Senior Spotlight: Makayla

As we continue our series of senior spotlights honoring our seniors at Light of the Village, we would like to introduce you to Makayla. We have only known Makayla for a short time, but we are so glad God saw it fitting for her to come into our lives right when she did, just as she began making preparations for the transition into life after high school.

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Makayla has an impressive resume of extracurricular activities including basketball, volleyball, track, softball, yearbook staff, and leadership. The girl is highly athletic, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s about 6’3″! A native of Illinois, Makayla moved to Prichard in July 2014 and finished up her high school career at Vigor High School. Makayla has done well for herself academically here, has been accepted to three colleges, and received scholarship offers from two of them.

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Makayla on the free throw line at a Vigor home game.

After graduation, Makayla intends to work part-time and go to school part-time. In addition to student and employee, Makayla will have another role to fill this fall: mother. Makayla is currently six months pregnant, expecting in August. She says it was hard for her to hear that she was pregnant, that her dreams of playing college basketball would be challenged, and that her future would look drastically different than she’d imagined. Yet she continued to go to school faithfully, stayed positive, and didn’t give up, and for that, we are so very proud! She is determined to press on in her pursuit of a college degree and career. We are enormously grateful that we have the opportunity to meet Makayla where she is and journey with her as she seeks out her next steps! Please be in prayer for her during these next few months of transition.

Makayla, the tall, beautiful one on the far right, at her senior breakfast last Friday :)

Makayla, the tall, beautiful one on the far right, at her senior breakfast last Friday 🙂

If you feel led to partner with LOV as we encourage and financially assist our seniors with their graduation activities, please do so here: http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/give.

The Success Story

John Eads, Founder and Executive Director of Light of the Village, says he is often asked the question, “Who or what is your greatest success story from Light of the Village?” John’s response is simple: “me.”

The journey he and his wife, Dolores, have walked since they started Light of the Village has been a journey of following Christ in bravery and many small steps of faith. It started with prison ministry, then a calling to go to a dangerous community and put on a Christmas party. Later, they would purchase an old drug house and make it into something new and beautiful–a church. Now people call that same building “the red and white church” or “God’s house and our home.”

 It takes a certain bravery to allow God to shape you as you take small steps in uncertainty.

This summer our theme for Summer Bible Camp is Heroes of the Faith. Now, the Bible has some strange, misfit-like characters in its volume of pages. Most of the brave are imperfect, disordered, and unfaithful. But in the midst of their flaws, God calls them to greater things than themselves.

I search verses that have to do with bravery in the Bible, and so many of them refer back to God’s presence in the lives of those who follow him. Whenever God calls for an act of courage, He promises His presence. 

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Jesus himself gives the great commission and adds, “And Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

In light of these reflections, I think of my own journey with Light of the Village. It started when I first visited Light of the Village one February my freshman year of college. The next step was working a summer camp, and another, and another. The third year I went with Morgan, and other interns, to a new community to launch Camp Faith, our first satellite site located in Chickasaw.

As I drove off, after the last day of camp that year, I left with a feeling that I would certainly be back and a part of what God might be doing in Chickasaw in the future. The next summer they asked me to be the director at Camp Faith, and I was shaking in my boots. I do not particularly like “firsts” (as I call them), and that new step called me to live many firsts that I was not sure I was willing to do.

Yet God calls us to be brave, and his voice is more compelling than any other. It calls us to live in alignment with the most sacrificial and brave act ever–Jesus’ death on the cross.  And somehow, in strange and small flickerings of grace he gives us the courage, through his presence, to take small steps of faith and bravery as we endeavor to follow him.

Now I understand why John says the real success story is himself: because the true success story for any individual is the work God does in our own hearts as we follow Him.

Sometimes acts of bravery are found in the things that we don’t want to do. Sometimes it looks like saying “hello.” Other times it looks like serving a hot dog or telling someone “no.” It looks like pushing a child on the swing again, and again, and again. Most of the time bravery involves doing those things we don’t want to do, over and over; and somewhere in the midst of this, life becomes less about me and more about Him.

By: Anna Rhodes, Camp Faith Director

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Anna with one of her first groups of girls at LOV Summer Bible Camp.

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Anna’s first summer at Camp Faith, working as an intern helping us launch our first satellite Summer Bible Camp.

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We could not be more thankful for the wonderful partnership we have with First Baptist Chickasaw where Camp Faith meets. Anna recently had the opportunity to help FBCC organize a girls’ purity event and an Easter block party, and she regularly volunteers at Wednesday night children’s church services.

