Servant Life Blog

Refilwe: Life for All

Almost 4 years ago, I left a big piece of my heart in a tiny country in Africa called Swaziland. After spending 3 months in a foreign missions context, I wasn’t ready to leave. As I flew home to South Carolina, I felt certain The Lord would let me be part of bringing His gospel to Africa again one day.

So you can imagine my excitement at the fact that I got the chance to lead Servant Life’s trip to South Africa. With me were Bailey, Jaime, and Mandi – 3 girls ready to be outside of their comfort zone for the sake of the gospel. I’m incredibly thankful that these are the three that The Lord hand picked to serve in South Africa.

With the exception of Jaime and Mandi, we all met for the first time in the Atlanta airport in mid- June. All three of the girls have traveled the world extensively and were excited for a new journey. After a pretty long 15 hour flight (there’s only so many times you can watch Frozen), a suitcase that didn’t make it, and an hour long drive north of Johannesburg, we finally made it to Refilwe.

The first night in South Africa is pretty much a blur. We arrived at Refilwe, turned on some heaters, (Side note: It is COLD at night in South Africa in June. Keep that in mind if you ever visit during their “winter!”), ate dinner, and called it a night.

For our first full day, we got a tour of Refilwe and all its resources. Refilwe is a children’s village set on acres and acres of land in Lanseria, an area just north of Johannesburg. On site at Refilwe is a pre-school, community center, a baby house, a clinic, several homes for foster/adoptive families and long-term volunteers, and an office. I was very surprised at the amount of ministries that are present right there at Refilwe.

We were thrilled to find out that we we were able to help out at the baby house on some of the mornings. [insert heart eye emoji here] The baby house is named El Roi – which is based on Genesis 16 where The Lord protects Hagar/ Ishmael and she says “I have seen Him who looks after me.” El Roi has taken in many abandoned babies, cared for them, and helped find them forever families. Currently, the women at El Roi are caring for 12 of the most adorable babies I’ve ever seen. Bailey and I got the great privilege of helping out at the baby house the morning of an adoption. We got to feed and play with little baby L before his parents officially made him a part of their family. Because of privacy reasons, we didn’t get to witness the actual adoption, but to be a part of the moments leading up to that life changing event is something I will never forget.

More than anything else on the trip, Baby L’s adoption was the most humbling part. That day made me stop and praise The Lord for His ultimate adoption of me. Like Ephesians 2 says, when I was dead in my trespasses and sins, following the course of the world, living with a spirit of disobedience, the God of the universe rescued me. My words can do no justice to what Scripture so beautifully tells: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5).” What an incredible picture of grace from a loving and just God. It’s just as wonderfully overwhelming 4 chapters earlier in Galatians 4 when Paul highlights our adoption and freedom. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:4-7).”

I would venture to say that nothing has provided such a rich and clear picture of the gospel for me as adoption. Baby L made no decisions in his adoption. As a sweet little baby, by God’s grace, he was taken in, cared for, and chosen by his parents. The same can be said of me. I had no part in my adoption. I cannot take any credit for becoming a part of The Lord’s family. It was in his infinite love that He chose me. He came to me. He redeemed me. HE! I’m beyond thankful that I serve a God who knew no sin but became sin so that I could become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), that I might proclaim His glory to the end of the earth.

Glory to God for making me his daughter and for giving me a week in South Africa to be reminded of what I too easily take for granted: that He has made me His own.


– Alison Matthews

Servant Life Nicaragua: Something God started four years ago!

Since our last update our Summer has flown by! After two weeks of Servant Life camps and visits by both sets of parents we find ourselves just a couple of weeks away from getting back to more of a “normal” schedule. School will be starting back for Mikayla, Drew and Ben on August 11 – who believe it or not will be in 5th, 4th and 3rd grades respectively. We’re still praying through our ministry plans for the Fall but we know there’s no shortage of work to be done for the Lord here!

“600+ campers, 26 Servant Life team members, 2 camp pastors, 8 missionaries, 1 driver, 4 translators, 10 MKs, 3 summer interns & glory to one amazing God!” That was our Facebook status after two amazing weeks of Servant Life camps here in Nicaragua!

As many of you remember, back in June of 2010, Jason along with several youth leaders from South End took our youth to Student Life camp that was held on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC. During that week, he had the opportunity to meet Roger Davis, who at the time was the Vice President of Student Life. They briefly talked about doing camps in Nicaragua one day. Later that summer, Servant Life, the missions arm of Student Life decided that they were indeed interested in partnering with us to host camps in Nicaragua. At that point, we were only a year and a half into our support raising and also had a year of Language School ahead once we were fully funded. They very patiently waited for us to arrive here in Nicaragua and by early September of 2013, we were already adding an extra week to the one week which had already filled up!

