I feel like Bilbo Baggins at the moment returning from a long unexpected journey and attempting to write an update! I am so thankful that you aren’t like the Hobbits in Bilbo’s community presuming me to be dead and auctioning off all my stuff! Yes, I am alive and well…and very grateful to be reporting back to you.
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 had some unexpected twists and turns (hint: pandemic) 🤨. In a similar way, the journey of 2021 has also taken me to some unexpected places, but in a good way!
**Disclaimer…Because I’ve been such a slacker on posting updates this year, there’s lots to report! But I hope you find time to read through it…it’s been good for me to count my blessings as I’ve looked back on God’s faithfulness in 2021.
A long time ago, I gave Jesus my “yes” and it’s been exciting to see all the places that simple commitment has taken me. As for this year, it’s been interesting to see the doors that closed and the ones that opened.
I can’t sit here and explain to you all the reasons for closed and open doors, because God’s ways are infinitely higher and sometimes more mysterious than I can comprehend. He doesn’t always reveal the “why” to me. I just know through prayer, fasting, and confirmation that it’s Him leading the way.
The Power Plant sold its guest house in 2021. It undoubtedly was a special project to me, and the decision to sell wasn’t one the Board took lightly. While the guest house did serve its purposes, it simply wasn’t being utilized as envisioned. But in the end, the project was a blessing to many, especially to me as I was refined through it and reminded that God absolutely can do the impossible.
The Power Plant’s core ministry of energizing women’s faith and being conduits of grace in their time of need has not changed. The caregiver group continues to meet regularly through Zoom which has turned out to be a good fit for them, especially during the pandemic. They face medical challenges that most will never know, and meeting virtually from the safety of their home relieves their burden of worrying about infection as well as the challenges of getting their special loved ones out of the house.
What I love most about the caregiver group is that these women love wholeheartedly…without pretense…and are some of the most unselfish people I’ve ever met. They truly are heroes worthy of being celebrated. Many of them live their lives quietly in the shadows, but I know one day they will get their reward and hear, “Job well done My good and faithful servant.”
I have to brag for a moment about my helper, Casy. Several years ago, she was a participant of my caregiver group and came to me with the desire to do women’s ministry. At one time I was in her shoes, and I was given the opportunity to step into a ministry role. I was discipled and mentored by many, and it has been the greatest honor to be able to do the same for someone else.
Casy has been helping teach and facilitate the caregiver group for about two years now. We have been trekking through God’s Word chronologically, and I have seen tremendous growth in her spiritually and as a leader. The best part is that I can’t take credit for any of that. I simply extended her the same opportunity someone gave me, and I have been blessed to watch her grow. She and her insights are invaluable parts of our team.
I continue to teach weekly at the half-way house and have found an unexpected passion in serving women who have been incarcerated, battled addictions, and hit hard by life. I absolutely believe in redemption and the power of Jesus, and what a golden opportunity I have each week to share the gospel and teach from the Word!
I feel an urgency with this group (that admittedly I’ve been praying to have with everyone else!), because I don’t know if I will see each of them the next week I return. Turnover is really high, and I have to make my time count each moment I’m there!
For the ones who have hung around the half-way house long enough, it is rewarding for me to see transformation in their spiritual lives. Several have declared they are pursuing the education to be Christian counselors or psychologists so they can come back and help women who have had similar journeys with addiction and incarceration…to show them there’s a better way. And the icing on the cake has been the affirmation to me that the study I do with them is their favorite. 💕
God has shown me through this group that consistency is key. Through the ups and downs…just keep showing up. Whether you realize it or not, the person you’re trying to reach does notice, and sometimes it means the world to them.
One of my favorite highlights with the half-way house group is taking what we learned through our chronological study onto a road trip. Just as the caregiver group faces a unique set of challenges, so does this group. Coordinating with the courts and probation officers for a quick getaway was no small feat. I am not the one who had to do all that, so thank you, Ann, for the way you love these women and pour your life into them. I am thankful you let me be a part of it!
