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!
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!
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!
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.
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