Welcome! Jenn here. Twenty…no wait, even 5 years ago, I never would have imagined my life the way it is now. I could not be more in awe of the unexpected “God things” that I believe got me here. By “here” I am referring to Goma, DR Congo where I live. I love it. How did I get here you ask? Great question…
The “things” in my life started to feel heavy and burdensome in early 2012, which was strange because I LOVED my things. They were (mostly) nice and I worked hard to get them. But, slowly I started to give things away or sell them because I believed God was bringing big change. I knew in my heart I was being called to move to Haiti. By January 2013 opportunities began to find me. In April 2013 I quit my career in DC (which I loved) and by of May 2013, I had moved to Haiti.
I worked with a number of different organizations and was able to get a firm grasp of the language, the geographical lay of the land and really get to know the people. I once spent 2 days traveling over mountains on the back of a moto with a chicken tied to my seat. Although I can say I started to adapt to the culture fairly quickly, I cannot say I understood it. I think that is something that is true for most people who move into a new culture. We adapt, but some things we can never fully understand. Rather, we learn to respect and appreciate differences.
I worked with street kids in Cap-Haitien, Haiti until the fall of 2015. I love these kids deeply; although street kids are rough they are still kids who desire relationship and love just like the rest of us. I saw beautiful transformations in these kids. Angry, rowdy and illiterate kids transformed to loving, fun and considerate good students who developed hearts for serving their communities. Just before my time with these kids in Haiti came to an end, 24 boys made professions of faith and chose to be baptized. It was the highlight of my time with Streethearts.
Living in Haiti I was exposed to some pretty crazy and tragic encounters. Noticing that my heart had started to harden to protect myself from the pain of certain situations, I had to make a conscious choice to choose joy. I had stepped out in faith years before and “quit” the life I had otherwise known, not so that I could be hardened by traumatic situations, but so I can love even when it’s hard.
May of 2015, while still living in Haiti, I felt strongly I needed to reach out to a missionary couple working in eastern Congo. I pushed it off as long as possible because “I was busy”… or at least that was my excuse. Finally, I sent a very simple e-mail to Esther and Camille Ntoto, the couple I had met two years earlier. It basically said: “What are your needs?”.
Esther replied back that she’d been praying for two years I would come work with them. I already had the strong impression that my life was headed in this direction before I sent the e-mail. Her e-mail was just the confirmation I needed. In January 2016 I moved to Goma to work with Un Jour Nouveau (or Africa New Day as we are known in the US). I love my life. I love my work. I do a lot of teaching, administrative tasks and creative projects with the organization. However, what I really love… my passion is building relationship and seeing God transform the lives of people I love in the same crazy ways He transformed mine.
Africa New Day, a Congolese NGO focused on leadership, works with rape survivors and combats rape at the root of the issue: training men to treat women (including their wives) and families honorably and raising a new generation of kids that understand this concept as well. Teaching children to grow up to treat women with respect and love and teaching little girls the same. They also combat social stigmas related to sexual violence already culturally in place. This is my new home. This is my new extended family.
Although I work with them, I am not paid. I am able to do my life’s work because of the generous financial contributions of people like you. Thank you to everyone who supports me. Many of you who support me do not believe in the God I serve. I thank you all, no matter your belief, for putting your confidence in the faith I have for Jesus, to whom I devote my life.