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

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

My Journey to Mexico

God has led me to the country of Mexico after college, but why? Why am I going? How did He “lead me” there?


Over the past year (at least), the Lord has been ordering my steps so that I would be going to Mexico in August. It is crazy to think about how intentional God is, but I am so thankful He works in ways that I could never comprehend.
 
My story starts about a year ago when I was in South Africa with a college ministry. At that time, I believed I would have been going on staff with that ministry when I graduated in May of 2018. However, the Lord made it abundantly clear through that trip and a few months afterward that He was not calling me to go on staff with this college ministry. I went through a season where I mourned the loss of this dream. I had no idea what I would be doing after school.
 
While I was studying Elementary Education, I really did not want to teach. When the door closed to the college ministry, I could not even begin to imagine what I would do after graduation. However, in God’s kindness and love, He began to grow my love of teaching. I found a joy while I was teaching that was not experienced outside of it. I knew that God was leading me to be a teacher. I was overjoyed. My family was excited. I finally knew what I was going to do! I knew I would be teaching in the Greensboro, NC area after I graduated.
 
In addition to this, I was seriously dating a guy and had just joined a Church in the area where I was beginning to experience an incredible community. I was thrilled to finally be finishing my college career and beginning to start planting roots somewhere.
 
Oh how often I try to plan what I think my life should look like and how it should go.

Proverbs 16:9

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

The guy that I was dating and I broke up at the beginning of my spring semester of senior year. My family started to fall apart, literally, and I was beginning student teaching. Needless to say, that semester was going to be a constant fight for joy and hope in the Lord. However, the Lord was so incredibly kind in what He was doing in my life.
 
Little did I know, He was setting the stage for me to get connected to Global Education Ministries (GEM).

Global Education Ministries 

They are a ministry that is based out of Wilmington, NC that believes that education is an incredible tool to get the Gospel of Jesus Christ into communities that do not have access to Him. They plant schools with teachers and staff who are passionate about making much of Jesus through their work. Their first, and largest, school is located in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. It houses almost 200 students that are in Pre-K through 9th grade.
 
So how do I fit into this?
God so graciously has called me to be a 2nd-grade teacher at Centro Educativo el Manantial for the next two years.
I get to partner with a community of people that want to make Jesus known through their work, and I have the chance to take part in it. I get to be a very small part of what God is doing throughout the world in a country that is not my own. It is a privilege to know God because of Jesus’ work on the cross, as He took the punishment I deserved so that I could be made right before a perfect and holy God. It is humbling and exciting to be joining this team.
 
If I would have had it my way, I would be doing something far different than this, but luckily, God had established my steps, not me. I will strive to faithfully walk in the way that He has called me to walk, as I seek to know more of God and make Him known.
 
God is so kind to His people.

-Rachel Hill, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Rachel 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!

Jenna’s Call to Mexico

Growing up, I have listened to many missionaries speak at my church, and throughout different church events that I attended. My eyes and heart were always filled with wonder and awe as I listened to these missionaries speak and share their love for Jesus and what they did overseas. In the depths of my heart, I prayed many times that the Lord would allow me to be a missionary overseas. I wanted to experience what these missionaries were doing, and I wanted to make an impact for Christ.

As I got older, I became very complacent in my walk with the Lord. I did not grasp the Gospel for myself, but I was trying to live a life that was striving for perfection, not satisfaction in Christ. I still dreamed of becoming a missionary, but in the back of my mind, I never thought that it would happen.

In 2014, at the age of seventeen, I went to the Word of Life Bible Institute. That year, the Lord radically changed my life, my heart, and the way that I saw the Gospel and people. The Gospel became real to me, I took hold of my relationship with Jesus as my own. As I did that, by His grace, I saw missions in a new light. After my two years at the Word of Life Bible Institute, I see missions as not just an overseas thing, but an everyday life mission. I see that wherever I am, I am a missionary. Wherever I am, I want the love and grace of Jesus to pour out of me, and that is only through His strength!

