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Impact India 360
Team Meetings and Meeting the Team

Welcome back and thank you for coming on this journey with me! Last time, I told you about some of my excitement and some of my angst about going on this adventure. I’m overjoyed to tell you that a lot of that angst was quieted with a couple of meetings. The friendships I’m already developing with the mission team and the founder of CEM, Jaya Sankar, who was visiting Kensington last month, have replaced the fears that gripped my heart so tightly. It began with Jaya telling his story to our Global Outreach team.

Testimonies can be tiring to recite when you find yourself meeting new people every week. This might sound strange, but each time I share my story to someone, I feel as though it loses value and authenticity. Jaya’s story, however, reassured me that statement was completely false. I cannot imagine how many times he has had to deliver his testimony, yet when I heard it for the first time, it was delivered with fervor and diligence.

Jaya is a pastor and church planter who began reaching out to homeless children in the communities surrounding Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, India. Already, he has founded Christ’s Evangelical Mission (CEM) which includes Grace Children’s Home, Missionary Training School, Sewing Training School, Jaya’s English Medium School and Agape Old Age home. What an incredible servant of God! He gave the global team so much insight on India’s culture and religion, informing us on how there are 330 million Hindu gods. In his frustration of choosing one of these gods to worship and seeking the “one true God”, he had an encounter with and gave his life to Christ at the age of fifteen. That is a remarkably bold and courageous move to make in a country that is only 2.3% Christian.

Jaya was also able to attend our first mission team meeting, which I was told is a rare treat. Jaya told his story to those who hadn’t heard it yet, so I got to listen again. Thinking it would sound redundant, I was even more captivated the second time around. I was able to observe everybody’s reactions to his inspiring autobiography. It warmed my heart to see the concern and compassion on the faces of my future co-travelers. A wave of relief crashed into me. Even though I had no idea who these people were, they felt more like family than acquaintances by the minute.

Our team got to know each other better in the second meeting, which was run a little differently since the original leader informed us that he was unable to make the trip (I’ve been told flexibility is key on these trips – might as well start now!). My Global Partners boss, Peg was handed the position, and she asked me to help with the administrative side of the trip. I absorbed an extensive amount of information and experience very quickly! As part of the job, I created binders with all the information for the trip. We went over precautions to take while in India, such as only drinking bottled water and eating fully cooked meals. Going over ways to prepare for what we were about to encounter really dwindled my anxiety. Fear didn’t appear as agonizing as it had before.

Window PanesAfter discussing the groundwork at the meeting, I shared some of my story through a window-pane exercise, which is a large piece of paper with four squares displaying parts of my life. “Me”, “friends”, “family” and “faith” were the four topics I chose to present, as we were allowed to choose the topics. Depicting each square with drawings was the most tedious bit, as I don’t draw frequently.

These meetings have honestly helped to ease my tension and educate me on important information. Stepping outside of my perspective now, I know how it feels to instantly deny an opportunity that could change your life as a result of fear of the unknown. I felt that feeling going into this, perceiving it as more of a curse than a blessing. Now I have found that God is so much bigger than any thought of panic my mind can spawn. I have always loved the phrase “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”.

And here are the people God is going to bring me through this adventure with:

01 - DaveDavid Droste – I met Jaya nearly 14 years ago. His passion for the “least of these” was inspiring as he looked after neglected children, widows, and the spiritual needs of a community. It was 2005 when I first visited his home in India, and since have returned more than a dozen times. I thank God for the work he does all year, and that I get to join him on the ground from time to time.

While my contribution is small, I truly enjoy building relationships with his staff, the Grace children, and students in MTS and STS. I also am blessed to work alongside of friends from Arizona and Michigan to share the love of Jesus to these dear Indian brothers and sisters.

02 - GerryGerry Janssen – I am a recently retired teacher – mostly having worked with special education students on the preschool level. I have been married to my husband Mike for the past 45 years. We have three daughters and nine grandchildren.

I have been active in our local church in various capacities, such as: church secretary, director of our church preschool, coordinator of the church nursery, VBS teacher/worker, Sunday School teacher, singing in the choir, and facilitating women’s Bible studies. Most recently I have been putting together choir music for each Sunday and sharing the responsibility of the Financial Secretary.

