Having met at the University of Wisconsin, Adam and Christine Jeske got married and ran off to live in abject poverty in Nicaragua. El Porvenir, a mountaintop village without electricity or any water but rain, took them in as their own. While living in a small room in a barn, they helped with the village's organic coffee cooperative (see www.buildingnewhope.org for more info) and taught various adult classes, including math, a Bible study, and crocheting. But this year largely allowed Adam and Chrissy to walk the path that two billion people worldwide live in today.
After a season in the US piecing together jobs teaching English, Spanish, and piano, Chrissy and Adam ventured off in a new direction. They became English teachers at Lanzhou Teachers College in northwest China with the English Language Institute of China (ELIC). During these two years, they built deep relationships with students and colleagues, had a daughter, Phoebe Joy, and received MBAs in International Economic Development from Eastern University.
Staying briefly in Georgia, the Jeskes lived and served at Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community (see www.jubileepartners.org ). This community of people seeks to live out Christian faith with a focus on justice, in part by working with refugees from places like Somalia and Afghanistan. Ezekiel John, called Zeke, was born in Georgia. They then spent a year at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where Adam worked as a Residence Hall Director at the University.
After years of searching for a spot in Africa to live with some of the world’s neediest but most precious people, Adam and Chrissy found a home in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In July of 2006 their family of four moved there to serve as Project Directors with a small microfinance organization. This pilot project aimed to reach high school-aged AIDS orphans with loans of $50 to start very small businesses, so that they might stay in school and support younger siblings and extended family members.
At the end of 2007 they stepped down as project directors with the microfinance organization in order to broaden the range of their activities. This included serving with the local church, teaching computer and English, counseling and supporting youth in leadership skills development and income-generating activities, writing about lives and issues here for international magazines and papers, and still doing some lending to entrepreneurs in hard places.
In July 2008, they moved to the provincial capital city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to work with the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa (ESSA). They taught courses in intercultural communication and anthropology (Chrissy) and Christian leadership and management (Adam), and Chrissy also began teaching as an adjunct professor of International Development of Developing Countries for Eastern University. Adam also became the seminary's Financial Director and they took on creating much of the fund-raising and publicity materials.
The Jeskes enjoyed living in an apartment on the seminary property, which offered rich opportunities for games of soccer, netball (think basketball without backboards or dribbling), and long chats by laundry lines with the students and staff from a dozen other countries. Most ESSA students will serve across Africa and the world as pastors, church leaders, development organization leaders, counselors, and missionaries. Some have been in ministry for decades already, others recently finished high school. Many students are scraping by on barely enough to pay their bills and put food on the table, and nearly everyone has an incredible story of how God has brought them this far. To read more about ESSA, see http://www.essa.ac.za.
In December 2009 they moved back to the United States to be near family, U.S. schools, speaking engagements from Chrissy's book, and PhD study opportunities, but they consider the words true that one Kenyan man shared with them: "You can never leave Africa. You will always be an ambassador."