So on June 14 around 1 pm, our first ever Servant Life teams landed here in Managua traveling to us from Arkansas, Virginia and Pennsylvania! Saturday evening was spent getting to know each other and Centro ABEM. On Sunday morning, we ministered at the church plant, Cristo es el Camino, leading in part of the service, kid’s Sunday School and prayer walking in the community. Monday through Thursday were day camp days at Centro ABEM.

We hosted a different group of campers each day from a local Christian school, feeding center and a children’s ministry. During day camp, kids heard a message from God’s Word, had small group time, sang songs, played fun recreation games and enjoyed lunch. Just in case you’re wondering we used the Agency D3 VBS curriculum in Spanish covering all four questions – Was Jesus really the Son of God? Was Jesus more than a good man? Was the death of Jesus real? Is Jesus alive? – in one day!
Friday for both weeks was “tour day” visiting a local volcano and souvenir shopping.

In week 2, we hosted the church group from our camp pastor’s (Pastor Luis) church plant, the elementary kids from the bilingual Christian school we taught at this year, a local church and an orphanage. Week 2 had to deal with several unexpected challenges like no running water for the first three days at Centro ABEM, a broken down bus that had campers arriving late, a storm coming up at the camper’s pool time, sickness and injury. But with God’s help they handled each challenge with grace.

Through both weeks, we believe God was glorified in the teaching of His Word. There were some good spiritual conversations held in small group time and we had several decisions made for the Lord including a teacher and school administrator!

We are so thankful for the way these two weeks went! It was a wonderful experience, we learned a lot and we give God all the glory because we could not have done it without Him! Believe it or not we already have 3 weeks schedule with Servant Life for 2015!

– Beth Lang 

(Beth, her husband Jason, and their children are faithfully serving in Nicaragua. Servant Life is thrilled to be partnering with them in the command to take the gospel to the nations. You can join Servant Life and the Langs in 2015 in Nicaragua! More info here. Original blog post here.)

Ambassador’s Corner

I recently had the opportunity to preach a camp where 113 students shared that they were called to some type of  ministry.  I let a few of them share what they believed that calling was. Some of them were specific-”I believe that God has called me to student ministry.” Some were very specific-”I want to start a ministry that feeds hungry kids.” One student in particular shared that he had no idea what God was calling him to but that “God wanted him to do something huge.”

I have thought of these students a lot the last few days.  They are part of a generation of students who will see the work of God beyond the snapshot of conversion.  In a culture that champions immediate gratification, may they see their place as kingdom people who have been called to endure.

What would it look like if, by God’s grace, we are able to raise up a generation of students who have the goal of making disciples locally and globally? How would our local churches function differently in 5 years? In 10?

My prayer is that God uses Servant Life to resource students and churches so that:

  • The guy called to student ministry grasps a teenager’s place in God’s global mission.
  • The young lady who wants to feed hungry kids sees that as a way to feed a greater hunger.
  • The kid who wants to do ‘something huge’ will be speechless when he sees how big the message of Jesus for the nations really is.

– Chad Poe, itinerant preacher and Servant Life Ambassador

The A1eight Project

I remember when I was in school having great conversations with many friends who spent their summer involved in international missions.  Most talked about how life altering or future-shaping those experiences were.  The ability for them to spend their summer break serving and growing in a context well outside their norm became such a catalytic experience in their life. The obvious evidence of life change became visible to people around them.  It was easy to desire a similar experience.

Over the last few years, as I have traveled internationally and had experiences in shorter periods, I have continued to think and pray about what has become the A1eight Project. This new offering from Servant Life beginning in the summer of 2015 will give 20 something’s an opportunity to spend an extended period with a missionary or minister in an international environment actively growing and learning while making disciples. Additionally, participants will be a part of hosting short-term teams, leading and equipping them to serve during their mission’s experience.  It provides a great blend of leading and learning, being invested in and being poured out, while serving God by serving others.

