It's really amazing how God uses all kinds of people. The early Celtic Christians had a cool name for the Holy Spirit: "An Geadh-Glas", which means: "the Wild Goose". It sounds a little sacrilegious, but we like it. We don't follow a tame, safe God, but He is always with us and He gives us everything we need. Everyday following God has been an adventure and most of the time we're not too sure where He's going to lead us next!
We both grew up in wonderful Christian homes and are blessed beyond measure to have families who love and support us in every way possible.
I have two little sisters and a little brother, but because all of them are at least three inches taller than me, no one believes that I'm the oldest (in this picture I'm the only one wearing shoes...)
This picture was taken in the Grand Tetons on one of the many Atkins family Adventures.
Our favorite place in the world is Simpson Park Camp. It's a family camp in Michigan and both of us have been going every year since we were children. There is something cool about taking a week of your life and just focusing on God. When we became friends there as eleven year olds we had no idea that we would get engaged there on the fist day of camp in 2003! We got married the next summer and we were back at camp staying in dorms with middle schoolers three weeks after the wedding - I told you we love that place!
We have been volunteering with Youth for Christ since the summer of 2006. During that time we made two 8 month trips to Guinea-Bissau (West Africa). When we went originally we were planning on going short term to start a computer school at a Youth Center that some friends of ours from Simpson Park Camp (the Wilsons) had started. We also wanted to go so that we could be active supporters of missionaries once we came back to the States and started our 'real lives'...
While we were there for the first eight month trip the Wilsons told us that they were going on furlough for a year and they were going to be leaving about four months after we were. They wanted us to just stay on for an extra year and a half, but we decided to go home for about 6 months and then come back for another eight months in Guinea-Bissau. During that second time we really started wrestling with the issue of calling. Our hearts were feeling pulled more and more strongly towards the work in Guinea-Bissau and we had so many big dreams for the people there; but we had never had a Damascus road experience calling to missions. Could we be full time missionaries without a blinding light and a booming voice from God telling us to? It was a question that we wrestled with for months. In the end we decided that if one of our friends was trying to figure out the will of God we would say, "look at your gifts, look at the opportunities He has given you, commit the deepest desires of you heart to Him and see what desires surface" and after doing that very thing we realized that God had put Guinea-Bissau in our hearts.
We signed up to go back to Guinea-Bissau with Youth for Christ as full-time missionaries for four years. We have completed all of the training that we needed to and right now we are in the States fundraising and getting ready to head back. We can't wait :-)
Summary of the things that Emily was involved in during the first two eight months trips:
Youth or Christ has built a Youth Center in Bissau (the capital city of Guinea-Bissau). When we got there the first time the Center was offering a variety of classes and activities for kids, teens, and adults. Even though I had never taught before, I got involved in the English program and started teaching English classes. After a few months I also started working on developing curriculum for new English classes. I really enjoyed teaching and I'm a natural organizer, so I loved the curriculum development as well. During the second trip to Guinea-Bissau I was the director of the English program so I taught classes, and did a lot of teacher training with the Guinean English teachers.
Summary of the things that Jason was involved in during the first two eight month trips:
Several years ago the Wilsons said that if I ever wanted to come over and do some work starting a computer program the Youth Center would be ready, so that's primarily what I did when we went over there. First I developed classes, then taught and tweaked them quite a bit, and then I started training teachers selected from my best students. It was a huge task and it consumed most of my time for both of the eight month trips. Right now the computer school at the Youth Center offers typing classes; Introduction to Computers; basic classes in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and digital imaging; and intermediate level classes in Word, Excel, and Databases.
If you want to know more about the projects we are going to be doing when we go back go to the projects page. Also, don't forget to check out our blogs (Emily and Jason) for more information on what we've been up to lately.