If you are interested in helping Light of the Village equip young people as community leaders and servants of Christ, sponsor a Summer Bible Camp intern for $75/week. Give online here: http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/give

Senior Spotlight: Tashjian

We want to take some time this month to introduce you to some of our high school seniors and celebrate their accomplishments. We are so very proud of these individuals because they have persevered when the world around them pressured them to give up. They have displayed great commitment in their schoolwork, athletics, after-school jobs, service to Christ at LOV, attendance at Bible study, and for some, even in their parenting. Yes, “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3)! We thank God for the opportunity He’s given us to work with these amazing individuals. So without further ado, we introduce Tashjian 🙂

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Tashjian volunteering at one of our Easter block parties this year.

Tashjian has been with us at LOV for six years attending church on Sundays, working as a TeenLeader, and playing on our basketball teams. He recently traveled with us to Juarez, Mexico on our first international mission trip back in February. Though Tashjian has been accepted at Faulkner State Community College, he has his heart set on becoming a welder. He even got to do some welding with us in Mexico when he welded the front door for the house our team was building! He would like to get his start in welding by serving in the Air Force and has been studying for weeks preparing for the ASVAB.

He says the biggest challenge he’s faced thus far is waking up every morning and going to school, making the day-to-day decision to do what it takes to graduate. Four years ago, he was excited to have even made it to high school. It looked for a while as if he wasn’t going to pass the eighth grade. But he did, and now he is getting ready to graduate! How awesome to see how God carries us through things we never thought possible!

Tashjian shared with us about his first day of high school. It seems to have been a rough one! He says it was great and terrible all at the same time. He remembers having gotten all dressed up for his first day of school (as many anxious freshmen do) in his white polo and khakis. The school bus came that morning, and Tashjian took his seat on the bus. And for whatever unknown reason, rain or a spill perhaps, the seat was soaking wet! And as soon as Tashjian sat down, so was he! So baby freshman Tashjian showed up to his first day of high school in wet clothes. Then he got assigned to the band homeroom,…but he wasn’t in band. So that was awkward. Thankfully, once he arrived to his homeroom, he spotted familiar faces from his previous schools and was able to connect with them. Overall, he says that his first day of high school brought lots of laughs and the beginnings of many friendships he has kept to this day.

We are so thankful that Tashjian is at a point in his journey where he can look back fondly on the last four years, and confidently close that chapter and move to the next, keeping Christ constantly as his guide. We love you, Tashjian!

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Tashjian loving on the children of Juarez.

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Tashjian’s handiwork in Juarez, the front door for the house our team was building.

Learn more about Light of the Village at www.lightofthevillage.org.

Find out how you can partner with Light of the Village in your giving, prayer, and time, at http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/you-can-help.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Jesse

Jesse is 14 years old and a freshman at Chickasaw High School. He may be the youngest on our team, but he is the oldest of three boys in his family. Jerel is 12, and Jeremiah is 10. Jesse hopes to become a role model for his brothers, “like a superhero” he says, “strong, smart, courageous.” He plans to achieve this by showing them respect and love.

Jesse starts as the small forward on the LOV lions basketball team, and plans to go out for the Chickasaw High School football and baseball teams next year. In school, he enjoys Science, and even admits to watching Animal Planet and Science Channel in his spare time. He likes the creativity involved in making new things and would like to work in a field involving science when he “grows up.”

Jesse has been coming to LOV since he was about 6 years old. Jesse was so young when he started coming to Light of the VIllage, he doesn’t remember his first time at LOV. Jesse was even one of our first kids to start coming from neighboring Gulf Village.

This is Jesse’s first time outside the state of Alabama. Though it was his first time flying (we are currently in Houston), he handled it well! He says only taking off and landing were a little scary. Jesse is excited about building a house for a family in need. He is asking God to help him emotionally, physically, and spiritually to help others this week. Please be in prayer with him for this.

To hear more about Jesse’s journey to Mexico, join us for our annual banquet Night in the Light on March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds. Seats can be reserved here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/

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Jesse (age 7) with his youngest brother Jeremiah (age 3) at LOV.

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Jesse working hard at the after school program this semester.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Justin

Justin is 16 years old and a junior at Vigor High School. He enjoys making people laugh and hopes to, at some point in his life, be a successful comedian. Justin knows all of the lyrics of almost any Taylor Swift song. It’s real. Try him. He’s not entirely sure what he wants to do after he graduates, but he intends to go to college, most likely in state, and would like to try his hand at theater while he’s there.