Our road trip took us way up into Kentucky to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. Because we had time constraints, we had to rush through both of them in one day which I do not recommend doing! There is so much to take in, and even by today’s modern-day engineering and construction standards….the Ark is just impressive!
Another noteworthy moment in 2021 was when The Power Plant was awarded a prestigious gift that brought me to tears. Maybe it wasn’t prestigious to the rest of the world, but to me it was like winning a grammy. You see, I once worked with a very special friend, Dynnice Perry, who walked with me through one of the darkest times of my life. If you have read my book, she is my “tea-time” friend who sat and talked with me at work. I loved her, and in the most endearing way, she had become “sweet D” to me…a complete example of light and grace.
The tragic news of her and her husband’s (Tom) death last year broke my heart. The head on collision by a drunk driver left them trapped in a fiery vehicle, and I want to believe they instantly saw Jesus.
Dynnice supported me long after I left that job and entered into ministry at Orphanos. She came down to see me when I did brilliant things like rappel off a building in the name of fundraising. Tom frequently attended the annual golf tournament at Spring Creek Ranch. I’m sure he enjoyed the round of golf, but I know they did these things to support me and my ministry.
What I didn’t know about Tom and Dynnice is that they had long since been involved with the US Christian Golf Association, and prior to their death had nominated me and The Power Plant as the highlighted charity of choice for the year. After their passing, the Association wanted to honor their request and did in fact choose The Power Plant as its charity for the year. Donations were collected and a check was presented to me this fall at one of their tournaments.
Speaking to the golfers about such special individuals was emotional, but it was clear to me what to earmark the funds for. Dynnice was a light to me and encouraged me spiritually in a dark time. She was consistent. And she kept showing up. To honor her and her husband, the funds began the Armor of Light Initiative…to help people in their time of need…and to let them know God sees them.
I am proud to say that the Perry’s impact continues. Here is one such example. Day in and day out I witnessed a pregnant woman work the cashier, stock shelves, pull double-shifts, and never have a day off at the local Dollar General store. I could tell she really needed the job, but working at that pace because hired help was nowhere to be found was more than she bargained for. It was rewarding to tell her face to face that God sees her struggle. That brief statement alone brought her to tears! And I was downright giddy loading the back of her vehicle with boxes of diapers, wipes, and other essentials for her forthcoming son. I knew Dynnice would have been too. Thank you Jesus for the friendship I had with Sweet D and for using her once again to be a light to others.
Along with blessing the cashier at the local store, I have been focusing more and more on being intentional with perfect strangers. I certainly have a lot of room for growth, but am committed to getting the gospel and a copy of His Word into the hands of those the Spirit leads me to. Purchasing quality study Bibles and gospel tracts for outreach is also a result of the Armor of Light Initiative.
Selling the guest house freed up a bunch of my time, and only confirmed how much I had been neglecting my own home. I spent the summer working around the house, planting a garden, and tending to farm animals (namely goats!).
Working a garden in the summer heat of Mississippi will motivate one to get up earlier or work later…one of the two. There will be no lolligaggin’ around and starting mid-day. I did battle with some beetles and bugs and other silent killers lurking in the shadows, but for the most part was able to successfully put up some food from its harvest.
Surprisingly, there were several things that grew naturally around our place that I didn’t look for in the past several years since we’ve been here. And better yet, I didn’t have to work for them either! Yay for morel mushrooms and blackberries. Just so you know, I’d forage for mushrooms any day of the week over picking blackberries!
Our goat herd is expanding, and while they offer no real benefit to us at this point, I do find great satisfaction and entertainment by having them around. We have Greta, Oti, Milo, Elvis, and Tippy…and hopefully some little kids running around in 2022.
We also finished a chicken coop and added some birds to our place, but the guineas we had finally left us and moved up to the neighbors place. I’m not chasing them. The 8 “hens” we purchased at the livestock auction ended up being roosters. 🤔 All of them. So on days that run long and I’m too tired to lock up the coop, that only means I have a flock of roosters all-to-eager to stand outside my bedroom window at the crack of down and crow at the wind. I see chicken and dumplings in my near future.
