Posts Tagged 'community'

LFS Introduces…Carolyn & Anjali House in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Please introduce yourself…

I’m Carolyn;  I’m a 31-year-old Scottish girl who now lives in Cardiff, South Wales.

What is Anjali House?

To properly answer this, I need to explain a bit of Cambodian history and culture. I’ll try to be concise.

Between 1975 and 1979, under the regime of Pol Pot and the communist Khmer Rouge party, approximately 21% of the Cambodian population (an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million people) were killed. Pol Pot’s vision was for an agriculture based communist utopia, and two of his methods of promoting & achieving this were to close schools (everyone was now to be a subsistence farmer, working to provide for Cambodia’s own needs so it would have no need for the Western world) and to kill anyone with any level of prior education (as they may have been a threat to the new ‘utopia’).

Cambodia as a country has been ‘reeling’ from this ever since. Although Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are long gone, the legacy of their rule was a country in ruins – no economy, no infrastructure, and the huge problem of a pretty much uneducated and unskilled population. Either you were educated before the Pol Pot rule and were killed due to being educated, or you didn’t receive any education to begin with as you were a child during the regime as you worked in the fields instead of attending school and after the regime was over there was no infrastructure for schooling and no educated citizens to teach you.

Fast-forward 30 years…

Cambodia is a country that’s done a pretty good job of piecing itself back together. It’s still a very, VERY poor country. But it has an infrastructure of sorts. It has an economy of sorts. It has a stable government. It’s getting there. Corruption is rife. There are still live landmines all over the place. It’s not perfect. But in spite of all this, it’s getting there.

The education gap is still there though. It’s one of the things Cambodia can’t easily fix on its own. Another generation has passed, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them either. And so the cycle continues.

There are ‘public’ schools in Cambodia, but the fees (a few dollars a month) plus the need for a uniform and the lost earnings of the child make it an unobtainable dream for most Cambodian families.

And this is where NGO’s (Non Government Organisations) come into the picture, and where I finally get back to the original question…

What is Anjali House?

Anjali House (pronounced An-jah-lee) is an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I was privileged to spend a month there in summer 2009 working as a volunteer English and General Studies teacher.

Anjali aims to provide support, education and healthcare provision to street kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these things.  In practice, this means…

  • The kids attend Anjali for half a day, and public school for the other half (Anjali pays their fees and provides them with a uniform).
  • Many of the health problems affecting Cambodian children are a result of poor diet and unsuitable drinking water. To attempt to counter this, the children at Anjali receive two healthy meals (breakfast and lunch) and a fruit snack each day, and have access to filtered drinking water throughout the day.
  • Due to the lack of clean water and the constraints of poverty, many of the children had never used soap or cleaned their teeth. They now bathe every morning at Anjali and are educated in the importance of personal hygiene.
  • All Anjali children have regular medical and dental health checks provided by the project. They will also be taken to hospital or the doctors if necessary.
  • As one of the conditions of attendance at Anjali, the child is no longer allowed to be sent out to work on the streets begging, selling trinkets etc. The families receive a weekly allowance of rice to compensate for the loss of income.

There are currently approximately 80 children at Anjali. Enrolment is by application (and based on social and economic testing). Due to lack funds and constraints of space, Anjali currently is not accepting any further applications at this time.

Tell us how you ended up going over to Cambodia to work with the team at Anjali?

The short answer is it felt like the right thing to do at the right time.

The longer answer is that I had recently resigned from a job I’d once loved after a prolonged chain of events (clash of personalities with one of my bosses, what I believe was an institutional bullying campaign, an unrealistically large work load, a nervous breakdown and a 5 month absence due to stress, a subsequent formal grievance process, and so on) None of it is particularly interesting reading. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best period in my life.

I had (and still have) an incredibly supportive partner in my boyfriend, Ian. He not only encouraged me to bite the bullet and resign, but told me to take as much time as I needed to recharge my batteries, get my head straight again, get over the lousy year I’d had and generally become myself again.

