Amy Parker: Thank you for all your hard workApril 6, 2011 by editor
I joined the ELI team in the summer of 2001, only two months after returning from my honeymoon. I was introduced to ELI by my husband, who traveled to Tanzania on the first APU/ELI team in 1996. He had kept in touch with Don Rogers (founder of ELI) and the ministry and mentioned in a brief conversation with him that if an opportunity to work with ELI ever came up, I would be interested. In July 2001, I received a phone call from Don (who was living in Kenya), and my life path was instantly changed.
At the time, there was only one other person serving with ELI stateside. Kathy Gaulton, now Director of Heavenly Treasures, worked from her home in Temple City, developing the handicraft-based empowering projects. Being that there was no office, my husband and I moved the entire organization into our home until Don returned from Kenya in the fall.
Beginning in October, I moved from working part-time to full-time. When Don returned to the States, a friend of the organization offered a small office space for us to use; it was so tiny, that we referred to it as the “closet.” When I started, ELI had no letterhead, no website, no promotional materials, no policy manual, no U.S. office, etc. I was thrilled to be a part of this “baby” organization, creating materials, procedures, infrastructure and organization – all of this excited me. Being that everyone on staff was self-funded, my husband and I began hosting people in our home and sharing about the empowering nature of ELI. We asked friends and family to partner with me financially as I worked and served with ELI. I clearly remember the first couple to say, “Yes!” They have faithfully supported me every single year since the beginning. God began to grow my faith in huge ways as I worked to fundraise and serve ELI simultaneously. It was a very busy season, but it was also a very rewarding one.
In those beginning years, every six months or so, Allison Tjaden (now Tarus) would return to the States. She would educate me on what was going on in Kenya and train me on things such as planning short-term team trips. I spent the first several years working with Don to lay a foundation in the U.S. We created the basics needed to promote the ministry and I learned every aspect of the U.S. side of operations. During those first years, I entered income, planned short-term teams, developed marketing and communication tools, built the organization’s first relationship with an auditor, managed the finance and accounting, and developed ongoing relationships with ELI’s church partners.
I took my first trip to Kenya in February 2003. It was such an emotional time. I had already worked for ELI for a year and half at that point, and the emotion of finally seeing, smelling, touching and meeting this place that I had already fallen in love with was very overwhelming. That was the first time I got to see Don in his element. It truly is an amazing thing to see this man at work in Africa. I remember being blown away and humbled as I watched him serve and love the people of Kipkaren and Ilula.
In 2004, ELI entered into their first office lease in the U.S. After three years of moving all around the Inland Empire, it was a pretty big deal. We also launched our first professionally developed website. In the summer, I led a short-term trip from my home church along with my dad, Gary Keith, Executive Pastor of Life Bible Fellowship in Upland, CA. Our team consisted of eight other people, including Michelle Kerns (now Kiprop), who would later fall in love with both Kenya and a Kenyan man and join the ELI staff full time.
In 2006, I led another team of volunteers from my church, this time with my husband and 18-month-old son. This was also the year that ELI did a walk-a-thon at Asuza Pacific University, in which Micah and Lindsay Albert came to learn more about ELI and the U.S. Operations. Micah is currently our photographer, graphic designer and Director of Communications. It was a season where we did a lot of dreaming about what the future of ELI on the U.S. side could look like. Micah and I were just talking about how so many of those early dreams just started coming to fruition this past year. It took a little longer than we had hoped, but it has been exciting nonetheless.
Over the past few years on the U.S. side, we have been through a season of reducing, refining and restoring. At the same time, ELI U.S. has one of the strongest teams we have ever had. Our refined processes and procedures are taking the U.S. operation to a new level of efficiency and effectiveness. Our U.S. Board of Directors has been a huge part of this refining season. This group of volunteers is so committed to seeing ELI grow both in Africa and here in the U.S. Over the past few years, they became a “working board” and partnered with the U.S. team in a very active way to help us refine our entire daily operation. It is such a blessing to work side by side with this amazing team, and it is so exciting to see how God has handpicked each and every person.
It is for all of these reasons that my upcoming transition is a bit hard. Over the past few months, I have sensed God preparing me and my family for a new season. Through much prayer, I have decided to “retire” from my position at ELI to be a full-time stay at home mom. Currently, my kiddos are six and three, and my husband and I feel God saying that it is time for me to focus fully on them. It has been a very difficult decision to come to, but one that I feel ultimate peace in. ELI is such a huge part of me and my family. I will truly miss being a part of the ministry in the way I have been for the past 10 years.
I am so grateful for my season with ELI. This ministry has changed me. I am blessed to have served alongside so many amazing people through the years. God is growing this organization from the inside out, and it has been a joy and a privilege to be a part of that growth. It has also been a privilege to serve under the leadership of Don Rogers. This is a man who truly seeks God’s face on a daily basis. He places ELI into the hands of Jesus and surrenders himself for the sake of the kingdom. It was in faith that I jumped wholeheartedly into this organization almost 10 years ago, and it is in faith that I step out.
Don often says, “We can’t change the whole world, but we can change the whole world for one person.” Because of my time with ELI, my whole world and my view of it have been so radically changed, and I’m so glad that it was!