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

Longing For Home

I’ve reached the end of my 1 1/2 year contract and reflecting back, I am left in awe and amazement about all that God has done in my life. This truly has been the most difficult year and a half but the richest in my walk with Jesus. Never have I experienced such depth in relationships quite like the ones here as well as my relationship with the Lord. As hard and painful the journey has been, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything because of how I know and love Jesus in the ways I do now.  I’ll be honest, when I first moved here, I didn’t know how I would make it to June 2020. I was pretty certain I wouldn’t stay longer than that.. I was so bitter and resentful because of shattered expectations, struggling with my mental health, and missing friends and family.

But God…

God began a WORK in my heart. Leading up to summer 2019, I counted down the days and seconds to fly back to the United States, longing for comfort, rest, and a break.  I couldn’t wait.  During that summer, God began to soften my heart for Mexico and my community in Puerto.  He gave me such a deep desire and longing to be back.  He began to grow my heart where I felt this heavy burden for the people here to come to know Jesus.  When my plane flew back into Puerto in August, I was overcome with tremendous peace that could have only come from God.  I knew this wouldn’t be my last year. I began praying in August about what this upcoming summer would look like in preparation for who knows how long God will keep me here in Mexico.

When I first came back to Mexico, I lived with a family for a short time due to having so many struggles my first semester here. It was a sweet and needed season that allowed me to feel safe, secure, and back on my feet again.  God allowed it to where He opened up a tiny little house next to my friends just in the time I needed and was ready to have my own place.  On my first night by myself in my new home, I opened up my book called “Every Moment Holy” and prayed a prayer over this house. That God would dwell within this place. That he would be present at this table and present as I rise and lay down at the beginning and end of each day.  That this home would be a place of shared tears and laughter, a place of meaningful conversations, a place of creating and reflecting, and a place to serve and welcome in others.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve moved around quite a bit. I’ve never actually lived in the same place for more than 9 months at a time. I lived out of suitcases and boxes and storage bins while expecting to pack up and switch dorms or houses shortly after I would begin to feel settled.  Now that I am in this house, I don’t have a time frame for when I need to move on to the next place. I can just “be.” For the first time in 6 years, this is the longest place I’ve lived in and it has been such a gift from the Lord. I’m able to be more intentional and welcoming towards people within this space.  It has served as a “harbor of anchorage and refuge, and a haven from which I journey forth” in order to carry out the Great Commission. And as I continue on, my roots are beginning to grow deeper and deeper within this community that I am growing to love more and more each day.

So leading into what this summer will look like for me. God has made it so clear that I’m not supposed to come back and visit the states until December. It was sad and hard at first to have to cancel plans I was looking forward to and realizing I won’t see my family for a year. But as my roots grow deeper and deeper into this community, there is only so much I can communicate and understand with my limited Spanish.  I am SO excited for what is next. I’m not moving back to the States. God knows that timeline, I don’t. However, over the summer, I am going to be living in a small town 30 minutes outside of Puerto with a sweet Mexican family to study and learn Spanish at a school there. I start school on June 22 and I end on August 7th. After school, I will start preparing for the next school year at Manantial teaching 4th grade again.

God did more than I could ever imagine in my life this year and especially within these past 6 months. I am so excited for what’s ahead. What the enemy intended for evil, God used it for good (Genesis 50:20). No matter how long God may have me planted here, I am praying that “my days lived within these temporary walls would serve to awaken a restless longing for my truer Home in heaven” (Every Moment Holy).


-Shelby Davis, 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

Change Happens in the Desert

Prayer is hard.
 
As a young girl growing up in a Christian family, I went to church (on many occasions more than once a week) and attended a Christian school. So, you can imagine just how many times I was told I needed to be disciplined in reading the Bible and prayer. Naturally, after hearing this I would go upstairs in my room and try. I can’t tell you how many times I would tuck myself away, try to quiet my thoughts, and pray to this invisible and inaudible Being. But I began to notice the more I tried to will myself to pray, the more I disliked it. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t have much to ask for, and besides, did God even care about the things going on in my life? If He did, it’s not like he responded audibly to my requests anyways.
 
