10 Things You Don’t Know About Being a GEM Missionary

Two years ago, I signed my initial contract with Global Education Ministries (GEM). When I signed my initial contract to serve in Mexico, I had no idea where God was leading me, and yet as I reflect back on my time over the last two years, I am blown away by God’s faithfulness through it all. I went in blind, trusting God, and two years later, I could not be more grateful. Because of this, it made me realize that I knew very little about what it actually meant to be a GEM missionary before actually moving to Mexico, and I thought it would be fun to share some of those things that might not be known on the surface about serving with GEM. 

I have asked some of my fellow GEM missionaries to help me compose this list of ten things, and here it is!

10 Things You Don’t Know About Being a GEM Missionary

  1. (Specific to GEM Missionaries in Mexico): Not everyone loves Mexican food when they move to Mexico. For several missionaries, the food is actually a huge adjustment. Kayla Morales said, “When I first moved to Mexico, I really struggled with adjusting to the food. I promised I’d never like it and that I’d survive off of cereal. But now, I could eat it every single day. When I visit the USA, I crave authentic Mexican food.”
  2. In moving to another country, naturally you get excited and start preparing to be immersed in the culture. There are so many things that are different when it comes to the culture of another country. As a missionary, you learn to put your own cultural understanding aside in order to learn and take part in the culture that you are living in. This looks like learning how to make traditional food, commuting like the locals (bus, taxi, moto, car, walking, etc.), learning a different language, and so much more.
  3. When you move overseas to serve you will leave behind family and friends, but you will be surprised at how much the Lord blesses you with another family—one so special, so connected and so united for the same purpose.
  4. As a GEM missionary, you come in expecting awesome relationships with your students and their families because naturally our main way of ministering to the community is through our local schools. However, the relationships you get with your neighbors and those outside of the school are such unexpected gifts that bless each of those who serve with GEM.
  5. One really special part about serving with GEM is that once you are a GEM missionary, you are always a GEM missionary. You become a part of generations of people who have served with GEM before your time, and you welcome those that come along after you join as well. 
  6. Many people have this specific idea of what the life of a missionary looks like, but one thing every GEM missionary quickly learns is that life as a missionary just becomes normal every day. It is not that extraordinary. Yes, you live in a foreign context, but it becomes very normal quickly. We live in houses or apartments. We drive cars, motos, or take local forms of transportation. Our days look similar to those in the States— We wake up, have time with Jesus, go to school and work with our students, come home and spend time with family or friends, cook dinner, etc. As a missionary, we pursue others for the sake of Christ, but it is simply a part of the normal rhythms of our lives in the location that God has us for that season. 
  7. GEM is a young ministry, and it is growing more each year. Because of being a younger ministry, being a GEM missionary means that you are a part of what GEM will become. With it being less than 10 years old, every GEM missionary has the opportunity to impact and shape the culture of our ministry in significant ways. 
  8. Being a GEM missionary is more than just your position within the school. You are a part of a community and a local church too, and so much of it intertwines in some pretty unique ways. Many of us work together, worship together, eat together, pursue school families together, plan and prepare for our classes together, and so much more. Being a GEM missionary means that your life is lived on mission in community everyday. 
  9. GEM missionaries are so blessed by those who are partnering with us from the States. While the financial piece of people partnering with GEM is so vital, we also have many people that are regularly praying for us and our schools and encouraging us through notes, phone calls, or care packages. Also, teams come to serve our schools each year through summer camps, Spiritual Emphasis Week, coming to paint our schools, help us prepare for the school year, and more. Our hearts are so encouraged when others walk alongside of us in these ways. 
  10. One of the biggest things that we have all learned as a missionary is that we come to serve, teach, and bless the people, but we end up being served, blessed, and taught more than anyone else. Serving with GEM is a tremendous privilege and blessing, and God uses it to sanctify, mold, and encourage us far more than we could have ever imagined.