Recently, I had the privilege to go to Portugal on a two-month  missions trip. I loved every minute of it and saw the hand of Jesus through everything. It was there that I prayed for the Lord to guide me where He wants me to be next. I want to use the gifts that God has given me to honor Him, and I prayed that God would use my gifts in any way He wants. The Lord reminded me of the passion that He has given me for kids! I absolutely love kids. I think each one of them is incredible, special, and uniquely made by the Lord for His purpose and glory. I knew about Global Education Ministries, and when I looked into it more, I saw what an awesome opportunity it would be to be able to pour into little lives every day, and to show these children how special they are and what an amazing purpose Jesus has for their lives!! After praying more, and seeking what Jesus wants me to do, I have started to pursue going to Mexico, and asking the Lord to provide for everything if this is truly where He wants me to be.

So, now I am here, by the Lord’s sweet, sweet grace. It is true that He gives us the desires of our hearts. He knows my heart, my gifts, and where my passions lie. I feel so undeserving to have this opportunity to serve Him in Mexico as I have the privilege to teach and love on the children I get to see each day! I praise the Lord for all this, because all these blessings are from Him, and it’s a privilege to serve my Savior!!


Jenna Osimo, GEM Missionary

 

Angela to Mexico

In many ways, God has been preparing me for this season in my life for many years.

In 2014, I chose to pursue a different career path. I have always loved working with children. I spent much of my life volunteering with kids and was a dedicated member of my church’s Children’s Ministry team. I chose to work in the local school district and pursue a degree in elementary education. This crossroad led to some major lifestyle changes. I went from working a well-paid job and spending extravagantly, to working a minimum wage job. Despite the hardships, I loved the job and loved my students. I knew this was right where God wanted me.

My home church has a strategic partnership with an organization in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I had the opportunity to drive down with a team and provide support a couple of times. I loved being with the children there and experiencing a different culture. These experiences provided me with an appreciation of Mexican culture.

This past year, I finished my BS and began working on my MAT. I knew I had to find a position that would allow me to student teach in my own classroom and satisfy my university’s requirements. This meant pursuing a new position. My university had a job search available on the website. On the site, I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach in Puerto.

When I began talking with the staff, I had not yet officially applied. I gathered some information about the position and began the application process, unsure I would go any further. As I got further into the process, I spent time in prayer and sought the counsel of trusted people. There were concerns about finances, but I determined if I was called, God would provide. Confirmation came through my time spent with God. Lyrics from songs, confirmation from those closest to me, and a general assurance this was what I was supposed to do. God had been preparing me through interactions with the culture, change of career, downsizing of my lifestyle, and a desire to live more simply. I was at peace with my decision to move, knowing this was where God wanted me for this season.


Angela Fontanelli, GEM missionary

The Davidson’s Journey to Mexico

We are just 4 down-to-earth people, who love Jesus and traveling and different cultures. We were all born in South Africa, where Bev and I were school teachers. Before having children, we also traveled to Taiwan, where we lived for a year, teaching English.

Six years ago, after completing a degree in Theology, we were looking for a new adventure. An opportunity presented itself for us to move to Tasmania, Australia, where I was the youth pastor at a local Baptist Church for 2 years. We then felt a call to start an outreach called Bridge of Life Christian Fellowship that met in the town’s indoor basketball facility. During this time, Bev was a teacher at Devonport Christian School

We have always had a heart for outreach, travel, and children; so after 3 years at “The Bridge” we felt God calling us to do something more specific. Our desire is to minister and encourage children, so we wanted to be part of something where children, who might not have had the same opportunities we had, are given the opportunity of a great Christian education and having good mentors around them. We were browsing the net for teaching posts in Australia. Our plan was to teach, earn a salary, and at the same time start an organization that would help provide a good education for children around the world. While looking, we came across an ad for teachers at GEM. Not knowing that teachers weren’t paid, we filled in the application forms and sent them away. Only after a few days did we see that it was voluntary teaching positions.  

