Let the Children Come (A Reflection)

Let me be candid right from the beginning—I’m single and I don’t have any children, so I’m not the most qualified person in the universe to talk about them. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably never thought to wonder what a single person thinks about children. I certainly understand that, but let me offer an argument for why having children around is one of the best things a single person can have in their life. Let me propose that the consideration of children should be a part of every believer’s life, not just the married ones.

I went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In my four years of college, I really can’t remember having a single interaction with a child. I never saw them. There were certainly married students there, but they had their own building. They also must have had their own underground tunnels for shuttling their children from place to place, because—honestly—where were they? It’s not just a college university thing either; big cities are strangely absent of children. I remember seeing a few of them running around the parks, but the city keeps them mostly cordoned in what I can only imagine are large industrial-sized playpens. I didn’t necessarily relish the fact that I never saw kids. I just didn’t think about it, ever.

Now you might be thinking this is an ideal situation. What college student wants loud little rowdy kids disturbing their attempts to pick up women at the campus coffee shop? And what mother wants their children around college students, of all people? It does seem ideal, I guess, this world where college students can go on with their lives without ever considering children. Ideal, yes, that’s what I’d call it; but, this is something I’ve learned about life—maybe you can agree with me here—life isn’t ideal. If you want to learn how to live, you want to avoid artificial partitions at all costs. Once real life happens and all bets are off, you realize it's more important to develop the character necessary to manage the difficulty of real life, rather than working to create an artificially easy life.

  In Stories class, Ben teaches about the basic components of good stories. Benjamin Reese shares his love of stories and literature at the GOD Elementary school.

In Stories class, Ben teaches about the basic components of good stories. Benjamin Reese shares his love of stories and literature at the GOD Elementary school.

There’s this story where the children all come to Jesus. You’ve probably seen it depicted in quite a few paintings. The disciples, of course try to stop them. (Just what young men would do, am I right?) We usually don’t reflect on this story. Usually it’s just used to show that Jesus was a really, really nice and gentle guy—so nice he was even willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to hold a few kids now and then. But, Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples shows that his reason for allowing the children to come was rooted more in his theology than his congeniality, “For it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Lk. 18:16). The kingdom of God was the thrust of Jesus’ whole ministry, so its no small thing that Jesus names children as the primary recipients of his work.

I don’t think it’s a plug for childhood evangelization. I think it's stating a reasonable fact. The world we make is the world children are going to live in. Jesus was creating a new world among his disciples, and these children were to be the beneficiaries of that work. Earlier in Luke, Jesus says, “Wisdom is justified by her children” (7:35). A world is only as a good as the children it produces. Isn’t this the wake up call many parents get, an awareness that their decisions will resound into the lives of their children?

If the kingdom of God is something that comes to earth, then we have to consider the ones that will inherit it after we leave. If we can’t enter into the kingdom “as little children”—if little children don’t have a place in God’s kingdom—then it’s not God’s kingdom. I am very glad that our organization values the consideration of this reality. I don’t have the luxury to ask myself, "How does the life I’m living work for me?" I have to ask whether or not the work I’m doing is good for the children that will inherit the product.  This is real life—all fake partitions aside. The kingdom of God cannot come if you don’t consider the next generation.

Recently, I’ve begun teaching at G.O.D. Elementary School. My life is quite different now. I used to live a life without making any of the considerations you have to make staring into the eyes of eager 8-year old students. The city would make us believe that the world runs more efficiently when you shove children to the side. That may be true. The world might run more efficiently, but it won’t run more humanely. No, I’m no expert on children, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot when I become a parent. But, I’m glad to have them around, because every day—as I work, study, build relationships, make decisions—I do it in the presence of those who will inherit the consequences of my activities.

I’m still single, and I still have the benefit of going home to a quiet house. I’m not trying to be a parent when I’m not. But, I don’t live my life like children aren’t a reality. When I see children looking up to me, I consider the kind of person I want to be, the kind of example I want to set. When I hold a child, I think of the kind of world I want to give to them. This gives meaning to my work, and it gently nudges me away from the insane myopia that my demographic seems to revel in. So, I say, let the children come, with all their energy, rowdiness, and craziness. They can trample, climb, and scream through my life all they want.

Written by Benjamin Reese

2013 in Review: 9 Families in the Philippines

In 2013, G.O.D. International sent 9 families to the Philippines for various stints of time. The team had several objectives to accomplish, such as building relationships, networking, culture and language learning, and personal capacity development. This article reviews our time abroad, highlighting the capacity development of our team members as they served abroad.

What we do as individuals, contributes to our collective team goals. Our collective goals are rooted in the Biblical values we share, and in that way, though diverse in our function, we are unified in the mind we share in Christ (1 Cor. 1:10, Rom. 12:4-6, Phil 2). From the beginning, God has desired a group of people who demonstrate faith, are obedient to his word, and concerned with being a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12, see also Ex. 19:4-6, Deut. 4:6-8). We are striving to be that people for God in the world. Theologically we would say we share a vocational calling to be a ‘light to the nations.” (Isa. 42:6, Mat. 5:14-16, Mat. 28, see also Acts 1:8).

As an organization, G.O.D. International is focused on serving the poor and marginalized through advocacy, education, and empowerment. The South East Asia (SEA) team has identified ‘communities of needs’ including slum dwellers, sex slaves, widows and orphans, rural villagers, prisoners, and neglected youth.  We want to have the knowledge and capacity to help meet their needs through the development of our individual skill sets. Marginalized groups such as these have God’s attention.  It has been his pursuit to rescue people in desperate situations from their suffering (Ex. 3). In order to respond with a holistic approach, we must allow God to utilize each of us, in our individual gifts and abilities, to help respond to vulnerable people in the way we are best suited. The following is a summation of highlights of each team member’s personal capacity development.

  Meg Mathews is a graduate of the Childbirth Education program, and part of the South East Asia maternal health team. She is developing a speciality in lactation consultation. During her time abroad she counseled over 20 women in breastfeeding issues. Here, she educates a rural group on concerns facing pregnant women as they approach childbirth.

Meg Mathews is a graduate of the Childbirth Education program, and part of the South East Asia maternal health team. She is developing a speciality in lactation consultation. During her time abroad she counseled over 20 women in breastfeeding issues. Here, she educates a rural group on concerns facing pregnant women as they approach childbirth.

Maternal Health

Meg Mathews, Julie Carpenter, Cannon Cameron, and Kristin Bennecker are part of the SEA maternal health team and are involved in childbirth education. During their stay, they volunteered with both government and non-government organizations, including hospitals, clinics, health centers, and birth homes.  They visited and worked with pregnant women in impoverished communities like dumpsite slums, city jails, and villages.  On one occasion the team hiked to a village in the mountains to bring donations of clothes, school and medical supplies. During that visit Meg Mathews educated a hilot (a traditional birth attendant in the Philippines), on how to identify signs of labor complication, and the proper way to cut an umbilical cord to prevent infection. Previously the hilot was using bamboo sticks to cut the cord, which can lead to infections in newborns because of a lack of sterilization.

