“At first, this was outside my normal grid. It was dangerous. It wasn’t comfortable. I had told the Lord that if he didn’t bring me a husband, I’d go overseas as a missionary. My heart has always been for missions, but I also didn’t want to leave here. Through SEEDnet, God gave me both my husband and a mission here at home.”
Jena Wells is the wife of Nathan Wells (pictured at right), church planter and director of SEEDnet, a Charis Fellowship organization that reaches out to the unlikeliest of communities. From low-incomeapartment complexes in Ohio cities, to rural communities deep in the Appalachian mountains to real cowboy church, SEEDnet is committed to planting seeds of the gospel in places that are spiritually, economically, emotionally and developmentally oppressed. The men involved in the ministry routinely have to walk into potentially dangerous areas – cities where violence and extreme poverty are the norm. It takes men who are willing to lean hard on God’s strength to carry out their vision.
And it takes equally strong women by their side.
The biblical word we usually hear as “help meet” – ezer kenegdo – in its most accurate translation calls to mind a fellow warrior who comes to aid at the very moment all seems lost – the wingman who’s got your back. And that’s exactly the role that Jena Wells and Kim Shank, wife of SEEDnet church planter and partner Andy Shank, play in the lives of their husbands.
“There is a lot of prayer involved,” says Wells. When she was pregnant with the last of their three boys, Jena felt the call to stay home and pray for her husband.
“I was pregnant with my third boy and had two toddlers at home at the time, so I couldn’t go with Nathan. The Lord started saying, ‘Let’s do this together, and I will tell you what to pray for,’” she recalls. When her husband returned from a day of ministry, it was obvious to both of them that God had been speaking directly to her heart about the specific needs of people that her husband was interacting with that day – sometimes by their very name.
“I thought at first I was just relegated to the role, but later realized its power,” she notes.
Kim Shank, Andy’s wife (pictured at right), agrees that the role of the wives of SEEDnet church planters is vital to the spiritual health and vitality of the ministry – that they’re on the front lines alongside their husbands.
“I’m involved in all the spiritual warfare that happens when Andy comes home from planting churches in SEED areas,” she explains. “I feel like I am able to minister to him when he comes home exhausted or beat up emotionally.”
Andy had been a drug dealer before he met Christ, and Kim struggled with addiction. But God found them both, and it was through Andy that Kim first heard the good news about following Jesus. They got married in 2011, and now Kim provides lifegiving support to her husband as he travels into areas full of hurting people desperately in need of God’s love.
The two women are there for each other, too. Jena notes that it takes intentionality to keep the team connected to one another.
“Kim and I pray a lot for each other and for the guys. Every six months we spend a day together. We get together every Friday with the husbands to laugh together – it gets so heavy and sometimes we just need to laugh.”
With a ministry like SEEDnet, “…there’s constant change,” notes Jena. “The routine is constantly adjusting. The challenge is to keep a steady home and family life while being open to flex, adjust and be on a wild adventure with God. I feel like I’m walking unbalanced a lot of time – like on a boat – while holding the hands of my kids and others around to provide them some steadiness with the rolling. My grip on routine can’t be stronger than my grip on Jesus. It is a hard place but it’s a beautiful and good place be.”
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.