Jeremy and I (Claudia) grew up in very different homes as children. Yet our journeys with the Lord are similar. We both believed at a young age that Jesus was the Son of God and He died on the cross for our sins. We both went to church every Sunday and did all the right things. But neither of us fully understood what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord.
In college, Jeremy realized his friends had something different. Freshman year he was at a spring retreat, when he made the choice to have a relationship with Christ and let Him fully guide every day. Shortly thereafter, Jeremy felt the calling of the Lord to full-time ministry and volunteered as much as he could. It began one summer evening as he watched a group of teenagers leave and head back home after a week of camp. His heart was so burdened to what they were returning to that he burst into tears. The call on his life was very clear and he has trusted God to open and close doors along the way.
In high school, I, Claudia attended a private Christian school where they had chapel each week. About a month before graduation, I was in chapel on my knees praying when God said to stop running from Him because He wanted me to make a difference for Him. I did not realize I was running from God but when I turned around He was right there. God had always been right there. The very next week, I was running at a track meet when I stress fractured my left leg. I was no longer running spiritually from God and now I could no longer run physically. God had made his point. Yet God gave no further instruction on how He wanted me to make a difference. It was then though I started to have a relationship with God. I started reading the Bible, having quiet times, and listening to Christian music. I went off to college that fall and God opened my eyes and heart to Himself.
Jeremy and I meet in the fall of 1996 at Georgia Southern University. Jeremy was not interested in having a girlfriend and I was not interested in having a boyfriend. We became good friends. There was no pressure to be more than just friends. We had common interests such as running and the outdoors. We enjoyed each other’s company. God had brought us together. Over Christmas break of 1997, we both prayed about stepping over the line from just being friends to courting each other. I, Claudia, that Christmas forgave my father of all the stuff that went on during my childhood. It was only after forgiving my dad could I have a relationship with a guy. Jeremy and I started courting, not just dating.
Jeremy finished his classes for his teaching degree and graduated in May 1999. I still had another year to go. Jeremy received his first position as full time youth minister and moved to Tennessee. I remained in college and we chatted over the internet for a year. During a visit to Tennessee Jeremy called each of my parents and asked permission to marry me, they said yes and I said yes. We married on August 26, 2000 and our journey as husband and wife began. Our journey has had its ups and downs, high mountain tops and deep valleys. God has been faithful through all of it. He has filled our cup to overflowing and has anointed us to His service.
The first half of my life, I feel like I was stuffed into a very small box. I was a total introvert because my home life, my reading disability of dyslexia, and always being the new girl at school because we moved often. The second half of my life, God has been slowly and gently taking me out of that box. He has been putting the broken pieces back together, healing my heart, restoring me, and showing me I have gifts and talents He wants me to use to make a difference for him. In the summer of 2010, I was a part of a mission team to Rwanda, Africa. The first day there in Africa, I found myself alone in a circle of African children playing a game of Goat, Goat, Chicken (Duck, Duck, Goose). A team member had gotten hurt and everyone else had gone to care for him. I was not truly alone and throughout the trip God showed me this is where He wanted me to make a difference, AFRICA.
Jeremy served as a youth minister for the first 6 years of marriage but God allowed him to be taken out of service in the local church. Yet, Jeremy still was called to the ministry. God though had to heal our hearts to be used again for full time service because of the hurt the church had done. God taught us both about how there is always hope in Him and He will truly never leave you or forsake you. Jeremy’s degree is in secondary education, social science, geography. The first year he tried to find a local teaching job but there was nothing. Then he looked into teaching overseas through several mission organizations. All of them said he needed two years teaching experience before they would send him overseas. So he turned back his focus to here at home. There is not a high demand for this type of teaching position but Jeremy was faithful to knock on the door each spring when teaching positions opened. Yet God did not allow any of the doors to be opened but a part-time position once a week teaching computer science for a home school association.
Summer 2011, Jeremy made a similar mission trip to Rwanda, Africa. God opened Jeremy’s eyes to the needs in Africa and how God had shaped Jeremy into a person with a lot of gifts and talents from youth ministry, construction, automotive shop and welding, ham radio operator, retail salesman, teacher, etc. Jeremy is a Jack of All Trades. When he got home, we really started praying. We were ready for whatever or wherever God wanted. The most obvious thing was to look for teaching positions again since Jeremy had now been teaching computer science. But what was Claudia going to do? Over the years, Claudia’s love for plants had grown from just simple house plants to leading a group of master gardeners to maintain the gardens at a historical site. God had grown this passion for plants from a seed and nurtured into a hobby, career, and volunteer work. A friend even showed her how agriculture could be used on the mission field. But God had not shown how teaching and agriculture would fit together.
Fall 2012, God lead us to Africa Inland Mission (AIM) where both of our gifts and talents could be used. We started the application process. Through interviews, application questions, and candidate week, God opened the door to be missionaries to Africa. We started out looking at teaching positions but God had a different idea. Our first assignment led us to be a part of a TIMO team to Namibia, Africa for over a year. Sadly due to difficulty of obtaining a work Visa longer than one year our time in Namibia ended. We are now living amongst the DIGO people in Southwest Kenya. We hope you continue to follow us on our journey through this blog as we bring the HOPE of Jesus Christ to Africa.
September 2017 Anastasia joined our family. We have now become the Ha3els.