Applications will be available beginning in September. We are currently working on options in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, England, Ukraine, Kenya, Guatemala, Ecuador, Houston, Dallas and NYC.  Applicants can apply in an early placement period and be notified of status by December 15th or have their application in by January 15th to be notified of placement by February 15th.  Team size is expected to be 3-5 per country and we want to make sure that selected participants have plenty of time to raise funds.  Pricing will be broken into a published price for the program/trip costs plus travel.  Estimates will be provided with the applications in September.  For updates you can follow @A1eightProject on Twitter.  Applications will be available at

Our desire for the A1eight Project is similar to that of our short-term trips: helping mobilize students to make disciples of all nations wherever the Lord has them serving.  This new program is one more resource to help all of us accomplish the Great Commission.  I continue to be amazed and humbled that in all the ways God could have advanced the gospel around the globe, He designed people to go to people.  Those of us that are Christ-followers not only have the responsibility to be gospel advancers, but the privilege as well.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

– J. Roger Davis, Servant Life Executive Director


New Opportunities in 2015

We are excited to welcome four new mission partners to the Servant Life Global Network in 2015.  Here is a brief snapshot of each of them.

Toronto, Canada 

We often don’t think about Toronto being just over a nine-hour drive from Louisville, KY.  That makes it extremely accessible to much of the population in the eastern U.S.  The United Nations recently called the Toronto, “the most culturally diverse city in the world.”  52% of its population is foreign born with a multi-ethnic cultural and religious perspective including good concentrations of Muslims and Hindus from South and East Asia.

Teams will work alongside our partners that are on the ground year-round serving with the growing Toronto Church Planting network.  In the spring we have college weeks that will allow students to go into some of the campus of the University of Toronto and engage students on various faith topics each evening.  During the summer trips, teams will be working with children and students from various backgrounds in city parks, community centers and churches.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Our new relationship in Guatemala allows for groups to serve in either an urban setting in Guatemala City or at Camp Calvary outside of the city.  Clubhouse Guatemala  began by a former youth minister from the United States that relocated to Guatemala in 2008. Now a team of Guatemalans operates the Guatemalan portion of the ministry.

Clubhouse serves over 400 children in five different villages through student programs and Camp Calvary allows for short-term teams to minister in 18 different villages to the south and west of the city.  Additionally, the ministry continues to plant various churches throughout the region, serve and share the gospel with Guatemalans, and operate a school and medical clinic.

The ease of access to Guatemala City as well as other factors makes this new relationship a great option. You can find out more about them on page 8.

Nairobi, Kenya

Servant Life had a strong partnership in Kenya in the past and I have personally spent a good amount of time in that country.  While Nairobi is the epicenter of the banking and health community of east Africa, there are countless needs including in one of Africa’s largest slums, Kibera.  In that slum, hope is being shared through the work of Pastor Peter Abungu and the Swahiba Youth Networks team. We are thrilled to begin a partnership with Swahiba to reach young people with the gospel as well as partner in solid discipleship, training, and leadership development.

Additionally, some weeks will provide opportunities to be involved in ministry out in the Maasai lands working with one of the most iconic of Kenya’s 43 tribes, the Maasai.  This new relationship allows groups to have access to one of the truly unique African experiences while serving in one of the places with great physical and spiritual needs.

Dallas, Texas

Most don’t think about international missions opportunities when they think of Dallas, Texas. If they do, they likely think about the large Hispanic population that has relocated to that area.  But Dallas is also home to thousands of refugees. The area that Servant Life will begin working in is home to over 30,000 refugees from countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Guatemala and many others.  Teams will serve in an area the represents more than 90 people groups.

Serve Dallas is a new strategic partnership with the community engagement efforts of Park Cities Baptist Church that has been working in these neighborhoods for 15 years.  Short term teams will be working alongside a year round strategy serving and building relationship with kids through VBS activities, Kids Clubs, student involvement and reaching out to mothers in the community.  This new relationship gives Servant Life teams the opportunity to meet and serve the people of the world right in our backyard.

Regardless of where you might serve in 2015, I want to encourage you to spend at least a week of your year going and advancing the gospel among the nations.  All of our 2015 dates are listed on the next page and there are many other quality organizations that can help you and your group go be a part of the Great Commission.

– J. Roger Davis, Servant Life Executive Director

Partner Spotlight: Costa Rica


La Montana Christian Camp was formally established in Costa Rica in 2001 under the leadership of Joe Pent Jr.  Having grown up in Costa Rica as a missionary kid, Joe’s passion for reaching the lost in Costa Rica was also a passion of his father, Joe Sr.