I realised that I’d been defining myself primarily by my job for a long time, and that I needed and wanted to change that.

I’d just posed the question ‘what next?’ when my friend Beth had returned from a month in Cambodia, having been placed at Grace House by a volunteer organisation called Globalteer. She’d come back on schedule purely to attend her own university graduation, and was planning on heading straight back out to Siem Reap. She told me I ought to come with her. I decided to roll with that.

Beth later decided that although she’d love to return straight away, it wasn’t to be. I applied anyway, thinking that it probably wouldn’t be possible. Less than a month later I was on a plane, having been placed at Anjali by Globalteer.

What are the most important things you learned from your time at Anjali?

I think I learned a lot, but it’s incredibly difficult to describe the experiences I had, words just don’t seem to do it justice. I can honestly say it was one of the best months of my life. (I STILL want to go back).

I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be a volunteer. You just have to be enthusiastic. I’m a perfectionist, and as such, frequently worry that my best isn’t good enough.  It was, and you get lots of help and support from the staff and other volunteers at Globalteer.

I learned that there’s a place for all personality types in this sort of environment. I’m very much an introvert, and in the beginning found myself feeling inadequate due to the fact that I wasn’t an ‘all out’, loud, confident presence around the kids during non lesson times. Pretty soon I realised that not all of the kids were extroverts either, and the fact that I interacted with them in a different manner to some of the other volunteers didn’t actually matter.

I learned that there’s a peace that comes with just going with the flow and that somehow you’ll end up in the right place at the right time anyway – even if you didn’t see it coming.

I learned that I can’t solve everything for everyone, but that’s not a reason to stop trying to at least make a small difference. There’s an old Scottish saying that –  “Mony a mickle maks a muckle” (translation: lots of small things make up a large thing), and I realised that I need to stop worrying about the ‘Muckle’, and just get on with my ‘Mickle’.

How can we support Anjali?

There are lots of ways…

Volunteer over there. I promise, you will NOT regret it. You don’t need a month; however long you have is fine. And if I can do it, ANYONE can.

Raise awareness of Anjali, who & what they are and what they do. You’re welcome to use the information & pictures on my blog.

Make a donation/ host a fundraising event for Anjali. I’ve been there and can personally verify that every dollar is put to good use. If you’re a UK tax payer, you can gift aid your donation to make it worth and extra 28%.

Sponsor an Anjali child Please be aware though that Anjali don’t generally allow sponsors to visit the kids (Cambodia, unfortunately seems to be fast becoming the new Thailand in that respect, and that fact breaks my heart).

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Prayer isn’t something I’ve figured out, so I’m not entirely sure how to answer that sincerely. I guess the best answer I can give is ‘however they feel led’.

Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, who lead hard, hard lives. I’d like to hope it’ll get better for them.

The kids at Anjali come from some pretty hopeless backgrounds, I’d like to think that they’ll have better futures than pasts.

I’d hope that their time at Anjali makes them feel loved and validated and allows them to have a childhood.

I’d like to hope that they won’t have to go to bed hungry again.

I’d like to hope that they grow up create a better world than the one they were born into.

Thank you so much for sharing about Anjali House with us Carolyn. We’re also really happy to announce that Carolyn will be returning to Cambodia and Anjali House this summer! You can find out more about Anjali House by going to www.anjali-house.com and follow more of Carolyn’s tales of Cambodia, plus life as a Scottish lass in Wales on her blog http://searchingforbrokenness.blogspot.com


LFS Introduces…The Bowyer Family & Soul Action South Africa

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about what you do with Soul Action South Africa.

Phil and Rachel Bowyer are co-founders of Soul Action South Africa, they live in Durban with their 9 year old son Zachary. Prior to moving to South Africa, Phil worked for Tearfund, He was a key member of Tearfund’s Innovation Team and before that co-ordinated their Youthwork across the UK and Ireland.

