Brett and I are in awe as we reflect on the work God has been doing over the past 5 years. We became friends while I was a student at the Word of Life Bible Institute in 2013. I had just attended a missions conference, and it was the first time I had ever heard that there were places unreached, people who had never heard about Jesus, and people who didn’t have a community in Jesus like we had here in the United States. I felt so passionate and completely open to wherever God wanted to send me.
Brett had grown up a believer in Jesus and when he heard of these places without Christ when he was in high school, God put a passion in Him to be open to going whenever a door was opened. So with that, Brett and I began a friendship having a shared passion for missions. We would come alive as we talked about this restlessness we felt inside and how badly we wanted to go. A year later, I went to visit friends in upstate New York at Word of Life where Brett was currently a student. Brett and I reconnected, caught up, and shared about the restlessness that still lingered.
After that weekend, we began talking frequently, writing letters, and FaceTiming. Throughout those weeks of getting to know each other better, I signed a two-year contract to serve as a GEM missionary teaching kindergarten at El Manantial. The months before leaving, Brett and I started dating. He wrote in a letter to me, “I know you’re moving to Mexico for two years but I still want to get to know you better.” With that, we committed to longggg distance. My first year in Mexico, Brett came to visit me during his spring break. He met with Casey and made a tentative plan to move to Mexico the following year, he’d study Spanish, after that we’d get married, then we’d move to the unreached/mountains in Oaxaca.
Brett returned home from Mexico with this plan and God used his parents to guide him and advise him to finish his education. God then provided Brett with a scholarship to Cedarville University! With that, as badly as we wanted to be together and go serve somewhere, we couldn’t deny God was closing the door. With great joy and SO MUCH GRACE, we made plans to get married July 22nd, 2017, a month after I moved home from Mexico.
We have spent the first year of marriage in Cedarville as Brett finishes up his Bachelor of Communications. At the beginning of this past March (only a few weeks ago), I went to visit Manantial and while I was there, Casey shared with me the plans of the new school GEM is starting in Juquila.
As we talked and met about it all, I was brought to tears and a deep peace that this is what God had been preparing for us. He had closed the doors two years prior because he had something so much better for us.
I returned home from Mexico and shared everything with Brett and our hearts ignited with passion and burden for this door we felt opening. We spent the next few weeks praying and seeking.
We felt a real presence of spiritual warfare; I felt very distracted and unable to think clearly about the future. We went and stayed at a cabin in the mountains to disconnect from the world and ask God to make things clear. He is the God of peace and as we surrendered our fears and desires, he brought peace. About a month ago we committed to moving to Juquila in Oaxaca, Mexico to serve alongside two locals to start a new school called La Luz (translated, “The Light”).
This school will be locally run, affordable and accessible to all! We will be doing English lessons with the students each day, which is a great need in this rural area. The town of Juquila is hostile to the gospel, being built around a temple where they worship the virgin Juquila, but with this school and people’s desire to know English we really see God making a way for relationships to be built and people to be loved. We want to share the the truth with these people. We want them to know there is freedom in Christ alone!
-Annie Balsley, GEM Missionary
If you’d like to support Brett and Annie as they serve with GEM in Juquila to share the gospel to this unreached town, 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!