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Gennaro Family Aimsite Blog
November 15, 2016 1:24 am
Published in: Uncategorized
"V" is on the far right...All of these young women are from Southern California and are headed to Africa!

“V” is on the far right…All of these young women are from Southern California and are headed to Africa!


“Then Jesus said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self.’” Luke 9:23-25

 Jesus used stories to get a point across…I thought a story would give you a good idea of what I’ve been up to lately…

Having been saved through a ministry of a local, large San Diego church, and with a desire to grow in her faith, “V” sought deeper spiritual growth through Impact 195, a local discipleship and ministry school. One morning, very unexpectedly, the direction of her life completely changed. There was a guest speaker in her class at Impact, a mobilizer from AIM who was teaching about the need for proclaimers of the Gospel in Africa, especially in “Creative Access” countries that don’t allow missionaries. He passionately described the way God is raising up people who are using the businesses and gifts they are experts in to go to these places and live among people groups who would otherwise never meet someone who follows Christ. As she sat listening, the nature of her career and life in fitness, Cross Fit, and Olympic lifting began to feel self-focused and seemed to lack the eternal purpose that God was placing on her heart.

In a silent and very personal process with the Lord, she LAID THAT LIFE DOWN. She literally told God that she wanted to serve Him and be used by Him, so in that moment she committed to give up the training and competing that consumed her life if it meant sharing the Gospel with others who had never heard. Even as she did so, the speaker began to describe a team that was being formed who would be opening a gym in East Africa in order to train up people to eventually open gyms in Creative Access countries to share faith through fitness. “V” broke down and couldn’t stop crying. She had surrendered her own plans and taken up God’s command to make disciples and He had chosen to give it back to her and use that very thing to build His kingdom.

“V” is a REAL person I have been working with as she prepares to go serve in Africa. As a Mission Mobilizer (AKA “Rep”) for Africa Inland Mission, I have seen so clearly that THIS position is the most fruitful way God can use my experience, testimony, gifts, and influence to send others to do what I cannot do in this season of life with the responsibilities I have. As a matter of fact, I just returned from AIM headquarters where four of these young women I have been working with were officially appointed as missionaries with AIM. As we finished the week and they received specific assignments to prayerfully consider in Africa, MOST of them have accepted positions on teams that will go into VERY hard to reach places. (This is why their faces aren’t pictured in the photo. “V” is on the far right.)

As you know, years ago in 2008, our family went through that same process of LETTING GO of our lives and futures in America and committing to serve God LONG-TERM in Africa. My own purpose was made even MORE clear even after Chris died and HIS job was done – to use my testimony to PROCLAIM God’s faithfulness AND His heart for bringing those who don’t yet know Him into saving faith AND to be a part of raising up workers who will do the same. While I THOUGHT all of that would happen in Africa, I have seen clearly that THIS is exactly where I need to be. It’s taken me awhile, but I can now honestly say that I am more and more willing to DENY my selfish desires and my own ideas and dreams for my life and TAKE UP my “cross,” the toughest part of my journey, and allow Him to USE IT wherever and however He chooses. This week has been a huge reminder of the peaceful reward that comes with that submission.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus added that word “daily” to this principle. It is my human tendency to want set aside that cross because my selfish and weak self wants comfort and a new season of blissful joy. In order to ABIDE in victorious peace, however, I now see that I have to go through the DAILY process of accessing the power available to me in the Holy Spirit, taking a deep breath, and picking back up the “cross” that has been entrusted to me by the One who knows me best.

Thank you for so faithfully walking WITH me on this journey I never would have written. I’m realizing it’s bigger than I ever dreamed. Please pray for me as I daily trust God with all of the personal details. He’s pretty good at doing more than I could ever ask or imagine. I’d also like to invite you to PRAISE God with me for the way He is redeeming the most broken parts of my life and using it for His glory AND encouraging His people. The picture of the card I received after Connect Week is shared with the permission of the couple who gave it to me. It’s a very special affirmation that God is using YOU too! I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today without your support.

Thanks for partnering with me to be ABLE to do this!

Thanks for partnering with me to be ABLE to do this!

September 24, 2016 8:19 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

PLEASE UPDATE MY E-MAIL TO: michelle.gennaro@aimint.org

The .net e-mail will be disappearing completely very soon!

I’m realizing that I’m both OVERDUE for an update and OVERFLOWING with words, which isn’t necessarily ALWAYS a great combination. I’ve had quite a few people recently ask me what I’m DOING now and, in going back over my last few updates, I realized I was pretty long-winded and many may not have caught the answer to that question! So, here’s my attempt at a shortER answer…not sure if I can give a SHORT one. lol

Recently, in one of my quiet times, God gave me a phrase that helped me make sense of my “role” here as I serve in the States. For those of you who spend a lot of time with me, you probably tire of me continually “processing” this transition. It has taken me a LONG time this time, despite seeing God’s direction, leading, provision, and BLESSING along the way. Most of my life is different than what I expected it to be when we left for Africa in 2011. I guess my kids and I could be poster children for Third Culture people in transition. Whole books and conferences are devoted to that topic, so I’ll leave that for another conversation. Feel free to ask me about it if you want to figure us out.

“I’m still a missionary. I’ve just gone from being a ‘cross-cultural missionary’ to a ‘counter-cultural missionary.’”

mis·sion·ar·y

ˈmiSHəˌnerē/

noun

noun: missionary; plural noun: missionaries

  1. a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.

adjective: missionary

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of a missionary or a religious mission.

