Impact Maker Interview 6 – Jennifer Anderson
We have a lot to learn from others that are trying to build their communities and their woodpiles. Today’s interview picks another person we’ve identified as giving back to their community in some way and tries to learn from them.
If you know someone you would like to nominate for an interview, please drop me a note with a brief story about why that person should be featured.
My questions are in bold italics, with responses in plain text.
Today’s Interview: Jennifer Anderson
Tell us about yourself, where you live, and your family.
Born in Illinois, I was raised in a military family where I moved every 1-3 years, making many places my home. In 1993, I moved to Bemidji to go to Bemidji State University for a degree in Social Work. I have lived here ever since, and am married with two teen girls. I started a ministry in 2010, working with orphaned, abandoned, and impoverished children and widows in Uganda, East Africa. I consider both Bemidji and the village I work in in Uganda my home.
What makes your community special?
Bemidji is a diverse and beautiful community. I truly enjoy the small town feel blended with the city amenities like shopping, dining, community events, and concerts. I love our downtown area, filled with unique shops and friendly people!
What do you do to make your community better (volunteer, donate, etc.)?
In Bemidji, I enjoy ministering and serving on a one to one level. I volunteer anytime I can with my church and other organizations needing a helping hand. I truly believe in “stopping for one”, meaning when I come in contact with someone in need of help or a listening ear, I make the time to truly stop and hear their hearts. I may not be in a position to always give financially, but I certainly can give hope, love, and prayer!
How do you impact others with your work/vocation (or did you if retired)?
I cannot get enough of telling others about my work! As the Executive Director of Hands of Action International, I have the honor of helping change nearly 1000 lives and counting in Uganda. (Editors note: Keep reading for more about her awesome work with Hands of Action.)
Tell us about how you build your family up for success?
I believe in leading by serving my family. I truly love my children without reservation, and I make it my mission to show them that love through my actions. They may not have all the newest things, but they will never doubt that they are loved and cared for in deep, deep ways!
Which area – your community, vocation or family – do you feel you are the best at, and why?
Probably my vocation. I am sold out for my faith, and put God first in all that I do. I love my calling in ministry, and live every day to serve and love.
What have the results of your efforts been?
About 9 years ago, I started a school and feeding program in Uganda after a short term mission trip. Since then, the original school has grown from our original 189 children to a whopping two schools and nearly 900 children plus full staff. I spend over a month on the ground in Uganda each year, where I am honored to minister to the children, staff, and families. Once to twice a year, I help organize medical and home repair clinics to meet the needs of the children and staff at our school, and to be a blessing to the elderly. I have witnessed a significant improvement in the physical and emotional health of the kids at our school. Children have hope, and many see college in their future!
Talk about the event, organization or activity you’ve been involved in that made the biggest impact. Why was it impactful, and how did you help?
That would have to be Hands of Action International. Not only has this ministry impacted the lives of those in Uganda, it has also given me a sense of purpose. Additionally, we organize mission team trips twice a year to bring others mostly from Minnesota to serve with us in Uganda. There are many who have told us that the experience of serving changed the way they live their lives. Many of our volunteers have gone multiple times!
Who or what inspired you to give back of yourself?
My grandma, Mae. She was always stopping for anyone who needed help. She served in the shut-in ministry at her church and crocheted lap blankets for those in nursing homes. She loved visiting those who could no longer make it to church and would bring the message and hope to them.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you personally in trying to be a community builder, and how did you or do you hope to overcome it?
In Uganda, it was the time it took to overcome distrust. The people in Uganda had grown to distrust many missionaries because they would come with good intentions, and make promises to help without any follow through. It took years of consistency and meeting one on one with those who were against me to rebuild that trust. We are not 100% there, yet. But I believe it will happen in time.
What legacy do you hope to leave?
I want to inspire others to say YES when God calls them into something! I think so many people miss out on living the life God has for them due to fear. So many times, what God says to do makes little sense to the world. But, being obedient to calling can make the difference between living your life and being a catalyst for change or simply making a living.
What advice to you want to give someone trying to build their woodpile?
If you have a passion for something, there is a reason for that! Don’t disregard it, or put it on the back burner for someday. Someday is today.
Any questions you would like to ask our Woodpile community?
What is your passion and how will you move forward in making it a reality?
Please respond to Jennifer’s questions in the comments below. Catch future posts by following our social media links in the upper right or leaving your email in the box to the right. Thank you!