**This list was compiled from the following missionaries based on their time serving with GEM: Meg Herring, Kayla Morales, Maggie Addison, Annie Balsey, Kristen McDonald, Daniel McDonald, and Rachel Hill. 

-Rachel Hill, GEM Missionary

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

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!

Two Years with GEM

I leave Mexico to move back to the United States in a couple weeks and I have so many emotions stirring within me. I’m in a tension of being overjoyed at the thought of getting married in 2 months and then deep sadness to say goodbye to Mexico. God has made Puerto Escondido a home and the people that fill it, family.

In moments I take to be still and reflect, God’s faithfulness overwhelms me. I could write a list and never stop over the ways that God has been faithful in the last two years here. In the relationships he has blessed me with, the way He has sustained and grown Brett and I, the way He has given me the skills, wisdom, and strength to teach on the hard days. The ways He has protected the school and given it incredible growth. He has provided the most quality people to teach at the school. I could go on. It is so humbling to reflect on the faithfulness of God because it shows you His sovereignty and proves true that all is for His glory.

When I moved to Mexico, I was excited but I was honestly asking God how I was going to love these kids well. I had been working with children the entire year before and it was a struggle to enjoy it. God had gifted me with being around children and relating to them, but I did not love it.

As I moved here, I compared myself with the o I was working with who had a real passion for teaching and a passion for children. I would have days where I had no desire to be at school. Through the struggle, I heard God whispering, “keep going.” God was doing a work and it is only now at the end of my two years teaching that I can look back and be amazed by what God has done.

God has let me enter into the cares and depths of His heart. As you seek the Lord, He transforms your heart! My expectation coming here was that I would fall in love with teaching and with children. Instead, I have fallen in love with Jesus. I have joy to wake up and go to school now because I know that I will meet Jesus there. Children are a gift from the Lord and they are made in His image. Getting to spend all of my days with them is incredible. I have not only learned most of my Spanish from these cuties, but I have learned unconditional, pure love.

And teaching them is now something I enjoy because God has opened my eyes to the opportunity and the mission. He has crushed my pride that said, “You do not have the passion and skills to be a teacher.” He has replaced that with, “My love is better than life and you get to show these children that.”

Now I do not have to strive after attaining some joy, passion, or skill because when seeking the Lord, He gives me everything I need to do whatever it is He has. He doesn’t only give us the strength, but He gives us His joy, peace, patience, all of it. I can truly say that I love teaching at Manantial because the love of Jesus has overcome.

I’m amazed. And I will carry this into this next season. I feel so comforted and secure because I know that wherever the Lord leads me, whether it’s into a job where I feel completely inadequate or into a circumstance where I do not feel fit to be in, He will meet me there and He will overcome every expectation and every fear. His love is truly better than life!

Over the last two years, in many of the seasons that have come, I have prayed that these verses would be true over my life, and God has and is faithfully making it so.

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63: 1-8

Annie Hindin, GEM Missionary


“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” – A.W. Tozer


If there is one thing in my life that I consistently struggle with, it’s changed.

Six years ago, I moved away from my family in south Georgia for college in Virginia. At the time I was 21 years old. I had never been away from my family for more than 2 months. Moving away was incredibly frightening. In my case, change meant moving 8 hours away from friends that I had invested in over 21 years of my life. Change meant a lot of new, uncertain things in my life. For a person used to safety and comfort, this was very difficult. It meant that I was moving into a new setting where I was the outsider, the new kid.  Yet, I knew God was leading me away from where I had been for 21 years to grow and live independently from my family.  What I didn’t know at the time was that change was soon to become the mantra of my life. I had no idea that God was going to use the thing I hated the most to shape and refine me, day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

Tim Chester says, “Change is a lifelong, daily struggle that will end with an eternal harvest of holiness.”

God uses change in our lives, good and bad, to refine us and shape us into the image of Jesus, bringing us into fuller joy.