According the UN Population Fund, 230 women die for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines.(1) Many of these women fall victim to mortality simply because there are not enough educated midwives and support persons to help them during birth.  Only 60% of the births in the Philippines are even supervised by a skilled birth attendant (according to UNICEF) which has vastly contributed to mothers dying daily from preventable issues and childbirth complications.(2)

In addition to labor support and education, the team was able to give education in breastfeeding. The World Health Organization estimates that around 16,000 Filipino children die as a result of "inappropriate feeding practices" (i.e. dilution of formula, mixing formula with contaminated water).  They often become the victims due to false advertising regarding the superior benefit of formula and violation of milk codes. (3)  Meg Mathews counseled and helped over 20 Filipino women who were having breastfeeding complications, with issues ranging from low milk production to babies being tongue tied. Additionally, all the mothers on the team served as examples and resources as to the benefits of breastfeeding.

  Jason Carpenter is a graduate of the Institute’s Missiology program, and is developing capacity in the field of sustainable development. In the Philippines last summer he applied Biblical and Missiological principles to different projects. Jason has also gained experience by working as a handyman for the last two years. In this photo he is using his plumbing skills to help a local organization.

Jason Carpenter is a graduate of the Institute’s Missiology program, and is developing capacity in the field of sustainable development. In the Philippines last summer he applied Biblical and Missiological principles to different projects. Jason has also gained experience by working as a handyman for the last two years. In this photo he is using his plumbing skills to help a local organization.

Sustainable Development

Jason Carpenter and Austin Bennecker both gained experience in the area of sustainable development by doing various projects at different organizations to help improve their facilities. Jason led a project to build a wall on the property where the team stayed, which made the environment safer for the numerous children that frequented the property. Jason elicited information about the different building issues in the Philippines, and conducted surveys with day laborers, learning about tensions often faced between creating safe structures and making enough income.

Austin, also a professional photographer, was able to capture such moments on film.   There is a old man named Ben who lives in Pag-Asa, a slum in Olongapo City (Ironically, ‘Pag-Asa’ means 'hope' in Tagalog, the national language the Philippines).  When the team met Ben in 2010 he was living with his 30 year old son, Kenneth.  During this last trip we learned his son recently died from a head injury after slipping on a wet floor in the market.   As you can imagine, this tragic event devastated Ben.  In an instant he lost his son.   Austin remembered he took a picture of Ben and his son in 2010, so he printed and framed the photo.  When he gave this to Ben, he discovered that this was the only photo of Kenneth that exists.  Receiving the photos meant so much to Ben, and brought a glimmer of joy to his life.

Educating Youth

Chris Cameron and Ty Mathews spent time working with the youth that are often neglected in Filipino society. Both of them volunteered at churches where they taught Bible to youth groups, and Chris led worship. Ty volunteered at two Christian high schools and taught a biblical values class at both.  He also worked with the youth at the Lapu-Lapu City dumpsite, a massive landfill where tons of trash is brought each day.  Many individuals and families try to make an income by scavenging through the trash looking for materials to recycle, making them susceptible to toxic substances, disease and illness, and even death.  Many of them live in direct proximity to the site, which has led to the emergence of slum settlements around the perimeter of the landfills. The homes are constructed of materials taken from the trash, and the electricity, when they have it, is poorly wired, which leads to frequent fires. Children are the most vulnerable in this environment.  Instead of being in school, many of them help their parents scavenge.  There are tragic stories of children being run over by bulldozers, or crushed by an avalanche of refuse, due to the instability of the trash mounds.(4) Many of the people that come to work at the dumpsite are from the provincial areas.  They are drawn to the city because of the false promise for a better job and life.

Ty focused his efforts on a group of young men that work at the dumpsite.  He got connected to them through Jovic Roldan, whom the team first met at the site in 2008. Because of their circumstances and the way society looks down on them, the youth defer their hopes and believe the lie they are of no benefit to society.  To combat this mindset Ty taught them passages from Genesis 1 to help them understand their inestimable value as human beings, created in the image of God. The young men were encouraged by Ty’s teaching.  Jovic specifically has been inspired to keep learning the Bible, and wants to serve the Lord by educating children.  Ty’s connection to the youth led to other opportunities for the team to minister to women and children that live at the landfill.

Literacy, Education, and Social Integration

Megan Cameron’s focus is literacy, and she volunteered at a primary school where she taught first grade children reading, writing, and English grammar. Hannah Duffy spent time working with and teaching marginalized women in a variety of venues.  She taught the Bible to women in both the Lapu Lapu and Olongapo City jails, volunteered at a social development center for young girls, and facilitated smalls groups for women at churches.  Candace Galford is an event coordinator, and used those skills to organize events so that people could have an environment for healthy social interactions, like weekly Bible Studies, movie nights, celebrations for the girls at the social development center and the women detainees at the city jail, and a carnival for children of an impoverished fishing village. Clark and Rina Miller are still living in the Philippines and both are involved in social work and routinely serve the most marginalized people.

  Craig Duffy, a student Bible instructor, teaches theology at a Bible school in Mindanao, the southern-most region of the Philippines. By volunteering at three different schools during his time abroad, he developed his capacity as a Bible educator and gained experience teaching in a cross-cultural setting. Craig is passionate about helping students develop a healthy theology about God, and how that should be applied to how they live.

Craig Duffy, a student Bible instructor, teaches theology at a Bible school in Mindanao, the southern-most region of the Philippines. By volunteering at three different schools during his time abroad, he developed his capacity as a Bible educator and gained experience teaching in a cross-cultural setting. Craig is passionate about helping students develop a healthy theology about God, and how that should be applied to how they live.

Biblical Education

Nathan Cameron, Craig Duffy, and Shaun Galford had the primary objective of offering biblical education.  Nathan taught Bible studies in the jails, during team gatherings, church small groups, and preached regularly at churches each week. Shaun and Craig volunteered at several schools, from elementary to college. In addition, Shaun taught a biblical values class at an elementary school. Craig spent time teaching at a Bible College in Mindanao. They also organized and taught a formal Bible class to a group of nine inmates for seven weeks in the Lapu-Lapu City jail.  Their purpose was to educate and help rehabilitate these men by teaching them the word of God.  At the end of seven weeks several of them broke into tears as they testified about the love and mercy of God.  Most of them were not friends before, but developed a friendship and unity through this, and now they look out and care for one another.

Tim Sherrod, traveling to the Philippines for the first time, visited several areas of extreme need, as well as taught the Bible in jails, assisted with work projects, and developed relationships. Alison Sherrod organized and coordinated bible lessons and dramas for children and taught the Alternative Learning Program (ALS) to women detainees in the Olongapo City jail.  (ALS is a program funded by the Philippines’ Department of Education that provides education for people unable to access formal learning. It is part of the jail’s rehabilitation process; however, there is a shortage of teachers available to instruct the class. (5))

In conclusion, our method of transplanting communities necessitates we, as a team, are continually developing our individual capacity in order to be a blessing/benefit to the poor and marginalized. How each team member functions is integral to accomplishing our collective goals, and therefore necessitates we develop our individual gifts, skills, knowledge, and ability (Rom. 12:4, 1 Cor. 12. Eph. 4.)  Though we have a diverse array of gifts and skills, our education in the word allows us to share a mind and be unified. As we experience the needs of such desperate people groups, we can’t help but call upon God to continue making us into the kind of people that can help.  Even though the needs feel overwhelming, we believe that God’s people must be on the forefront of assistance and development.