Our rural land is a sanctuary for us. Yes, it’s a long commute into town, but God often uses its tranquility to help me hear His voice more clearly. I have several milk crates scattered along the trails through the woods. I sit. I listen. And there’s few places where I’ve felt closer to Him.
God uses this place to speak to me. Whether its teaching me about His provision and growing seeds I’ve planted, or seeing how a flock responds to a gentle and nurturing Shepherd. I see His fingerprints everywhere.
I need the quiet to focus and learn, especially when I bite off projects like teaching the book of Daniel. I attempted to do this over four months this summer, but I feel like I only scratched the surface. To make it even more challenging, I had never really studied Daniel before…much less teach it! I quickly discovered it was like trying to teach 10 books simultaneously! I get the opportunity in January to repeat the study and to strengthen and polish my notes this next time around. My goal is to have all the modules typed up and posted on the site as I go through it again. If you’re interested…
Taylor is still homeschooling and is a senior. If she stays on track, she should be finished in about six weeks. Trying to decide where to go from there has been a journey all of its own. Her heart is really set on going to Delta Tech and entering the cosmetology program and eventually opening her own salon. This seems to be a really good fit for her and is something she’s been interested in doing for a long time now. In the interim, she works as a cashier at a local coffee shop and has been “adopted” into a new family. We are thankful to the Maxwells for giving her the opportunity to work at a place she LOVES…y’all, she loves it so much she would do it for free!😂
The boys are busy trying to conquer the world and even though we don’t see them as often as we would like, that is part of letting go and cheering them on into adulthood. I am proud of the initiative they are taking to become independent young men.
Howie continues to run his HVAC business and God has blessed us through it. I continue to be grateful for my husband’s support and don’t acknowledge often enough that through his sacrifice I am freed up to teach bible, chase goats, and dig around in the dirt on the homestead. Thank you, boo.
So the final twist of the year came in the form of an open door. Howie and I both talked at length about preparing for retirement even though we still have many years to work. HVAC is hot and miserable and extremely unforgiving on the body. And let’s face it, goat milk really won’t sell for much! So…we were surprised to see ourselves unite forces and go into business together and starting our own insurance agency.
We’ve worked really hard the past several months getting licensed and set up to be fully functional by the first of the year. Didn’t see that one coming! But…I do love the flexibility it offers and that it doesn’t conflict with what I’m doing at the Power Plant. Also, it’s already proven to be a new platform for ministry…something I’ve prayed about.
Already, I’ve shared the gospel with several individuals with many health complications and very limited time on this earth. I’ve also been able to pray with a woman on the phone who I caught at a very inopportune time as her fiance was being ushered into a major surgery. I know this is only the beginning of a new ministry component that we get to do together…and that’s exciting.
There’s just so much more to tell y’all, and perhaps had I written to you throughout the year I could have done a better job of keeping you in the loop. But know that I cherish your friendship and support. My heartfelt sentiment to you is like Bilbo’s after his long journey, “If ever you are passing my way, don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at any time!”
Merry Christmas to you all, and may the grace, peace, and love of Jesus fill your hearts!
It’s amazing how God uses the body of His church to encourage one other! I have also been encouraged by YOUR ministry in Kazakhstan. There’s power and such simplicity in the gospel. One of the fruits of obedience is how infectious it is to those around us. We only need to say yes and “go” as we strive towards the Prize of our faith…Jesus! Do not grow weary in doing good, sister. Run your race with endurance! Sending you hugs across the big pond! ☺️
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Greetings from Almaty, Kazakhstan!
Thank you very much for sharing how God is faithful and at work in your life, your family life and the ministry He entrusted into your hands. Praise the Lord Jesus for all His work done in you and through you! This news letter has been such an encouragement for me! To say YES to all His opportunities and twists in the life 🙂 to trust His will and His Word as this is the only save and best way in life.
With much love in Jesus,
your faraway Kazakh friend – Marina