Joe Pent Jr. says, “Right from the beginning, [Dad] developed a ministry to young people working with evangelism and discipleship. That developed a dynamic of renting facilities, going to different camps, using those different facilities and created a desire and the focus to someday develop our own Christian camp.”  In 1998, that vision became a reality when God gave them a 600-acre cloud forest property bordering the Tilaran Mountain Range, 22 kilometers from San Ramon, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

The recreational program and spiritual impact of La Montana were so evident over the years, that they have been forced to grow the facilities and double their capacity. La Montana’s Phase I Camp now has the capacity for 300 campers. The facilities include boys’ and girls’ cabin areas each with a large restrooms, a dining commons, a 400-seat chapel, a large gymnasium and game room, a sports field, high and low ropes courses, 3 large ponds for water games, staff and guest housing, and an office/reception area.  La Montana has had the privilege of reaching many young people with the gospel and as a result have seen thousands of people trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The Pents and the staff of La Montana are always thrilled to have teams come serve alongside them during the summer.  It’s not too late for you to be a part of spreading the gospel in Costa Rica this summer! Click here for trip details or check out La Montana’s website.



Spring Break Missions

At the start of my freshman year of high school, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the gulf coast. It’s one of those events in history that I’m certain will never be erased from my memory.

That next spring, several of my friends traveled to New Orleans on a mission trip to clear debris and help with the damage.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand the whole “spring break mission trip” thing.  Having grown up in South Carolina, an hour from the coast, the standard spring break routine was to head to the beach for the week with your best friends.  At that point in my life, I didn’t understand why many of my best friends wanted to forfeit a week of fun in the sun for working hard, getting dirty, and sweating every day.  Ew.

The more I heard stories from the trip, the more I realized how selfish I’d been.  Before, all I wanted for my spring break was to relax and do nothing.  But The Lord worked so powerfully in my heart as a 16 yr. old who had trouble seeing past herself.  My heart was changed and eyes open to the world around me – to something bigger than myself.  I realized that all I wanted was to know Jesus and to make Him known.  (Side note: I’m incredibly thankful to have had a youth pastor and church family who were such wonderful Christ-like examples.)

I hated that I missed my chance to serve in New Orleans. All I wanted was to go serve somewhere. Anywhere, really. The Lord had changed my life in such powerful ways that I simply wanted to share that with others. During my junior year of high school, I got my chance to serve on the gulf coast

of Mississippi.  Sometimes I wonder why my youth pastor let me go on any more trips after that one considering how many times I asked for bathroom breaks on the 10 hr drive from South Carolina to Mississippi. Regardless, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to clear debris from old houses and help lay foundations for new ones.

The memory from that trip that remains the strongest happened one night on the beach of Gulfport, Mississippi.  My friends and I stood on the pier and overlooked the area where the eye of Hurricane Katrina once made a deadly path.  That moment made me realize how small I was and how big God is.  That’s when it clicked for me. I realized that my old spring breaks at the beach were fun; but, it was beyond rewarding to be a part of planting seeds for the gospel.  I thought I’d be missing out on something by not having my usual spring break trip; but in fact, I gained so much more. The greatest blessing of my life was having the gospel change me as teenager on a mission trip and for that, I am eternally grateful.

– Alison Matthews, Servant Life intern

Core Value: Focus on Youth and Children

Through the years, The Lord has led Servant Life to four Core Values that shape all the work we do.  They are: Gospel-centered ministry, long-term strategies, one-on-one relationships, and a focus on youth and children.  Every missionary in our global network is prayerfully and specifically selected by the type of ministry they are doing.  We are highlighting each of these Core Values in a four part series.  Let’s talk about “Focus on Youth and Children.”

All throughout scripture, God tells His people that children are very important.  Jesus teaches that in order to enter the Kingdom, we must become like little children. In Luke 18:16-17 Jesus tell his disciples, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  If the children were important to Jesus, they should be important to us.  By reaching a generation of children and youth with the Gospel through long-term relationships in partner countries, there is great potential for this generation to impact families, villages, cities, and nations in the name of Jesus Christ.

Since Servant Life began doing international mission trips in 1999, it has been our experience that high school and college-age students have a strong voice in the lives of youth and children who are younger than them.  This is not a new concept.  For example: Who did you look up to most when you were 10?  For most of us it wasn’t someone our parents age.  We believe that high school and college-age students have a unique opportunity to share the Gospel with youth and children that only exists for a limited window of time.  Paul tells Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he is young, but to set an example for the believers.  Every disciple of Jesus Christ is called to be a disciple-maker.  No believer is too young to be used by the Father.  As a matter of fact, He has masterfully orchestrated all of our years to be used for our good and for His glory.