Written by Shaun Galford

[1] Independent Progress Review of the UN Joint Program on Maternal and Neonatal Mortality Reduction, Philippines by Adrienne Chattoe-Brown and Jenny Kerrison.  IPR of UNJPMNH. Philippines, 2012. http://aid.dfat.gov.au/countries/eastasia/philippines/Documents/un-maternal-neonatal-mortality-reduction-ipr.pdf

[2] Developing an Investment Case for Financing E eatable Progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 in the Asia Pacific Region by Aleli D Kraft, Bernardino M. Aldaba, Sophie La Vincente, 2009. http://www.uq.edu.au/investmentcase/Mapping%20report/ICMappingReport-Philippines.pdf

[3] WHO and UNICEF call for renewed commitment to breastfeeding by WHO, 2007. http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/Breastfeeding_pressrelease.pdf

[4] “Below the Poverty Line: Living on a Garbage Dump.”  Unicef Philippines. http://www.unicef.org/philippines/reallives_12171.html#.Ur0t7uagkZg.gmail

[5] Bureau of Alternative Learning. Department of Education Republic of the Philippines. http://www.deped.gov.ph/index.php/bureau-alternative-learning-system

Garden Produces More than Food

volunteers"Hopewell Gardens" is the community garden of G.O.D. Intl. It is currently 7,000 square feet, growing nearly 50 different varieties of vegetables, with berry bushes and fruit trees growing along the perimeter. There are no chemical fertilizers used, and no technological short cuts taken. Each bed was hand dug with shovels and spades by community volunteers. Hopewell Gardens is an incredibly productive place. In 2012, it turned out nearly 3,000 pounds of produce, and this year is promising to yield even more. The fresh produce services the G.O.D. community, as well as many neighbors in Hopewell. Several local restaurants have also become loyal customers, and they are the newest vendor at the Donelson Farmers’ Market. Behind each tomato, cucumber and zucchini harvested in Hopewell Gardens, there are lives being cultivated through the rhythm of the garden tasks. All the single students of the Institute participate in weekly garden shifts. They are faithful all year long to help tend to the needs of the garden throughout the seasons and they contribute directly to the success of our agricultural endeavors.

But the summer brings an influx of activity to the garden. In the first two weeks of June, we facilitated Camp Skillz for lower-income children in the Nashville area. This brought 50 kids to the garden, many of them for the first time. A summer camp for the children of our organizational employees, Camp Kaibigan, brings another 20 on a weekly basis. In its busiest summer to date, Students Living A Mission (SLAM) is bringing over 600 children to work with our organization. Most of them will work in the garden in some capacity as an experiential learning tool.

This SLAM team worked together to bundle countless heads of garlic; enough to supply the community kitchen for the coming year, as well as some to sell and some to keep for replanting this fall.

Do all these hands benefit the garden? Usually. But our biblically-derived ethics focus on the benefit to the individual as well. When 40 middle school kids come to spend an afternoon working in the garden, there will likely be more time spent instructing them and helping them work as there will be time for them to be "productive" in the garden. They may lack the energy or drive to work hard in the summer heat, and likely they have never gardened before. We teach them about the process of growing food, and help them try it out. Our hope is that they will become inspired to serve and learn based on the stories we teach them from the bible, and by the examples we give with our lives.

“The vast majority of kids that show up haven’t had any interaction in growing food,” reflected Seth Davis, director of Hopewell Gardens. “Our culture separates us from the source of our food. Having students work the ground is educational in a practical way, as the kids learn where food comes from, and how it grows. But it also connects them to people around the world. The regions we work in—Southeast Asia, India, Latin America and East Africa—are primarily agrarian societies, and growing food is a part of their daily reality. When their crops fail, it directly affects their families.

Though Levi couldn't dig in the garden with his peers due to a football injury, he and Seth shared good conversation about the way Jesus reached out to those who found themselves marginalized as a result of injury or sickness.

The garden also helps to teach the ethic of hard work. And while we are working hard together, there is time to talk and build relationships with the kids. During a SLAM week, they go out and do service projects interacting with refugees, and underprivileged children, but then the garden provides a time for reflection, to process these experiences, to share their stories, and gives the SLAM leaders a chance to hear about their lives.”

Last week, Seth spent time getting to know a SLAM participant as they bundled garlic together for an hour. The student was a football player with an injured knee, and Seth spent that hour investing in him. “We talked about things that I wish I would have known when I was his age,” Seth said. It was a productive time in many ways.

On another SLAM week, a teenage boy tasted his first homegrown strawberry in the garden. It was a moment that no one will soon forget. His eyes grew wide and he shouted, “It tastes so real!!!”

We aren’t intended to serve the ground or worship the earth. We tend the ground and cultivate it in such a way that it preserves the lives of human beings, those created in the image of God. But nutritious food produced by the garden isn't the only benefit to a human life. In the garden, individuals learn about hard work, food production, creativity, innovation, and about life itself--a rare and precious experience for youth today. In this way, we aren’t just growing a garden, we are developing people. This is our practice in Hopewell Gardens.

 

 

Kristina Davis is the wife to Seth, and the mother of three. Her children have all benefitted from working in the garden with their parents. They have learned not just about growing food, but gathering it, preserving it, and cooking it. Kristina also teaches classes in the NOVA Childbirth Education program, where she has a nutrition emphasis. 

Property Maintained Solely by Volunteers (Video Snapshot)

Did you know that we do all of the maintenance, renovation and construction work at the G.O.D. International headquarters ourselves? We do not 'hire out' or bring in special cleaning services. Instead, we depend on the willing hearts of volunteers who are ready to serve. From the community garden to scrubbing bathroom toilets, to electricity work to building an amphitheater, every project we do, we do ourselves. This isn't only good for labor costs, but we believe it is helping individuals grow both in character and in skill, learning how to work hard, and work well. This video is a quick look into what projects we are undertaking this summer.

GOD Int'l Grounds Volunteering from G.O.D. International on Vimeo.

A Mother's Reflection about Camp Kaibigan

 Celesta Bargatze is training to become a certified midwife. Here, she holds one of the first baby that she caught on her own.

Celesta Bargatze is training to become a certified midwife. Here, she holds one of the first baby that she caught on her own.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an awesome mom.  Not just a mom—that seemed like a given to me—but an awesome mom.  You know, one of those moms who cuts sandwiches into hearts and always has fun and educational projects for her kids to do.  My first daughter, Esther Grace, was fairly young when I started to think maybe that was easier said than done.  As she grew, each new stage of her little life presented me with a unique blend of joy, challenges, and—at times—speechless bewilderment.  It only took a little time and humility to recognize that as much as I wanted to do for my daughter, I had also accepted God’s calling to be a midwife and to one day work and train other midwives in Africa, and I needed help.  When I first felt the Lord leading me to such work, I wondered how I could ever even complete the training and still be a “good mom.”  Like any other parents, my husband and I have high hopes for our children to one day be better than us.  We need the investment of other people into our (three) daughters’ lives in order to make this happen, especially since so much of my time and energy is spent training as a midwife.  Camp Kaibigan, a summer program for the elementary-aged children of employees of our organization, is one of the very special ways (and quite possibly Esther’s favorite way) that we have experienced God’s faithfulness and love enacted through our friends and coworkers in order to benefit our children.