Our church supports short term missions on a regular basis, so the interest and desire to go has been ongoing for me. I have more freedom to travel now and believe that God would want me to be a supportive part of the body of Christ in a third world country on a short term basis.

03 - PhyllisPhyllis Carpenter – I’m 66 years old, and between the two of us, my husband and I have 5 children and 13 grandchildren. I own a Homeowner Association Management company in Mesa, AZ. I enjoy yoga, hiking, traveling and reading. I love living in a small town in an old home built in 1902 and being involved with my church family.

I’m looking forward to how The Lord will use us on this Mission Trip and meeting all of our fellow travelers. Every time Dave Droste has mentioned the India Mission Trips in the past, I always felt such a nudge that this is something I thought God was leading me to do. I always had conflicts during past trips and though this trip wasn’t ideal, but I really felt led to participate. My involvement at FBC Prescott increasingly means more and more to me. I love my fellow believers and wanted to get involved with a mission project outside of my normal circle of friends at church.

04 - JenJen Breckenridge – I have been married to my husband, Jaime, for 5 years. He currently works for the U.S. Army, so we have relocated several times. We have a 2 1/2 year old daughter who is sunshine in our lives! Having her has led us closer to God. In my free time, I love to walk my dogs, go for a bike ride, do yoga, attend Bible studies, read Beth Moore books, and take my daughter to the park!

I was led to the India trip by God saying “missions” to me through others, especially in Sunday services. It kept coming up in my prayers too, until finally I contacted Peg about going to Kenya. She replied mentioning India in October. I felt my heart leap in my chest when I read her email, and I knew The Lord wanted me to go to India.

05 - MikeMike Pacioni – I live in Rochester Hills and grew up in Royal Oak. I have two kids, Gannon 21 and Alexys 20. They both live in the area with Gannon being a full time student at Oakland University and Alexys working for Suntel Systems. My brother and I own a network infrastructure company in Detroit and our main customer is the Detroit Public Schools.

In my spare time i like to attend any sporting events and concerts and like to spend any nice day on the water in a boat or jet ski. Also I like to hike and travel. Personally I was led to India by wanting my kids to experience a mission
trip with me. Since they couldn¹t go I felt the desire and need to experience what God has put before me. This mission to India is my first journey for God and I hope it’s a lifelong journey I continue.

06 - MoniqueMonique Nienstedt – Until I opened my heart to Jesus Christ ten years ago, I had not given much thought to my connections to people around the world let alone outside of my family circle. Just two years ago I went on my first mission trip to Kenya, Africa with Kensington Community Church, and my life as I knew it – most importantly my vantage point – was transformed in the most amazing way. For the first time in my life God became palpable. I am thrilled and excited to meet and turn the faces of India and CEM into part of my family.

07 - ReneeRenee Akers-Ravas – I am once again filled with excitement and wonder as I prepare to return to CEM. Wonder that God continues to invite me on this journey, to experience His love, joy and comfort in indescribable ways. I’m really looking forward to being reunited with my family in India. I’ve grown to care deeply for the children, staff and families of CEM and the people in the surrounding neighborhoods. I am going with a deep desire to encourage and comfort them as they shine God’s love in their community.

08 - PegPeg Ohman – I have three children and three grandchildren (and one more on the way!). This will be my third trip to India and I’m excited to see the children again. I’m on staff at Kensington Church and my job as Child Sponsorship Coordinator for, which helps sponsor children in India and Kenya is just one of the reasons that I’m taking this trip. The team will be updating all the children’s profiles and pictures and adding new children to the sponsorship program. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!

09 - ChrisChris Cook – I’m the Director of Care Initiatives at Kensington Church and a freelance photographer, and I live with my wife and daughter in a nearby suburb.

My first trip to CEM was back in 2002, before any of the buildings on the CEM were built. God captured my heart for the people of Dowlaiswaram during that trip and I’ve never been the same. This will be my tenth trip to CEM and I’ll be taking my camera and the well wishes of my family to experience God through my Indian family!

10 - EmilyEmily Kurlyandchik – And then there’s me! If this is your first time reading, you can catch my story in the previous post.

So excited to get started – we are eight days away!