SERVING AND LOVING OTHERS WITH THEIR GIFTS
The Joshua Wilderness Institute (JWI) is a sort of pilgrimage, an induction into adulthood through the lens of Christian faith. It is an ending, a beginning, and a journey. The program takes young students away from their comforts, their homes, and their parents, and transforms them into God-fearing men and women who desire to pursue the Lord. The theme for the 2011-2012 class is Becoming, a theme that encourages the students to live lives transformed by Jesus, “becom- ing” who they were already called to be in Him. For many, this process has been grueling, heartbreaking, and painful, but it has also been refining, rewarding, and freeing. The students have experienced incredible, undeniable life-change, and many of them have discovered who Jesus is transforming them into, through their callings, their passions, and their purposes.
In January the students spent two weeks in the Dominican Republic (DR), us- ing their gifts to serve alongside Students International (SI), an organization that works with Dominican nationals, transforming their lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ. SI has several sites around Jarabacoa, DR that provide education, health care, social work, sports programs, and small business loans for women and children in impoverished communities. The students learned the value of ser- vanthood, the fulfillment of loving others with their gifts, and several found their callings.
Benjamin Smith, a student at JWI, volunteered at the microfinance site in the DR called Mi Banco. He worked with his site leader Eric, and helped with bank meetings for the women that meet weekly, set up savings accounts, and provided the women with financial education and loans that help their businesses thrive and families succeed. Benjamin writes, “In the microfinance site the formation of banks and the distribution of loans are truly just the tools that are used to bring groups of people together. I believe that God handpicked each lady that was in each of the small banks—not just by their need for money, but for their need for Jesus and a community that could encourage them.”
Throughout the two weeks that Benjamin observed the women, he felt the Lord pressing on his heart to continue his education and eventually work with Students International as the director of one of their microfinance sites. “In the long-term, I could see God sending me all over the world to set up microfinance sites, where people could receive loans that would enable them to create a livelihood for them- selves, but more importantly learn about Jesus who would ultimately change their lives.” His passion to empower women to be successful in their families and com- munities was cultivated sitting on plastic chairs in the middle of poor communi- ties, amongst women of all ages who are learning to love Jesus the way that he is. The Dominican Republic opened his eyes to his passion and his future, while reminding him that the work Jesus has done in his life is only a small piece of the work Jesus is doing all over the globe.
To learn more about the Joshua program visit joshuawilderness.org