The Sufficiency of Christ in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

Since the middle of March, we have been doing online schooling with the goal of still providing quality, Gospel-saturated education in the middle of COVID-19.  If you are reading this, you probably know much about our school and the purpose of it. For the past four years, my wife and I have been serving at the Manantial School in different capacities and have seen the incredible impact that the school ministry has had on this community. God has been at work and is still working in our community and the communities of the other schools around the world (3 in Mexico and 1 in Uganda).

When COVID-19 hit in March, we went online. We thought that we would only be doing this for a couple of months. Seven months later and here we are. I have had many feelings of inadequacy and thinking that I am wasting my time posting assignments online. I have had thoughts wondering how God can work with our students without us actually being around them. And then I remembered John 6:63 which says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”  For a while, I had forgotten that the work and impact of this ministry was God’s work.  This scripture has reminded me that my flesh does not count for anything at all. There is nothing that I can do that gives life, but the Spirit alone that gives life. In all of my inadequacies, His grace is sufficient to work in and through me.

Even though I know this truth in my head, it is difficult to believe it constantly. I still try to work my way of seeing lives changed. I still try to make my online classes more effective and think that if I don’t do it well enough, my students won’t be impacted. However, over the past month, I have seen the sufficiency of Christ become a reality in one of my students. In the middle of my feeling of inadequacy, one of my students talked to me and shared how God has been giving him a desire for His word. He told me that he has been waking up early every morning to read the scriptures and spend time writing down what God has been teaching him. He also told me that he has been sharing what God has been teaching him to others and encouraging others with the Gospel. What an incredible reminder that God is in control. He is still working and is sufficient to do all things regardless of my involvement.  The student’s desire for God and His word had nothing to do with me, but had everything to do with the work of the Spirit in his life. In the middle of our inadequacy, God is sufficient to continue His work in and around us.


-Daniel McDonald, GEM Missionary

A Faithful God

In the midst of quarantine and a Global Pandemic, I feel like I’ve been in a season of apathy, and slothfulness. Life seemed to hit pause, and I felt like my hunger for God was put on pause too. It was so easy to give into laziness with the hours of free time I have. However that all came to an abrupt stop once it came time to teach again. I felt like I was thrown into the chaos of busyness once again.

The season of busyness brought with it so many challenges; online teaching, getting adjusted back to life in Mexico after a long absence, and even having all of my teaching supplies fly off my moto and get stuck under a car and dragged across the highway (Who does that even happen to?) Despite the craziness, God has remained faithful and has reminded me of his glory and his power over our circumstances day in and day out.

This year more than ever I think that God has proved himself to be a provider for me; filling in my needs as they come, and quite unexpectedly I might add. I can’t help but be reminded of God providing for the 5,000, with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Even when it seems like there was no other way, Jesus still provided, and abundantly so. 

Recently in one of our staff devotions, a teacher shared a song called “Promises” by The Mavericks. The line that really got my attention was this:

You’re the God of covenant and of faithful promises Time and time again You have proven You’ll do just what You said though the storms may come and the winds may blow I’ll remain steadfast.”

Although my trials may seem trivial, and nothing compared to the stories depicted throughout the Bible, one thing remains true- God is faithful. The Lord was faithful to provide for the 5,000, He was faithful to provide Abraham with a son, and He was faithful to provide the world with a Son who took the wrath we deserved for our sin. And how sweet it is to be reminded that even when I have seasons of slothfulness, seasons of doubt, or seasons of apathy, God remains faithful. No matter what state the world is in, God is sovereign. He always provides a way. There is nothing that surprises Him or makes Him stop to rethink his steps.  

So be encouraged by this- God is faithful. May we pray to see God’s faithfulness, but may we also ask for things like we know we serve a faithful God who always keeps His promises. My pastor back home always encourages our church to pray more, and he asks us “If our prayers were answered this week, who would come to know the Lord and what countries would be impacted by our requests?” This question always convicts me. Even though in my head I know God is faithful and powerful, my prayers don’t always reflect that. So let us be encouraged to seek more of the Lord and ask more of Him according to His will. He is faithful, He is good, He is a provider, and we have so much hope in these truths. 

​John 6: 35-40

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”


– Kayla Sumile, GEM Missionary

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!