Not owning a house or much money in the bank, we considered the fact that it would be impossible for us to do something like this. Also because we were pastoring a small outreach in a small town in Tasmania meant that there wasn’t a strong support base for us financially. But with a bit of adventure and a huge amount of faith, we decided to pursue the possibility of teaching at GEM. Our boys, who are awesome by the way, also have that travel bug. They were quite keen to move to Mexico. In fact, our youngest son, James, thought that it was essential. He was born and lived in South Africa for 5 years. Then we moved to Australia, where he lived for 5 and-a-half years. He felt it was time to move again after 5 years. John (and James) is absolutely soccer crazy. He was in the North-Tasmania soccer squad and because Mexico is a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field, there was no need to convince him to come to Mexico.

When things seem impossible in life, that’s when God shows up in our circumstances. When adding up the finances on paper, a move to Mexico was impossible. We never even had the money for the plane tickets. But we chose to pursue this door that God opened, even if, to be honest, we had our doubts at times.

We arrived in Puerto Escondido on Saturday after a 1 hour bus trip from Devonport to Launceston, a 1 hour flight from Launceston to Melbourne, a 90 minute flight from Melbourne to Sydney, a 14 hour flight from Sydney to Santiago, a 3 hour flight to Buenos Aires, a 7 hour flight to Lima, a 6 hour flight from Lima to Mexico City and a 18 hour bus trip from Mexico City to Puerto Escondido. God came through, as He always does. It doesn’t always mean that the journey is going to be easy and comfortable, but He gets us where we need to be.

So here we are: Mark, Bev, John, and James… ready for what God has for us. We are excited to be part of the team at GEM. We have also learned that it’s not always about us changing people, but about God changing us in every situation.  


– Mark Davidson, GEM missionary          

MARRIAGE, MEXICO, AND MINEFIELDS: THE JOY OF FOLLOWING JESUS INTO THE UNKNOWN

“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” – A.W. Tozer

CHANGE: WRESTLING WITH THE UNKNOWN

If there is one thing in my life that I consistently struggle with, it’s changed.

Six years ago, I moved away from my family in south Georgia for college in Virginia. At the time I was 21 years old. I had never been away from my family for more than 2 months. Moving away was incredibly frightening. In my case, change meant moving 8 hours away from friends that I had invested in over 21 years of my life. Change meant a lot of new, uncertain things in my life. For a person used to safety and comfort, this was very difficult. It meant that I was moving into a new setting where I was the outsider, the new kid.  Yet, I knew God was leading me away from where I had been for 21 years to grow and live independently from my family.  What I didn’t know at the time was that change was soon to become the mantra of my life. I had no idea that God was going to use the thing I hated the most to shape and refine me, day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

Tim Chester says, “Change is a lifelong, daily struggle that will end with an eternal harvest of holiness.”

God uses change in our lives, good and bad, to refine us and shape us into the image of Jesus, bringing us into fuller joy.

REDEEMING THE UNKNOWN

In my own life, God has used change in several ways to shape and refine me. In college, I was forced to stand on my own. I was taught through the unknown transition into adulthood that God can be trusted in all circumstances. Because of my experiences in college I came to understand the church with deeper clarity and conviction.  I learned that God does not only intend for us to show up once a week to a building to hear his word preached but that the church is his body – a people redeemed by Jesus sent into the world to be his witnesses. I learned that the church isn’t a place at all – it’s a people. I learned that God calls me to worship every single day, not just on Sundays. I learned that the church is this messy, broken, redeemed, beautiful, healed people trying to live in light of the truth and that we have been declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus.

God was also revealing to me that discipleship was much more than just one on one meeting or a bible study. Rather, discipleship is submitting all of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Jeff Vanderstelt writes,

“Discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”

Ultimately God used my time in Lynchburg to grow me and help me to see the beauty of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be. I have found Proverbs 16:9 to be fittingly and sometimes frustratingly true – “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

MARRIAGE

mcdonaldsRecently, another life change occurred: I married my beautiful wife, Kristen. Marriage, more than anything else, has already been one of the most difficult, joyful, sanctifying realities in my life.