Moriah Olson, Justice Garner, Kiah Roufs, Luci Munoz and Esther Bargatze laugh hysterically during a drama lesson at Camp Kaibigan.
Moriah Olson, Justice Garner, Kiah Roufs, Luci Munoz and Esther Bargatze laugh hysterically during a drama lesson at Camp Kaibigan.

I love Esther and I think she is wonderful and sweet and everything else a mother should think of her eldest daughter, but since she was a small squishy baby, the child was particular.  What do I mean by particular?  These tendencies manifest in different ways.  As a baby, very few people doing only a handful of things could get her to crack a smile, much less laugh.  As a toddler, she would work for hours on an art project only to crumple it up and throw it away because she felt there was a line or color out of place.  Now, as a 6 year-old, having learned some discretion and self-control, she will sweetly tell me why school, dance, soccer, et cetera was “ok, but not that great.”  I explain this, so that you can appreciate with me how rare and special her reaction to Camp Kaibigan was.  Last summer, my cautious little lady attended the first day suspiciously.  What was this new attempt of her mother to educate her under the thinly veiled guise of “fun”?  Much to my surprise, and I think perhaps hers as well, Esther LOVED IT!  Not the way she loves the last episode of My Little Pony or ice cream cones either, but she woke up excited every day to go because she loved her friends and teachers.  It became the comparison for every other activity, “it was fun, but not as much fun as Camp Kaibigan.”  When it was time for camp again this summer, she was ecstatic.

Esther Bargatze was one of the campers in Camp Kaibigan's inaugural year: 2012. This year, she was so excited for camp to start that she decorated a folder to take to camp with her.
Esther Bargatze was one of the campers in Camp Kaibigan's inaugural year: 2012. This year, she was so excited for camp to start that she decorated a folder to take to camp with her.

As her mom, of course I am happy that she enjoys it so much, but my appreciation for this special program goes much deeper.  Kaibigan is Tagalog for “friend,” and developing friendships was one of the main goals of Alison Sherrod, the program’s creator.  Every parent wants their child to have good friends, and as I watch Esther with her sweet little friends, I am moved to tears.  Camp didn’t just give her friends; the activities and intentionality of facilitators have helped Esther develop the skills to cultivate relationships.  I’ve watched her, at 6 years old, resolve conflict through conversation and be able to verbalize feelings that would be difficult for some adults.  While the kids might think they are just having fun with their friends, they are given opportunities to serve.  The kinds of activities that are offered instill in them values that we try to reinforce at home.  For example, they have weekly times in the community garden and then prepare and distribute produce to widows in the surrounding neighborhood.  It is common for Esther to wave to our neighbors and then proceed to tell me about when she visited them and how much she enjoyed helping them.

In my never-ending quest to be a really good mom, I’ve become quite comfortable with the reality of my limitations.  In light of this, when people take the time to invest into my children’s development, I feel especially blessed.  I’m not sure that I can even find the words to express my thankfulness for the blessing of the Camp Kaibigan program.  Even Esther’s grandparents have commented on how her attitude and character have benefitted through the program.  As happy and grateful as we are, I am also reminded of that this is a sign of what God is doing in our organization.  To have four young and talented women (Ashley Moore, Kelly Jobe, Laura Voight, and Brittani Collinsworth) dedicate seven weeks of their summer to providing a quality experience for our children on a volunteer basis is a rare thing indeed.  In our culture where summer for college students is typically spent sleeping in or on vacation at the beach, these women have demonstrated generosity, love and their belief in Jesus’ teachings that caring for children is of utmost importance.

Kaibigan means "friend" in Tagalog, and the campers really are developing meaningful friendships. Because of the camp, parents of just this group of girls are able to serve in areas of Resource Management, teaching preschool, spearheading the Community Garden, planning the upcoming G.O.D. Elementary school, maintaining and developing the G.O.D. property, offering Resident Accountability to single students, planning for the upcoming year of classes at the Institute for G.O.D. International, including more participants in the Childbirth education program.
Kaibigan means "friend" in Tagalog, and the campers really are developing meaningful friendships. Because of the camp, parents of just this group of girls are able to serve in areas of Resource Management, teaching preschool, spearheading the Community Garden, planning the upcoming G.O.D. Elementary school, maintaining and developing the G.O.D. property, offering Resident Accountability to single students, planning for the upcoming year of classes at the Institute for G.O.D. International, including more participants in the Childbirth education program.

Without their investment, it would be much more difficult for me to fulfill my vocation in midwifery.  It honestly was not an easy thing for me to accept, and this was primarily because I knew the requirements of such work.  Caring for women throughout their pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences is a weighty task.  Learning this craft comes with a great deal of study and practical experience.  Furthermore, the hours are not predictable.  One week I may have ample time to spend with my family and the next, we have 4 new babies and I haven’t seen my kids in days.  There is a temptation to be fearful or worried.  Everything from the existential “will Esther resent me for missing her swim lesson again” to the practical “I hope the kids got their vitamins today” threatens to cloud my mind and I simply cannot let it take me from the very important task of caring for women and children, and learning the life-saving skills that women in Africa so desperately need.  However, accepting this call, I believed that God would be faithful to my family, because I knew they were even more important to him than they were to me.  I am often reminded of the midwives in Exodus 1 and how it is specifically noted that God’s blessing to them comes in the form of a family.  Children are so important to God, how could I ever think that he would call me to something that would be detrimental to them?

In the New Testament, we see Jesus teaching his disciples that they must value children.  In the Old Testament, God’s law stipulates the importance of families teaching their children.  Because we, as an organization, believe that God’s word and the life of Jesus should guide the way we operate in every aspect, we also highly value our children and their holistic development.  Camp Kaibigan is a sign of this and how we can only fulfill our God-given vocation as a whole, rather than as individuals.  As a mother, I can attest to experiencing God’s love and a sense of relief knowing that my children can excel while I help another woman safely welcome her child.  As a camper, Esther gets to live it up as she is loved and, in turn, learns to love others.

 

Video Update: Five Businesses

In 2011, G.O.D. Int'l started five businesses in order to meet three specific goals: to generate funds for the support and operations of our development work, to offer employees 'real-world' experience and opportunities to learn skills that will allow them to be a benefit to the people they serve, and to provide a healthy and safe working environment for employees. Learn more about the businesses in this video.

Click Here to watch Businesses Snapshot Video on Vimeo

Businesses Snapshot Video from G.O.D. International on Vimeo.

SLAM facilitates over 600 Youth in Summer Service!

This summer, SLAM is facilitating seven Nashville Weeks. Over 600 students will get the opportunity to both hear the Word of God and put it into action through serving the elderly, immigrant and refugee population in Nashville. SLAM is also hosting a seven-week Summer Internship program where interns gain valuable practical experience nationally and internationally as they spend a total of seven weeks serving in Nashville, El Salvador, and Uganda. We are grateful that God can use us to make young people aware of the needs that exist in the world, and understand how they can meet them through not only providing service opportunities, but also an ethical framework for understanding their responsibility to do so according to the Word of God.

Watch this video to learn more about SLAM and their work this summer!

SLAM Snapshot Week 1 - Computer from G.O.D. International on Vimeo.

New Video: Camp Skillz and Kaibigan

If you were to stop by the G.O.D. International headquarters this week you would see 75 children engaged in sports, crafts, drama, games, and more. We are facilitating two summer camps: Camp Skillz and Camp Kaibigan, both with invaluable lessons that we hope kids keep with them for the rest of their lives. Watch the newest video to learn more!

