I have not written a “Behind the Scenes” article for our magazine since January of 2016, so it’s about time I catch you up on some of the good things that have been happening at Heaven’s Family since then.
Over the past 16 years, Heaven’s Family has advanced from babyhood to our teenage years. We’ve grown a lot, and we’ve learned a lot, but we still have some maturing to do. And I want to stop right here and say thank you to all of our investors around the world, who have made possible everything we have done to serve the “least of these” and advance Jesus’ kingdom. You’ve stayed with us during all our growing pains, and you’ve also laid up a lot of treasure in heaven.
So what is new over the past 2-1/2 years?
First, my focus has been slowly transitioning towards what has been on my heart for a long time—my teaching ministry. About 40 very special people/couples are now helping to make that dream a reality by joining my personal support team, which makes me less of a financial burden on Heaven’s Family’s general fund. I’ve been enjoying more glorious days studying, writing and filming our “Little Lessons” videos for the David Servant YouTube channel. And we’re getting some traction. Our number of monthly YouTube video views doubled in July from about 11,000 to 22,000. So the trend is looking good.
By the time you read this, I will be 60 years old. I can hardly believe it. Earlier this year I received a little wake-up call in the form of a mini-stroke. For a few hours, I had difficulty performing simple tasks like buttoning my shirt and tying my shoes because my left hand did not want to cooperate. So I’ve started taking better care of myself, and I have lost almost 20 pounds in the process. The trustees at Heaven’s Family love me so much that they mandated a 2-1/2 month sabbatical, which I enjoyed this summer (although I kept up with my essential duties, like writing this article). I’m trying to lead a more balanced life, as I’d like to be fruitful for Jesus until I’m 100!
When I last wrote to you more than 2 years ago, Heaven’s Family consisted of 21 Focused Ministries. That’s changed to 20, but not because we’re doing any less ministry. Our North Korean Christians Ministry has been sensibly absorbed into our Persecuted Christians Ministry. We’re still serving Christians in North Korea, and Ben Croft is still the very experienced and gifted director of our Persecuted Christians Ministry. Ben also assists other directors as Director of Ministry Development. The Lord has also added some wonderful new staff members since January of 2016. They are:
1. Isaac Shepherd, who came to work for our growing Microloan Ministry as a Regional Director over Africa and the Caribbean. Isaac grew up on the mission field with his family in Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish. Isaac and his wife, Sarah, also on our staff (see below) are both bright Wheaten College grads. A few months ago, the Lord blessed them with a future Wheaton grad named Theodore.
2. Sarah Shepherd also came to work for our Microloan Ministry, serving as Development Coordinator. When baby Theodore was born, Sarah transitioned to working part-time for Heaven’s Family while working three 8-hour daily shifts for Theodore. Babies really do rule the world.
3. Jerry Jefferson is a very cool Christian hip-hop artist who became a friend of pastor Dick Samuels, the director of our Farming God’s Way Ministry. Dick took Jerry with him on a trip to Malawi to see a wonderful harvest of crops and souls, and Jerry was hooked. He’s come under Dick’s tutelage with the plan of eventually being his successor, in order to help thousands of additional poor African subsistence farmers learn how to grow cash crops and follow Jesus. If you want to listen to some of Jerry’s music, visit 1stayhumble.com. If you would like to become a member of his personal support team, let us know by phone or email.
4. Jenna Liberati also came to work for our Microloan Ministry as our Financial Associate. Jenna is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with plenty of accounting experience, so her title at Heaven’s Family hides the value she brings serving our 82 micro-bankers in 8 nations and their 1,200 current borrowers. Jenna felt her call while advancing in the corporate world, which she left behind to first join Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in New Zealand, Greece and Turkey before joining our staff.
5. Ugonma Adiukwu relocated from her native Nigeria to the U.S. in 2002. She is also a CPA, with years of experience in various industries including public accounting, banking, Christian ministry, and consulting. She is now handling all the complexities of our accounting as Chief Financial Officer. She resides with her missions-minded family in Houston, Texas.
6. Patty Forney, also a Texan, has taken the reigns of our Victims of Sexual Violence Ministry, a ministry begun by fellow staff member Carole Collins, which the Lord had been preparing for Patty for a long time. She has been serving the Lord since the Jesus Movement in the 1970s, first as an original vocalist for the Christian band Silverwind. Patty is multi-gifted, but she really shines in her heart-felt writing and photography. When not traveling overseas, she also loves to spend time with her grandchildren and ride her horse.
7. Kristin Crandall, our graphic designer, lives in Virginia with her husband Jason and their son, Liam. From the start she exuded a deep passion for the work Heaven’s Family is doing, feeling called to mission work herself, and eventually became director of our Widows & Abandoned Women Ministry. Last March Kristin traveled to East Africa (for the first time) with my wife, Becky, to check up on several of our projects that are serving some of the most impoverished women on earth.
8. Ryan Haught first discovered Heaven’s Family on the internet when he was searching for a way to help suffering North Korean Christians. He became a financial supporter, then offered his services as a web designer. We took him as an intern for 6 months, and he was so helpful we hired him. He now heads our web department. Our websites, HeavensFamily.org and DavidServant.com, are one reason Heaven’s Family has received donations from saints in 67 nations.
9. Steven Johnston resides with his family in Phoenix, Arizona. He was also first a donor to Heaven’s Family before he became a staff member, and I’ve been blessed to know him several years prior to his joining our staff, as I spent time with him and his family during some of my visits to Arizona. Enjoying a long and successful career as a Certified Financial Planner, Steve has proven to be a great asset to our Microloan Ministry as Regional Director for Asia.
10. J Ware, his wife, Becca, and their 5 young children live in the Pittsburgh area. J (a short version of John that just stuck) served as a youth pastor for 11 years, but during the end of that time he grew restless to serve God overseas, as he’d watched his sister and her husband do, and as Becca longed to do. J directs the National Missionary Ministry and the Education Ministry, and Becca hopes to become more involved as her children become older.
11. Laura Croft directs the Critical Medical Needs Ministry, alongside her husband, Ben, who directs the Persecuted Christians Ministry. Together they reside in the beautiful state of Colorado with their two rescue dogs, Kenai and Aspen. Laura has always had a heart for the sick and disabled, and works as a CNA with special needs children. When an opportunity came to help the “least of these” suffering with medical needs, she ecstatically jumped on board. She also leads worship with her husband in their home community.
12. Last but not least, Caryn Cheeney, who also resides in the Phoenix area, is our Human Resources Administrator and in charge of Accounts Payable. (As you can see by now, geography is not limitation for working at Heaven’s Family!) Caryn earned her accounting degree some years ago and put it to use soon after, but eventually was blessed to focus for 17 years on being a stay-at-home mom. That has really paid off, as she recently became a grandmother! She is also a Sunday School teacher of 3-year-olds.
There is so much more I could tell you about, but I’m out of space. I’m so glad that you, too, are a vital member of Heaven’s Family. And the best is still yet to come for all of us!