Justin loves kids, and they LOVE him. Justin was a TeenLeader at Camp Faith in its inaugural summer, and has won TeenLeader of the Week no less than seven times in his Summer Bible Camp “career” of four years. He likes to think, “Nobody be TeenLeading like I TeenLead!”

Justin was about 10 years old when he started coming to Summer Bible Camp Light of the Village. He admits he didn’t like LOV at first because he felt like he didn’t have enough “freedom”…like every child. But he finished the summer because his step-father wanted him to, then began coming to the after school program and Sunday Bible studies. He says Sunday Bible studies were what hooked him. He liked that John’s Bible studies were easy to understand and that he could ask questions.

Justin is most excited about meeting new people and the plane ride. He says He is super excited that we get to help some people and serve God. He’s a little nervous about not being able to understand the Spanish in Texas and Mexico, but he’s not too worried. He says “body language is always available.”

He is praying that everything goes well and that we make it back safely. He is also praying that through this journey, he will become more grateful for everything he has. Will you pray with him?

To hear more about Justin’s journey to Mexico, join us for our annual banquet Night in the Light on March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds. Seats may be reserved here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/

Justin, Skylar, and David

Justin in his first summer working at Camp Faith with two of the boys in his group.

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Justin selling candles at last year’s Thanksgiving Eve Meal at LOV.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Patricia

Patricia is 20 years old and a 2014 graduate of Vigor High School. To know her truly is to love her. She is goofy and fun-loving, while kind and capable. Her friends call her Pony, and her family calls her Red. And while we know that she prefers “Patricia” over any nickname, we enjoy working in the phrase “Pony ain’t no phony!” almost any chance we get!

As a high school student, she was an athlete and a leader, playing basketball for four years while serving in JROTC and becoming the battalion commander her senior year. She’s pretty impressive. We know. And let’s be honest, the girl was born to play basketball. She has hands that were practically made to palm a basketball, and her height doesn’t hurt either. She started college in the fall of 2014 at Bishop State where she is playing basketball while pursing a degree in culinary arts. She has goals of being a chef and serving in the military or perhaps even serving in the military as a chef! Patricia is not only a college freshman with big dreams, but a remarkable mother to her beautiful, highly ticklish six-year old daughter, Natalia.

We have been blessed to have her as a TeenLeader for the last two summers, working with our children at our Summer Bible Camps. But Patricia’s journey at LOV started much earlier. Patricia started coming to Summer Bible Camp at LOV when she was about 12 years old. She has been a regular participant in our Wednesday high school girls’ Bible study and brings her younger sisters and brother to church each Sunday. We are so proud that Patricia is creating such a legacy of service to Christ for her daughter and siblings. Who knows? Ten years from now, one of them may be traveling with us on a mission trip!

Patricia never meets a stranger and is excited about meeting new people on this trip. She says she is excited to visit another state. She, like most, is nervous about the plane ride because it’s her first time flying. Her goals for the trip are to stay focused on what she has to do and remember she is doing this for Christ. She asks that you pray for our safety, that we have a smooth trip there and back, and pray that Jesus will watch over her daughter and keep her in safe hands at all times.

To hear all about Patricia’s journey to Mexico, join us for our annual banquet Night in the Light March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds. Reserve your seats online here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/

Patricia and Natalia SBC 2011

Patricia (age 16) and Natalia (age 2) at Summer Bible Camp 2011.

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Patricia being baptized by John on 9/29/2013 at Spring Hill Baptist Church.

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Patricia scoring the first points of her college basketball career at Bishop State.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Dacino

Meet Dacino. Many of you have probably met Dacino at LOV or Night in the Light. After all, he has been hanging around LOV since he was very little… if he was ever little. Dacino is 22 and has been part of LOV since its very beginning in 2001. He participated in Summer Bible Camps and Sunday Bible studies for years, then, in 2007, became one of seven boys in Mrs. Dolores’s first class of the Light of the Village Christian Academy.

When Cino was 16 he started working his first job at Popeye’s Chicken. At age 17, with the help of LOV, he moved into an apartment in Spanish Fort and began working at Premiere Cinema. His lovable personality made him easily promotable and eventually got him recruited away to the entertainment center at Wind Creek where he now works as the entertainment center lead. All along, we should mention that he has been working Summer Bible Camp, helping at the after school program, attending church regularly at LOV, and generally attending every LOV event possible. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but we know he misses us when his work schedule conflicts with LOV programs.

