Saturday, December 19, 2015

Merry Christmas from SD

Merry Christmas! We pray this season finds you surrounded by joy as we take time to focus on the One who is the reason for both joy and hope!

These past couple days especially have been busy. We have a team here from Kentucky helping us organize blankets and hoodies/coats for a Christmas giveaway.  While they were working in the church building, one of our church families came over to the pantry and helped me (Jess) get some boxes organized. I can’t even describe how blessed I feel by the families in our church and community.  They pitch in to help out when we need it and so many have helped me start to figure out life here.  This past week I took the girls with me when I was visiting one of the ladies in our church and they were delighted by some puppies while this woman spent some time telling me about her family and some special Lakota events that were coming up. She often tries to teach me some Lakota words too. I say tries, because despite her being an excellent teacher and my background in language, I am having a harder time retaining what I hear. The Lakota language is very unique, and beautiful when spoken!  I am really hoping that I will improve with time.

The girls have greatly enjoyed going to their homeschool community group once a week and have made some good friends there. We are currently on a break from our weekly meetings, and they have commented on how much they miss going and are looking forward to resuming in January. They have been using a little of the extra free time to enjoy the snow, however, so a break isn’t really a bad thing and they are excited about all that white stuff.

An “attitude of gratitude” is something that we have been talking about with the girls a lot lately. Not just thankfulness for the things they have, but a gratefulness for the people and experiences that God has brought into our lives. It’s good to take a few moments each day to reflect on things you are thankful for. Every good and perfect gift is our Father, and I don’t believe in coincidences. I know I have discovered thankfulness for the unexpected: a phone call or text from a friend that has encouraged me, a conversation with a new acquaintance, the sun setting a beautiful pink across the snowy hills, my kids giggling together while simultaneously not getting into trouble, a surprise piece of mail (that’s not a bill), and a bit of excitement over finding a restaurant in Rapid that offers gluten free burger buns. In November, Y.E.S. was able to raise the money needed to pay off the camp property. We are all very excited and thankful about that!

Something I am hoping to report thankfulness on in the near future is our water situation. There is a discussion of being able to use a nearby well for the church and parsonage, and for that we would have to dig a trench to the well and install the proper piping, and then the owner of the well has requested that we pay the small monthly bill on it. The use of this well would enable us to have drinkable water at our home and at the church. The girls would be able to take baths (instead of showers, which is not so fun for an 18 month old).  We would be able to use the baptistry at the church, the showers for when we have teams stay there, and be able to wash dishes in the kitchen there after meals!  Right now the pipes over there are so clogged with sediment that the water barely comes through. This would be a HUGE answer to prayer, so please join us as we ask God to smooth this path for us.

Thank you for your continued prayers for us!

With Love, The Homer Family

Friday, October 16, 2015

October Update

Greetings from South Dakota!Homer Family Oct 2015.jpg

I don’t know about where you live, but the weather here has changed drastically over the past couple weeks!  Our afternoons are quite nice, but mornings and evenings are rather chilly and winter is yet to come!  Josh was blessed to be raised in NY and cold winters are familiar territory, but this Southern girl is going to have a lot to learn.  I remember wearing shorts and t-shirts on Christmas mornings some years and rarely seeing snow. The locals here have expressed surprise at not seeing any snow yet. Maybe I brought some warm weather with us?

So far the school year is going well for Josh.  He has been coaching football for the middle school grade levels and they are headed to play-offs next week. Coaching has been a valuable opportunity to get to know the kids better. He was able to play guitar at church a couple weeks ago. We hope that he will continue to do so in the future, especially as we learn the music.

The girls and I are continuing to homeschool, which keeps my days occupied along with the food pantry. As the cooler weather has arrived, we are helping to supply blankets and coats. I really enjoy the chance to get to know those who stop by, and the girls delight in greeting anyone who knocks on our door!  Some lucky folk have even left with artwork, courtesy of Amberlyn.