God’s grace is at work, transforming us as we navigate these recent changes together.

Marriage is messy. My wife sees my life for what it is and I see the same in her. This is what makes it so amazing! God is in the works of changing us—through marriage—to His likeness.

Paul Tripp reminds us that God uses spouses as tools of change.

“When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and he is committed to transforming him or her by his grace, and he has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change.”

God is redeeming the difficulties in marriage to transform us. He is using our transition into marriage as a means of changing us. He is using the sin, brokenness, selfishness, and mess as tools of change for the sake of His name.

MEXICO

When Kristen and I were dating, we often dreamed of what our future would look like, where we would be, and who we would be serving. We had plans to settle in Virginia (quite comfortably) for a season before we would eventually move to Portland, Oregon to be a part of a church planting team for the sake of Jesus’ name being made known in the Pacific Northwest. However, God had different plans. Again, Proverbs 16:9,

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

My wife was recently attending a local fair for teaching jobs when one particular school seemed to stand out. This school is called Centro Educativo el Manantial (CEM). This is not your normal, American public school. This is an English immersion school that is found in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was started by an organization called Global Education Ministries. When Kristen first told me about this, I remember thinking, “there is no way we are moving to Mexico!”  Why would I want to go to Mexico? We already had a great plan! We had a safe plan. We had a comfortable plan. We had a plan that required minimal change. We would stay put for a couple of years and then move to Portland.

So we prayed. And prayed. And we sought wise council and deliberated with friends. Finally, after much consideration, wisdom, and prayer, we can say with confidence that the Lord is leading us to follow Him to a country neither of us knows, in an area we are unfamiliar with, and in a way we never could have expected. Six months after being married, we are about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives. Here is what we are learning – God calls us into unfamiliar situations that require us to obey and trust in His faithfulness.In light of all of this, we have committed to two years in Puerto Escondido, Mexico for the Glory of His Name! We are very excited about how the Lord will use this in our lives to grow us, mold us, draw us closer to Him. We are equally excited to see how He uses us to lift up the name of Jesus in Mexico!

PURSUING JESUS IN THE MINEFIELDS OF CHANGE

If there was going to be anything I’ve learned through all these changes it is this: Jesus is worthy of all our time, possessions, decisions, and personal desires. Psalm 103:2-5 gives us a beautiful picture of our God and who He is to us.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Nothing else in this world will give the satisfaction that Jesus offers. He is good and there is no one like Him. We were created by and for Him. It doesn’t matter if you are living in the states or in another country, God desires that you seek him with your whole heart. He has given his church a command: to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, all of us have a mission and that mission is to love and serve your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, spouses, and those you encounter on a daily basis. That mission may lead us into uncomfortable situations and deep into the unknown, but there is so much joy in following Him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If Jesus, in joy, endured the cross, how much more can we, with joy, seek Him and follow Him wherever he leads us? He is our joy, our treasure, our hope.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to moving to Mexico. Where are we going to live? How are we going to raise enough money? What are we going to do with all of our stuff? It can be overwhelming thinking about all of these logistics, but there is beauty in following Jesus into these unknowns.

The less we know about our specific plans, the more we will be able to trust in God’s promises to keep and guide us. We have nothing to hold onto except for Jesus. What a joy it is to trust in His promises to take care of us!

God’s word tells us to follow Him regardless of the cost. Following Jesus will most likely take us through minefields of change. This means, we never know when some kind of change will happen in our life. We will continue to encounter change — sometimes to the extent to moving to another country. This will be a constant reality for the rest of our lives. The good news is – we can walk through minefields of change with an understanding that God is worthy of our trust. His name is worthy of our lives, regardless of the cost.


13002621_1137203002997725_8962894918079717680_oDaniel graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He will be serving as the Director of Communication for GEM. Kristen graduated in May 2016 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and will serve as the 4th-grade teacher at the Manantial School. They enjoy playing sports, eating good food with friends, and exploring with their wonderdog, Nala. Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world. To read more posts on Daniel’s personal blog, click here.