Rachel is a qualified teacher with a degree in Music and Mathematics.  Before launching Soul Action in Durban she spent 11 years as a primary school teacher and Special Educational Needs Coordinator in one of the UK’s Urban Priority Areas.

Soul Action South Africa has been working in Durban, in the province of KwaZulu Natal, for over two and a half years. As a result of the research we have gathered by meeting with Christians from across Durban, and a greater awareness of the situation with regards to the extent of HIV and Aids in KwaZulu Natal, we have felt led to establish a network where Christians who are serving the poor can come together, share good practice and begin to learn from one another.  It is a place where individuals can share their difficulties, a place where they can receive from one another, and most of all a place where they feel supported and encouraged to keep on serving.

As Soul Action South Africa, our aim is to facilitate opportunities for Christians who are passionate about integral mission to network, train and work together, in order that the poor and marginalised may be served in a more sustainable way.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with Soul Action South Africa?

During this year we will continue to work through the Network we have established – at present we are working with 60 partners churches and projects that serve the poor and marginalized across our municipality.  These range from an individual whose own experience of dealing with HIV led her to establish a community HIV support group, to projects that are enabling hundreds of children to go to school. Soul Action South Africa currently facilitates three network gatherings each year, with the specific aim of bringing together all the projects we are working with in order that they may share with, learn from and give support to one another.

In addition to this, we have been able to start two new initiatives which have the potential to benefit the whole Network: A network for Young and Emerging leaders and our Literacy Project.*

*Phil and Rachel have given us more details on these projects which are posted here for any of you that are interested!

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

We particularly enjoy connecting with the different people across the city, learning about what God has called them to and from this gaining a bigger picture of what God is doing in the city of Durban.  From these conversations we are able to ensure the network is appropriate to the needs of the people it serves.  There is so much potential and seeing and being a part of empowering local people is such a privilege.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

I would say the most challenging element of what we are doing is the pace at which it moves.  We are very aware that what might be a good idea to us may not be appropriate so we ensure we work with projects and churches where they are at and at their pace.  The work we are involved in is long term, we are encouraging and supporting communities to analyse their own situations and to take steps to work together to make changes for the better.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Our church, family and friends in the UK pray for us on a regular basis and support us in that way.  Delegates attending the Soul Survivor UK summer festivals raised some funds last year, these have enabled us to start the two initiatives with young people and children this year.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Soul Action South Africa relates to Soul Action UK.  Soul Action UK is a partnership between Soul Survivor and Tearfund.  Over the past ten years Soul Survivor has resourced and equipped literally thousand of Christian young people to live lives of integrity and worship to God.  Tearfund works in about 70 countries across the world by supporting local Christian partners and working directly in emergency situations.  By bringing together the best of Soul Survivor and Tearfund the hope of Soul Action is to raise up a generation of Christians who are whole hearted about whole life discipleship and mission to the whole world.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that are thinking about doing something similar to what you are doing?

I think there are three main things to do:  PRAY, TEST IT OUT, GO FOR IT!

Doing what God wants you to do has to be first prize, no matter what the challenges being in that place is it always brings with it great rewards.  So if God is asking you to do something, no matter how big or small then take the first step and let God lead you.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with Soul Action South Africa?

Soul Action South Africa can only remain effective if Christians who are just as passionate about integral mission as we are continue to get behind it.  There are many ways that people can add value to our ongoing work with the last, the least and the lost:

  • Prayer – committing to pray for our work on a regular basis
  • Volunteering – come and serve our projects, from two weeks to 6 months
  • Financiallywww.soulaction.co.za/support has details of the different ways our work can be supported

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

For the two initiatives that Soul Action South Africa has been able to start this year:

The Young and Emerging Leaders Network – for each young person that is a part of this that God would continue to show them his plan for their lives

The Literacy Project – for the two local people that are working in school on a daily basis, that as well as teaching the children they would be able to show God’s love.