The Hadden family also serves out here with Y.E.S., and they live on the camp property with their three children (ages 8, 6, and 2).  Amanda Hadden and I are hosting a women’s Bible study on Monday nights at the church.  We are working our way through the book of John and memorizing a verse from each chapter as we go.  These past few weeks have had great discussions over cookies and brownies, talking both about what we are reading and sharing about life.  This Monday we had a good chat about the names ascribed to Jesus, like Son of Man, Lamb of God, and the Word, and how those apply to different characteristics of Him.

We have been so thankful and blessed by all our friends who keep in touch via Facebook, texts, calls, or writing letters and emails. It’s such an encouragement that I can’t even express my gratitude for. I even received a special box in the mail from my MOPS group back in VA, complete with notes from friends and handmade necklaces for our girls.

One challenge we have been facing that I would like to ask prayer for is general health for our family. Since arriving, we have struggled with allergies, colds, and finally some flu/stomach bug that attacked with a vengeance this week.  I think we have had about 1 week total where everyone was healthy.  My kids are rarely sick, and to have all of them struggling during the past two weeks especially has been a bit hard on this mama. The health insurance paperwork finally came through for the girls this week (an answer to prayer, hurray!) so now we can take them in to see a doctor as needed.

Our house in Virginia continues to have interest but no offers, so please continue in prayer for that as well!  

Thank you for hanging out and praying for us as we seek to follow our Lord’s leading.

~the Homer family~

H C R 49 Box 242
Porcupine, SD 57772

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September Update


The fabulous news is that we have successfully moved into our new home in South Dakota! (Located just behind the church in this picture.) On our drive out, God provided us with a 2004 Chevy Silverado that has been very important to working with Y.E.S.  We are so thankful for this new tool that enables us to reach so many!  As of today, we still have a few boxes left to unpack, but almost everything is settled and we are finding a routine between school, homeschooling, and ministry.

Within days of moving in, we were able to jump into the ministry here. We have made numerous drives around the area, meeting community members in their homes and familiarizing ourselves with getting around. This is a very unique part in our country, where you can’t just look up an address on the GPS. First off, a GPS usually won’t work up here. And second, the addresses are more like knowing where to turn in relation to a particular landmark (water tower, power lines, turn in the road, etc). Other than the main highways, many of the roads aren’t paved!

Our official arrival date was August 14th, with our truck arriving from VA on the 17th. Josh began his job at the local school system on the 19th.  He is teaching health and P.E. for pre-K up through the 8th grade, as well as coaching football. This is a great opportunity for him to get to know the kids in our new community and connect with them in a good setting. His teaching license was granted for this year, with the stipulation that he needs to retake the Praxis tests for teaching (the Virginia one is different than the one accepted here), and take classes on Lakota history. He is hoping to begin those courses in the Spring.

In working with Y.E.S., we are settling into several roles. I am managing the food pantry and helping with Sunday School for the little ones. Josh is also working with the food pantry and preached this past Sunday. This upcoming year, one of our main goals is relationship building. We need to build familiarity and friendships with the families in our church and the area surrounding our new home.

Please continue to pray:
  • For establishing relationships
  • That the girls would continue adjusting to their new home.
  • That our house in Virginia would sell (since this is where Josh’s school paycheck still goes)
  • For the upcoming classes for Josh

Jess and Family

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Well, the last week has been eventful! H1 received the wonderful news that his 1 year South Dakota teaching license came through! Over this next year he will be taking a couple classes on the Lakota from an SD university and retaking the Praxis (teaching test).

In the meantime, as you can imagine, we have been doing a lot of organizing and packing! A precious friend from church has brought her kids over several times and helped me pack while the kids played. Or rather, the older ones play while the younger two discovered how much mischief they could create!

H4 loves playing in the clean clothes hamper.

My dining room.

A last trip on the ferry.

As of right now, we have a pod being dropped off on Tuesday. We have until Thursday to pack it and then it will be picked up and Upack takes care of transporting it out to SD.  While it is in transit, our family will drive north to NY to say goodbye to family there before stopping in OH to see H2's parents. Our planned arrival date in SD is August 13th. 

We will do our best to make regular updates as we know them. In the near future, we will also be designing a newsletter.

We thank you for your prayers and support!

