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Education

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A Day in the Life... Sharon Thomas (My Normal is Someone's Crazy!)

My Normal is Someone’s Crazy!

My regular day starts much like everyone else's - to the sound of the alarm clock! I get up, walk around the house and turn off the outside lights, plug in the fans, turn on the internet box, turn the house alarm system off and make cup of tea and read my bible. I like to have a little time alone before the activity of the day consumes me.

I then get my set of keys and unlock the doors and bars. every window and door has bars. I go for a walk around the outside of the house to make sure the guard dogs were not poisoned during the night. I check the cistern and make sure we will have water to shower and clean with that day. I check the pump that takes the water from ground level to the roof holding tank and make sure it is working properly, this is important because when the power goes off- which it does everyday at some point- there needs to be water. I then check to make sure the guard dogs have water and are fed. I also look around the yard for any fruit that may be ready to be picked- mangos, avocados, cherries, oranges or coconuts-it is nice to find a little blessing to start the day.

It is hard to believe that we have been living in the Dominican Republic for 12 years. We arrived with 3 small children and now two of them have returned to Canada for university. Most people think of beaches and resorts when they think of the Dominican but we are located in a small town where there is no tourism. We are one of the very few foreigners that live here. I like it that way, the real culture, in a normal community without the “vacation-here for pleasure” mind set that destroys so many communities and families close to the resorts.

Each day brings something new- the routine is there is no routine. You just never know what the day will bring. In the morning I home school my daughter. I am not a homeschool mom by choice- but there isn’t another option for her here- up to grade six she attended a Spanish school and was an honours student. But when we were in Canada on furlough she went to public school and they put her in an ESL class. So now we are working with her to bring her English up to grade level so she can complete her high school courses in English.

Our house has a steady stream of people coming and going each day as office staff arrive for instructions, pastors pass by with requests for prayer or materials for ministry. If it is Monday, Freddy the shoe shine boy, my daughter’s childhood friend, stops by for a meal and something to drink as he looks for work in the area.

Once lunch time comes everything stops from 12 to 2 pm. At first this drove me crazy to have this long break in the middle of the day. But now we enjoy the large mid day meal of rice, beans and chicken. It is normally very hot and humid so it is too hot to continue to work during these hours. Once the hottest time of the day has passed we spend the remainder of the day in one of many ways. Sometimes we visit pastors in their homes, or we check on the construction of the homes being built for needy families, or preparing for a conference or seminary that is coming up. Other times we prepare for a team to arrive from Canada.

But for me I love to plan ministry activities for the pastor’s wives and women pastors. Often times they live in very remote areas with very little resources and support. Each month there is something going on! I hold either bible study, a fun girls night with great food and games, or an outreach in their community. One pastor, Marianne, who pastors a little church in the hills outside Nagua, is a great example of the exceptional women of the Dominican Republic. Her church was holding services under a piece of tin outside her house. We came along side her and built a church building and she ran with this new ministry tool. She was holding retreats and activities in her community and it has been forever changed. We saw her one day in the market and she ran over to us-beaming with joy- 30 new people were coming to church now because of the miracle of the new building!!! She now attends our Bible Seminary and continues to reach her community for Christ! Simple tools put in the hands of pastors to help them complete their vision!

We often enjoy a Canadian supper of something that reminds us of home, pizza, tacos or pork chops and potatoes. In the evenings there is very little to do outside of ministry. We are usually visiting a local church or involved a unity service. When there isn’t one -you are at home. There is nothing open at night here outside of restaurants and bars. So we often spend time working on administration for the ministry, or creating family times. We can’t leave our home empty so we can not just decide to go out at any time. If we do need to go out we have to have an armed guard come to watch the house. Two days after arrived back from our furlough our daughter Courtney was outside with her friends, catching up after being away for two months. The we heard a shot right out side our house. We ran to see what was happening. We opened our gate to find our neighbour struggling to take a rifle from a older drunk man who had shot himself in the foot. The children of the neighbourhood had run and hid, except one little boy who was frozen in fear in the middle of the street. Parents came out, the man was taken to the hospital and we all returned to our homes realizing it was only God’s protection that a child was not harmed. So each day we gather together and pray as a family- for God’s continued provision and protection.

Some Relevant Statistics: 

Approximately 30,000 children and adolescent are involved in the sex industry. Two thirds of those are girls. The main reason for entering prostitution is to support themselves, their children or their family.

Teenage pregnancy within the Dominican Republic is high with 13.3% of fifteen to nineteen year olds becoming mothers and 403 babies born to girls under fifteen in 2003. With little opportunities to earn money, girls enter prostitution.

According to a study by Dominican Today, out of 3,400 women, approximately 44% have been victims of domestic violence, with domestic violence defined as both physical and nonphysical abuse.

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If only I can get educated, I will surely be the president.

“If only I can get educated, I will surely be the president.”

 - A teenage girl in rural Malawi

“There is no more valuable investment than in a girls’ education.”

 - Ban Ki Moon, secretary-general,  United Nations

Yesterday many of us sent our children back to school.  (Was it just me or could you hear the collective sigh of relief from coast to coast to coast?)   In some parts of the world, too many girls stayed home because school was not an option. 

