On the 1st of each month, I bring you a story of someone putting their “Faith & Sweat” into action. This month, I profile Jenny McGlone, who I have known for about seven years.
Jenny McGlone remembers the conversation as they drove to Michigan for a family trip, and at the time it didn’t seem like anything big.
She’d had big conversations before. This was not that.
Her husband, Chadd, and their daughter Charlotte had just returned from Guatemala, where they spent two weeks in late June 2013, working at an elementary school in a remote mountain village.
Charlotte came home ready to pack up and move there – not an atypical reaction for a teenager following her first international mission trip. But something more seemed to beckon.
Chadd, a middle school teacher, felt a tug, too, after seeing firsthand the benefits of U.S. and Guatemalan teachers working together 1-on-1. So Jenny listened to what was on his heart.
“There’s this opportunity to lead another type of trip like this next summer,” she remembers him telling her on the drive. “What if I took a team of teachers?”
Jenny met his question with a rather generic, “yeah-you-could-do-that” response.
She had no idea how quickly his thought would gather speed, like a boulder being tipped from a clifftop.
One conversation led to another, as Chadd met other educators interested in working with teachers in developing countries. Coincidences turned into opportunities, as he found people who offered financial backing, sometimes without him even asking. A single idea morphed into a greater plan, as he found a mentor knowledgeable in setting up a nonprofit.
By the end of that summer, Teachers2Teachers – International was born.
“There was so much enthusiasm, so many people saying, ‘This is amazing! Where do I sign up?'” Jenny recalls.
The nonprofit, also known as T2T-I, provides professional development to teachers worldwide, with a focus on STEM instruction. (Loosely, STEM is an interdisciplinary approach focusing on applying science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles in the larger world.)
Groups of educators from the United States travel for 7-10 days to developing countries, working 1-on-1 with local teachers and creating relationships that because of technology today can continue long after the site visit concludes.
Chadd soon found himself trying to decide whether he should leave his teaching job to run the nonprofit full time. He wasn’t unhappy. He wondered how much he would miss the classroom environment that he loved, and the job security. With two daughters and an already-full life, neither he nor Jenny had been sitting around looking for something else to do.
“It was really a risk,” Jenny says. They prayed about the decision. They talked to others, shared their ideas, and asked them to pray about it. “Everything said yes, do it. It just felt totally right,” she says.
That summer, 2014, Chadd not only led a team of teachers back to Santa Avelina, Guatemala, as originally planned. He also helped orchestrate three other trips – a second to Guatemala, one to Haiti, and another to Belize. Four trips in one summer were not part of the original discussion in the car.
“When you align your will with God’s, doors open,” Jenny says.
Today, Chadd and Jenny make Teachers2Teachers – International their full-time endeavor, with him as the executive director. Two others work full-time with them in the U.S., out of the basement that the McGlones have converted into bright, colorful, functional offices, and another four people work full-time in Guatemala. Three part-timers and seven interns round out the staff.
This summer five groups of educators will travel from the U.S. to Guatemala and Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands, through T2T-I. Others who cannot afford the time or expense of going abroad will be able to study online through a curriculum that is being written now.
Doors continue to open. Jenny says they’re finding that they need to offer more services, such as running conferences for teachers. Just recently, T2T-I received a grant to provide the math and science professional development for the 300+ teachers in the Galápagos Islands.
How did Jenny arrive at this place, being able to say yes to such risks and step out so much on faith?
She’s had big conversations before. Big decisions.
A couple of years before T2T-I formed, Jenny faced and fought cancer. Going through treatment, she says, she took life one day at a time, placing decisions and situations in God’s hands and simply trusting.
“So many times, God provided the way through,” Jenny says. So risking now, with something exciting and joyful? How could they not? “If God held me through cancer, which was all about disease and pain, how much more of a joy is it for God to hold me through serving these teachers?”
Some of the teachers served by T2T-I ride a bus two hours each way, to work a job that would pay less than a minimum wage – because they love it and feel passionate about it. In the far northwest corner of Ecuador, in settlement deep in the rainforest and jungle, children learn in a school that has only a roof, a floor, and desks. No walls. The village has only had electricity for a couple of years.
Even if all of these plans fell apart today, Jenny says, it will have been an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
“It’s an opportunity to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.”
That, it turns out, is always a conversation worth having.
Would you like to share a story with me of someone putting their “Faith and Sweat” into action? Head over to my free Facebook group, where you call tell me more and we can continue this conversation. Alternatively, you can comment below or send me a note through my contact page. I look forward to hearing from you.
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