Dacino is unique to our team because he is the only student who has previously traveled to Mexico with us. Dacino accompanied a team of staff and interns to Juarez, Mexico in May of last year. It is because of his response to what he experienced that we decided that other students could benefit from the same opportunity. Dacino says his biggest takeaway from his journey last year was that, though his life has been hard, there are people out there whose struggle is harder than his. He says he learned that he has “nothing to complain about and to be thankful.” So here we are, less than a year later, returning with six more students, expectant that Christ is going to do something truly transformational in their lives in the next week.

Dacino is excited about going back to Mexico to help people. He says, “the first time, I was nervous, but now I know what I’m going into.” And he asks that you pray for his safety and that God would give him the power to show His love.

To hear all about Dacino’s second journey to Mexico, join us for A Night in the Light on March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds! Reserve your seat here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/.

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Dacino (center) around age 10 with his younger brother Marco (left) and older brother Jermichael (right). 

Dacino & Friend, Juarez, Mexico

Dacino with a new little friend in Juarez, Mexico in May last year.

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Dacino (center) after being awarded the Shining Light Award at Night in the Light 2013.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Johnnie

Some of our regulars at the ministry will read the title of this post and think “Who’s Johnnie?” That’s because he is known around LOV as Bingo. If we had to say what Johnnie is known for (other than his dashing good looks of course) it would have to be that he’s always wearing a goofy smile and that he’s one of the easiest people to get along with EVER!

Johnnie is 16 years old and a sophomore at Vigor High School. He and his twin sister, Johnell, are second to youngest of the family of eight children. They have been coming to LOV since they were about five years old, and have been a part of every Summer Bible Camp since. You could almost call Bingo a “founding member” of LOV. 🙂 This past summer Johnnie got to be a part of something very special at LOV. He helped us open a new camp, Camp Hope, in south Prichard. Johnnie was chosen from a pool of around 50 applicants to be among the first group of TeenLeaders to work our third camp. He worked with a group of about 20 boys ages 8-10 every day (not an easy task, mind you), and truly came to develop great relationships with the boys in his group and his college intern, Austin.

His favorite thing to do (at LOV and otherwise) is play basketball.  He typically plays power forward (for all of our basketball fans out there). Bingo has played for the Light of the Village Lions and several city and park leagues over the years, even getting to travel to New Orleans for a tournament last year.

About his upcoming trip to Mexico, he says he is most excited about crossing the border and getting on the plane. And even though “it’s gonna be hard work building that house,” he says he’s “still looking forward to it.” That’s good news, because he’s exactly right; our team has some hard work ahead of them.

He asks that you pray with him that God would use him to help others while he is in Mexico.

To hear all about Johnnie’s journey to Mexico, join us for A Night in the Light on March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds! Reserve your seat here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/.

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Johnnie (bottom) with Dolores at LOV around age 8.

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Johnnie working at Camp Hope last summer, age 15.

On Mission in Mexico: Meet Philanesha

Meet Philanesha, better known as Phil Phil. She has been coming to Light of the Village since she was about 7 years old. She is now 17 and getting ready to graduate from Vigor High School in May! She plans to attend Faulkner State in the fall and live on campus in Bay Minette. After completing her first two years there, she will transfer to a university where she can study psychology. (We think she’d make a wonderful child psychologist, but we’re just sayin’!)

Phil has been involved in most every aspect of LOV at one time or another. It’s pretty impressive, really! During her 6th and 7th grade years, she was a student in the LOV Christian Academy. She has attended or worked EVERY Summer Bible Camp Light of the Village has ever hosted! That’s 10 years of Summer Bible Camps! Now, she stays connected throughout the school year as a TeenLeader, making candles to raise funds for this mission trip to Mexico, attending our Wednesday high school girls’ Bible study, and helping at the after school program.

Philanesha is the oldest of four, soon to be five, girls in her family! So she has lots of experience with babysitting! At Vigor, Phil had the opportunity to take cooking and drawing classes and through these classes found that she really enjoys both of these hobbies! As if her days weren’t full enough with volunteering at LOV and babysitting, she is also playing varsity softball for Vigor this year. Go Lady Wolves!

As with most of our team members, Phil has never been on a plane. (We are in for a real treat!) So naturally, she says she is most nervous about getting on a plane for the first time. The farthest Phil has ever traveled is to Atlanta, GA (by car, of course), and she is excited to go and see what Mexico looks like and to see the mountains. And we can’t say we blame her!

She asks that you pray specifically that she will be able to complete her assigned tasks and persevere in the hard work that is ahead of her in Mexico.