-H2 and Family

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Here's the Scoop

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s not every day that you get a phone call that changes the course of your life, but a few weeks ago, we did.

Let me back up a bit.  A few years ago we began attending a church in Colonial Heights, VA. Shortly after we began attending, I heard Mike Brennan talk about the Oglala-Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota.

  • Unemployment rate of 80-90%
  • Per capita income of $7,880.00
  • Twice the rate of heart disease
  • Alcoholism rate estimated as high as 80%
  • 1 in 4 infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects
  • Suicide rate more than twice the national rate
  • Teen suicide rate four times the national rate
  • Infant mortality is three times the national rate

Additionally, the school dropout rate is around 70%.  While these statistics are sad and startling to think of here in our country, Josh did not feel that same tug at the time. Still, I cut out the name of the reservation from the church bulletin and stuck it to the fridge to remember them for prayer. Mike and his wife, Monica, started Youth Evangelism Strategies, a program that focuses on academics, computer comprehension, performing arts, and counseling for the youth on the reservation.

We heard Mike talk again a couple more times during the past few years. Each time, I would ask Josh about it, and still the answer was no.  A couple months ago, that changed. When Mike came to visit our church earlier this year, it was visible that God was speaking to Josh during the message and I told Josh that he needed to talk with Mike after the service.  So I left him in the church building and took the kids out to the van to get their lunch. Josh came out a bit later and I could tell it had been a good chat. He and Mike had talked about us joining their mission work on the reservation, not just as a short trip, but as a move. Mike initially suggested that Josh come up with one of our church’s summer missions trips, and so Josh signed up to go. We both agreed that it would be difficult to sell the house for this upcoming school year and try to find a new home in the middle of nowhere. Literally. There isn’t much around. The reservation is 2.7 million acres and home to roughly 40,000 people.

In the meantime, Josh has spent the past year feeling like his time working for Surry County Schools was coming to a close. For the first time since beginning work there, he started feeling antsy, and by December, it had become a full case of pursuing other avenues.  Even as we talked about the possibility of God calling us to work in South Dakota in the future, he began putting out job applications around VA and PA, seeing if that was a direction we were supposed to go for now. When you are in the middle of something without a clear answer, it can be hard to determine where exactly God is leading and what He is up to.

Here comes that phone call that I mentioned at the beginning. Josh was in the process of starting an application to a job in Richmond when Mike called. There was an opening at an elementary school on the reservation, and one of the other mission families was leaving to work on a reservation in New Mexico, leaving the parsonage open. Josh put in an application and an interview was set up with the principal. At the end of the interview, when Josh inquired about when he would hear back, the principal stated that as long as his background check went through, she planned to offer him the position.

Since that time, we have been in frequent prayer, asking for direction. At this time, we are very sure that God is asking us to go to South Dakota now, instead of waiting as we had initially discussed. We plan to leave Virginia during the first days of August and set up a new home on the Pine Ridge Reservation. As our friends and family, we are asking for your prayers. We have many considerations as we prepare for this journey. Some are logistical for now and some are for our future ministry.

For this summer, please pray for:

  • Moving details. We need roughly $4,000 to move our family to South Dakota
  • Vehicle.  Josh's vehicle is 18+ years old and won't make the trip, and additionally, many roads are unpaved and we need something with 4 wheel drive.
  • Selling our house. We put our home on the market on June 22nd and are praying to find to right person/family to fill our home.

For the future ministry, please pray for:

  • A smooth transition for Josh into the school at the reservation.  As a teacher, he will have a point for breaking into a culture that is generally closed off to the outside world.
  • Chanku Waste Ranch.  This is the summer ministry we will be heavily involved in.  
  • Our precious daughters. Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth are about to experience a drastic change in their surroundings. Please pray that God will give them a love for the Oglala-Lakota people as well.
  • Funding for health insurance. 

If you would like to be a part of this mission through financial support, checks can be mailed to

Y.E.S.  (Youth Evangelical Strategies)
H C R 49 Box 242
Porcupine, SD 57772

Please note “Homer support” in the memo line.

We are excited as we move forward and see where God is leading us!

The Homer Family