Senior Spotlight on Philanesha

Honestly, it doesn’t even seem possible that Philanesha could be graduating this year. We’ve known her since she was probably six years old; she has been at Light of the VIllage since its very beginning. We have watched Phil Phil grow, learn, lead, and develop into the young lady she is today.

Philanesha receiving her diploma at graduation Monday night.

Philanesha receiving her diploma at graduation Monday night.

Though she has always been a quiet, more reserved individual, Philanesha’s meekness and mild temperament are not to be mistaken for lack of passion or capability. Philanesha has made an outstanding TeenLeader, showing great care with the kids in her groups, and was a wonderful addition to our team in Mexico, maintaining a positive attitude and constantly engaging the people and projects she encountered.

Philanesha with one of the children for who we helped build a house last year.

Philanesha with one of the children for whom we helped build a house last year.

But we have to be honest. We did have one problem with Phil Phil while we were in Mexico. Homegirl takes out TWO people AT A TIME when she sneezes! It’s really pretty amazing (and hilarious as long as you’re not in the direct path). As many times as we’ve told her. “Phil, COVER. YOUR. MOUTH.” She just replies sweetly, “but I never know when it’s coming.” This may be true, but sometimes you just wish she’d yell out, “TAKE COVER!” Nonetheless, it made for good laughs…and lots of Germ-X usage.

Before we embarrass her anymore, we should mention that Phil Phil has been accepted to four schools: Bishop State Community College, Jackson State University, William Carey University, and Faulkner State Community College. She will be attending the latter in the fall and would like to study psychology. Additionally, she was awarded Newcomer of the Year by her softball coach this year.

Philanesha pitching during her senior season of softball.

Philanesha pitching during her senior season of softball.

Phil is the older sister to FOUR sweet girls, and we can’t wait to see how her example will inspire her sisters to excel in school, sports, and in their walk with Christ. We are proud of you Phil Phil, and we are thankful for the example that you set for the next generation at LOV.

Philanesha today after getting her drivers license!

Philanesha today after getting her drivers license!

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

Senior Spotlight on Dewonna

Tonight we got to watch Dewonna walk across the stage at her high school graduation…and in platform heels no less. As anyone who knows her could tell you, sass has always come naturally to Dewonna! 🙂 She carries herself with a certain confidence that perhaps stems from a lifetime of braving adversities. She says she has overcome many challenges by “praying and never giving up.”

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Dewonna and her family have been a part of LOV for several years now. Her mother, Lai-Evetta, earned her GED with us at LOV not quite two years ago. Her little brother Dewayne (known as D-Man) has been a regular at the after school program and Summer Bible Camp for probably as long as he can remember. And, apart from being a camper, Dewonna was a TeenLeader at Camp Faith in its inaugural summer and got to take part in starting a new LOV Summer Bible Camp in Chickasaw: a pretty unique accomplishment for a teenager.

Some of her favorite high school memories were made in her family and consumer science class where she learned to sew and cook. She says she used to be able to get out of classes to help her teacher prepare and serve food. She must have earned a lot of brownie points with her teacher! *pun intended*

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Dewonna with Vigor alumnus and Alabama football player, Jalston Fowler, during his visit to Vigor last semester. They now share the same alma mater.

Dewonna plans to attend Bishop State in the Fall and begin working on a college degree immediately. We are proud for Dewonna and all that she has accomplished, and we look forward to seeing her succeed in the future.

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

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/

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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.

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