Our current funding runs out in September this year, and at the moment we are praying and looking into different ways of securing funding so this work can continue.  Please pray we would make wise decisions in who we apply to funding for.

Thank you so much to the Bowyer Family for sharing about Soul Action South Africa with us. It was such a pleasure and privilege to go out to South Africa as part of Soul in the City Durban last summer – so I have seen the amazing stuff God is doing through the Network and more!

For more information on Soul Action South Africa you can check out their website www.soulaction.co.za & if you have any questions you can e-mail Rachel by clicking here

LFS Extra: More on Soul Action South Africa


Phil & Rachel sent so much information and detail about the research they did when they first arrived in Durban to how they got the network of local partners established and so on. I didn’t want to leave it out, so for those of you interested here are the extra details on what Phil & Rachel discussed in their ‘Introducing’ post….

How Phil & Rachel got started with Soul Action South Africa…

For the first eight months we made a commitment to visit as many Christians as possible who it was felt were in some way serving the poor and marginalised – so far we have met and recorded the work of 130 churches and / or Christian projects from across the municipality.  During this period we found many Christians who were doing amazing work but who were also, by the nature of their work, pretty much unaware of what else was going on.  Many people we spoke to felt isolated in the work that God had called them to, some wanted to serve the poor but just didn’t know how to get started, whilst others had a great desire to improve what they were already doing with, through and in their communities.  Our research has helped us to learn about the variety of work Christian’s are involved in throughout our municipality and as a result we have begun to understand some of the difficulties and frustrations they, and the poor they serve, face.

39% of the population of KwaZulu Natal is HIV+, higher than any other province in South Africa. Efforts to reduce new infections have had some success, but changing people’s behaviour takes time and factors that increase the risk of infection – such as poverty, social instability, illiteracy, sexual violence, and gender inequalities – cannot be addressed in the short term.  There are 11 million children living in poverty in South Africa, that’s over 60% of all its children! In 2008 the South African health department said that 1.5 million children had lost their parents to AIDS, by 2015 that number is estimated to grow as high as 5.7 million.  The impact of HIV/AIDS has a deep and lasting affect on communities and particularly households.

How the Network they have established is developing, learning & growing...

At our first Network gathering of the year the issue of human trafficking was highlighted.  An organization called Red Light shared with the network. Red Light Human Trafficking are a young adults team who have a keen interest in creating awareness on Human Trafficking and uplifting their community.   They explained what is meant by the term human trafficking – that human trafficking is the kidnapping, enslaving and exploitation of men, woman and children for use as sex workers, forced labour and in the illegal medical trade. They also shared some of the statistics, that 100,000 people will be trafficked into South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, that most trafficking victims are girls between 5 to 15 years old and that between 28,000 to 30,000 children are currently being prostituted in South Africa.They highlighted how we as churches / projects could share about the issue of human trafficking with the children we work with and empower them to make good decisions and speak up against these issues.

The Network is also proving to be a base of knowledge and expertise, projects can contact Soul Action South Africa with a need, and then we can point them in the direction of another who could provide the much needed area of expertise or service.   We produce a newsletter each month, which includes an article written by a member of the network, stories of encouragement, news from various projects, training opportunities, needs for specific resources, prayer requests and items to be thankful for.

The Young & Emerging Leaders Network: We believe there are many young people within the poor communities in which we work who have the potential of becoming leaders.  These young people need people to input into their lives and to work with them on achieving their goals.   Therefore we have started a network for young and emerging leaders.  We spent the day together last Saturday, which was amazing; there were 23 young emerging leaders who committed to be part of the network for this initial year.  All the Young and Emerging Leaders responded well to the activities and fully participated.  They worked well with their peers and there were lively discussions.  The day consisted of four workshops; The value of you, Peer mentoring, The value of others and The value of leadership.

