If I’m being honest, I never thought I’d work for a school. Or even a ministry that revolves around education. It’s not that that I don’t enjoy little elementary student hugs or the fist bumps of the older ones, but I just didn’t see how I would fit my nonprofit and Spanish degrees into a school setting (besides the obvious path of being a Spanish teacher… which I knew was a no-go for me). But fast forward to September of 2020 and I’ve been working in a school for the last two going-on three years and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
One thing I noticed from the get-go is that this ministry, Global Education Ministries, and the many schools that I now work to support are different. Yes we offer math, science, reading, and writing; we have the normal 30-minute lunch break; and recess remains the personal favorite of probably 75% of our students; but there are five distinct ways I have been able to see over these last few years that set GEM Schools apart from the rest.
1. Gospel Saturated Schools
If you’ve followed GEM for any amount of time I’m sure you’ve heard or read the term “Gospel-Saturated.” So what is a Gospel-Saturated School? According to Webster’s dictionary, the word saturate means to fill completely with something that permeates or pervades. A Gospel-Saturated School is a place where students not only encounter the truth of Jesus in one class but where the love and grace of Jesus are experienced all throughout the school. This is only able to happen when our teachers themselves are saturated in the gospel and understand their calling as missionaries to naturally weave the Gospel into their teaching, discipline, relationships, and daily example. We don’t just tack a Bible class onto our curriculum and call it a day. The goal of a Gospel-Saturated school is to show that God’s Word is relevant to every class and to every situation one encounters all throughout the day.
2. Private Schools for the Public
We believe all GEM schools should be affordable to everyone in the community. Within each community, families are given the opportunity to become part of the school regardless of their economic status. The ultimate goal is that GEM schools would offer a high-quality education that all children and their families can afford.
3. We’re Accessible to All
We believe all GEM schools should be open and accessible to Christian and non-Christian families. Unlike many Christian schools that tend to focus on discipleship of Christian students, GEM schools are designed to be outreach ministries to bring the Gospel to all students and all families alike.
4. Our School Directors Sacrifice
Our school directors are some of the toughest people I know. Whether it be going months without taking a paycheck because they want to make sure their students have what they need or hiding because of severe persecution due to being the leader of a Christian school in the community, our directors know what it means to sacrifice. Many of them have left their day-time jobs because of a specific calling they felt from the Lord to help us start Gospel-Saturated schools in their area. Yet, for all the sacrificing they may do, they don’t complain and they don’t demand extra benefits. It is evident when you talk to them that they do it because they love the students and most importantly because they love God.
5. Everything is Done in Love
This last point is one that everyone seems to notice when they step onto a GEM school’s campus whether it be on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico or in the middle of sub-saharan Uganda. We love our students fiercely. We love them so fiercely that at every one of our schools the school staff arrives an hour early every day to pray for our students and find ways to serve our families better.
During the pandemic, we wanted to make sure our families were doing ok, so several of our schools, directors and staff included, went door to door checking in on our families and dropping off household items and canned goods. We love our students so much that we work night and day to get sponsors for them so that our schools can continute to run and share with them the life-changing news that we aren’t good enough but that’s ok because Jesus is and we need to run to Him if we’re to have any hope in this world!
No, we’re by no means perfect and we’re far from having it all figured out. Many times we even find ourselves working out of our own strength instead of the Lord’s. But one thing is for sure, the heart’s desire of every GEM teacher and every GEM school is to love on our students in a way that they are pointed away from us and to God’s great love for them. And with that I think we can build something.
It’s no question that these last couple of months have been a challenge. Routines have been shaken up, weddings put on hold, human contact limited, jobs lost, and most tragically of all the lives of dear loved ones taken away.
Although I’ve only been slightly affected in comparison to many, I’ve had to deal with my own feelings towards being stuck a country away from some of the people I love most. And seeing friends and families of friends struggle to put food on the table because both parents have lost their jobs. And not knowing what to say to a someone whose loved one is barely holding onto life. All due to this unseen, unpredictable virus.
In a few cases it has even brought into question my own view of God, His character, and His goodness to allow something like this to shake up the lives of so many across the world.
It reminds me of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11 when God leads Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
Yes. God leads Him into a wilderness. A probably dry, unkempt sort of place where no one (besides maybe John the Baptist) lived and where you’re left to your own thoughts. And who’s in the wilderness? Yes. Satan. Just waiting to catch Jesus in one of his stealthily placed traps.
Just like in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempts Jesus to question His Father in three ways:
1. Questioning the identity and power given to Jesus by God by tempting him to make food for Himself
2. Questioning God’s love and protection for Jesus by telling Him to throw Himself down
3. Questioning God’s timing of Jesus’ reign and His allegiance to the Father by tempting him with power and dominion
Sometimes, being in our own kind of wilderness of separation from friends and family, I can feel the same kind of spiritual warfare going on in my own heart and mind.
When I see all the hurt and distance caused by this virus, questions about God’s love, His power, and His timing can slowly start to trickle into my mind. It’s in uncertain times like these when, even before I realize it, I can begin to doubt not just God’s power but ultimately His good character.
Although Matthew 4:1-11 starts off with a David vs. Goliath sort of scene where Jesus, a half-starved lowly carpenter, and Satan, one of the most powerful created beings behind God Himself, go head to head, we see that the Jesus has a powerful, secret weapon that Satan knows nothing about – the truth of God’s word. With it, He is able to slice through every temptation to question His Father like a steak knife cutting through a piece of fried baloney. All with one simple tool – The Word of God.
Hebrews 4:11 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
And in John 17:17 Jesus prays that His disciples would be covered and sanctified in the truth of God’s Word.
Lately, I’ve been learning that like Jesus, if I’m going to win against the war of questions and doubts in my mind, I’m going to have to use something more powerful than my own willpower. I’ve got to use God’s truth. It is so important for me that when I notice these thoughts come to the surface, I don’t let them roll around and lead me to fear, anxiety or despair, but that I take them captive and put them up against the truth of God’s word (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means that I have to know the Word of God and daily submit myself to it.
The devil is crafty and He knows our weaknesses. That’s why His lies are so tempting and so believable! But in giving us His Word and His Spirit, God has provided us with everything we need to fight and win.
In fact, we’ve already won if we believe in Jesus because He won the victory over Satan and death before we were ever born!
Luckily God doesn’t make us suit up for a physical battle, but He does tell us to put on armor for a spiritual one. God calls us to take hold of His Word, submerge ourselves in it, and believe it. Only then will we be able to fight off temptations to doubt God’s character. Through His Word we will come to know our God so well that the moment these questions arise we will hold them up to God’s Word and trust that despite our changing circumstances, God’s character and His promises never change and they are always good.