G.O.D. Int'l Camps Snapshot from G.O.D. International on Vimeo.

Small Things Count (Even Shelves)

Small Things Count (Even Shelves)

G.O.D. International sent three families as representatives to El Salvador this February. The Johnsons, Reyes’, and Watsons recently moved into three houses and are currently making them into homes and getting to know their neighbors. Michael Johnson, an accountant for G.O.D. International and skilled in working with his hands, shares a moment when a seemingly small task evolved into an opportunity to help three fatherless boys tackle their first construction project.

 

Childbirth Education: The Beginning of Caring for Women and Children

 DSC_8218

DSC_8218

The World Health Organization calculates that in 2010, approximately 287,000 women die every year while pregnant or giving birth, and 3.1 million newborns die in the neonatal period (the highest incidence occurring around the time of the birth, and the majority of deaths in the first 24 hours).  In the developing world, only about 58 percent of all deliveries are reported as attended by skilled health providers--in some countries, the figure is closer to 10-12 percent. And in many cases, the woman does not have access to life-saving emergency care should something go wrong. Of all maternal mortalities in the world, 99 percent occur in developing countries.  Sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asia account for 87% of the world’s maternal deaths.

In seeking to make a difference in the realm of maternal and infant mortality, the need for skilled birth attendants is incalculable. According to the World Health Organization, the most critical shortage of health workers in the world, including doctors, nurses, and dentists, is skilled birth attendants. The purpose of the NOVA Childbirth Education Program of G.O.D. Int’l is to address the incredibly high rates of maternal mortality in the third world by responding with more educated and skilled birth attendants.  The word ‘Nova’ is Latin, meaning, “new.”  Every birth is a unique experience, involving a powerful transformation of a woman to a mother, even if it’s her 6th child.  Just as no two women are the same, no two births of the same mother unfold the same. The NOVA Childbirth Education Program is a 4 semester, 27 unit, 7 course curriculum, including a practicum whereby students receive practical, hands-on experience educating, supporting, and advocating for expecting, low-income families in the Nashville area. Their training includes everything from the history of childbirth to maternal complications to communication skills with families and healthcare providers. This practicum allows students to participate in educating and actively supporting families in the prenatal period, within the birth setting, and postpartum period.

 Meg Birth 1

Meg Birth 1

Currently, we have one certified professional midwife, another one in training, alongside 7 doulas, 2 lactation counselors, and 8 childbirth educators. In addition to the need for skilled birth attendants and educators, however, there is also a need for skilled nutritionists, family doctors, pediatricians, policy makers, and administrators to ensure that healthy births are made possible under proper regulatory frameworks. Typically, such occupations are trained in wholly separate programs, but we believe that education concerning the health of the mother and baby before, during, and after birth is essential to the overall well-being of women and children.

The NOVA program accepted seven new students in January of 2013, many of them with occupational pursuits that support and strengthen the work of the skilled birth attendants. As a current student, I hope to gain knowledge and experience regarding the birth process and obstacles faced by pregnant women and newborns in order to advocate for policy change regarding maternal and infant health. Another student, Sarah Mascaro, has a nutritional focus, and finds this program especially beneficial as the prenatal diet of a mother will have incredible benefit or consequence on her child’s first five years of life. Julie Carpenter aspires to become a pediatrician, and is starting her journey at the most logical beginning: a child’s formation in her mother’s womb.

While one of the purposes of this program is to produce more educated and skilled birth attendants, it is also our hope to produce women with knowledge and skills regarding the birth process to operate in the many sectors in society in which women and children find themselves. The desire to ensure healthy mothers and babies reaches far beyond the labor and delivery room, and that is where the graduates of this program one day hope to find themselves: in the courtroom, in the classroom, in the pediatric wing of the village clinic, and any place you find a mother or child in need of advocacy, support, and love. The program’s director, Tara Garner, says,

 SONY DSC

SONY DSC

“Childbirth Education isn't just for aspiring midwives because safe childbirth is a basic human right.  This human right can be defended and protected by anyone that has the Spirit of God and education in the Word of God combined with a practical education in this very important field.  In developing countries, a mother’s death in childbirth means almost certain death for her newly born child - 90 percent of babies born to mothers who died giving birth will also die.  A healthy family begins with a healthy pregnancy and birth, and healthy families are needed to make up healthy societies.  The world needs and would benefit greatly from more pediatricians, nurses, healthcare workers, lawyers, policy makers, social workers, and counselors who had as part of their professional arsenal, practical education or training in the field of childbirth. This is a matter of saving and improving lives.”

Written by Cannon Cameron

Healthy Marriages Equal A Healthy Community

IMG_3955Healthy marriages are imperative to the well-being of any community.  For this reason, my wife and I, and 41 other married couples involved with the community of G.O.D. Int’l gathered together at the headquarters of G.O.D. Int’l recently to participate in what was has become our annual marriage retreat to focus on strengthening the vitality of our marriages.

While our efforts as an organization are often focused on reaching out to the marginalized both locally and around the world, we recognize that such efforts must begin with our own health as a community, and as families.

The divorce rate in the US is now between 40 and 50 percent according to the American Psychological Association.  In light of this unfortunate societal trend, we are working hard as a community to protect this most foundational relationship.

One of the major roadblocks that often results in divorce in our society is the fact that married couples don’t have a healthy network of , friends to turn to when conflicts or seemingly insurmountable issues arise.  Struggling married couples don’t often feel safe enough to open up to friends in order to gain another perspective and work through the inevitable conflicts that so commonly emerge within marriages.  Because of pride or trust issues, marital issues are too often reserved for the realm of privacy.

On top of this, the Christian culture often pressures us, sometimes subtly, to pretend like things are absolutely perfect in our marriage. And we hide the issues, and put on a smiling face in public.  Studies show that, often, married couples have been unhappy for up to six years before they decide to do anything about it.  None of us want to get into that kind of rut.

When marriage is the most fundamental relationship in our lives, we cannot afford to be laissez-faire about it.  We can’t spend our focus and energy so tirelessly day in and day out to develop competencies and skills to the neglect of sharpening this most central relationship in our lives.

Because of some of these unfortunate realities, one of the major themes touched on over the course of our weekend was the necessity for accountability among marriages.  While the idea may seem somewhat ordinary, it is truly an extraordinary phenomenon to watch being lived out on the day-to-day.  We emphasized the importance of married couples supporting and trusting one another, and the need to feel safe in becoming more transparent with other married friends. “The marriage retreat brought out the need for my husband and I to have the accountability of friends in our marriage, to help us come to terms with our own marital challenges,” said Grace Aaseby.

As human beings, we don’t always see ourselves well, and have a hard time thinking outside our own perspective.  Thus, if we are willing to open up our marriage to the perspective of others, we gain the perspective that can give us a more healthy relationship.

“It has been very beneficial for me to have times like this to connect on a deeper level with married friends and to gain perspective from older, experienced husbands on what it looks like to be a good husband and father,” said Chris Cameron in response to the weekend.

The weekend ended with testimonies of men and women expressing heart-felt gratitude to have friends to support them in their marriage relationship.  Others expressed a resolve to move forward in fulfilling their roles as either husband or wife in such a way that their spouse feels supported and excited to participate in raising families and a contributing to a healthy community.

