Fall of 2019, we applied and interviewed for teaching jobs in South America. We could not be more excited as everything was so promising. To our surprise, the opportunities that we thought were promising ended suddenly and we were left not knowing what to do or where to go. We were heartbroken. We decided that after Hannah finished school we would move closer to family. Little did we know we were taking steps towards GEM.

But God had other plans.

Through a dear friend, we were connected with Global Education Ministries. We didn’t carry any expectations into our first conversation with GEM as we thought that we had already made the decision to move closer to family. We were blown away after hearing more about GEM. It was evident that they loved one another, cared for the people that they were serving, and were propelled to action by the Gospel. There was something so different about GEM and our hearts were drawn because of it. We took a while to pray about serving with GEM as we didn’t want to make a decision on a whim or jump ahead of where God might want us. God gave us great peace as we accepted the missionary positions. In February of 2020, our journey to GEM officially began!

As followers of Jesus, we are not of this world and do not live according to it (Romans 12). We live according to the Kingdom of God and the way of Jesus. We have been radically changed by the free grace that we have been shown, therefore, we cannot live as we once did. We are propelled by the Gospel to live radically for the Kingdom of God and to make the Gospel message known. It was clear from the first conversation that GEM was made up of people choosing to live in that faith. They were saturated in the Gospel both in the ways that they lived and in how they served others.

Over the last several months Hannah and I have continued to take steps towards serving in Puerto Escondido with GEM. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we were encouraged by another GEM missionary. She shared that despite the unknown that we faced, none of it was a surprise to God. We have continued to learn more about who God is as we have seen him continually provide and encourage us through others and through his word.

Our journey to GEM was one that we never could’ve imagined but one that our Heavenly Father ordained from the very beginning. In the same way that God has done far more abundantly than we could have ever asked or imagined along this journey, we are confident that he will continue to do so as we move to Mexico. See you soon, Puerto!


– James Shank, GEM Missionary

Surrendering What We Can’t Control

During this time of quarantine and of plans not happening and disappointments, God has really been teaching me some things that are true.

As we received news that school would not go back this school year, we were so disappointed. As we have made plans to move back to the U.S. at the end of this school year, this was definitely not the ending we imagined. So what do you do when disappointment and an array of different emotions come? When you feel so frustrated and mad and sad? We were even more frustrated because we could not even get back to Juquila where we live. We came to Puerto Escondido when all of this started and thought maybe we would come for a couple of weeks. We ended up staying a couple of months as the roads and towns shut down that we’d have to travel through to get back to Juquila. We have no control over anything; I’ve seen that truth shared so many times in this whole pandemic. It is true though. We cannot control the way these small towns are handling the virus; we cannot control the decisions our government makes. We definitely cannot control the current state of the world, and we cannot control whether the plans we make happen or not.

The fact that we have no power to change those things can be really overwhelming, but it is a humbling truth and I am finding freedom and deeper joy when I surrender this. And in that surrender, I can see things that I actually can control to an extent. I can decide what I read, what I do or don’t scroll through, if I spend quality time at the feet of Jesus. These things are so worthy to be taken seriously. I could waste an entire day just worried and overwhelmed dwelling on the things I want to be different but are not. Or, as these frustrations come, I can feel them, think upon them, and then surrender them. God is trustworthy. And so that means that this is true from Matthew 6:26-34:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Maybe it is hard for me sometimes to believe that I do not need to worry because I do not deeply think upon what I actually need. I feel worried and anxious because my plans are canceled. But I am never promised perfect plans. I get overwhelmed because the world is in chaos. But I am not promised a peaceful world, not until Jesus makes all things new. What is true is that I have Jesus, a close companion and friend. And the Holy Spirit that raised Him from the dead lives in me. Just the power of that alone should make ANY circumstance a miracle!

Sometimes it is hard to see it, but He really is making all things new. This is true, but in order to see His working, we must think upon the things of the Spirit. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These are the things that God wants to grow in us. And as much as these circumstances are hard, as many disappointments there are, I believe that circumstances like these are actually great soil for these fruits to grow.

And I say all of this not to belittle anxiety and worry or to say that any of what is happening is good. I have just been very encouraged to have a perspective change. Our world and our lives have changed in so many ways in the last few months, but God remains the same. And His heart for us is to know Him and grow in Him so that we can love Him and others. Even though things look different, we still have just as much access and maybe even more time to see and grow in His purpose for us.


-Annie Balsley, GEM Missionary

Remembering God is Our Remedy

Something that has become strikingly clear to me in the last couple months is just how easy it is to forget who God is when we are not constantly clinging to Him. The Scriptures scream the goodness and truth about God, “in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11)… “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10)… “your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36:5)”… “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10), etc.

It is clear that we have a Father who is good, who loves us and is determined to show us his all-sufficient love. We have a Savior who willingly suffered in our place, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11)… “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (10:18). This is just amazing news. Amazing!!! The logical response to these truths is to praise God forever and never leave his side!

However, we have a sinful nature that causes us to wander and forget. Not only do we naturally desire sin, but there is an evil one who constantly seeks to turn us against our Father. The fight against our flesh is constant and I don’t think I had realized the significance of this until recently. It is a real battle that we must take seriously. The very moment we take our eyes of Jesus, that is when sin gets a foothold and begins its course of destruction. It can look so subtle too, almost harmless… something like, ‘I can’t pray right now because I have this errand I really need to run’ or ‘I just need a few more minutes of sleep instead of reading the Word today’, or ‘why not just take one look at that thing, it won’t hurt’. Worshipping the god of self and the god of pleasure are frighteningly easy and without a constant grasping of the truth, we forget the goodness of God faster than you can say go. Satan knows we are weak and he uses temptation to turn our eyes from truth. We see this in Genesis 3:6 when it says, “so when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate”. Now as much as Satan played a role Adam and Eve’s fall, Eve was responsible for choosing sin in the face of temptation.