In my own life, God has used change in several ways to shape and refine me. In college, I was forced to stand on my own. I was taught through the unknown transition into adulthood that God can be trusted in all circumstances. Because of my experiences in college I came to understand the church with deeper clarity and conviction.  I learned that God does not only intend for us to show up once a week to a building to hear his word preached but that the church is his body – a people redeemed by Jesus sent into the world to be his witnesses. I learned that the church isn’t a place at all – it’s a people. I learned that God calls me to worship every single day, not just on Sundays. I learned that the church is this messy, broken, redeemed, beautiful, healed people trying to live in light of the truth and that we have been declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus.

God was also revealing to me that discipleship was much more than just one on one meeting or a bible study. Rather, discipleship is submitting all of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Jeff Vanderstelt writes,

“Discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”

Ultimately God used my time in Lynchburg to grow me and help me to see the beauty of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be. I have found Proverbs 16:9 to be fittingly and sometimes frustratingly true – “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”


mcdonaldsRecently, another life change occurred: I married my beautiful wife, Kristen. Marriage, more than anything else, has already been one of the most difficult, joyful, sanctifying realities in my life.

God’s grace is at work, transforming us as we navigate these recent changes together.

Marriage is messy. My wife sees my life for what it is and I see the same in her. This is what makes it so amazing! God is in the works of changing us—through marriage—to His likeness.

Paul Tripp reminds us that God uses spouses as tools of change.

“When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and he is committed to transforming him or her by his grace, and he has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change.”

God is redeeming the difficulties in marriage to transform us. He is using our transition into marriage as a means of changing us. He is using the sin, brokenness, selfishness, and mess as tools of change for the sake of His name.


When Kristen and I were dating, we often dreamed of what our future would look like, where we would be, and who we would be serving. We had plans to settle in Virginia (quite comfortably) for a season before we would eventually move to Portland, Oregon to be a part of a church planting team for the sake of Jesus’ name being made known in the Pacific Northwest. However, God had different plans. Again, Proverbs 16:9,

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

My wife was recently attending a local fair for teaching jobs when one particular school seemed to stand out. This school is called Centro Educativo el Manantial (CEM). This is not your normal, American public school. This is an English immersion school that is found in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was started by an organization called Global Education Ministries. When Kristen first told me about this, I remember thinking, “there is no way we are moving to Mexico!”  Why would I want to go to Mexico? We already had a great plan! We had a safe plan. We had a comfortable plan. We had a plan that required minimal change. We would stay put for a couple of years and then move to Portland.

So we prayed. And prayed. And we sought wise council and deliberated with friends. Finally, after much consideration, wisdom, and prayer, we can say with confidence that the Lord is leading us to follow Him to a country neither of us knows, in an area we are unfamiliar with, and in a way we never could have expected. Six months after being married, we are about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives. Here is what we are learning – God calls us into unfamiliar situations that require us to obey and trust in His faithfulness.In light of all of this, we have committed to two years in Puerto Escondido, Mexico for the Glory of His Name! We are very excited about how the Lord will use this in our lives to grow us, mold us, draw us closer to Him. We are equally excited to see how He uses us to lift up the name of Jesus in Mexico!


If there was going to be anything I’ve learned through all these changes it is this: Jesus is worthy of all our time, possessions, decisions, and personal desires. Psalm 103:2-5 gives us a beautiful picture of our God and who He is to us.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Nothing else in this world will give the satisfaction that Jesus offers. He is good and there is no one like Him. We were created by and for Him. It doesn’t matter if you are living in the states or in another country, God desires that you seek him with your whole heart. He has given his church a command: to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, all of us have a mission and that mission is to love and serve your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, spouses, and those you encounter on a daily basis. That mission may lead us into uncomfortable situations and deep into the unknown, but there is so much joy in following Him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If Jesus, in joy, endured the cross, how much more can we, with joy, seek Him and follow Him wherever he leads us? He is our joy, our treasure, our hope.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to moving to Mexico. Where are we going to live? How are we going to raise enough money? What are we going to do with all of our stuff? It can be overwhelming thinking about all of these logistics, but there is beauty in following Jesus into these unknowns.