“missionary work”

You see, I’m STILL a fully-supported, active member of Africa Inland Mission. I have been asked to serve as a Member Mobilizer (a role similar to a “rep” for other mission organizations) because my gifts, talents, experience on the field, testimony, and sphere of influence all work together to fill a need within our organization. My job description is a page long, but the bottom line is that I concurrently carry out three different purposes simultaneously:

  • I have “initiatives” that have been set forth by AIM to work toward our “Vision 2020” goals. See more about that here: http://us.aimint.org/about/vision2020/
  • These goals have me focusing on building and nurturing partnerships and working relationships with churches, organizations, mission training schools, and universities in order to facilitate sending new workers to Africa, even to the darkest of places.
  • Part of my job description involves recruiting, mentoring, and coming alongside people who are 1) applying to be missionaries with AIM, 2) preparing to go serve in Africa, or 3) returning from a term of service and either on Home Assignment or transitioning back to the States.
  • In addition to my full-time job and ministry with AIM, God continues to “increase my territory” and sphere of influence with my speaking. This somehow thrills me and stretches me at the same time. He ALWAYS speaks hard things to ME even as I am challenging others. It really is a perfect “pairing” with my position at AIM and the doors He opens for me always remind me that He is in control.

Why do I say “counter-cultural?” Well, I’ve noticed that I just don’t feel like I fit in most of the time. I feel foreign in my home country and I often can’t figure out why I just don’t “get” some of the things that go on here, in AND out of the church. Yet, God has spoken clearly to me that this is GOOD and, actually it’s quite biblical. I should LOOK different than our worldly culture and love people in a way that STANDS OUT and reflects Christ.

1 Peter 3:14-16New International Version (NIV)

14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[a]; do not be frightened.”[b] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Lastly, because He is a good, good Father, God has given me a very SPECIFIC verse and task for this season of life (Psalm 40:9-10), “I PROCLAIM your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, LORD, as you know. J I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I SPEAK of your faithfulness and your saving help.”

I cannot thank God enough for the MANY faithful friends and supporters who CONTINUE to sacrificially give in order to keep me serving. THIS is what I KNOW God’s purpose is for me AND that which I was MADE to do. Please know that what I am doing NOW is the greatest contribution I can make to reach the unreached in Africa with the Gospel. God has shown me that I am much more effective in THIS role in sending MANY to places I cannot go myself to do works that I cannot do in this season of life with this many responsibilities. This is His merciful way to provide for my kids and me AND still allow me the privilege of serving Him. I would love to meet with you personally to tell you all of the exciting details of what God has been doing in our lives through this crazy transition. I’m obviously also available to come and speak in your churches, small groups, organizations, teach about Africa in your classes, or generally to PROCLAIM and SPEAK of His faithfulness. (Below:  speaking at Mexico Caravan Ministries where I had the privilege of being on the speaking rotation this summer.)2016-06-16-20-01-52

AND! You can still PRAY and give too!   http://us.aimint.org/give/

July 19, 2016 11:59 am
Published in: Mobilizing

“Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” John 18:11

 We have now been back in California for a YEAR and I can just NOW say that 1) we know where we LIVE, 2) I know what I DO, and 3) the “cup” my Father has given me is indeed refining me and making me whole.

 “People of (the Gennaro family), who (now) live in (San Diego), you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:19-21

        It’s important to note that there are OTHER verses from this chapter that apply to this time of my life AND that I’m not proud of the fact that the chapter title ALSO applies, “Woe to the Obstinate Nation.” Let’s just take a minute to look at the definition of “obstinate” and some of the synonyms:

ob·sti·nate; ˈäbstənət/adjective

  1. stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.
synonyms: stubbornunyieldinginflexibleunbendingintransigentintractable,obduratemulishbullheaded, stubborn as a mule, pigheadedself-willed,strong-willedheadstrongwillfulcontrary,

OUCH… I clearly recognize that God doesn’t waste a THING and that the HARDEST lessons are learned in the hardest ways. The “cup” He has given me often contains things that are hard to “swallow.” This particular season of transition, loneliness, grief, and trust is TEACHING me (note: I’m still learning) to BE STILL, to WAIT on the Lord, to LOOK and LISTEN for HIS direction, to BELIEVE that He has HEARD my cry and is IN THE PROCESS of answering, AND that it is ALL for my GOOD.

Here are the things God has revealed as I have “taken a long drink” from the “cup” my Father has given me this last year and the ways He has directed:

  • We now LIVE in San Diego, California, in a house that God MIRACULOUSLY provided for me to buy EVEN in this market and EVEN on my income. Friends and partners, He has clearly told me to share with you that He is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than we can ask or imagine! I don’t often tell you about the ways God provides BEYOND what I need because, honestly, I depend on the faithful giving of a LOT of people and I feel accountable to them to be a good steward AND to work for the Lord with fervor and excellence. When He provides abundance, I sometimes feel guilty about it. HOWEVER, you have to know that He takes what you faithfully give and MULTIPLIES IT for His glory! This house is beyond what I expected and more than I thought I would ever have again. Why? Because that’s just how He loves and THAT’S Him keeping His promises to me as a widow and to my children who needed the security of their OWN place.  I am learning that the verse that says, “the Lord is your husband” refers to THESE aspects of God; not just a loving Father, but a husband who PROVIDES and CHERISHES. This is the part of God that gives me “treats” that are beyond my need.
  • In the same way, as I’ve already shared with you, He has blessed me with a new assignment with Africa Inland Mission that is perfectly suited for me, allows me to be a mom (although I still need LOTS of prayer and help!), and uses our testimony and my gifts to MOBILIZE a new generation of people to GO to Africa. I have had to grieve AGAIN. Leaving Lesotho and then leaving Kenya grieved my heart. It wasn’t a relief to leave Africa, it was a drink that was like a bitter medicine, something I HAD to “power down.” It was a letting go of what I THOUGHT was God’s purpose for me and the people and a place that I deeply love. This isn’t the plan I had when we moved to Africa in 2011, but it IS a good plan and the RIGHT one for THIS season. This last weekend, a friend described my role as a mobilizer with AIM really well, “Why add when you can multiply?” I am ONE, but can now be a part of sending MANY.
  • Just this morning, I was reminded that the “cup of suffering” God has handed me is the “tool” He is using to make me WHOLE. In the words of the devotional writer, “TRUST Him and never push away the instrument He is using, or you will miss the result of His work in your life.” This is about to get deeply personal… The hardest thing I’ve had to drink from this cup has been my singleness and the loneliness that is present so much of the time. I didn’t CHOOSE this, I CHOSE to be married for life, but because the marriage commitment is until death, my marriage ended when Chris died. For a long time, I was ashamed of having a hard time being single, but I’ve realized that God MADE me the way I am, to desire and need a partner. My best friends tease me that I have so many “best friends!” Lisa says I have at least 57!  All of my “people” have ministered to me and been an amazing support to me through all of this, but I need a PERSON. Most recently, this most sour drink has shown me that it is the ingredient He has used to show me who I am, to reveal my new identity that is now more tied to HIM than ever before, to show me the “me” that stands alone and vulnerable before HIM. Even as I type this, I KNOW that my attitude needs to change. I still want to BEG Him to bring an end to the waiting, to let me HAVE what I want already! BUT, my moment-by-moment spiritual discipline is to just DRINK this cup He has given me, NOT in a guzzling mess with my nose plugged in avoidance of what He has given, but rather with a long, steady drink that allows me to taste it and glean all that He would have me learn from this time.  I’m trusting it IS just “for a time.” :0)

I know we ALL have a cup to drink from and that it’s not always full of sweetness and bubbles. He IS doing a new thing. That was His promise to me from Isaiah 43:18-19 way back in January of 2015. It’s been “springing up” ever since and this last year has been just the beginning. Cheers, friends. Let’s suck it up.

 

July 13, 2016 11:36 am
Published in: Uncategorized

A snapshot of my journey of faith over five years

GoodbyeSanDiego     I wasn’t quite ready to write a reflection and update a couple of days ago. There was too much simmering in my mind and so much to process after waking up to a Facebook memory that reminded me that it had been five years since we moved to Africa the first time. My post on July 11, 2011 read:

“This is the hardest stinkin’ thing I’ve ever had to do, but HE IS WORTHY! Remembering why we’re doing this…Jesus DIED for us and is worthy of praise from EVERY people, tongue, tribe and nation. Oh, that those we will soon meet will see His love for them and WORSHIP!”

Of course we had no idea what the next five years held for us. I have said many times that IF I would have known what was ahead, I never would have taken that step of faith. What I KNEW without a shadow of doubt, though, was that what we were doing was because Jesus was worthy of that obedience AND that we were stepping into a season where Chris would finally get to live his calling, passion, and dream to be a missionary and to use His gifts to build God’s kingdom.

As I look over that status and pick it apart, a lot of things stand out. One thing that highlights the fact that God answered that prayer is, “those we will soon meet.” There are now precious faces and names that quickly flood my mind as I remember living in Molumong. They became our neighbors, friends, and family as we did life together in that small place many people have never heard of. We loved them deeply and they received us well. So many of them loved us and generously shared their language, culture, families, and resources to help us live there. We were in it for the “long haul.” If you’re on Facebook, you can look back on my post from the other day and see that both of my Basotho sisters commented there. God knit us together tightly through some intense life circumstances.

There’s a whole book brewing in my mind. That’s probably why I don’t sleep very well. My brain has a hard time shutting down. Journal entries, notes, and scribbles fill numerous blank books that hold my intimate prayers and thoughts through the hardest, but most deeply spiritually rich days of my life. I’ll save the nail-biting stories and gory details for the book. J

What I want you to be left with here, is the bottom line. I’ve said it hundreds of times as I have shared our story. GOD.IS.REAL. The words from the Bible have become absolutely clear to me as His truths have gone from being words on a page that I have TRUSTED to be true, to clear promises and descriptions of the One True God that I have now SEEN with my own eyes and experienced in my daily life. Here are a few that are worth repeating over and over:

Psalm 139:16 – God is Sovereign and holds the number of days in His hand. He sees the whole, big picture from the beginning of time and into eternity.

Romans 8:28 – He works ALL things for the good for those who are called according to His purpose. That’s a hard one to wrap your brain around because losing your husband, father, son, friend isn’t good. But, God… There are Basotho people who told me that they hadn’t seen love like Chris loved, and that was Jesus’ presence in him. I have had to lean on God like I never have in my life and I’m closer to Him because of it. God DID heal Chris and He is WHOLE and Home. We prayed that he wouldn’t have to live in a broken body and that God would prepare us for whatever testimony He had for us. That testimony STILL leads people to Jesus AND is mobilizing people to the mission field. It doesn’t make the loss easy, but shows me that God hasn’t wasted any of it.

Isaiah 43 – Just go ahead and read ALL of this one… WHEN you pass through the waters, river, fire, ANY trial or storm, God promises that He will be with you, the waters won’t “sweep over you,” and that the fire will not “burn you or set you ablaze.” It doesn’t say, “IF,” friends. It’s WHEN. No level of sacrifice or obedience will “earn” you a ticket to easy street. You’ll go through hard times and God WILL help you through it if you know Him and receive His love, help, and gift of salvation.