Written by Brett Madron

Winter Mission: 23 Representatives in 4 Countries

This month, Global Outreach Developments International will send out 23 representatives (as well as 7 guests - friends who are helping us meet our short term objectives) to our four focused regions of ministry: Latin America, East Africa, India, and South East Asia.

Some will begin their cultural immersion experiences, while others will be continuing the work already begun there, pushing us closer to the long-term strategic goal of a 'transplanted community' in each of these four regions.

A transplanted community contrasts the traditional paradigm of sending out missionary couples, or short-term teams to implement programs or projects. Instead our regional teams (or small communities) will relocate to a settlement owned by the organization, where the team can model behavior & innovations (such as responsibility for neighbor, interdependence, generosity, solar energy, bio-intensive farming, etc.) necessary for the transformation of the larger communities to which they are ‘planted.’ We call this being 'a people, within a people.'

Three ladies (Brittani Collinsworth, Breann Bennecker and Leafa Vagatai), all students of the Institute for Global Outreach Developments International, will spend 6 weeks in the Philippines, participating in what we call an “immersion.” An immersion describes a 5-7 week trip in one country that allows an individual to immerse in the culture, language, beliefs, and needs of the people native to that place. All of our regional team 'members' (or future missionaries with our organization) are required to spend 2 immersion trips (of 5-7 weeks) in the country, as well as a 3-6 month 'semester abroad,' a 6-9 month 'occupational development term' and 1-year 'project implementation term.'

This is coupled with extensive biblical and missiological education, an occupational focus, and language study. In sending individuals to these regions, these expectations are at the forefront of their stay. In addition, Gregg Garner will join the ladies in Philippines and attempt to locate the settlement plot for the G.O.D. Southeast Asia hub--a main geographical starting point where G.O.D. Int’l will be based in this region.

Michael Davis, Michael Johnson, Jeremiah Watson and Mitchell Buchanan are in El Salvador, continuing the development of the plot of land the team is leasing there. Projects include painting, electrical, and plumbing of the homes that will house full-time representatives from G.O.D. International. We are very happy to have Michael Davis' father and father-in-law, join us in the work, as well as experience El Salvador, its people, culture, and need, for the first time.
In Uganda, 3 Kenyan and 3 Ugandan cooperatives of G.O.D. Int’l will meet Gregg Garner, Cameron and Colin Kagay, Skylar and Rylan Aaseby, Ashley Moore and Jordan Miller to celebrate the relationships God has orchestrated and sustained over the last decade, as well as cast vision for the future.

Two couples from Iowa Falls, who, through a prolonged friendship with members of G.O.D. Int’l, wanted to get a better look into our international work, will join the team, as will Vern Aaseby (Skylar & Rylan's father). This team will have a dual focus: one, to mark the lot lines for the 7 acre settlement and begin the construction of a triplex which will serve as an itinerant housing unit for volunteers; and two, allow first-timers to Africa to witness the need that exists, primarily through prison, hospital, slum, church and school visits and by spending time with our cooperative families.

Gregg Garner will also join the December, India 'Immersion team' consisting of Nick Moore, Laura Voight, Rebekah Davis, Leah Thress, Kelly Jobe, Taylor and Heather Maute (and children) and Rosemary and Nick Sherrod. While there, Gregg will assist the team in locating a settlement plot; the India hub.

Most members of this team will also be participating in their second immersion experience, and for this reason, will be doing increased research in their spheres of occupational focus. Leah and Heather will be visiting maternity wards. Kelly and Rosemary will be working with womens groups and visiting and surveying the university in Lucknow. Nick Moore, Laura, and Rebekah will be visiting health care centers, Taylor will be researching sustainable horticulture, and Nick Sherrod sustainable housing. The team will be participating in Hindi language classes and other cultural lessons.


A common refrain around our organization is that “we are more than just a school.” As we break between semesters, we utilize the term “Winter Mission,” and as you can see from the above synopsis, that is no exaggeration. We really are on mission. Our care and concern for the poor and marginalized, compels us to go, care and do our best to help— making long term commitments to see qualitative change.

We ask that you please join us, in prayer and hope, that we can represent God (make his name holy) and initiate his ideal (kingdom come) in areas of such desperate need (where they are simply asking for daily bread) (Mt. 6, Lk. 11). Please pray for our safety, our protection, and the Lord’s favor as we venture to do what he has put in our hearts—develop communities who model the ethics of God through healthy individuals and families who live in peace with one another, exemplifying the fullness of life we believe God wants for all of his children.

Written by Laurie Kagay

Advocating for Children in TN Courts

Though I've never been particularly moved by statistics, a recent study showed that there are over 400,000 children in the US foster care system on any given day. The study opened my eyes to a reality that had previously been unseen. These 400,000 children go virtually undetected by the majority of society. Yet each one of these children go on day by day living in limbo from home to home and courtroom to courtroom. On average a foster child will live around 26 months with parents they’ve just met. These two years in the life of a child significantly alters the course of their life. Perhaps the saddest reality is that they have done nothing to deserve this. They are the innocent victims of abuse and neglect and the results of their time in foster care can unfortunately be just as devastating.

Over the past few years several participants here at Global Outreach Developments Intl. have observed the need for childhood advocacy particularly within the realm of foster care. For these children, the court room is a scary place. It's where they are often told who they are going to live with, where they will be going to school and what their limitations are while in state custody. It's also a place where they have to relive details of their lives that are devastating. Children should never have to go through this process alone.

Therefore several G.O.D. Community participants have trained to become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for children in Tennessee. In doing so, we have undergone training by the state that authorizes each one to represent the child in court, speaking for their best interest. We are working with caseworkers, attorneys, foster families, educators, counselors and family members in order to present to the court what we believe to be the best possible option for each child we represent. With the help of God we believe we can make a significant impact in the lives of these youth by helping them navigate through a world of mistrust, grown up decision-making, and courtroom lingo.

CASA is a nationwide organization that trains volunteers to advocate for children who are in state custody because of abuse or neglect by a caretaker. While training to become a CASA representative I was very encouraged by the array of people in my classes. There were retired educators, nurses, law students, empty-nest couples and young adults who aged out of foster care, all wanting to walk alongside of these children during very vulnerable times. So many different people across the US are making a difference by advocating for those in the foster care system. For us, 400,000 is not a defeating statistic, rather it motivates the level of care and concern we can give to each child we represent.

Written by Britt Edwards

Summer Interns Embrace Opportunities to Serve in El Salvador

After journeying almost 2500 miles south from Nashville, this year’s Students Living a Mission interns from G.O.D. Int’l didn’t miss a beat in jumping in to embrace the people in communities surrounding San Salvador, El Salvador. Having developed a children’s educational camp called Camp Skillz that they facilitated in Nashville for marginalized children, the interns translated this into Spanish and provided a dynamic week of educational activities for the children in a community called Sitio Nuevo.

Outside of the Camp Skillz, the interns assisted in building projects on the property of G.O.D. Int’l in the community of Sitio Nuevo where homes are being built to house our development workers.

The interns stayed in host homes in the local community where they became more acquainted with families and the home life in Salvadoran culture, and even had the opportunity to do work alongside locals in their daily responsibilities, like cooking, carrying wood and landscaping their properties.  This has assisted greatly in helping our organization at large to develop a rapport with the people in Sitio Nuevo.