According to a Global Economy and Development Paper distributed by the U.N.,

"Educating a girl is one of the best investments her family, community, and country can make. We know that a good quality education can be life-changing for girls, boys, young women, and men, helping them develop to their full potential and putting them on a path for success in their life. We also know that educating a girl in particular can kick-start a virtuous circle of development. More educated girls, for example, marry later, have healthier children, earn more money that they invest back into their families and communities, and play more active roles in leading their communities and countries." Read the full paper HERE.   (Highly recommended, particularly if you are a research nerd.)

While there have been great strides made in recent decades to increase access to education for girls, there continues to be "hot spots" where the significant hurdles remain.

What we can we do?  Here are two ideas:

1. Value Education

In my travels I am always struck by how deeply valued education is around the world.  When it is costly, girls and women make huge sacrifices in order to access it.  By contrast, we take it for granted...treating it as a given (because it kind of is) and by not always putting our best work forward.  I think we have so much to learn from our global sisters.  Make education a priority in your life and in the lives of your daughters.  Encourage the women around you to take advantage of the incredible opportunities to learn and grow.  Be their greatest cheerleaders as they stretch themselves in learning.  Education can open doors that are spectacular! 

2. Invest in the Education of Global Women

Through ZOE Scholarships you can invest in the education of women TODAY!  We provide partial scholarships to high capacity women who are proven change agents in their communities. 

Donate HERE.

Keep growing!

Leanne

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This is How I Lead - Valerie Penney

We love learning from others...so we have asked some good questions of great female leaders across the globe.  We hope it will inspire you in your own leadership!  If you have some questions for these women, post it in the comments section. 

We continue this series with one of our ZOE Partners - Valerie Penney

Valerie Penney

Who are you?

Valerie is a daughter of the King, happiest in His gentle presence.  I am also a daughter, a wife, a mother of four young adults, a friend and a pastor's wife. Yes, that's twice I say 'wife' because I happen to be married to a great guy named Fred, but he happens to be a pastor, giving me that ambiguous title of pastor's wife.  Two different things!

Where do you minister?

GlobalEd department of the International Missions of Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada

How long have you worked with vulnerable women?

In various capacities, all my adult life:  Bethel Home for Girls and another group home, employment program for unemployable adults, but currently with the ZOE-Timothy Fund Scholarship Program.  I've been with Timothy Funds for 4 yrs.

Using three words, how would you describe your leadership style?

Listening.  Thoughtful.  Resourceful.

How do you go about empowering women in your context?

We empower women by providing scholarships to offset tuition costs for theological education worldwide in order to equip high capacity women to impact their communities and the world.

Who has been your greatest influence in your development as a leader?  (Dead or Alive)  

Dr. Irving Whitt

What specific ways have you worked to develop your skills?

Pushing myself to do things 'scared', and constantly upskilling with leadership and missions courses, most recently becoming a head facilitator for the Kairos Course.

What is the greatest need you see in women around you?

Someone to believe in them to pursue their God-given dreams to lead.

If someone wanted to get involved, what could they do to help?

Provide a scholarship for a woman like Dorcas in Nairobi.  Become a Bible teacher and influence women directly through a career in theological education in the majority world.

If you had one piece of advice for someone who wanted to do what you do, what would you tell them?

Study hard.  Turn all your dreams & fears to Jesus each day.  Be the woman you want your kids to respect, which means putting family first and being authentic to who you are.

Thanks Val...we love your heart and the example you walk each and every day!

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Want to make a great investment? Educate women.

Want to make a great investment?

Educate women and watch for an incredible return!

In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Melinda Gates states that: "women tend to spend their resources on their families—prioritizing things like healthcare, nutritious food, education, and all the building blocks of a thriving society. The way I think about it is that when we invest in women, we invest in the people who invest in everyone else. So when we match their commitment with our own, great things are possible." 

Women are a great investment!

Over the past 18 months, we have met ridiculously gifted, high capacity women and we would love to invest in their education.

Unfortunately, in many part of the world, women face great challenges to accessing education. 

ZOE is passionate about training and supporting these future female leaders worldwide. 

Dorcas in her community.

An example of one of these women is Dorcas.

Dorcas is a wife and mother to four daughters. She and her husband pastor a church outside of Nairobi. She works with women presently, but her dream is to reach out even further to women in rural communities to provide skills training and fight poverty through income generating projects.

This is a leading woman!  

As we continue our National Campaign, we want to support her and others like her as they further their education.  Will you support Dorcas and women like her?  

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A New Way to Think about Empowering Women - NEW ZOE PROJECT

My most over-used hash-tag just may be #helpingwomenthrive...it's message is actually what keeps me moving forward with ZOE. 

At ZOE, we love nothing more than seeing women understand their worth and value and then be released to walk courageously with the purpose that God has placed within them.  

We have learned that sometimes the smallest investment in a woman and her leadership can turn into a lasting legacy that crosses communities and generations.  The initial investment grows exponentially.

We want to tell you about one of these amazing women.

This is Dorcas.  