Though my idea of prayer and God changed as I grew in my knowledge of and relationship with Him, I still struggled with prayer. What about the many times I had called out to him – no, begged – for him to change a situation or give me something and He hadn’t? Was He really who He said He was? And if He’s so powerful, then doesn’t He have the ability to do these things? So why isn’t He? Those are just a few of the many doubts I had (and still have) that kept me from reaching out to Him. But God was working in my heart and, about a year and half ago, I asked God to transform my prayer life and give me a desire to pray. No, it definitely did not happen overnight. I tried to read books on prayer, ask friends for advice on prayer, etc. As a matter of fact, many times I got so frustrated with not seeing any changes in my prayer life that I would sit in my room and force myself to be quiet and pray. Of course, this only led to me being hard-hearted with the Lord and forcing an outward prayer that my inner self was not praying. It was then that I decided that if God was big enough, He could and would change my heart in regards to praying and it wasn’t up to me to force it. Ironically, that was actually making things worse.
 
So, I stopped praying. And God started working.
 
Several months into this process, circumstances in my family’s life and my own personal life brought me to a place where I had absolutely no control. I was desperate – I could do absolutely nothing to change the situations – so I began to pray.
 
In his book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller recounts he and his wife’s experience of having an autistic child. He calls the space in between hoping and reality a desert. “The hope line represents our desire for a normal child, reinforced by our prayers from Psalm 121. The bottom line is the reality of a harmed child. We lived in the middle, in the desert, holding on to hope that Kim could somehow be normal yet facing the reality of her disabilities.”
“The hardest part of being in the desert,” Miller says, “is that there is no way out. You don’t know when it will end. There is no relief in sight.”
 
This sounds utterly hopeless, doesn’t it?
 
But Miller draws our focus to what God is doing in the midst of our complete vulnerability and weakness. He explains that “The first thing that happens is we slowly give up the fight. Our wills are broken by the reality of our circumstances… The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live, to have joy, to do anything of lasting worth. Life is crushing you.”
 
“Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what people think of you. The desert is God’s best hope for the creation of an authentic self. Desert life sanctifies you. You have no idea you are changing. You simply notice after you’ve been in the desert awhile that you are different.
 
“After a while you notice your real thirsts. While in the desert David writes,
‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ Psalm 63:1
 
“The desert becomes a window to the heart of God… You cry out to God so long and so often that a channel begins to open up between you and God. When driving, you turn off the radio just to be with God. At night you drift in and out of prayer when you are sleeping. Without realizing it, you have learned to pray continuously. The clear, fresh water of God’s presence that you discover in the desert becomes a well inside your own heart.”
For so long I had only viewed prayer as a way to get things from God; an avenue through which I could change situations and circumstances; a tool to access His power when I am powerless. That view is not entirely wrong! In many ways, it is completely scriptural (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 18:19, Psalm 107:28-30). But often times, God chooses not to grant our requests or chooses to make us wait for years until He answers them. When we view prayer only as a means to get what we want, we are missing out on potentially God’s biggest purpose for prayer: bringing us closer to His heart and carving us into the image of His Son, Jesus.
 
I had always thought that through prayer I could change things, but I never realized that God was using prayer to change me. In my powerlessness, God has begun to show me aspects of Himself that I never would have seen unless I was desperate for Him. And slowly, but surely, He is changing the way I pray to become more aligned with His heart.
 
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
 
Have your way, Lord.

-Maggie Addison, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Maggie 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!

FIESTA

F I E S T A .

If you were to ask me to describe Mexico in one word, it would be “fiesta”. Mexicans love to have an excuse to throw a party, and everyone is always invited.

I remember the first time we moved into our house in Puerto, our neighbors had a “fiesta” for their dad, who turned 93 at the time. This party had a full band, tons of food (good authentic Mexican food), drinks, and dancing. This party must have started around 7 and lasted until about midnight. Parties like this happened over and over as our neighbors celebrated their families lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, our other neighbor celebrated the birthday of their two-year-old daughter. This party started around 6 pm and lasted well past midnight. Again, there was music, food, and plenty of dancing to celebrate the birthday of their two-year-old (who most definitely didn’t stay up for the whole thing).

I mention both of these things because I think it is amazing. I believe that this shows the heart of God. As Christians, we should be the most celebratory people in the world celebrating all that God has done. We should take the time to slow down and celebrate those around us.

In his book called “A Meal with Jesus”, Tim Chester said, “Jesus spent his time eating and drinking—a lot of his time. He was a party animal. His mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.”

Jesus spent much of his ministry around a meal. He spent so much of his time eating and drinking that he was called a glutton and a drunk.  He used the meal as to build relationships with others (sinners and tax collectors). How much more should we, the body of Christ, get to know others around a meal at a party?

May we learn from our Mexican brothers and sisters and learn to throw good parties celebrating all that God is doing in those around us. Let us use this as an example for us while looking to Jesus who is our greatest example.


-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!

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!