The Literacy Project: Children who are being educated in some of the schools in the townships located across Durban are in large class sizes (between 60 and 70 learners per class) and the schools are very under-resourced.  Due to these circumstances many children are failing to learn the basic skills of reading and writing.  All children have to write their exams in English, therefore the children need to be learning English from a young age and at the same time their mother-tongue needs to be valued. The aim of the project is twofold: to equip the teachers to teach the children to read and write in English through modeling, team-teaching, developing appropriate resources, and lesson plans; and to empower the children to reach their full potential by learning to read and write in English. At the moment the project is working into one school, as funding allows this will be introduced in other schools across the city.

Plus Phil and Rachel have authored several books on poverty, development and mission, including Express Community Through Schools: Taking Social Action Beyond the Classroom, A Different World (a youthwork resource) and The Whole Wide World which you might be interested in! 🙂

LFS Introduces…Liam & Rachel Byrnes in Masi, South Africa

Please introduce yourselves, and tell us about what you are doing in South Africa just now?

We are a newly married couple in our early twenties with a sneaking suspicion that Jesus has an amazing plan to see the World made new, humans brought back to relationship with himself and each other, and that the place we should be doing that right now is in Southern Africa. More formally though, Rachel grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has been serving Church plants, loving her nieces and nephews, and loves culture. I (Liam) grew up in Cornwall near England (that’s a South-West joke) studying Theology in Aberdeen with a background in Politics and Economics and until 4 months ago was working in the oil Industry.

We are working in South Africa helping facilitate locally led, home based simple churches/bible studies, giving people the tools and education to lift themselves out of oppressive poverty, teaching people the skills to have life giving family life and care for Children.

How did you get involved with/what inspired you to work with YWAM?

YWAM just happened to turn up at the right time really. We love YWAM’s core values and have some great friends who are involved in it. YWAM is also releasing and broad enough that you can pretty much work in any sphere under their banner.

All that being said although we are relationally connected with YWAM we don’t have any long term commitment as of yet, but their DTS* program (which we are currently involved in) seemed like a good intro to our more long term plans in South Africa. We are very much of the mind that we want to build a Kingdom not an empire, so as long as being involved with YWAM serves that we will probably stay connected with YWAM.

*DTS = Discipleship Training School

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with YWAM?

Well from January to March we will be in South Africa continuing to scope out the land and make arrangements for our more long-term return later in the year. As part of the DTS program we are doing we have to go back to our sending YWAM base Kona for a little while, after that we are hoping to visit a few churches and friends in mainland USA for a couple of weeks up until end of April. Then from May to July we will be back in the UK to visit Churches, family and find some short-term employment to help towards our return to South Africa in August.

What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?

We get to see people all day and we get the opportunity make a real difference to help them out of poverty.

Spiritual poverty: the sense that they don’t matter to God or have anywhere to take their burdens.

Financial poverty: helping people realise they can really step out of poverty and that it is something that is on God’s heart for them.

Relational poverty: networking them with people who care about them and want to engage in community with them.

All those areas are something that we are passionate about and so being able to work with people in those areas can be very enjoyable.

What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?

Situations that feel hopeless have been challenging, we are working in a community of 30,000 in a 2sq mile area – there is more depravity, poverty, and brokenness than I ever thought imaginable. We often see heart breaking injustice: an alcoholic mother who neglects her baby to the point of serious malnutrition; a refugee working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for not enough money to pay rent.

There is so much need, as soon as one problem seems to be solved; a new one comes to the fore. It just reminds us that this community needs more than just initiatives, programs or even money; it needs Jesus-centered restoration in every category.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

Our families particularly have been incredibly supportive; Rachel’s parents are even currently visiting with us. We have lots of faithful friends who pray for us regularly as well as keep in regular contact (which is actually more of a support than you would realise!). The Church I grew up in, in Cornwall has committed to pray for us as a church, and our house group and great friends in Banchory from the Aberdeen Vineyard Church really support us as our home community.