Dorcas ministering in her community

Dorcas is a wife and mum to four beautiful girls.  She and her husband pastor a church just outside of Nairobi.  Dorcas has a dream!  While she has worked with women for many years, she is beginning to take steps of faith, reaching out to women in surrounding rural areas.  Her vision is to educate women in basic skills and in health matters.  She also desires to give ways for women to lift themselves out of poverty. This is a high capacity woman on a mission!  (Watch. Out.)

Teaching women

Have you ever had a dream like that?  Something that seemed impossible, but was so compelling that you couldn't not do it?

What we love is that Dorcas wants to be an even better leader than she currently is and so has set her sights on pursuing more education.  She wants to complete her MA in Theology at Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi to further refine her skills. 

When we, at ZOE hear stories like hers, we automatically think:  

How can we help her?  How can we affirm the leadership that we see in her?  How can we help impact whole communities that we as Canadians could never reach?  

Well...there is a way!  We can invest in Dorcas and in her education.

ZOE Projects is excited to partner with Timothy Fund (a PAOC initiative) and work together to provide a scholarship for Dorcas.  Her MA program is 6 terms in length and we would like to provide $500 in scholarship money per term, for a total of $3000 over two years. This will make the Dorcas' vision of bringing the the message of hope and reconciliation to her community possible! 

What a great investment.  Who is in?

To donate click here.

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Strong Women...Hope Stories in the Philippines

Darcy and I just got back from nearly a month in Asia...and we return INSPIRED! We were keeping our eyes and ears open for future ZOE Projects and were amazed by the quality and strength of Canadian women as they serve the needs of people worldwide.  One of these "strong women" is Linda Veldhuizen.

Linda Velduizen

Linda has been serving in the Philippines forover two decades.  Linda started a children's home (now named Noah's Ark) which has seen a few generations of children grow up and make a life of their own.  Many young women have come through Linda's care and gone on to complete higher education.  It it is amazing to see these young women thrive and we love Linda's "bigger vision" for these young women.  Sometimes that is all we need...someone to believe in us with a bigger vision than we could ever hope to dream for ourselves.

An awesome video describing Linda's work is found here.  You have got to watch this!

Watch here: A Story of Hope

Check it out...and stayed tuned for a possible future project!

Leanne

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Women you should know - Sharon Thomas

One of the neatest things about working on ZOE Projects is meeting incredible women from around the world.  It is particularly fun to network people together.  Have you ever met someone and thought:  they need to meet so-and-so...because they are speaking the same "language"?  That happens to us all the time at ZOE.  So let us introduce you to a "woman you should know".

Sharon Thomas

This is Sharon Thomas.  She is one of our ZOE partners who works with women in the Dominican Republic.  She and her husband, Adrian are passionate about strengthening local Christian leaders and their families.  We recently caught up with Sharon...and she was "bursting" with some recent developments with women in her area.  Have a little read...

ZOE: We understand that there has been some exciting stuff happening with women in the Dominican Republic lately...

Yes.  We just finished a powerful week of ministry.  A team from Canada came and we held an open event for the ladies of Cabrera and surrounding area. When we arrived at the church to set up for the event, the church was already full. We had to send the men to look for more chairs. Chairs were added inside and out in the sidewalk and street. As soon as we stepped out of the van we felt the expectancy from the ladies. They came expecting God to move in their lives, and they were not disappointed.

The next morning we held a breakfast for the female pastors and the wives of pastors..and it was awesome because many of these women carry the pressures and stresses of ministry alone. It was a powerful morning that equipped, empowered, and encouraged all who were there.

Gathering for the Women's Event

Sharon - you obviously love what you do...What do you find the most fulfilling thing in your work with women in the DR?

I do love what I do... which is surprising to me because I like air conditioning and pretty things.  I hate bugs and spiders and believe it or not,  I never liked Women's Ministry because it is just so messy.  Women can be complicated and lead complicated lives. When we started ministering to the pastors and families here in the Dominican, many of the women would share with me very hard things... and I realized that so many felt alone.  This made me see that we needed to link arms and cheer each other along!   I love connecting them with each other.

I also love to see women move out in leadership.  I encourage women to minister instead of relying on me.   I now see that the hundreds of women we have invested in are reaching thousands of women and doing it better than I every could! When I see God taking them where I will never go, doing it better than I ever will, reaching more people with the power of God's love than I ever dreamed, that is when I am the most fulfilled, most blessed, most inspired to do more! Little is much when God uses it.

Investing in women in DR

This is so encouraging...and inspiring!  Sharon mentioned fulfillment.  We all long for fulfillment that sometimes feels elusive.  We often try to obtain it through stuff or accomplishment.  By definition, fulfillment is a deep satisfaction when one fully uses their abilitiesand develops their character.  It is a sense of completion, a feeling that you are doing what you were created to do...

In The Message, Eugene Peterson says that "it is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for". When we serve others, in the name of Christ, by being a voice for the voiceless and championing justice for women around the globe...a natural by-product is fulfillment.  I love how that works.  Don't look for fulfillment.  Look for Christ and His heart...and do what He asks...and you will find yourself fulfilled!

We leave you with these words from Henri Nouwen...

Blessings -

Leanne

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