As I start on my missionary journey, I have decided to commit to try blogging again. Perhaps I can start by answering some of the more frequently asked questions I've been getting lately.
Why did I decide to do missions work?
Let me begin by saying I loved teaching Spanish for 11 years. I loved my students, my co-workers, using Spanish every day, having the opportunity to partake in programs like our Spanish Exchange and Mock Trial. However, for about two years I'd been feeling a tug at my heartstrings to do missions work. I prayed long and hard about it and went on several short-term mission trips (Honduras, Mexico) to get a feel for where I might want to serve. I met with my pastors to talk and pray about it. I knew I wanted to use my Spanish if possible, and I was encouraged to pray about it in Spanish, and pray about specific Spanish-speaking countries where I might serve. I read books and researched possible sending agencies and possible assignments. I talked with a few friends and family members about it. I finally decided it was time to try something different, taking a leap of faith bigger than I ever had before, and to answer God's call in a new way.
Why did I choose to become an Individual Volunteer in Mission?
There are literally thousands of missionary sending agencies, and it could be a full time job to just narrow down one agency. But I knew I wanted to go with a sending agency who would give me training, support, and provide a manner for donors to give tax deductible gifts through a credible organization. Ultimately, I decided to start my missionary work in Mexico, and I then felt pulled to work in House of Mercy (Casa de Misericordia) orphanage. I talked with the pastors who work with and run the orphanage, and both of them expressed a need for additional help as well as an interest in having me work with them. So I was looking for an agency that would allow us to make the orphanage a placement site. I also wanted an agency that would allow me some input as to where I served, rather than telling me where I'd be placed with little input or choice. Finally, I was looking for a sending agency that would allow me serve for approximately a two year commitment, with the option to continue beyond that if I later choose. Individual Volunteers in Mission is affiliated with the General Board of Global Ministry (currently out of New York City, but to be moving to Atlanta in the next 2 years) and answered all of those things.
How did I get to where I am in the process today?
After deciding I wanted to work with Individual Volunteers in Mission (IVIM), I had to fill out a nearly 20 page online application, including getting letters of recommendation from a variety of contacts. Once my application was accepted and approved, I had an interview with a pastor from New York and my church jurisdiction volunteer coordinator. Then I was officially accepted as an Individual Volunteer in Mission. From there I attended a five day IVIM training in Pennsylvania in October. Next I worked with the orphanage in Mexico to complete the application to make it an approved site, where I could be assigned to work. Then I worked with them as they created and submitted a budget for missionaries (like me) that would be placed to volunteer in the orphanage. From there I was able to be assigned to serve at Casa de Misericordia orphanage. Now I am in the fundraising process, for which I'm trying to raise approximately $15,000 per year or an estimated $30,000 total. Depending on how quickly fundraising goes, that will help me determine how soon I can go to Mexico and begin my two years of service. I am hoping and praying that it will happen by late March or early April of 2015, but I know that it will happen in God's time, not my own. So I remain patient and flexible still with my leave date.
UPDATE: Thanks to fundraising going so well, I will be leaving March 16th and beginning two years of service on March 21st, 2015 through March 20th, 2017.
How can people help me on my journey?
I am currently (as of December 2014) scheduling with churches and groups who will graciously allow me to speak to them about assisting me in this commitment. If you know of a group that would be willing to have me talk with them, please let me know and feel free to share my contact information with them. I am asking for prayer support for myself, the other orphanage workers, the children at the orphanage, etc. Additionally, I am seeking financial support throughout the next two years. Most missionaries have to do their own fundraising to support themselves while answering God's call. Would you prayerfully consider walking alongside me and making a financial commitment? Donations can be recurring or one-time, and any amount is welcomed. I need to raise approximately $1250 per month, so monthly donations when possible are appreciated. Donations can be made by check, and after approximately January 7th, donations can be made online (I'll try to link that on here once it's functional).
UPDATE: I have been blessed to reach 100% of funding to cover 2015-2016. If you're willing to make a small non-tax-deductible gift directly to me to help cover emergency or travel expenses, please contact me via email. I still encourage prayer support. Additionally, if you would be interested in being part of a group to visit the orphanage, whether with your own church or connecting in with another group coming down, I can help you with that.
What will I be doing at the orphanage?
I will be working basically as an orphanage "mother" to help ensure that the children's daily needs are met (from being fed and clothed to being bathed to playing to helping with school work and beyond). I will also be teaching English lessons, and if the need arises and opportunity presents I may also teach weekly adult literacy lessons. I'll be working with a couple of other volunteers to help run the orphanage. Pastor Ricardo and his wife Karla run the orphanage and do a bit of everything. Until at least November 2015 another American, Nate, is helping at the orphanage with things like transportation, maintenance/repairs, and working on health and nutrition with the kids. Pastor Miguel and his wife Rolindez (and often their youngest son Mishael) also frequently serve at the orphanage; Pastor Miguel's church and staff regularly help and support the orphanage as well.
UPDATE: Starting in February for at least 3-6 months, there is another young man, an education major from Central Ohio, Tyrone, also serving with the kids. And this summer for five weeks, a girl from my church, who is a junior in high school, Emily, will also be helping with the kids at the orphanage. Thankfully God is providing people to help with the children; more are always welcome!
This page is already plenty long, yet only begins to cover the surface. So please feel free to comment with any other questions you may have, and I'll answer as best I can. Thanks for your interest and reading this far!