In relation to financial support, Rachel and I saved for around a year – I did some web design projects on the side back in the UK to raise money. We also asked people to gift us money for our wedding instead of the normal gift registries. A number of friends and family gave us generous one off gifts, a couple others have committed to giving to us monthly which has been of huge help but is less than 20% of our current monthly outgoings. Financial support is one of the main reasons we have to return to the UK for a few months this year.

Do you partner with any other organisations?

Yes, we love to in fact. We are working closely with All Nations, a local organisation focused on planting small simple churches in peoples houses. We are working with them to integrate a business training initiative we’ve been working on for some Zimbabwean refugees who can’t find work into a more advanced program that All Nations run. We are also working on a policy and advocacy level with Justice Acts/IOM, a part of the Counter Trafficking Coalition, on a human trafficking and prostitution prevention project for the World Cup later this year.

What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?

1) Do your research – cultivate a cultural, historical and spiritual understanding of the country, understand the main difference in the culture you are coming from and the one you are entering. Find out what groups are already at work there, and understand how you want to partner with them. Learn some of the language.

2) Create Community – lack of support is the number one reason people leave missionary work, whether it be an organisation you are working with, a home church, a house group, your family, friends, a society, find a group of people who will partner with you, believe in you and what you are working for, a support team is really integral to any long term sustainability in missions.

3) Love God, Love Others – Missions work, especially in developing nations can be relationally, emotionally and physically exhausting, if you are not rooted in an understanding of the Love of God for you, and for the people in the World it must be entirely unsustainable. Relational conflict amongst missionaries is another major reason people leave missions work, get ready to be humble, submit to each other in love, you will likely come with cultural baggage and other westerners will more likely rub you up the wrong way than the local population. Bonhoeffer said in his book on living in Christians Community called Life Together – “If you love the vision you have for community, you will destroy community. If you love the people around you, you will create community.” There is no integrity in showing the love of God to a local community if you can’t practice it between other people working to the same end.

How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with YWAM?

I think I’ve already been too long winded so I’ll direct you to our website for that! –

Click here to help us by praying with us, follow us on our blog or you can sign up to receive our email updates. You can communicate our story to your local Church or housegroup and we would also hugely appreciate anyone prayerfully considering financially supporting the work we do in South Africa on a regular basis, you can find more about that here.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

1. Safety – Everyday we are working in a community with a shockingly high violent crime and murder rate and sometimes getting involved in difficult social and family situations, we haven’t had any issues so far but we certainly need God’s continued protection as we seek to be light in the darkness here.

2. Wisdom – We could get involved and see meaningful transformation in almost every sphere of society if we were to give our time to it, so please pray that we would work in strategic areas to help bring about the radical transformation Jesus announced when he was on earth.

3. Marriage – We consider a strong and loving marriage to be one of our most compelling witnesses in a community with so much unfaithfulness and broken families, please pray that we would continue to grow in our love for each other and commitment to each other.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Liam & Rachel! We will be praying for you as you prepare to get settled long-term in South Africa.

To keep up to date with what Liam and Rachel are up to, and to find out more about the different ways people can support them go to their website & blog at www.liamandrachel.com

LFS Introduces…Jay, a DNAer

Please introduce yourself, and give us a brief summary about what you are doing just now?

I’m Jay, and this year I am really excited to be doing a gap year (even though I’m older than the average person doing one!) I am really pleased to be working alongside and with some wonderful people who are passionate about God and His plans for the world.  The organisation that is providing me with training is called DNA and through them I am on placement for the year with Oldmachar Church in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Can you tell us more about DNA as an organisation?

This is what DNA says about itself “DNA is unique! We will provide you with a life-altering “hot house” year through which you will be radically discipled in the context of church for a life of service to Jesus and being an agent for His kingdom.” It has been existence for about 20 years and is all about helping people maximise their potential in God, in their service but primarily in becoming as much like God wants us to be as we possibly can.

