Jennifer Millay WF Report
Down a new road.
A two-week trip to South Africa to assist in the mission work being done in the Johannesburg area was the perfect way to start my new journey doing Domestic mission work here in the US. Six of us from the Illinois area were privileged to join Lucas and Leona Scheepers for two weeks to help with the work being done in the Aphiwe Center in Tembisa and other activities already ongoing. Our time in SA was truly blessed by God – especially in being able to strengthen existing relationships with brethren we know there from a previous trip, and in forming new relationships. This was once again an amazing experience that strengthened our commitment to seeking ways to serve our Lord in our own communities here in the United States – even though our venue here is slightly different.
Volunteers from Illinois (left to right: Nathan Richard, Abigail Ross, Jennifer Millay, Faith Richard, Dana Pratt, Ray Pratt) and Leona Scheepers, our hostess in SA.
While in SA we assisted with many of the projects that the Scheepers already have in place such as; chess club, feeding schemes, crèche teaching and upgrades, sister’s class, Brain Gym teaching activities, lunch time/evening bible classes, Homework club, Snuggles and many more. All of these programs have given us many great ideas and ways to continue the touching and teaching in our own community.
Helping with a weekly feeding scheme.
Buying food in bulk to be made into food parcels.
Beginnings of a Creche upgrade.
Faith and Nathan putting the finishing touches on the wall murals of a creche upgrade.
Getting Snuggles squares ready to give out to creche teachers.
I never imagined when I started the Snuggles project that it would turn into what is has. I planted a seed and God has truly given the increase. I have dozens of volunteers in the USA helping and more offering every week. We brought 6 suitcases full of squares (over 6000) with us for the Snuggles program. Seeing some of the finished Snuggles blankets and getting to meet the creche teachers was such a blessing. Seeing first hand how the generous donations of so many volunteers in the United States are being put to good use in SA was amazing. We have started having monthly stitch a thons as a community project in hopes to support a constant flow of squares to SA.
After returning home we accepted the challenge of looking for ways to preach God’s word in our own area and have come up with a few new projects that are just getting off the ground. Community involvement, volunteering, increasing awareness of the Snuggles program, visiting the elderly and a new Sister’s class are just a few of the exciting programs we are implementing into our routine.
Sweet Corn Festival
Just a short time after our return from SA we hosted a booth at the Sweet Corn Festival held in Urbana IL. Over 50,000 people were predicted to attend and so this was a perfect venue to get more knowledge of the Bible Education Center and the classes offered there to the public. We offered free DVDs, music CDs, balloons as well as handouts of class information and self study material. We had a wonderful turn out over the course of two days at our booth generating dozens of new contacts. From this event we have been blessed with several new students that have been attending our Tuesday evening bible class as well as the Tuesday noon women’s devotional class on a regular basis.
We had a perfect location for our booth which drew us lots of attention from passers.
Putting the finishing touches on our table display while “Gramma Jen” talkes with an interested visitor.
We gave out hundreds of free “The Bible Hope” booklets and signed up students for upcoming classes offered at the Bible Education Center.
High School Cooking Facility
Another area we saw a need and an opportunity to serve in the community is with the teens at the local high school. Having a BEC located in the Mall has shown us a large number of children that just “hang around” after school. Coming from low income or dysfunctional homes, these kids need a healthy environment and stable relationships that we feel we can offer. We tried to start our own After School program 2 years ago without much success. Discouraged but not defeated we pressed on praying for guidance and God provided the answer by sending a High School teacher into the BEC one day who informed us that there was an existing program at the school itself that would welcome volunteers.
Dana and myself have started volunteering at the High School on a weekly basis assisting teachers with a cooking class and a craft class in their After school program. We see this project as a great way to build relationship with local kids and get exposure about the BEC out into the public school system. As a result of our work there, one of the teachers and possibly one of the students plan to attend our Snuggles Stitch-a-thon at the BEC in October.
High school cooking facility where Dana Pratt and myself volunteer on a weekly basis in hopes of developing relationships with the teachers and kids from the community.
TV and Newspaper Coverage
After our return from SA we also hosted an African Presentation evening highlighting the work being done there and our involvement. We were a little disappointed in the turn out for the evening with only a few regular students attending but once again God works in amazing ways. We were pleasantly surprised when the local TV station showed up for an interview with Ray Pratt the BEC manager! We were wanting to share our story with a few from the community, instead God allowed our message to be broadcast into thousands of homes in the area, getting word out to the whole community that the BEC exists, what we offer there by way of classes, our Snuggles project (where we knit/crochet 6 in. squares for blankets in SA) and more. Isn’t it amazing when you see the direct hand of God working in your life?!
We also had some more recent publicity from our Snuggles project. We contacted the local newspaper, the News Gazette, about a Stitch-a-thon we are hosting in October. They were interested in running a Human Interest story about the project. We got front page coverage in the Local section of the paper and the reporter did an excellent write-up of Snuggles. Once again our message and mission was delivered to thousands of people in the immediate community. Within days we were receiving phone calls regarding the Stitch-a-thon and how people can get involved. We were surprised by the huge response of people asking how to knit the squares, how to donate yarn and suitcases or the details of the Stitch-a-thon itself. We plan on hosting these events on a monthly basis, building relationship with the volunteers, and God-willing getting more awareness and traffic into the BEC.
These are just a few of the larger projects we have ongoing.
Sister & Friends class
In addition, I am in the process of organizing a Sister & Friends class that will be meeting on a monthly basis including students and sisters from both our ecclesia and the neighboring Bloomington ecclesia. More updates on that as time goes on. Dana and I have also taken up visiting someone once a month, choosing an elderly, sick or just isolated individual that we visit with at length. This last month it was a 92 year-old sister that lives somewhat in isolation, 45 minutes from the nearest ecclesia and she no longer drives. We shared a lovely lunch which we provided and enjoyed doing our Daily Bible readings together.
Our Tuesday evening Bible class continues with several regular and occasional new attendees. We have started providing free dinner for anyone who attends Bible class which is turning out to be a real blessing in getting to know our attendees better by sharing food and fellowship before class.
I see God working in all the projects we have going at this time and Lord willing more as time goes on. We have several more ideas that we are exploring and by God’s grace we will continue sharing His love in the community.