Inspiring People to Use Their Gifts for Global Impact

Posts tagged ‘Haiti’

The Power of Place

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“What if your greatest barrier in life was your place?”

When I heard my pastor pose this question during one of his messages about seven years ago, it hit me.  It wasn’t a statement that caused me to nod my head and then was quickly forgotten. No. Instead, it hit me and stuck with me.  I couldn’t shake it.

As a teacher, I immediately began to think about the students I worked with on a daily basis who, for the most part, had every opportunity, resource, and relationship before them.  I thought of the classroom in which I was teaching filled with books and bins, technology and training materials. Our school was a warm and safe place. Our building was one where students felt valued and appreciated, significant and sown into.  Children I taught knew that their teachers believed they had potential and greatness on the inside of them, and each day was spent unearthing, cultivating, and promoting the growth of each child’s unique gifts and talents.

Our school was a beautiful place filled with love and learning,

joy and journeying.

Then, just as quickly, my mind flashed to the classrooms in Haiti that I had visited in the past few years.  In 2010, right after the major earthquake, I was given the opportunity to go work with teachers and students at a school in Les Cayes.  Despite the conditions, and the 30, 40, & 50+ students in each class, the teachers there were working just as hard to teach and train the young people in their care.  They were spending hours each day doing their best to teach the children what they were expected to learn, with minimal materials, while sorting through the devastation their nation had just experienced.  Through it all, their heart for the children was evident.

There was one difference … one significant difference …

and that was their place.

For the children in both places, the desire to learn was the same.  The innate talent and ability was the same. The gifts and talents, the potential, the dreams and vision, desire and hope were the same.  

The imagining and dreaming about

“What do I want to be when I grow up?” was the same.

What was heartbreaking for me though, as I thought about the similarities between children in Haiti and the children in my own school in Ohio, was that the one difference was so significant.  

For children in Haiti, their place doesn’t make their dreams and vision, hopes and heart any less important.  The fact that they don’t have books in their classrooms, have six students sitting at a desk built for three, are using broken pencils and “nubs” of crayons, with no electricity, no technology, and are trying to learn as the 90 degree heat and humidity causes sweat to drip down their backs … does not minimize their significance one single ounce.

Where they live, where they play, where they go to school, where they spend their days does not reduce their ability to think big, hope for the impossible, and see themselves making an impact on the world.

The children who are growing up in “places” all over the world where the resources are lacking, the support structures for growth are not in place, and the doors of opportunity are often closed or absent altogether … those children, just as much as children from wealthy neighborhoods and families, communities and regions, are just as worthy of experiencing the joy of growth and the sweetness of success.  

They are just as gifted, just as talented, just as brilliant as the children who have been blessed to be born in places of abundance.  There is no condemnation for those who were blessed to be in environments where all of their needs are met in above and beyond ways. However, those whose place would not be defined that way deserve opportunity too.  They deserve atmospheres and environments where their hopes and dreams can thrive, and their gifts, talents, and abilities can be cultivated and utilized to impact the Kingdom.

And that truth … that truth alone … hit me that day, and I knew I needed to do something about it.

So, as I spent time in the Global School of Ministry at Cornerstone Church, I knew I needed to start a nonprofit organization to unearth the gifts, talents, and abilities of underprivileged children around the world.  Through one of our “Business Plan” assignments, in the Kingdom Business track, I had the chance to create a real plan that could make a real impact. The business leaders, who were my mentors at the time, helped me with this process.  I am so grateful, because I knew I needed to take the resources that have been afforded to me and sow them into the lives of children whose place is their only limiting factor.

As a result, A Gifted Generation was born in 2012.  We are currently a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and our mission is to unearth the gifts and talents of children around the world by providing the resources and environment where growth can occur, while instilling the belief that each child has been uniquely created for a divine purpose.

Since 2012, we have partnered with many generous people who also believe that if we can reduce the barriers caused by a child’s place, they can grow and thrive in ways we never imagined possible.

God is doing amazing things in Haiti, and I am grateful to be a part of the revival that is taking place.  The children I have worked with over the last eight years have impressed me beyond measure, and they continue to challenge me to do more to help cultivate what has already been planted in them by God.

There is power in place.  

And, the best part is that no matter the place you’re in, God has placed something in your hands that can assist others in rising up, seeking Him, and knowing that the greatness on the inside of them is significant and needed in the Kingdom.  

Let’s keep changing the world together!

With love,

Jeanna :)


There’s No Place Like …

There’s No Place Like …


There’s no place like Haiti.  There really isn’t.  I know most of you were expecting the ending of that sentence to look a bit different.  I would say that I agree that there’s no place like home, but after traveling to Haiti multiple times, I can say, without a doubt, that there really is no other place like it in the world.