What does your year with DNA look like?

Busy!  In practical terms I have a lot to do this year, I have lots of jobs around Oldmachar, my placement church, I do their admin for them, that is something I have been doing for some time now and I love but I also help with a music group for toddlers, a community outreach coffee shop, visiting older people in the local nursing him, providing meals for homeless people through the Bethany Trust’s Haven project and other things too.  Also, 2 days a week I study various theological topics, I really enjoy this part, I have read so many interesting books since the year began and the work I have to do on them makes sure I get the most out of it all.  My favourite piece of work so far was a worksheet I did on “Apologetics”.  On top of that I have weekly meetings with my discipler who helps me work through anything God is doing in my life at that point and helps me get the most out of my study time etc, these have been a huge blessing to me, the year wouldn’t be nearly so effective if these meetings didn’t happen

Has it been everything you expected?

Yes, and no!  I have known a few people who have done DNA years in the past and so I had a pretty good idea what I was letting myself in for but at the same time God has taken me to places in terms of my character and heart that I didn’t think He would, as the year goes on my calling in God’s Kingdom is becoming much more obvious and it is not what I was expecting at all!! I love this year, the chance to be this focused on God and all He is and does is proving to be an amazing privilege and I can’t wait to find out what work God is going to do in me each day!

What has been your favourite thing about your year so far?

My favourite thing has been realising just how much God loves me and that it is not because of anything I do but just because He wants to.  Quite often in DNA teaching blocks we hear the words “Nothing you can do will make God love you more, nothing you can do will make God love you less” and I love that, I love that His love is that unconditional!  This is one of those concepts that I would always have said was true but now I not only know it but I feel it in my heart, in my gut, in my soul!

And what has the most challenging thing been so far?

One of the most challenging things for me has been that before my DNA year began I had been out of work with illhealth for a long time, several years, and so the change of pace has taken quite some getting used to, especially when the year began I ended up with lots of colds and bugs and it really took its toll on me, I am pretty good at diary management but all of a sudden it became a necessity rather than a luxury, I feel like I haven’t spent nearly as much time with my friends since the year began and I miss them, I found that really tough.

Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?

I have many people supporting me, some of my family and my friends in particular.  The support me in prayer, this year is tough and because it has so much potential to have amazing results for God it is open to all sorts of attack, prayer is essential when doing this and so when people agree to do that for me it is appreciated greatly, I really can’t emphasise how much it means to me.  The other way that people support me is with finances, the year will cost me about £2700 in fees and I have had to buy some books for my studies too, many people have blessed me hugely by allowing God to use them to send some money my way, when I started this year I had none of the money, and so far I have paid 2 of the 3 installments of my fees in full and on time, God is great and so are the people who are sensitive to Him when He guides their giving!

What piece of advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking a year to do DNA (or something similar)?

Be prepared to do anything, let go of yourself and just go with whatever happens, let God do what he needs to within you and don’t be afraid!  Be ready for it to be hard, very hard, but exciting and rejuvenating and a huge blessing and a foundation for the rest of your life!

If people wanted to find out more about DNA how could they do that?

The first port of call would be the DNA website – www.dna-uk.org – it has loads of articles from past and current DNA trainees about what the year is about and also some pieces from people on the leadership team of DNA talking about it and information on placement churches and all that.  If people then decided they wanted to know more there are free DNA open days, some in Aberdeen in Scotland and others in Bromley just outside London, where you get to come along to one of our teaching days and find out exactly what it is all about, I went to one of these and it answered any doubts I had about the course and the people who run it!

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you like them to talk to God about on your behalf?

I would love if they would pray for God to keep on working in my life, for health, as I mentioned I have been plagued by colds and bugs and they just get in the way and for the remaining part of my fees to become available.  Most of all I would love them to thank God, on my behalf, for being faithful to me and for being with me and for using me in His Kingdom!