To hear all about Philanesha’s journey to Mexico, join us for A Night in the Light on March 5 at 6pm at the Fairgrounds! Reserve your seat here: http://nightinthelight2015.brownpapertickets.com/.

IMG_1868       Philanesha

Philanesha around age 7 or 8.                                                           Phil last year as a high school Junior.
Taken at LOV.                                                                                            Taken at LOV.    

Letter from a Volunteer

At LOV, we have a handful of dedicated volunteers who have been serving alongside us week in and week out for many years. Mrs. Barbara Barber is one of them. After our after school program Christmas party, she took a few moments to record what the Lord had revealed to her that day and shared those thoughts with us. The Lord blessed us through her words, and we would like to share them with you.

“I have several thoughts rumbling in my head, and I hope I can get them on paper in a fashion that you will see the awesome hand of God at work in and through you and the privilege He has entrusted to you with His work at Light of the Village.

God very clearly spoke to my heart and directed me on my first visit to LOV a few years ago. From that first visit, I saw the hand of God at work in the ministry. Each and every visit since that time I have asked God to give me a glimpse of what He is doing in the lives of the people involved with the ministry. And, without fail He has let me see a small part of the mighty work He is performing daily. Often what He shows me are not the big events but more than likely they are small things that might seem insignificant, except from God’s point of view.

During my Christmas visits, one thing I saw was a senior from Vigor High School in her basketball uniform. Not a big deal unless you were at the after school program on the day she walked in as a ninth grade student who wanted to play basketball but had no way to pay the fee or get a physical. There she stood, dressed in her uniform, one semester away from graduation.  I saw a young man about 8 years old running, playing, smiling and enjoying the safety of the after school program. Not a big  deal unless you saw him as a shy four year old who was so afraid that he could not sit down and participate with other children in an activity or game. I saw many, many older students and adults who show up because this is where they know they will receive unconditional love and hope.

On Tuesday,  December 16, I drove out to the village and brought a car load of presents. We unloaded the presents, and volunteers were busy making ready for the grand celebration of  a  birthday party for Jesus that would take place when the students were dismissed from school. Later in the afternoon I returned to help guide my friends who were bringing the horses for horse rides. By this time the LOV grounds were filled with volunteers bringing in pizza and lemonade, two large inflatables, crafts and games. As the Christmas music filled the entire neighborhood, students and parents followed the music right onto the campus. Soon a basketball game started, the inflatables were bouncing, pizza was being enjoyed and everyone was laughing, talking, singing and having a great time.  Parents and grandparents talked with us and thanked us for helping with such a wonderful celebration.

After a time of great fun Mr. John rang the bell, which everyone knows is the signal to come inside for devotional and prayer. Because I was helping get the horses loaded and on their way, I was late getting into the building for my favorite time which is the Jesus time. I especially love this time because it quickly becomes evident through the student interaction that God’s Holy Word and His instructions have been consistently taught to the students. When I arrived inside the building there was an overflow of parents and visitors that filled the kitchen hallway and overflowed onto the porch. When I realized that I could not hear Mr. John and the students, I asked Angela who was in the kitchen if I could come in the kitchen. She graciously said I could, and we opened the window to the school room where we could hear Mr. John telling the students about gifts and Jesus, our greatest gift. At the same time we were listening to Mr. John the people in the kitchen hallway were talking. As I heard their conservation, I remembered that on the afternoon news it was reported that little Hiawayi Robinson’s father had been arrested for her murder. In my right ear I could hear Mr. John speaking about Jesus and His gift of love to us, and in the left ear I could hear people who felt betrayed because they had walked with Hiawayi’s father searching for her. Their hurt, anger and unbelief rose in angry voices until Angela had to ask them to lower their voices but you could see the looks of betrayal on their faces. As  Mr. John finished and prayed for the children they filed out to get their gifts and head home.

It was not until I was in my car driving home that Holy God pulled back the veil and let me see a little of what He had done. On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 He knew that the Alabama Village would receive the news of Hiawayi Robinson’s  father’s arrest and would be in pain, so He decided that was the day He would select to hold a GRAND, FREE, BEAUTIFUL, JOYOUS celebration of His Son and invite all of us to enjoy Him.”

Barbara Barber, December 2014

If you have never been to see LOV for yourself, we would invite you to come and see what God is doing in the Alabama Village. Contact John Eads at (251) 680-4613 or Morgan Carnley at (334) 406-0221 to schedule a visit.

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