Interns were also given the opportunity to visit a local orphanage where they spent time interacting with the 50 boys and girls who call it home.  The interns had the opportunity to sit and learn their stories as well as encourage them with a production of skits and songs.

Due to a variety of circumstances, schools in El Salvador are often without enough teachers.  Due to this reality, the interns were able to spend a day assisting in a local school teaching English classes and interacting with students.

On top of assisting with the school system, the team was able to learn how to identify public issues that exist in various small communities and what the causes were for these issues.  Interns were introduced as to what it really looks like to come alongside the poor and marginalized and empower them to transform the environment in which they live.

Over the course of their time in El Salvador, the interns also accompanied the band UnNamed Servant as they play different venues in El Salvador on their summer tour. They assisted the band in setting up and tearing down equipment before and after the shows.  As the band ministered to the people through song, the interns had the privilege of engaging those who listened and were eager to learn and see justice done in the world around them.

Continue to pray for this summer’s interns as they have debriefed from their time in El Salvador through facilitating a week of service projects  in North Carolina for those in need in the city of Raleigh and have now made it back to Nashville.

Written by: Brett Madron

Learning to Keep Our Eyes Open: Sara Davis Reflects on Her Time in El Salvador

When I came to El Salvador to spend a summer immersed in the culture, I had not yet committed to serving in Latin American long term, nor had I developed a particular area of expertise so that I would even know HOW to serve the people here. Because of this, much of my experience in El Salvador has just been taking it in--observing needs and experiencing the culture firsthand; much of my experience in El Salvador has consisted of merely seeing and experiencing. I knew that it was possible to come to this place and still not see the reality that exists here. I made it one of my goals to keep my eyes open, no matter what things I was confronted with. As might be expected, most of my activities have had to do with interacting with women in El Salvador. I have cooked meals with Carmen, a neighbor who spends hours of her day in a hot, dark kitchen cooking over an open fire. She laughed at me as I awkwardly patted tortillas into shape and nearly cut a finger off dicing potatoes in my hand, as she doesn’t use a cutting board. I have walked and talked with Sonya, a 13-year-old in the midst of the transition from girlhood to womanhood, already taking on responsibilities far beyond her years. Sonya's school attendance is sporadic, as she often works in her family's corn fields and looks after her two younger sisters in the afternoons. I have played soccer with girls who would be my peers, and marveled at their endurance. I’ve participated in a seminar on self-esteem for women in a co-op, and listened as they expressed with embarrassment that they couldn’t participate because they’d never heard of the term self-esteem before. I have watched as women in their 20s signed their names by dabbing ink on their thumb and pressing it to the paper, because they could not read or write.

Who knew that just the choice to keep one’s eyes open could become so impactful? As my heart grows heavy with the knowledge of the needs of these people, I am driven to God’s word. I find comfort and strength in the words of James, who says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

These moments are precious opportunities to be made mature and complete in the LORD, not lacking in faith, but ready for those challenges that lay ahead. I don't want the difficulty of the things I have witnessed to lead to fear and despair, but rather I believe with the writer of the book of James that with faith, I can persevere and even become a helpful friend to these people. Such hope believes that with the guidance of God's word we can be a transformative people, taking an active part in building a new reality for these women and children.

Becoming Literate: A Student's Perspective

In 2008, with a backpack, my guitar and $50 in my pocket, I boarded a plane to Nashville. My parents had faith enough to recognize the LORD calling me and trusted him to take care of me as I moved over 7,000 miles away. After spending several weeks on a Summer Internship with G.O.D. Int’l, witnessing extreme poverty, injustice, and despair, I was hungry for the word of God. I didn’t know how the Lord was going to do it, and I didn’t feel like I had much to give, but I was more than willing to join Jesus in his mission to take care of the least of these. I was unsatisfied with the options that the life had presented me. Sports, military service, music, or an education that would leave me indebted for a number of years. However, I knew the LORD wanted to work with me and I was willing to do whatever it would take to learn his word and to know him more. This is why I moved to Nashville to join G.O.D. Int’l in their work.

Joining this organization has meant becoming a diligent student.  Becoming educated in God’s Word and learning about myself has not been the easiest journey. Learning how to be of benefit to others is humbling because sometimes you recognize the deficiencies life has dealt you, and the reality that you must overcome them before being of service to others. I realized my low reading comprehension and constant writer's block were because my literacy skills were far below what they should have been at a college level. The education I had received prior had not taught me critical thinking skills that would aid me in evaluating and recognizing the layers within texts that I was reading, and this seemed debilitating.

Now, 4 years later, I am actually helping others develop critical literacy skills! I didn’t think that this could be done, but God is good, and does great work in those who are obedient and willing to learn. Since being at the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l, I have been able to take classes that will prepare me for teaching literacy amongst marginalized peoples in the Philippines. I have also worked with a few individuals on their personal reading and writing skills. Being able to read and write is something that makes my heart beat, and I am thankful for every opportunity I have to help others with these skills.

My journey continues. I want to continue to become a person competent enough to help others develop the critical literacy skills necessary to begin to tell their own stories, giving them an identity and a history, and enabling them to contribute towards the transformation of their world with their words. I have been empowered. And as I continue to receive and grow I know that I can be a person who has more to offer the world than what money can buy: me!

By Leafa Vagatai

 

G.O.D. Int'l Summer Interns On the Road

Similar to previous years, Summer Internship began here in Nashville, allowing for the interns to bond together while meeting needs of others and learning to depend on the Lord themselves. The interns facilitated a camp for underprivileged children and youth in surrounding areas titled ‘Camp Skillz.’  The interns were stretched physically and mentally, as each person’s creativity was necessary in organizing the camp’s events and activities.

Grant Dailey, an intern and student at the Institute for Global Outreach Developments, explains, “Over the past two weeks I have been a receptionist, a teacher, an actor, a disciplinarian and even, a mummy. The list goes on and on.”  Dailey mentions that each intern had to fulfill numerous roles within each day, in order to help the camp run smoothly.

Joanna Fuller, a Californian teacher, joined the interns after the first week of Camp Skillz.  As an LA resident, Fuller associated money and funds with running a successful camp, however Camp Skillz did not have an overflowing fund to provide for the campers. The interns were challenged to work creatively within a very limited budget. After participating in the second week of Camp Skillz, Fuller stated, “I learned this week that money wasn’t necessary, but that people were.  Each intern was a resource.”

‘Camp Skillz’ was a great success, giving healthy alternatives to the participating children--many of whom would not have benefitted from any other camp program had this outreach not been initiated. After two full weeks of exhausting hours, endless planning, lessons learned and treasured moments with the Camp Skillz participants, the interns prepared for their departure to El Salvador.

The departing process to El Salvador, unlike other trips and internships, lacked flight numbers, baggage claims and airports.  The interns were to join the band Unnamed Servant, and their families on a lengthy road trip to Latin America.

Although the bus and vans pulled away from the building on July 4th, the entire day prior was spent preparing and finalizing all tasks before leaving the country.  The community of G.O.D. Int’l, the band members and their families and all the interns shared breakfast together before the vehicles were loaded.  Backpacks lined the hallways, as the communal itch of anticipation grew stronger and stronger as each minute felt like five.