There IS a happy ending… Revelation 12:10-11, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

The end is near. I feel like Paul when I say, “It’s not that I have attained all of this, but I press on toward the goal to win the prize…” I’m LEARNING more and more that I have to take every anxious, sad, weak, doubting thought captive and replace it with the TRUTH I know about God. Monday, in one of those perfectly timed devotional readings (Streams in the Desert), I read this quote –

 

“Unbelief looks at God through the circumstances, just as we often see the sun dimmed by clouds or smoke. FAITH puts God BETWEEN itself and its circumstances, and looks at them through HIM.”

 

I am moving forward by making the conscious choice to BELIEVE God at His Word. He is working behind the scenes on my behalf; He loves my children and me more than I can fathom; He sees and hears my most intimate needs and desires; and He CARES. He reveals His presence to me so faithfully daily as I SEEK Him. I’m always on the look out for Him in my days. He has provided so abundantly for us!

While I have a new assignment as a Mission Mobilizer with Africa Inland Mission and am based in San Diego, CA now, I STILL get to be about the business of TELLING people that Jesus is worthy of our praise AND sending a whole new generation of people to live out the love of Christ cross-culturally. It is a thrill to me to see God weave together a beautiful new life for us. While I still have very strong desires of the heart that I am waiting on the Lord for, He is weaving together a beautiful tapestry that will someday be complete, detailed, clear, and GOOD.

Put on your faith glasses and discover Him with me. The view is WAAAAY better when you look at your circumstances through the “filter of Truth,” from GOD’S perspective.

 

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and ENJOY SAFE PASTURE. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; TRUST IN HIM and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. BE STILL BEFORE THE LORD AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM…” Psalm 37:3-7

 

Thank you to all of those who continue to support us through your prayers AND financial giving. I am still a fully supported missionary with Africa Inland Mission and am always grateful for new partners who are committed to reaching the unreached in Africa. Explore our website to see all that God is doing, get guidance for prayer, and/or give. us.aimint.org/give

Note my updated e-mail address! michelle.gennaro@aimint.org

AND follow me on Facebook (Michelle Michaud Gennaro) and Instagram (meeshgennaro).

 

 

May 19, 2016 4:25 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

change sign

Isaiah 30:20-22 New International Version (NIV)

20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

You all know I love a good story and THIS one is a good, long God-story. I’m not sure whether to take you the long way around or just cut to the chase. It’s been a long time since I’ve updated you. You see, God has been weaving together a perfect plan and all of the details had to be placed JUST so before the finished product could be revealed.

I’ll give you the punch line and then those of you who like the long story can read on so that you can see how God beautifully considered every detail.

I have made a three-year commitment to serve in a full-time capacity with Africa Inland Mission as a Mission Mobilizer. I will be based in San Diego, but the states I am responsible for will be CA, HI, and AZ. I will be looking for places God is already mobilizing people toward missions (training programs, discipleship and/or ministry schools, universities, small groups, campus ministries) and developing and nurturing relationships with those people in order to recruit and prepare new missionaries who desire to partner with God in reaching the unreached in Africa through AIM. AIM’s strategy is particularly focused on those people groups who have yet to have a gospel witness. I will also have the privilege of walking alongside these people as they are appointed, trained, raise support, and GO.

         There are a number of key threads in this tapestry that I don’t want you to miss, so I’ll just highlight those:

  • God used key people within the Body of Christ who were in positions of authority in my life to guide and direct me, beginning with the suggestion that I prayerfully consider a longer, one-year Home Assignment. That was the first whisper of direction that I heard.
  • The next guidance came through hardship. It became clear that we NEEDED to be here as a family in order to support each other, have some stability, and work through more transitions and grief.
  • Through all of this, God was opening doors to speak in many different contexts: churches, small groups, women’s retreats, mobilization ministries, events, etc. He was also using the comfort I have received to comfort others in helping relationships. Eventually, I realized he was actually USING me here and AIM leadership saw that same thing.

I have seen God’s hand so clearly in my life over the last year. First, “working in my heart to will and to act according to His purpose.” I doubted that for some months at the beginning of 2015. I couldn’t tell if it was MY desires or HIM working in my heart at first. In hindsight, I can see that He WAS stirring in me and preparing me for change. Way back in January as I was struggling through the transition of leaving Olivia in California and returning to Kenya without TWO of my kids, a very dear friend comforted me with these words, “God will bring all of your hearts to the same place at the right time and you’ll know what to do.”

That didn’t happen until the very end of March as we prepared to leave Kenya with our belongings. Two of the kids, at separate times, said to me, “Mom, I’m ready to go.”

We’re now back in San Diego and finalizing housing, learning the hard lesson that you should NEVER say “never.” The rental market is pretty bad here now, so I have had to prayerfully consider all of the houses that fit our needs whether they are for rent OR for sale. I am thankful for many friends and family who are well-suited to come alongside me and help me through these major decisions.

NOTE: I wrote THIS prayer request in April and am just proofreading it to send it out today… Please pray that God would reveal EXACTLY where He would have us live and the neighbors He would have us know.

I can’t wait to keep you updated as we continue to WATCH GOD WORK.

Thank you so much for your continued support through all of these transitions. I will remain fully supported in this new role, trusting God to provide for the added expense of living in Southern California. Please know how much I appreciate the sacrifices YOU make to keep me serving Him. There is a quote from John Piper on the wall of Mexico Caravan Ministries where I frequently speak that says, “Go, send, or disobey.” Thank you for being obedient to send me (even if it means HERE)! THIS is the purpose for which God has made me! I’ve never been so sure of it!