I’ve traveled to a few other countries at this point in my life, and there’s just something about Haiti that gets me every time.  There’s just something about the people, the culture, the environment … there’s something about the children that draws me back over and over.

Many people have asked me the question,

“Why Haiti?”  “What made you decide to go?”

To be honest, the reason I chose to go to Haiti was because it was the only opportunity that presented itself at the time!  Jay & Jan Nielsen, who started Missions International of America, invited a group of teachers to take the trip.  I could pretend that the people of Haiti and the nation itself was on my heart for years, but really it was an open door that pretty much fell in my lap.

So, that explains my answer to the first question, but the answer to the second is what I find most interesting as I look back.

“What made me decide to go?”

Do you want the real answer?  It’s not as “fairytale” as most people would expect.  The major reason I went wasn’t because I wanted to help children at a school in the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere.  Reason number one wasn’t to use my gifts and talents and resources to make the lives of other people better or different in some way.  I wasn’t thinking about the people who needed to hear the Gospel or needed to know that God loves them beyond measure.

Now, those things have become major reasons why I continue to travel back, but the main reason at the time was not quite so “pretty.”

At the time when Jan sent out the invitation, I was going through some really tough experiences in my life.  Things weren’t going as I had planned when I mapped out my “picture perfect future.”  The timeline I had set for getting married and having children and living my Disney princess movie was pretty much falling apart and then being put through the shredder.

So, when I got that email from Jan, I wasn’t thinking about the precious faces of Haitian children.  I was thinking about escape.  I wanted a way to escape from the pain and tears and overwhelming disappointment that I was feeling.  My own world was choking me.  I was consumed with my OWN problems, and I recognized that I needed out.

I needed to escape the world I was living in before it took over not only my present, but my future.

When Jan’s lifeline appeared in my inbox, I saw my chance to break free from the chains of my “now.”  Deep down I knew that it wasn’t healthy for me to be so consumed with the drama in my own life.  I knew that there was a “bigger picture” to behold.  I knew God had more for me than what I was seeing.  It was as if all the issues and problems hung in a massive curtain of darkness in front of my eyes, and no matter how much I pushed or pulled or clawed at it, it wouldn’t go away.

That’s when I knew I needed a shift in my perspective.  

I needed a new vantage point.

God knew it, too.  He threw me a rope and gave me a second chance.  He whispered to me, “I have so much more for you than this.  Trust me.  Follow me.  I know it seems scary and silly and out of your comfort zone, but that’s EXACTLY where I need you to be.  Right now you’re locked in this depression room.  I refuse to leave you here.  You were made for so much more, and I WILL NOT allow you to perish in this place.  Now, you are a strong woman, and you will endure it if you must.  However, I’m telling you that I’m giving you an “out.”  I’m giving you a “get out of jail free card.”  Take it and run with me.  Move with me into the future I have for you because it is more glorious than you could ever imagine!  Your present doesn’t have to be your reality.  Your now will soon be your “what used to be” as long as you take my hand and follow me.  I know the way.  Let’s go.

When he spoke those words to me, I knew that Haiti was my chance for the shift I needed.  I needed a shift in my mindset.  I needed a shift in my focus.  I needed to shift the way I viewed my life and what it was all about.  I am so thankful that He didn’t allow me to be consumed.

Haiti, in a sense, saved me.

Haiti saved me from a life of self-focus and a life of “everything’s about what I’m going through.”  Haiti helped me to see that ANY day of the week someone around the world would trade places with me in a heartbeat and would feel blessed beyond measure.  Haiti opened my eyes to the needs of people beyond the walls of my home, my job, my city, my nation.  I am so grateful.

So, I know that was a long answer to a short question.  However, questions about why we make major life decisions require us to dig deep to find the answers.  I don’t think I realized, until just recently, how much my current circumstances back in 2010 shaped almost everything I’m passionate about and everything I’m pursuing now.

God truly is a miracle worker, and my life is proof that He can be working miracles that we don’t even see until years down the road.  It’s when we look back and see how far we’ve come, how much we’ve grown, and how different our lives look at this point that we can see His hand guiding us every step of the way.

I’m amazed by God, and I’m so overwhelmingly thankful.  He knew what I needed when I had no clue.

My question to you is, what is your “Haiti”?  What is the circumstance or opportunity that God has placed at your feet to bring you out of the overwhelming places in your life?

Don’t let the lifeline pass you by.  Take His hand.  Let Him lead you out.  There’s more for you.  He’s got it all figured out, and the best part is that you just have to take it one step at a time.  After a while, you’ll look back and see that you’ve covered a lot of ground, and you’re not who you were before.  You’re so much more, and He’s so proud of you.

There’s no place like …  

The beautiful thing is that YOU get to finish that sentence.  I’m excited for you and all that God has planned for your life.

So, click those heels.  Your future is waiting.

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