The less we know about our specific plans, the more we will be able to trust in God’s promises to keep and guide us. We have nothing to hold onto except for Jesus. What a joy it is to trust in His promises to take care of us!

God’s word tells us to follow Him regardless of the cost. Following Jesus will most likely take us through minefields of change. This means, we never know when some kind of change will happen in our life. We will continue to encounter change — sometimes to the extent to moving to another country. This will be a constant reality for the rest of our lives. The good news is – we can walk through minefields of change with an understanding that God is worthy of our trust. His name is worthy of our lives, regardless of the cost.

13002621_1137203002997725_8962894918079717680_oDaniel graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He will be serving as the Director of Communication for GEM. Kristen graduated in May 2016 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and will serve as the 4th-grade teacher at the Manantial School. They enjoy playing sports, eating good food with friends, and exploring with their wonderdog, Nala. Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world. To read more posts on Daniel’s personal blog, click here.

The Month of May: Hotter Than Africa

My siblings and I always joked on the hottest summer days that it felt “hotter than Africa” outside. Africa was the hottest place we could think of and what place on earth could possibly hotter than Africa? Well, after 3 years of living in Puerto Escondido, I have determined that the month of May in Mexico is indeed, hotter than Africa.

Everyone knows that Mexico is a hot place. It is a tourist destination to millions every year and is known for its beautiful beaches, consistently sunny weather and giant cruise port cities. I grew up in hot and humid North Carolina. The heat was no stranger to me before moving here. However, I had never in my life experienced Mexican heat outside of the vacation bubble, where the breeze off the ocean is strong, the pool is close by and your room is air conditioned.

The dictionary defines heat in a couple of different ways: (1) the state of a body perceived as having or generating a relatively high degree of warmth; (2) the condition or quality of being hot; and (3) the degree of hotness, temperature.   I am not sure which definition I agree with or if any of them define the type of heat I am currently drowning in as I write this.

Most of the year is bearable when it comes to the hot and humid weather. The nights cool off which lead to cooler mornings and sometimes there is a nice breeze to help you forget about how hot you are. The month of May brings a heat that is so fierce that it consumes you. All 365 days of the year here carry almost the exact same weather. I love a good change of seasons. There is no better feeling than those first cool fall days in October or flowers blooming in April with the promise of warmer weather. Puerto only permits one type of weather: 90 degrees and sunny.  Everyday. All year. In December. Sometimes, in the middle of the night.

The month of May is dreaded by many as it approaches and hated by all once it is here. The air is heavier than ever has we wait for that first rain to fall to kick off a few months of rainy afternoons that give a much-needed break from the heat. The sun hits your skin and makes you feel like you’re living in an oven. Your sweat beads down your forehead, soaks any clothing that is remotely touching your skin and cascades down your legs like a waterfall.


12140818_3877548222503_6960120789129868737_n (1)There is not air conditioning to retreat to, the waves are typically huge this time of year, which limits your access to the water, and life goes on as usual. We have eaten out more than ever to avoid cooking over the stove and I have taken more showers than I thought humanly possible. I have been caught with my head stuck in the freezer more times than I would like to admit. My poor students sweat through their uniforms while solving multiplication problems at 9:00am and if you don’t have more than one fan pointed directly at you then you need to buy another fan. Also, who knew adults could get heat rash! I thought that heat rash was only for little kids until I moved here and it started showing up all over my body around this time of year.

I am fairly positive there is no cure for the physical pain and discomfort the month of May brings upon us here in Puerto. So, until the rain comes you will find me in front of a fan, with my head in the freezer, showering at 3am and praying those clouds will make an appearance over the mountain tops to drop the rain we have patiently been waiting for since it left us last October.

12719197_764498917020282_3022643334829680050_oSarah Hindin is from Charlotte, NC, where her wonderful family still resides. This is Sarah’s 3rd year serving with GEM in Puerto Escondido. She is an organizational wizard and her students love her more than anything! If you’d like to sponsor Sarah financially or via prayer, you can find her contact info here.