Thank you so much for sharing with us Jay! We will be praying for God to protect your from germs and keep you in good health and provide for all your needs as you continue in your discipleship year with DNA.

LFS Introduces…Jenni Catron from CultivateHer

Please introduce yourself and give us a brief summary of what Cultivate Her is all about

My name is Jenni Catron.  I serve as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN where I lead a staff of 30 at three campuses.  I love a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with my husband and border collie.  I’m passionate about leadership and equipping others to lead well.

For years I’ve dreamed of creating an environment where women can connect, grow and be encouraged in their leadership development.  So after years of dreaming about it I finally stepped out last fall to launch “Cultivate Her.”

Cultivate Her is a leadership environment where women are inspired, challenged and encouraged in their leadership growth.  No matter what your leadership influence looks like, your gifts will be cultivated to encourage you to embrace our motto “wherever you lead, lead well!”

Cultivate Her monthly events include breakfast; time to connect with other women leaders, and challenging and inspiring teaching/discussion on leadership issues.

How did you get involved with/what inspired you to start Cultivate Her?

Through my journey as a woman leader, I have often found myself very isolated and longing for more connectivity with other women leaders.  In many seasons I have felt like the other women leaders around me, especially those a few steps ahead of me, were too busy to or disinterested in giving me some encouragement or direction.  Cultivate Her was started out of a passion to create a place for leadership-minded women to connect and encourage one another.  I believe the more we equip and encourage each other, the greater our confidence will be and the greater the opportunities we’ll have to lead.

What do you would like people to gain from Cultivate Her?

My hope is that women will be inspired to uncover their dreams and giftedness and grow more confident in leading wherever God has placed them.

What is 2010 shaping up to look like for Cultivate Her?

This year we’ll continue to hold our monthly events in Nashville.  We’re also praying about quarterly events and taking Cultivate Her to other cities.

Who do you have supporting you?  How do they support you?

There are 8 amazing women who make up the Cultivate Her leadership team. These women are some of my dearest friends and amazing leaders.  Each of them has personally invested a lot of time and financial resources to make this a reality.  We’re a non-profit organization so we are also supported by the donations of those who attend the events.

Do you partner with anyone else?

Cross Point Church (where I work) has been a great support by allowing us to use the facility for our events.

We’ve been placed with donations from several organizations.

Lori Wilhite and Brandi Wilson from the blog “Leading and Loving It” have been a great support

What piece of advice would you give to anyone with a dream they’re thinking of starting up?

To use our word… You have to cultivate that dream.  Journal about it, pray about it, share it with people you love and trust and get their feedback, keep praying about it and when you feel God nudging you – GO FOR IT!  You will never have it all figured out.  You’ll never be completely ready, but if it is a God-given dream, just be obedient to His calling and hang on for the ride!

How can others engage with you and others at Cultivate Her?

We just launched our blog at cultivateher.com.  We hope this will be a great resource to connect women leaders.  All of our team members blogs are listed there and of course I love to continue the leadership discussions at my blog “Leading in Shades of Grey”.

If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Wisdom.  Pray that we use our influence wisely and steward the responsibility of leadership well.  Pray that women who are feeling discouraged, alone or directionless would engage with other women through the events or blog.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Jenni! As a woman leader, I’m really excited and so encouraged to see organisations like CultivateHer emerging. Hoping the CultivateHer team make it to Scotland one day soon…!

You can follow the CultivateHer blog at http://www.cultivateher.com and you can also follow Jenni’s own blog, Leading In Shades of Grey at http://www.jennicatron.tv


Welcome

Welcome to LFS Introducing...! We hope that you find a story here that will encourage you to pursue the dreams you've been given, or inspire you to do something you've never done before. Perhaps you'll meet people that will become your mentors or friends. Maybe you'll learn something new. Whatever it is, we'd love to hear about it, so do share with us in the comments section.

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