           

 

 

March 16, 2016 2:45 am
Published in: Uncategorized

   desertlandscape                                                                                                                             Photo: Lyle Detwiler Photography

You know me…There are many words before you get to the update! Keep reading! This is a journey, folks! 

This last weekend, because of changing circumstances, I had a long day trip up to the desert where Jed and Joseph were with the MVCFnext youth group for their Winter Camp. As it turned out, I made the drive up by myself, which allowed me a time of solace that I don’t get very often. Actually, it would be more honest if I said that I don’t TAKE time for solace much. As the landscape changed from city to desert, it was like God took me on a little tour of my life.

The radio went scratchy and civilization thinned near Barstow, CA and my mind wandered back to my childhood. Those were roads I had been on before and forgotten. My dad grew up out there on the edge of the desert. My paternal grandparents, Marge and Ted Michaud, lived in Banning for as long as I remember. We would visit “Grandma and Grandpa Sparky” (I called my grandparents affectionately by the names of their dogs), pulling into the driveway lined with rocks and decorated with cactus, wagon wheels, and other things that held stories I’m sure. As I drove through Banning this time, I laughed a little to myself and remembered what Nathanael said of Nazareth in John 1:46 when referring to Jesus, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?!” In the same way, as I let the memories flood my mind, I asked, “Banning! Can anything good come from here?!” You know the answer. YES. Good came from there.

My dad came from there and he has ended up in Maui. Not bad, “Gerdog!” He also found His Maker and so did I. It’s often perplexing to me to look back over our crazy life, through many different seasons and landscapes – I was recently teasing my mom about the time when my parents ran Pentz Store, a bar and restaurant with a gas pump out front where I learned to shoot pool, pump gas, and choose the songs on the juke box with the local hippies. Push the fast forward button to today and I continue to find myself a sojourner through many different places, meeting ALL kinds of different people, but now bringing Good News and Truth to broken people like me. Yes, good things come from barren places.

As I left Banning, the desert seemed to take over quickly. The wind picked up and the vegetation slowly faded into a light brown backdrop of desolation. I couldn’t help but think about the Israelites wandering through the desert and the many places in the Bible where the desert is used as a picture of loss, disobedience, despair, and hopelessness. I have even used it to describe myself in the dark times of my grief. But as I drove through there on Saturday morning, it was like God opened my eyes to see the truth of my life and the way He has carried me. I am NOT like the desert. Even in the darkest times of sorrow, He has been so close to me that I have never felt the barrenness and dryness that characterize the desert “wasteland.” It has surely been HIS grace and HIS faithfulness to me that have made that true.

One of the most profound blessings and sources of strength in this long season of weakness has been God’s Word. He has spoken to me so intimately through it and I have journaled my prayers and the messages He has whispered to me, filling many blank books with conversations and cries to Him. Psalm 1:2-3 comes to mind, “But (her) delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law (she) meditates day and night. (She) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” There is a note in my Bible next to that verse that says, “beginning prayer journal today.” HE has kept me from withering and being completely dry. HE has led me through seasons of ABUNDANCE rather than dryness and I am so thankful.

Now, I am preparing for my next journey. Thursday morning we’ll leave for a VISIT to Kenya where we will pack up and process through another change of seasons. You see, God has led me one baby step at a time through this transition… a one-term Home Assignment turned to a one-year Home Assignment, and that has turned into a new assignment with Africa Inland Mission that uses my gifts and experiences in a way that will fill a critical, strategic role in the organization. I can’t wait until the details are worked out and I can announce all that God has done to guide us gently into a season of serving HERE. Not only that, but He has brought ALL of our hearts to a place of KNOWING that this is, indeed, what God would have us do. He has shown me that HE knows what all of us need even before we can sense it ourselves. He loves each of my kids just as He loves the unreached and He desires for THEM to know and trust Him too. He has provided for a season of stability in order to continue the healing process WITH our extended family AND still participate in reaching the unreached in AFRICA!

Thank you for your continued faithful prayers and support even as we have been on THIS side of the ocean! I will continue to need that support in this new role and will get you all of the details as SOON as I know them too!

I will end with this from Psalm 66:8-12, which was recently placed on my heart for a women’s event where I got to share my testimony:

 

“Praise our God, all peoples,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.

For you, God, tested us;

You refined us like silver…

We went through fire and water,

But you brought us to a place of abundance.”

December 5, 2015 4:21 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Burdens and Blessings

My life is an oxymoron. I guess that’s way better than BEING a moron!

ox·y·mo·ron

ˌäksəˈmôrˌän/

noun

a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g.,faith unfaithful kept him falsely true ).

Yes, contradictory emotions, experiences, truths, and circumstances are happening all at once in my life. While there are too many to share with you here in this small space, I’ll give you peek into just the last few weeks. If you feel like you’ve been on a roller coaster when you’re done reading, well, you have a little idea what life is like for us in this season!

