“Being confident of this very thing, that He which began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” Phil 1:6
We have started the year focusing on leader transition and expanding the Olive Branch International vision. OBI continues to minister to those in the international military and first responder communities as God leads and opens doors.
I am humbled and excited the OBI board was led to select me as Interim Executive Director as Bruce takes on the role of President Emeritus. I have had a heart for our mission for over 16 years when I first began as a financial and prayer supporter for OBI. God will continue to use my years of military experience in joint and international engagements to establish new relationships with partners and build on the ones already entrenched.
My husband, Shane Smith, and I stopped to see Bruce and Judy in their “new” home in Iowa on our way home to Wisconsin. They only live four hours from us. Our visit enabled us to glean from Bruce and Judy’s experiences with OBI and prepare us for this venture. It is helpful to have the past president on speed dial. We are delighted to see Bruce and Judy involved with the local church and community.
Bruce and I traveled to Virginia and Pennsylvania for a number of days in January to further develop relationships and partners in our new leadership roles. We met with leaders and senior staff from Associates for Christian Conferences Teaching and Service (ACCTS), Cru, Military, and Military Missions Network (MMN). We were privileged to stay with previous OBI Board Director, John Gately, and his wife Sandy. True to his nature, John introduced me to some new strategic partners during our visit for ministry with OBI. We are grateful to John and Sandy for their continued support of OBI in multiple ways. We also had time with Caroline Grube and Diane and Tom Carnahan as they hosted us in their homes. What a great time to learn about their families and see how they serve Christ at home and in their communities.
We had a sweet time with Dick Barnes, ACCTS staff, and Bill and Laura Barko. I was delighted to finally meet them as we have collaborated on several projects. Our mutual military experience enabled us to brainstorm some new potential projects. Bill was an instructor for me at my Officer Basic Course at Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1985. Neither of us remember each other. Dick, Laura, and Bill were so encouraging to Bruce and me in our current jobs. All of our meetings were blessed with prayer and the reminder that we are most effective when we work together for God, “letting go of ego”.
The entire OBI board is mentoring me as I assume administrative duties. I appreciate the deliberate process that is building on what I already knew from being a board member for ten years.
Ukraine continues to be a major focus of OBI and Valentyn is carefully using the funds provided through Ukraine Care to provide supplies and assistance to the local community and chaplains. Valentyn has plans for several engagements to continue expanded teachings on chaplaincy, PTSD, preventing burnout and stress related issues. He has Ukranian pastors and chaplains assisting. He has also scheduled two events with American instructors. The hope is these men will be able to participate in person, but we are prepared to use video conferencing if necessary. The Way of Truth church continues to work with Valentyn to reach young people and military children.
OBI has two new partners in our ministry. We are excited to see how this will impact our outreach. We are looking forward to potential engagements in Rwanda and Croatia this year.
We thank you for your prayers and financial support. Our work is only possible through the grace of God and those who are working alongside us.
In His Service,
Interim Executive Director