As bags were placed into the trailers behind the vans, the departure felt near.  After a time of prayer, the interns stood before the community and stated what their hopes were for the trip, what they desired to see happen in themselves and the people around them.

Bags packed, people loaded, doors shut and engines on, the bus and vans pulled away from the building around 12:30 PM.  With shared experiences and team bonding moments behind them, the interns rested their heads on the seat backs and buckled up for the long drive to El Salvador.

The first few weeks of internship--the memories made, friendships fostered, prayers lifted, and hearts focused--set precedent for the rest of the trip. This serves as a necessary foundation to achieve the hope of being of benefit to those who are often forgotten, this summer, in El Salvador specifically. We are grateful for our interns and the lessons they have learned in how to work together and trust in the Lord even in the midst of challenging circumstance. We invite you to pray with us as the interns continue their journey, and please stay tuned to our website for more updates from El Salvador as they come.

Written by: Laura Foster

G.O.D. Int'l Summer Interns On the Road

Similar to previous years, Summer Internship began here in Nashville, allowing for the interns to bond together while meeting needs of others and learning to depend on the Lord themselves. The interns facilitated a camp for underprivileged children and youth in surrounding areas titled ‘Camp Skillz.’  The interns were stretched physically and mentally, as each person’s creativity was necessary in organizing the camp’s events and activities.

Grant Dailey, an intern and student at the Institute for Global Outreach Developments, explains, “Over the past two weeks I have been a receptionist, a teacher, an actor, a disciplinarian and even, a mummy. The list goes on and on.”  Dailey mentions that each intern had to fulfill numerous roles within each day, in order to help the camp run smoothly.

Joanna Fuller, a Californian teacher, joined the interns after the first week of Camp Skillz.  As an LA resident, Fuller associated money and funds with running a successful camp, however Camp Skillz did not have an overflowing fund to provide for the campers. The interns were challenged to work creatively within a very limited budget. After participating in the second week of Camp Skillz, Fuller stated, “I learned this week that money wasn’t necessary, but that people were.  Each intern was a resource.”

‘Camp Skillz’ was a great success, giving healthy alternatives to the participating children--many of whom would not have benefitted from any other camp program had this outreach not been initiated. After two full weeks of exhausting hours, endless planning, lessons learned and treasured moments with the Camp Skillz participants, the interns prepared for their departure to El Salvador.

The departing process to El Salvador, unlike other trips and internships, lacked flight numbers, baggage claims and airports.  The interns were to join the band Unnamed Servant, and their families on a lengthy road trip to Latin America.

Although the bus and vans pulled away from the building on July 4th, the entire day prior was spent preparing and finalizing all tasks before leaving the country.  The community of G.O.D. Int’l, the band members and their families and all the interns shared breakfast together before the vehicles were loaded.  Backpacks lined the hallways, as the communal itch of anticipation grew stronger and stronger as each minute felt like five.

As bags were placed into the trailers behind the vans, the departure felt near.  After a time of prayer, the interns stood before the community and stated what their hopes were for the trip, what they desired to see happen in themselves and the people around them.

Bags packed, people loaded, doors shut and engines on, the bus and vans pulled away from the building around 12:30 PM.  With shared experiences and team bonding moments behind them, the interns rested their heads on the seat backs and buckled up for the long drive to El Salvador.

The first few weeks of internship--the memories made, friendships fostered, prayers lifted, and hearts focused--set precedent for the rest of the trip. This serves as a necessary foundation to achieve the hope of being of benefit to those who are often forgotten, this summer, in El Salvador specifically. We are grateful for our interns and the lessons they have learned in how to work together and trust in the Lord even in the midst of challenging circumstance. We invite you to pray with us as the interns continue their journey, and please stay tuned to our website for more updates from El Salvador as they come.

Written by: Laura Foster

Report from the Field: Working Encounters

We have arrived in El Salvador, and returned to our property to continue the work we started last summer, building the homes that we will soon occupy full-time. We will continue to work on the homes for the next 3 weeks, accomplishing as much as we are able.  The work on our future housing  here in Sitio Nuevo will continue after we return to the United States.  We recently hired three men from the local community who have been working with us during our time here, and will  continue to work on the homes  until November.

Although one of the workers we hired is young, he has been working in construction for the past 5 years.  He is only 21 years old, but he and his three siblings (the youngest of whom is 16 years old) have been surviving as a family absent of a mother or father.  Both parents live in the United States. They left their children in search of a more prosperous life.  Our friend has chosen to work hard in order to support himself and his siblings, rather than joining a street gang like many abandoned children do who find themselves in similar situations.

Broken families as a result of immigration to the United States is a significant issue in El Salvador.  In our short time here, we have encountered many families that lack one if not both parents.  Many look to the West as a source of escape from their difficult lives in their native country.  Often, it is the men who depart leaving behind wives, children, and extended families. Women are often left to fend for themselves, and it is common for grandparents to raise their grandchildren in the parent’s absence.

As we see these families, broken by the demands of culture, poverty, and circumstance, we know that the problem has many layers, and many sources.  Our hope is that as we move into maintaining long-term presence in the area, that we will be able to better understand the contributing issues, and begin to find practical alternatives to these practices.

Written by Michael Johnson

Summer Internship: 10 Years Later

 

In 2002, G.O.D International offered it’s first ever Summer Internship. That summer was full of challenges and inspiration with the first dozen interns, and it was the beginning of 7 straight years of internships that would do the same for nearly 200 people. Throughout those 7 years, our interns traveled internationally through Mexico, Jamaica, Kenya, Uganda, The United Kingdom, Guatemala, The Philippines and Hong Kong (in different combinations in different years). The summer internship, by definition, is an intensive journey to discern the call of God upon one’s life regarding the possibility of entering into full-time ministry. This includes immersion in the word, worship, prayer, and service for 7-weeks, and in our experience, has been life-changing for many individuals. This Summer Internship has been the catalyst for many of the participants who are now involved in full-time vocational service to the LORD with G.O.D. International.

Summer Interns are given an opportunity to come face-to-face with injustice on the international scene (often for the first time). In addition, they are given the chance to witness a community of individuals who have devoted their lives to God in service of the poor and marginalized. This can be a phenomenal experience in and of itself.

This year we are blessed to host 22 interns from 9 states and 10 denominational backgrounds. These interns will participate in 3 weeks of service and training at our headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to prayer, worship, and study of the Word, they will host ‘Camp Skillz’—a day camp incorporating sports, dance, gardening, art and other basic skills to foster character development. This camp has been offered to refugee children from nearby neighborhoods, thus beginning the interns’ international encounter before they even leave the States. The team will then continue on to El Salvador where they will be assisting our development team with building housing structures as well as learning the culture, language, and prevalent needs of the Sitio Nuevo area. The interns will then travel to North Carolina where they will help facilitate service projects for a high school youth group.

We invite you to pray with us for this special group of young people who are embarking on a wonderful opportunity. Our theme for the summer is the same as 10 years ago when Summer Internship began: ‘Be Mo’ … like Jesus.’ We hope to inspire these young people to live lives like Jesus did—without selfish ambition or conceit, but rather exhibiting humility as they consider others above oneself—particularly the poor who are so rarely considered. In doing this, we know we can share a mind with Jesus whom we call Christ our Lord.

Theme Verse:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Written by Laurie Kagay