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

What do we truly need for a healthy spiritual life?

Getting healthy… fitness Instagram accounts, green juices everywhere, gluten-free, non-GMO, plant-based protein shakes, supplements, all the athleisure attire you can buy.

Health inspo is everywhere these days. Maybe it’s just me or the accounts I come across online, but I feel like these days almost everyone is on a health or fitness journey. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE healthy lifestyles and I believe it’s important to take care of the bodies that God has blessed us with.But have you seen all the “perfect diets” that promote healthy weight loss? What about all the processed food at the grocery store that has the word “healthy” “natural” or “organic”? What about the “skinny margarita” on the menu at the Mexican restaurants? Usually anything with the word “skinny” on it – isn’t going to be the healthiest option.

Of course getting the “diet coke” could be a better choice than the all-out sugar-filled drink BUT isn’t water the best choice? Isn’t straight up protein and veggies going to be better than all that processed food that has the words “natural/organic” written on the box? Usually, the best thing for our health is the simplest.

Too often we try to take shortcuts to try and stay healthy when we could just turn to the simplest options that would be the healthiest, richest source of nutrition. When we try to create these shortcuts to a healthy lifestyle is usually when things get complicated.

Before I get into writing some kind of nutrition blog, let me switch gears. Lately, I’ve been thinking about these ideas but in our spiritual lives and our walks with Jesus.

What do we truly need for a healthy spiritual life??

-Time in the Word with Jesus – 2 Timothy 3:16, Psalm 119: 105

-Time in prayer talking to Jesus – Matthew 6:6, Mark 1:35

-Community with brothers and sisters in Christ – James 5:16

It’s pretty simple, but again, too often we try to complicate and even compromise these values. Let me use an example I find myself guilty of often…

What do I want (in my flesh)? To scroll through social media mindlessly.

What do I know that I actually need? Time with Jesus

So what do I do? I follow Christian accounts that share scripture so that I can get a taste of it while I decide to scroll mindlessly.

Again, I’m not against uplifting Christian social media accounts, I’m just showing how we can sometimes use surface-level substitutes for what we truly need, which is simply time alone with God.

Here’s another example…

What do I need daily? Time with Jesus

How does my time get filled each day? Work, taking care of my family, church, helping with the youth group at church, a little Netflix and trying to start a Women’s Bible study

What gets left out? Time ALONE with Jesus

Bible studies are awesome. Working hard is GOOD. Serving your church body is awesome. But none of it can substitute for what I truly need to be spiritually healthy – time alone with Jesus. These are like the “natural” or ”organic” processed foods at the grocery store. These are great options but only on top of our basic nutritional needs of fresh fruits, veggies and protein, which is time with Jesus.

We can create Bible studies, programs, Christian chat groups, and do all sorts of “Christian” things – but there are no substitutes for our basic needs as a follower of Jesus. We need intentional time with Him, His word, and His followers to be spiritually healthy. Simply sitting at the feet of Jesus is good and necessary for my soul. Let’s not put too much importance into anything else.

– Rachel Ellzey, Sponsorship Coordinator