The battle with our flesh can seem like an impossible mountain to climb. BUT, the greatest news that has brought me joy this season is that we have a victorious Savior who has already won the battle for us and is here to lift us up out of the dirt. I must remember to cling to the truth about God – that He loves me and paid the ultimate price for me even when I was dead in my trespasses… He is worth far more than any earthly treasure… he is worth more than any other relationship or pleasure I could attain, and He is a good, loving God who is here to fight with me. 

It says in James 4:7-8, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”. In Psalm 34:18 we read, “The LORD is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. Hebrews 2:10 says, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”. Romans 6:6-7 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin”, and finally, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” – 1 Peter 2:24. 

Wow. What an incomprehensible, beautiful hope we have! What a loving, Faithful, conquering God we serve. We must cling tightly to these TRUTHS so that we may stand firm and unshakable in the face of temptation. Remembering God is our remedy. Let us fall in love with him and be forever changed.


– Natalia Saint Clair, GEM Missionary

Missionary Teachers

(Belief in) The priesthood of all believers means giving dignity to the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick maker…praying for them like you would a missionary sent to Papa New Guinea.”          – Steve Garber

It’s been over two years now since my wife and I moved from Virginia to Mexico to teach with Global Education Ministries. I remember the moment that Kristen told me about this opportunity to move to Mexico to work at this school. One of my first thoughts and concerns was what I was going to do. Let’s be honest, the main reason we were being asked to move to Mexico was for Kristen to teach…and then maybe let’s see how Daniel could fit in as well. It turned out that I could help with some administrative stuff and help with some recruiting, which I enjoyed doing. But in addition to this, I was asked to teach an elective the first year. If you knew me as a young boy, you know that teaching is way outside of my comfort zone.

Last year, I was asked to teach Bible class to 8th-grade classes and I did. Now this year, I am teaching math and Bible. Now I would say that I am far from a qualified teacher, but God has used this in my life to show me how He works in common, everyday jobs. He has used these opportunities to remind me of my need of dependence upon Him. But more than what God has shown me, He has used me and allowed me to build relationships with my students and share about true life that is found in Jesus. It has led Kristen and I to having a strong bond with several of our students and their families.

I am not the biggest fan of teaching. In fact, it has been really hard for me. However, teaching has been a tool for what my soul truly longs for. Teaching has allowed me to build relationships beyond the walls of a small classroom Monday through Friday. It has given me the freedom to speak into these young boys and girls and share my life with them. My hope is that I don’t only become a better teacher or administrator, but that my love for Jesus exceeds the confines of my classroom and my desk to proclaim the goodness of my King. Whatever job that I have now or in the future is the avenue in which Christ will be shared.

Two weeks ago, we had a chapel for the middle school students and I had the privilege of sharing. I talked about our life and how it is a vapor. It is so short compared to eternity. I urged our students to love and treasure Jesus above all things in their lives. After this time, one of my students whom I had spent a lot of time with came to me and said that He feels far from God. We were able to talk about God and his goodness and that he doesn’t have to do a set of rules to be close to Jesus. I asked him what God was speaking to him about and he responded, “I want to follow Jesus. I want to live for Him.” The Holy Spirit had drawn him to the realization of his sin and the need for Jesus. THIS! This is why I am at this school. This is why we need Christians in every type of workplace to proclaim His goodness and grace. Do you have a normal job where you work 40 hours or more surrounded by people who may not know Jesus? Perfect. Jesus lived a normal life as a carpenter for 30 years. God is working in your context. Are you listening as He speaks?


-Daniel McDonald, GEM Missionary 
If you’d like to support Daniel and his wife, Kristen as they serve with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact them directly to talk further about what it means to be on their support-team and find out how you can be praying for them!

Home

My summer was busy. Actually, busy is a bit of an understatement. In my six weeks away from Puerto, I spent time in four US states and all four time zones. Most of the time, I felt overwhelmed. Beyond anything I could manage or accomplish on my own. Through it all, God remained steadfast and faithful. He even graciously gave me quiet moments of solitude and rest in coffee shops, restaurants, and rooms where I was able to step away and experience peace amidst my chaotic schedule. Despite the busyness of my travels, once I arrived, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Right, where God wanted me. I felt at home.

Now I consider myself to be a bit of a wanderer, so home is an interesting construct. I have lived quite a few places and visited even more throughout my life. As a result, I have many homes and none simultaneously. I feel at home and like a foreigner all at the same time, no matter where I am physically located. This may have been how many people in the Bible felt…

These people all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Three of the four places I visited I consider home – surrounded by people I love; my friends and family. I was excited to be there and to see everyone. It was not the place that made it home, but the people. I was filled with mixed emotions each time I left one place for the next; often leaving before I was ready to go.

Surprisingly, I felt this same peace and excitement to be home when I landed in Puerto. The journey back was longer and more trying than anticipated but knowing I was back, I was filled with unexpected contentment. I am right where God wants me; in the center of His will. I am home. My home is not on this earth, but with God. If I remain in obedience to Him, I will get a semblance of home regardless of where I find myself. I long for the day I find myself truly home, face-to-face with the Lord. Until then, I will continue to seek His will in obedience.

The result of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness
will be quiet confidence forever.
Then my people will dwell in a peaceful place,
in safe and secure dwellings. (Isaiah 32:17-18)


-Angela Fontanelli, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Angela as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!