Looking At Our Weak Spots

On war planes, like the ones used in WWI, experts studied planes that made it home to learn how to better defend them in the future.  For many years this is the way planes had been inspected and improved, but finally, one day, one of the experts asked a very important question. Why were they looking where the planes had survived being hit, instead of looking at the spots where the enemy had missed?
These spots were probably the weak spots because if planes that made it home hadn’t been hit there, maybe the planes that didn’t make it home had been. So they started making note of places planes had not been hit and they decided to focus on improving those spots. What a simple solution that probably saved lives. I think there is something to be learned in that.
Are we armoring ourselves in the spots where we’ve been hit and survived? Or are we focusing on the areas we know we are weakest in? As adult Christians, are we equipping our younger brothers and sisters in the areas we know they will learn from and will survive? Or are we considering the hits we’ve seen friends, loved ones, or maybe even ourselves take and had crippling damages from? So often I think we want to put on the armor of God but we forget some parts. We pick and choose the parts we want to have and leave behind to the others. Since we are not perfect, we try and put on the armor we think we will need, rather than what God tells us we need. I know I personally am so, so guilty of doing this.
I often ignore the areas I am weak because I don’t want to admit to weakness. I struggle with so many simple things and I’m sometimes too ashamed to ask for help. I go through stages where I’ll read my Bible every day and love it and I’ll do devotions or read from a book daily, listen to podcasts and sermons a few times a week. Then I’ll suddenly go through a stage where I don’t do any of those things like I should, and instead of seeing that this is an area where I’m weak I will focus my attention back on an area where I am strong. Rather than deal with my imperfection, I focus on a strength. God doesn’t want us to do this! We will never be perfect, so in the midst of my imperfection I should turn my eyes to His perfection.
Where are we putting on our armor? Are we focusing on the hits we’ve survived in the past or are we turning our attention to problems that make it hard for us to make it home?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the Breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Ephesians 6:10-18

-Heather Wrench, 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

Unexpected Blessings

Now being in my 4th year as a GEM teacher, one of the sweetest connections I have made since moving to Mexico is with the students. Even though my first year was very challenging, God softened my heart over the summer after my 1st year. Since my 2nd year here, I have felt called to reach out to a few of the middle school girls and to also be genuine with the students I am teaching and tutoring.

God has blessed me so much by being able to connect with them and get to know them, and even their families more and more each year. Having students over to my house for dinner and playing games or being silly with them during class or getting hugs has been so sweet.

However, I have felt called to be more intentional in my interactions with them because I want to be a light for the gospel in their lives. So when I was given the opportunity to lead a small group of girls through a Bible study I was so excited! I would have never imagined four years ago that I would be in such a pivotal role in these girls’ lives. 

I was also asked unexpectedly to teach 5th grade for a whole semester due to another teacher’s health. My time teaching the 5th grade had its difficulties, but I can see how God was using me in little ways in those kids lives. I was very nervous and felt very unprepared for both of those roles, but I knew God had a plan far greater than I could imagine and I knew He would give me strength in my weakness.

I have been so thankful for the different conversations I have had with several students! I can see how God is working in their hearts and I’m looking forward to what else God will do in their lives. I am even amazed at how God is using these students to show me how loved I am by Him. I write this as a reminder for myself and others – that God can use ANYONE to make a difference for the gospel. And He will often call you to step up in unexpected ways to lead others, and through Him, we are completely qualified for these important roles. I am thankful for this semester of unexpected opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone for Jesus!


– Tracy Frohlich, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Tracy 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!

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!

Angela to Mexico

In many ways, God has been preparing me for this season in my life for many years.

In 2014, I chose to pursue a different career path. I have always loved working with children. I spent much of my life volunteering with kids and was a dedicated member of my church’s Children’s Ministry team. I chose to work in the local school district and pursue a degree in elementary education. This crossroad led to some major lifestyle changes. I went from working a well-paid job and spending extravagantly, to working a minimum wage job. Despite the hardships, I loved the job and loved my students. I knew this was right where God wanted me.

My home church has a strategic partnership with an organization in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. I had the opportunity to drive down with a team and provide support a couple of times. I loved being with the children there and experiencing a different culture. These experiences provided me with an appreciation of Mexican culture.

This past year, I finished my BS and began working on my MAT. I knew I had to find a position that would allow me to student teach in my own classroom and satisfy my university’s requirements. This meant pursuing a new position. My university had a job search available on the website. On the site, I stumbled upon the opportunity to teach in Puerto.

When I began talking with the staff, I had not yet officially applied. I gathered some information about the position and began the application process, unsure I would go any further. As I got further into the process, I spent time in prayer and sought the counsel of trusted people. There were concerns about finances, but I determined if I was called, God would provide. Confirmation came through my time spent with God. Lyrics from songs, confirmation from those closest to me, and a general assurance this was what I was supposed to do. God had been preparing me through interactions with the culture, change of career, downsizing of my lifestyle, and a desire to live more simply. I was at peace with my decision to move, knowing this was where God wanted me for this season.


Angela Fontanelli, GEM missionary