What’s your story? God’s grace is sufficient beyond my comfort zone

During a 2021 Bible Club in Tanzania, Hope is Strong team members, seen here scattered through the crowd from left to right: Nathan Benke, Southcliff Baptist Church, Taylor Willyard and Alley Fuller from Nolan River Road Baptist Church, Stephen Agnew from Hill Church, Cleburne, Becky Willyard from Nolan River Road Baptist Church, Tim Johnson from Southcliff Baptist Church and Connie Russek from Nolan River Road Baptist Church. Submitted Photo

I have served in children’s ministry for over 20 years, from Sunday school teacher to Vacation Bible School and even seven years as the children’s ministry director at my home church, Nolan River Road Baptist Church in Cleburne.

I stepped out of that role in 2019 to become the founder and executive director of Hope is Strong Ministries. Our ministry primarily does relief and education work in Tanzania. We have recently had a door open to also work in Zambia.

It took a few years of praying and preparation for me to come to the point of launching a ministry. For me, the biggest challenge was feeling unequipped. My life verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9. It reminds me that because of my weakness, it’s obvious that it’s His ministry. So, even though I don’t feel equipped with the right education or the gift of speaking, I know that He is sufficient. And if I’m just faithful in going, as we’re commanded to do, then He’s the one who’s prepared the way.

You see, each time the Lord has called me to serve, He has always been faithful about bringing others alongside me who would train and encourage me. As a kid, even, I remember having a strong desire to learn more or even go to Africa one day. In 2011, I learned that our local Baptist association, Southwest Metroplex Baptist Association, was taking mission trips to Tanzania.
I joined them on their second trip in 2012.

It was on that trip that the Lord planted. And I knew even then this challenge was going to require me to not just step out of my comfort zone, but to really, completely, jump out of my comfort zone. As we traveled to a village one day, one of our translators on the bus, a pastor in Tanzania, said to me, “Beck, please pray of a way to help our orphans.” And I just remember telling him I would pray, but I took it very seriously.

What’s my story? In the face of my shortcomings, I’m reminded of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for me.

Alley Fuller, Taylor Willyard, and Connie Russek from Nolan River Road Baptist Church hand out pipe cleaners that the children will use to create evangelism bracelets during the first Hope is Strong Ministries mission trip to Tanzania in 2020. Submitted Photo

I could only pray though, because I had no idea even where to start. So, I prayed for years. In fact, I fast forward all the way to 2017 when this pastor, Pastor Jeremiah, contacted me on Facebook Messenger. He sent me a picture of three children he was feeding. They were about 10 years old and under. The youngest, probably about 3 years old, had showed up at his house that day looking for food.

Their dad had lost hope and left a few years earlier. Mother had been gone for three days and was looking for ways to provide for her children. So, these children had been at home for three days, no mom, no dad, and no food.

I knew then, when I received that message and that picture of those sweet children, that was the moment God said, “Are you ready?” And I still was in denial that He was calling me to something big. I reached out to a few others, including Rick Hope, the pastor at First Baptist Lillian, at that time. And together we raised enough money to send this mom and her children some corn. So that’s really where the initial call was, to start from there.

We put together a plan, providing meals through Pastor Jeremiah’s church in Bunda, Tanzania, but God had already gone before us. And we have been given amazing opportunities to just be the ones to serve. Our hope is to reach vulnerable children and widows, both physically and spiritually. 

So, the way it works is as they come for Sunday service, they receive a meal. Many of the children attend church without their parents. We saw this as an opportunity to unite the families in Christ. When we provide a meal for the children, it opened doors for the leaders. As they would go follow up on the children, the children would recognize them and tell mom and dad, “Hey, I know them. They can come in, let’s talk to them.” And the leaders are able to share Christ with the entire family.

We started in 2017. By 2020, we were a 501(c)3 and opened the doors to our first kindergarten, serving about 80 children. We hope to open a full Christian school one day. We serve widows and children through four churches in Bunda, and hopefully soon, in Zambia.

In 2021, we led our first mission trip as Hope is Strong Ministries. We hosted a Bible club and had almost 400 children attend. It was so much fun to see, just to be able to play with these children, and develop relationships. We had a day of ministry with the widows, hosted leader training, and we walked door-to-door in the community sharing Christ with families. Our second trip is planned for this August.

What’s my story? In the face of my shortcomings, I’m reminded of God’s grace. His grace is sufficient for me.

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Becky Willyard
Hope is Strong Ministries
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