The spiritual and physical needs of this world transcend age, race, sex, and religion.  Sin and pain do not discriminate on this side of heaven.  Servant Life knows that it cannot fix or even address all the pain in this world, but we can use the resources and relationships that The Lord has given us to show Christ to the nations. The Lord has given Servant Life influence with American students and we long for them to embrace the global community and spread the name of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

– Ryan Childress

Opportunities in East Asia

The lunch bell had just rung and students in their black & white sports suits streamed out of each building and began walking down the fountain lined main portion of the campus. It looked like it was most of the 4,400 students that called this East Asian high school campus home. As I saw all of the faces, my friend who lives in this region said, “Most likely, the majority have never heard of Jesus.” My mind grabbed onto the words found in Luke, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

This school project in an unidentified area in East Asia is one of the new projects and partnerships for Servant Life with our friends from IMB Students ( Participants that take part in this project have a chance to go into an unreached area and do life with other teenagers and adults by teaching English and spending each day with nationals in a camp type environment.  Students in the school we are working with represent almost 20 unreached people groups, many of them currently unengaged.  The thought of unreached people groups should not sit well with any Christ-follower.  I was reminded again during my visit to this part of our world that Coca-

Cola and Pepsi have had no trouble getting to them. Why should the Church be any different?

No doubt the 10/40 region of the world does come with challenges and hurdles, but we all understand that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) does not specify for us to simply go to the easy places, or places that don’t cost a good bit of our resources to get to.  “All nations” is all nations.  At Servant Life we have a long way to go to get to each and every one of them.  And in all honesty we likely won’t ever get to all of them; but, I am confident that if we play our role along with countless other Christ-followers, Churches, missions organizations and agencies, we in time can reach the world with the saving grace and power that is found in Jesus Christ.

If you have seen the movie Schindler’s List, you may remember one of the dramatic closing scenes when many of the “Schindler Jews” hand Oscar Schindler a letter telling of all that he had done for them. Then they give him a gold ring that they made from their teeth that was inscribed from the Hebrew Talmud,  “whoever saves one life saves the world in time.” This truth still remains today.  When we do whatever we can to share the Gospel with just one person, we have no clue how that impact can save many in time. We simply must be faithful in planting Gospel seeds through going and giving.

East Asia is one of many places where the harvest is plentiful with so many young people wanting to engage with Americans. Through this engagement and sharing of cultures, you and I have a great opportunity to advance the Kingdom. We must not sit idly by while generation after generation goes on without hearing the name of Jesus and having a chance to respond to the gift you and I have found in Him.

I encourage you to evaluate how you as an individual are engaging the world in your greater church community, in your zip code, and across the globe.  Like many things in life, awareness must produce action.

(There are open spaces on our East Asia trip this summer July 17-28, 2014 and we are already planning for 2015. You can find more details out here.)

– J. Roger Davis, Servant Life Executive Director

Fundraising: Support Letters

Writing a support letter is one of the easiest ways to get the word out about your trip. By sending out a letter to family, friends, church members and others, you are giving them the opportunity to invest in your life both spiritually and financially.


Using the list below, begin brainstorming a list of about 50-100 people to whom you could potentially send letters. Try your best not to pre-qualify people (i.e., I doubt they’ll give or They’re wealthy, you know they’ll give).

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Coworkers
  • Employers
  • Neighbors
  • Church members
  • Classmates



As you begin writing your letter, make sure you clearly and concisely explain the purpose of the letter. Keep some of the following guidelines in mind.

  • Identify yourself and bring the reader up to date with what is going on in your life
    • Where you are living
    • What school you attend
    • What year you are in school
  • State the purpose of the trip
    • Include the location to which God has called you to serve
    • Share information about the partners and their ministry
  • Explain your personal vision for the trip
    • How God led you to be involved
    • What you will be doing
    • What you expect to learn from your experience
  • Describe your specific needs
    • Ask them to join you in prayer
    • Explain the financial support needed
    • What you expect to learn from your experience
  • Clearly explain how they can donate
    • Mail a check to Servant Life P.O. Box 36307 Birmingham, AL 35236
    • Make an online donation at
    • Make a donation through another online payment method such as PayPal
    • Include a deadline for giving
  • Share your appreciation for their time and support



  • Give an idea as to the size of gifts they can give – $25, $50, $100, etc.
  • Provide disclaimer such as any gift amount will be helpful
  • Gifts of $50 or more will qualify as a tax-deductible gift and should be made out to Servant Life. Be sure that your name is not on the check anywhere in order for the donation to be tax-deductible. Attach a note that states your name with your letter, so it can be mailed in with their check.
  • As you receive donations, do not forget to send a personal, handwritten thank you note to each supporter.
  • Include Bible verses that may have impacted your spiritual walk and/or show the importance of doing missions.
  • Send out postcards, featuring a photograph of you or the country, to supporters that give specific ways to be praying for your trip and allow them to stay connected to your ministry.

* To view a sample support letter, click here.