My mom attended Cornerstone University, and I had no intention of following in her footsteps. God had other plans, though, which has seemed to become a theme in my life. I am so thankful for my time at Cornerstone and all the growth that happened academically, socially and spiritually. I left Cornerstone a better person than I came in as, and God used that time to prepare me for what He had in store next. I graduated with a degree in elementary education, something I felt passionate about but didn’t realize that God was going to use in the way He is.
Back in high school, I went on a mission trip to The Pines, a children’s home in South Africa. I loved the ministry there and hoped to one day return. The timing was never quite right, but during my freshman year, chapel presentations, things at church and little things from other people came together as God showed me it was time to return. I headed to South Africa over the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, excited to be a part of the ministry of The Pines for ten weeks but with every intention of it being my last visit to The Pines. Again, God had other plans.
Throughout my time at The Pines that summer, God used devotions, sermons, experiences and other people to speak to me and tell me that He wanted me to return to South Africa full time. Before I left that summer, I had submitted my application to return the following summer.
During my second summer at The Pines, I was able to be a part of a temporary staff team for a month while the regular staff was in the States. When they returned, I had a better understanding of how The Pines was structured and of the culture of South Africa. I also knew the children there on a deeper level. I was able to contribute in staff meetings and take on more responsibility. This gave me a better understanding of what life would be like as a staff member. I spent a lot of time talking with the director and sharing what God was laying on my heart, which was helpful in processing what God was telling me.
When God first showed me that He wanted me at The Pines, my excitement to be in South Africa full time led me to consider dropping out of college and making the move then, but I was encouraged not to. God gave me a lot of peace about that decision. He knew that I needed to finish my time at Cornerstone because I still had so much growth ahead of me. The professors in the Teacher Education Division set me up for success with the classes that I took part in and the many field experiences that I had. I noticed a difference between my trip in 2015 and in 2016, seeing how much I had grown professionally to better serve the children there. Now, I see an even bigger difference and am so glad that I graduated. The skills and experience that I have are irreplaceable.
In my two summers at The Pines, I was able to help in a lot of the areas that will also be my future responsibilities. The 30 children of The Pines attend many different local schools. When they got home each afternoon, I ran homework time, keeping kids on task and working one-on-one with those who needed extra assistance. During school holidays, I was able to coordinate and lead tutoring for kids, keeping information fresh for some or focusing on trouble areas in more intense intervention with others. I am excited to continue this when I get to The Pines. Many of the children struggle academically. In fact, two students advanced to second and third grade before their teachers realized that they couldn’t read. Many of the children at The Pines are in some sort of special education, although class score averages of 50% show that the problem isn’t always the child’s ability. Education is so powerful in transforming lives, so I am excited for the support I will be to the children to help them succeed in school.
I will also manage school communication, making sure each child has the proper uniform and supplies, attending parent-teacher conferences and more. I will also help with office work, keeping the website and Facebook page up to date, preparing for teams and volunteers who come in, leading Bible studies with small groups, offering comfort and a positive influence to the hurting teenagers who have experienced trauma that led them to The Pines and building relationships with all the children to best influence them for Christ.
Since early 2017, I have been working to return to The Pines. The Pines is very understaffed and the director, who is in her early seventies, regularly emails to tell me how much she is looking forward to my help when I return. In raising support, I have been able to present the ministry and my desire to be there to a few churches and individuals, but I’m learning that support raising is a long process. God surprised me by calling me to The Pines, but He has also surprised me by keeping me here longer than I had originally planned.
I am trying to use this time wisely, gaining teaching experience by substitute teaching, building relationships through nannying, growing more comfortable ministering to teens by teaching junior high Sunday school and learning necessary skills through missions and counseling courses. I am excited about the people that God has raised up to partner with me in this ministry, and I am trusting Him to bring in the rest of my support. I am working to raise monthly support as well as my start-up fund.
Cornerstone has been so helpful in developing the necessary skills in me to minister to the children of South Africa, and the spiritual development and genuine love and care I’ve been shown have helped prepare my heart. I would love to have partners in this ministry who have a shared experience with Cornerstone. While I am in the field, the partners here are a vital part of the ministry and it wouldn’t be doable without you. If you would like to learn more about this ministry, visit brennathreatt.wordpress.com. There you will find information about Welkom (the city I will be ministering in), my story, a place to get in touch with me and options for donating. I am excited about how God is going to use the greater Cornerstone community to reach the children in South Africa.