  • We are now “home” in our passport country for a season. People say, “Welcome Home” and part of me feels that way. There is another part that is at home in Africa.
  • Our hearts are still healing from Chris’ earthly absence and, yet, God continues to show us how to L-I-V-E, and laugh, and love.
  • We are planning Joel and Julia’s wedding while grieving the loss of Joel’s father too. BUT GOD has knitted our families together in a powerful way, particularly doing a beautiful work in the two mamas (Julianne and I) as we walk this road together.
  • I have responsibilities beyond which any one person should bear, BUT GOD is, step-by-step, providing for that and guiding me. He has allowed me to see a glimpse into the way He is working behind the scenes on my behalf.
  • My heart continues to have intense longings that keep me on my knees, BUT He is drawing me closer and closer to Himself and leading me toward a place of surrender. He speaks clearly to me through His Word AND through His people and the message remains clear: “Trust me, BE STILL (or calm down, or chill out), I will provide ‘in the fullness of time…’”
  • In many ways, I am in the most difficult season of my life, BUT GOD is giving me PURPOSE and even granting me favor beyond what I deserve or expect. I am broken and weak, yet He has allowed me to be honored with things like an award from PLNU, bursting open doors of opportunity and connection that STILL have me marveling at His ways!
  • I am often painfully lonely, BUT GOD has blessed me with new friends with whom I have a deep connection, other women who share this journey, deep and amazing renewal in old friendships that bring joy to my life, and people whom God is bringing to come alongside each of my kids.
  • We are in a time of “limbo” as we wait on Him in so many ways, BUT the pieces are starting to come together! According to His grace and mercy, He is slowly revealing a plan. Stay tuned along with me as it comes into focus.
  • I have a bit of Grinch in me even as I look toward the Christmas season with all of its traditions and blessings. There’s always a empty place by my side and life just doesn’t have the sparkle it used to during these times, BUT GOD has reminded me, as recently as last night, that He is EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US and that the PRINCE OF PEACE has come. He brings JOY TO THE WORLD and to my soul. Now, THAT I can celebrate!

So, with renewed strength, I welcome this season of oxymorons! He was born to die and His death brought me LIFE. I will LIVE, despite death, and I will do it abundantly in His name!IMG_2559

This picture was taken this morning as Julianne, my “sister mom,” and I hiked and processed together.  We’ll be mother-in-laws to each other’s kids and God has brought us together for the tough AND joyful roads.  We’re choosing to celebrate because that’s what our guys taught us to do!

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Thank you for standing with me!

Michelle

 

 

 

September 24, 2015 10:29 pm

joelandjulia

Exciting news!!  Julia is engaged!!  She will marry Joel Wallace, her sweetheart since 8th grade on January 15th, 2016!!  We are all so excited to officially join the Wallace/Gennaro clans!

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the LORD of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the TIMES set for them and the EXACT PLACES where they should live. God did this SO THAT men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For IN HIM we live and move and have our being…”

 (Disclaimer… there was a slight delay in the publishing of this post… my apologies!)

At some point in the last two years, God made this passage, Acts 17:24-28, one of my “peace verses.” It resurfaces in my mind during transition. It’s fitting that today, the two-month mark since our arrival back in California (9/17), those words are banging around in my head again. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been that long, for part of me feels like I have just awakened and realized that it’s time to embrace this place and intentionally DIG IN to what God has for me here.

Transition is no joke. For me, the most prevalent “symptom” of transition is a general feeling of fogginess and confusion. Imagine packing up your family in a few weeks, moving to a new country, and going from working at a break-neck pace in a fruitful ministry to a schedule that is in “flux.” Home Assignment is meant to be a time to rest, reconnecting with family, friends, and supporters, catching up on ministry-related projects, raising more support as needed, and seeking the Lord for the next term of service. For me, it means doing a lot of speaking. I learn so much about myself during these times. Unfortunately, I usually learn about the parts of me that are still weak and broken.

Over the last two months, I have been crying out to God for clarity and direction. He has been so gracious to use me in this time despite my weakness, brokenness, and confusion. FINALLY, over the last few days, He has revealed ways He desires to use me HERE in this “in between” season. I share these things here, not to “toot my own horn,” but to praise God for His faithfulness to answer my prayers that 1) my suffering would not be in vain and 2) that He would be glorified in my life AND in my brokenness. As a fully supported missionary, I am honored to represent my partners BOTH while I am in Africa AND when I am here Stateside. Another part of that is that I feel accountable to you to be “on task” and faithful to live out my call of obedience to proclaim God’s faithfulness to ALL Nations, including America.

Here are some of the ways He has used me lately on THIS side of the ocean:

  • Comforting those with the comfort I have received. (from 2 Corinthians 1) This has been both a privilege and a faith-builder. I have found myself coming alongside my friends in the death of loved ones, through cancer journeys, and in the midst of depression and suicide.
  • Mentoring and equipping. Almost immediately upon landing in San Diego, I found myself across the border in Mexico. In the first four weeks, I had at least five opportunities to speak into the lives of young people who were either experiencing cross-cultural missions for the first time OR preparing to GO into missions themselves. This gave me such purpose and comfort. It was as if I took a deep sigh of relief when I crossed that border into a more third world setting. The sights and smells of Tijuana were somehow more familiar to me, making me feel as if I could more gradually ease out of my life in Kenya. In addition, God was so gracious to allow me to see some of the fruit of previous times I had spoken in that context. Even in the depth of my sorrow and grief in the loss of Chris, He used my blubbery testimony to change lives and SEND people out. What JOY it gave me to learn that God is continuing to use Chris’ life to build His kingdom! It has also been an honor to mentor a dear friend as she and her husband prepare to GO in the coming months.
  • Challenging and encouraging the Body of Christ. God has affirmed His desire to use my speaking and my testimony to both challenge and encourage the Body of Christ here. I have had a number of opportunities to speak to different groups at my own home church and am (even now) on a plan on my way to speak at a Women’s Retreat in Maui! I have also thoroughly enjoyed meeting one on one with friends and FACE-TO-FACE with Facebook friends who share the same journey as I do. This has been a HUGE blessing for me! In November, I will be the “missionary in residence” for Africa Inland Mission’s “Connect Week,” participating in the orientation of new candidates preparing to leave for Africa in the coming months.

Thank you for your faithful prayers for my children and me throughout many seasons. I know that God brings unity through our partnership and that He is glorified when we stand together. Please continue to pray for God’s direction as I seek to glorify Him in this time of waiting, seeking, and growing.

“Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20

Michelle

August 8, 2015 3:49 pm

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Well, we have arrived in San Diego, California for our one-year Home Assignment! Those of you who have already seen us will say, “You’ve been here for almost three weeks!”  Physically, that is true, but I feel like it has taken this long to mentally and emotionally FEEL like we’re here.  Actually, buying food at Costco made me realize that we’re HERE for awhile!  Africa trivia:  The whole cart of stock-up food from Costco was LESS than a stock-up grocery trip in Nairobi, Kenya!  Yes, imported food is expensive!

NOTE:  PLEASE CHANGE MY E-MAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR RECORDS TO michelle.gennaro@aimint.org!

I thought it important to share the details of our Home Assignment with you so that you would understand both our journey AND what the purpose of this time is.  While we were packing, I came up with a short “vision statement” for our time here, “Make new memories, cherish the old, PROCLAIM what God has done, and seek Him for our future.”

Having this constantly before me helps me to remember that God has ordained this time to CONNECT with family (especially my adult kids and extended family), re-connect with my church family, friends, and supporters, and really seek the Lord on what He has for my future personally, in ministry, and in the missional picture of what He is doing to reach the Nations.  While this IS specific, I still struggle to come to grips with this “sudden” shift in my purpose.  Living and serving at Rift Valley Academy is an intensely busy, stretching, and fulfilling life and it feels like that has come to a sudden stop.  Perhaps answering these “Frequently Asked Questions” will help YOU know why we’re here, why we STILL need your support, and HOW you can pray for us during this season!

1)  Where are you staying and how can I contact you?

We are staying at the Mission House at our home church, Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church, in San Diego, CA.  You can reach me at this NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS:  michelle.gennaro@aimint.org or on FACEBOOK – Michelle Michaud Gennaro.  You can read previous updates at cmgennaro.aimsites.org.  Private message me if you need my phone number.

2)  How are your kids doing?  Where will they go to school?

All of the kids are well!  They were a big part of the decision to be here for a year.  It is time for us to be together as a family.  Julia is about to start her Junior year at Biola University and works at Disneyland as an attractions hostess in Tomorrowland, the SAME job I did 30 years ago!  Stay tuned for updates about her!  Olivia finished her Aesthetics program in Maui, Hawaii and is currently with us in San Diego.  She is preparing to take her CA State exams and will then be a licensed Esthetician (facials and waxing) and will begin the job search.  The other four kids will attend Mt. Everest Academy, an Independent Studies site through San Diego Unified School District.  I am praying this gives them a safe, small group environment in which to learn and a flexible schedule for the traveling I/we need to do.  They are involved in two different youth groups, so they’re making new friends and nurturing the old ones!  Jed will be a Junior, Silly a Freshman, Joseph in 6th, and Duane in 5th.

3)  Do you have to get a job?  What about your support?

No, I am still active with Africa Inland Mission and this is a PART of my assignment.  The word used for missionaries who were temporarily “home” from the field used to be “furlough,” which means “leave of absence.”  AIM does not use this term, but rather “Home Assignment” because we are still representing the organization, actively speaking in multiple contexts, connecting with supporters and/or raising needed support, and often carrying out assignments for the organization in THIS context.  For this reason, my support and salary continue and the expenses generally INCREASE because of paying rent, etc. in the States.  So, I still need your monthly support!  Actually, I am SO THANKFUL for the part you play in keeping me serving both in Kijabe, Kenya AND here!  My support level is strong, so I will only need to raise about $175/month while I am here!  I still stand in AWE of the way God has provided through the obedience of the Body of Christ!

I am doing a lot of speaking here in San Diego and in Mexico with Mexico Caravan Ministries and Radius International.  If you would like me/us to visit YOUR church, feel free to contact me!  I’ll also be speaking at a Women’s Retreat in Maui in September!

4) How ARE you?!

A friend on our Uganda team used to say “FINE,” Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.  Thankfully, that acronym doesn’t TOTALLY fit!  While grief is a long and emotionally intense journey, I can say with confidence that we are all doing well with God’s help.  Each of us handles it differently and we address the needs as they arise.  Jed is currently having some more counseling and I saw my counselor this week to work through some transition stuff and just have a “check-up.”  She said I’m doing well and that I don’t need her anymore.  That’s good news, but I DID schedule an appointment for next month just in case!  🙂  It has been 2 1/2 years since Chris went Home, so we have managed to learn to live in this new family arrangement.  He will always be missed and cherished, but the Lord has answered my prayers and kept His promises to carry us and to “work all things for the good” AND to use our suffering and testimony for His glory.  We are learning more and more what that means to us personally and seeing Him do this.

5) How can I pray for you?

– That this time would be purposeful and achieve the goals we have set for this time.

– That the connections I/we make would lead to ETERNAL connections, so that God would use THIS time to reveal Himself through us and bring people into the Kingdom.

– That my kids would connect well and thrive in this new school setting.

– That God would make clear what He would have me do in the future, especially after Jed graduates.

– I also covet your prayers for me personally.  Chris and I had talked about marrying again if something happened to one of us and I find myself ready to begin that part of my journey.  Please pray with me for someone who would, as Olivia says, “fit right into our family” and be a partner in ministry and life with me. You can imagine all that this entails and the emotions and wisdom it requires.  Yet, I truly believe that God SEES my heart, loves me, and knows how long I can handle all of this in “singleness.”

2 Chronicles 20 has been such an encouragement to me over the last couple of days and has given me the COURAGE to obey God in taking steps of faith in the above areas.  Here are some of the things God has reminded me of through this passage:

“God HEARS ME and SAVES ME…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon YOU… Do not be afraid or discouraged… The battle is not yours, but GOD’S… STAND FIRM and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… DO NOT BE AFRAID; DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED… God out to face __________ and the LORD WILL BE WITH YOU.”

A couple of additional highlights:  The Lord fought their enemies ON THEIR BEHALF as they SANG PRAISES TO HIM and the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was AT PEACE, for his God had given him REST ON EVERY SIDE.”

You may pray this passage for me!  Rest on every side sounds like EXACTLY what I need!

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Gennaro kids (minus Julia) with their cousins on the Gennaro-Hill side.  Note:  they’re ALL crazy when they’re together, but Jed’s face is especially wacky in this picture!  That’s not his REAL smile!  Whew!

DON’T FORGET TO CHANGE MY E-MAIL ADDRESS TO michelle.gennaro@aimint.org!!

July 1, 2015 1:48 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

IMG_3812It’s July!  That means we leave Kenya in TWO WEEKS for a YEAR LONG Home Assignment. Today it dawned on me that I have ONE MORE DAY in the classroom with my students, finished grading their research papers AND tests, helped tear down the set from the play, and realized that I better start packing!  Some of you may be hearing this for the first time, so I thought I’d better give you an update before we show up in California and you wonder why we’re lingering…

It’s fitting that I came across the Steven Curtis Chapman song, “Take Another Step,” yesterday.  As I welcomed July, a month I have anticipated for a long time, it made me remember all that God has done to guide and direct me over the last couple of years AND think of some things that may help you understand us as we acclimate to being in the States again.  Even though I have a LOT of words, they sometimes fail to describe my life and the processing that happens on a daily basis.  Here are SOME of my reflections:

– Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  This next thought isn’t an original thought, I must have read it somewhere.  God lights our paths step-by-step, just enough light right in front of us to take the next step.  That’s GRACE.  Sometimes I’m tempted to know MORE about what He has planned for me, but then I realize that if I had known what was coming when we moved to Africa, it would have crippled me.  It’s WAY better that God lights the path right in front of me.  That’s what He did with this Home Assignment and I have had MANY confirmations that it’s simply time for us to be “home” for a while.

– A colleague and friend of mine recently described “home” in a way that resonated with me.  She said,

“It is not easy saying ‘good-bye’ to home and arriving back to our passport ‘home’.  Home is that relative term of ours that describes our physical place in Kenya and our emotional place in Canada.  This really is a crazy way to live.”

So, as we come “home,” just realize that we have MANY emotions that we’re processing.  We’re SUPER excited to see all of you!  We can’t wait to experience familiar things, taste all of our favorite foods, and make new memories.  However, we’ve also come to feel like Africa is home, first Lesotho and South Africa, and now Kenya, where we have lived even longer than we lived in Lesotho.  We leave behind friends, pets, and a place we’ve come to love.  We’re also not “with it” on what’s been going on!  It’s winter here and summer there, our clothes are all faded, and we don’t even know the latest styles!  I’ve even been driving on the other side of the road for quite a while!  Patience and grace will be required as we adjust.

– We’ll probably be different than when you last saw us.  That’s because we’re changed forever.  We have learned to live in a new way without Chris.  It’s been 2 1/2 years and we still miss him, remember him, tell stories about him, and I often still tell the kids, “Your dad would say…”  He’ll always be a part of our lives and left quite a legacy.  While this is all true, you have to understand that we ALL process differently.  You can’t see one of us and assume we’re ALL in that same place.  You DO have to know that we’re healing and we’re doing well.  God has done EVERYTHING He said He would do.  He has comforted, provided, carried, strengthened, sustained…  Because of this, we’re doing EXACTLY what we said we would do on the night Chris went to Heaven, we’re LIVING.  We’re still sarcastic, we laugh, we cry, we learn new things, we still love adventure, we have hopes and dreams, and in most ways, we’re moving on.  This IS a process, though, so don’t be caught off guard if something random makes one of us cry, or get angry, or want to run away, or retreat into a room for a while (that’s not me), or go for a long run, or talk for a long time, or… EVERY Gennaro handles things differently.  This quote describes it well:

“The reality is you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same nor should you want to.” – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

So, while I have no idea what is in store for this year, I DO know that God has ordained this time, that He has great plans for us, and that He’s in control.  He has directed me to take THIS step of faith and trust Him with THIS bit of the path in front of me.  I will be speaking quite a bit, the kids will be in school in San Diego, and I will be asking the Lord for direction on my future. Believe it or not, Jed’s going to be a Junior next year!

Please pray with us that God would use this time powerfully to bring FURTHER healing for us AND our family; that we would simply ENJOY our family, church family, and friends; that we can make NEW memories; that God would surely shine some light on the next “section” of my path; that He would provide abundantly for us while living in Southern California; that He would help EACH of us transition well and literally bring all of our hearts to the same place as we look toward what’s next for us.  We DO plan on returning to RVA for Jed’s senior year, but all of us hold our plans lightly, recognizing that God often has OTHER things in mind!  The GREAT thing is that He is able to do more than I ask or imagine!

Looking forward expectantly,

Michelle