About our Houseparents:
Tell us a little bit about your family.
Donda: Jeff and I met during the summer of 2005 though a Christian website. He was living in St. Clair, MO where I first started my teaching career and we struck up a conversation. We chatted online, and over the phone, before deciding to meet for coffee. We were, and are, very different; but, there seemed to be an innate connectedness in the things that are truly important regarding our relationships with Christ and our desires for family.
I was a single mom raising my stepson, Alex (age 16), as well as my son, Baxter (age 7) and daughter, Alyssa (age 2). Jeff embraced my children and all of the chaos and struggle that came along with trying to be a mom to three kids. He became a fixture in our lives and I grew to love him more and more. Christmas of that year, we were engaged. On October 7 of 2006, Jeff and I married in a small outdoor ceremony, surrounded by “our” three kids, as well as friends and family.
I would describe our marriage and family as a work in progress. We both came to this relationship with past failed marriages and a good deal of “baggage.” But, we also came with a deep commitment to do whatever it takes to create a stable, loving family and to raise and nurture our children. It requires daily commitment to choose to love someone, and to love them well. Partners are different, and that can be a blessing and a challenge. It takes time, patience, and dedication to be willing to accept the good and the not so good about ourselves and our spouse. Ultimately, I want our children to see what a covenant marriage looks like and to know that despite the hard times and challenges, it is a blessing and a gift to cherish and protect.
Jeff: We have been married for almost eleven years. The past few years have been particularly challenging for our family. We were living in Ferguson, MO; my wife taught at St. Louis Community College and I did IT work for the St. Louis Zoo. As a strong Christian family, we felt the Lord leading us out of the city, and into a ministry serving young children and families.
One day, my wife emailed me at work, excited about an opportunity she had discovered to be house parents at the Genesis House of NE Missouri. I wasn’t sure what that would entail; but, I strongly felt that we needed to give it further consideration. Her online application led to two phone interviews and an invitation to visit Genesis House and meet with some of the board members. From the moment we laid eyes on the place, something just felt right. In the months that followed, it became less a decision about whether God was calling us to this ministry and more about whether we were going to choose to be obedient to His call.
So, we took a huge leap of faith and moved, with our daughter, Alyssa (age 14) to Edina, MO to become house parents for Genesis House.
What has the transition to small-town life been like for you?
Donda: We’ve been asked that question a lot and, honestly, it’s been a breath of fresh air. We love this community and the warm welcome we have received. The hardest part was leaving behind our family and friends. We have a wonderful support system and I miss them every day.
I am amazed at how quickly Genesis House has become home. I love this old house and the beautiful acreage it sits on. Every day I wake up focused on this ministry and its mission. It feels like I was created for this work; I’m incredibly blessed.
Jeff: I’m a country boy at heart and I love the peace and quiet that comes with living here; I just feel closer to God. I believe this was the right move for our family. Now, we are busy creating a place where we can welcome others and praying that the Lord leads the right women here for us to serve.
The biggest transition has been for our daughter, Alyssa. She is enrolled at Knox County Middle School (8th grade) and is busy acclimating to all of the changes and making friends. She’s been really amazing through the move and is learning a great deal about her own faith.
What are your interests and hobbies? What special skills do you bring to this work?
Donda: From my earliest memories, the one thing I always wanted was to be a mother. While reality is different than what I envisioned as a child, I know, without a doubt, I was born to be a mom and to help others parent well. I have worked my entire adult life with caregivers and children. I bring with me both extensive experience, as well as a heart to show each young mother, at Genesis House, a God who offers hope of a wonderful future for her and her child.
I enjoy music and singing, as well as reading and binge watching various television series. In addition, I stretch my creative muscles by writing, painting, and scrapbooking. I love nature and the beauty of God’s creation, as well as photography. While I cherish moments spent with my friends and family, I also crave time to myself to think and pray.
Jeff: I have a very diverse set of interests and skills. On one hand, I love technology and am quite the geek when it comes to gadgets and gaming. On the other, I love leaving the technology behind to enjoy camping, fishing, and gardening. I have a strong interest in woodworking and I look forward to having more time to design and create some things for our home. I am an avid cook, particularly interested in charcuterie (which is a fancy term for cooking that involves various preparations of meat) and baking. I enjoy music of all kinds and studying the Bible. I’m also quite handy and will definitely use those skills at Genesis House and around the three acre property.
What about your daughter; what does she like to do?
Donda: Alyssa, like most teenagers, enjoys her phone and social media. She creates clever videos and has an eye for photography. Alyssa has a definite flair for the dramatic. She earned a lead role in the last three musicals at DaySpring School of the Arts (St. Louis, MO), and was nominated for Best Youth Actress, for two of these performances, by Arts for Life (St. Louis, MO). Alyssa has a fabulous sense of humor, an amazing singing voice, and a heart of gold. She is honestly one of my favorite people to spend time with, even if she weren’t my daughter.
What do you hope for the ministry at Genesis House?
Jeff: Donda and I have both been Christians for a very long time and, like everyone else, the road we travel has joys and sorrows. Through it all, we have chosen to remain faithful to His will and direction. Our faith is an everyday practice, built upon a strong relationship with our Lord and Savior. We are not perfect people; but we have a great deal of compassion and grace to extend to the women who come to Genesis House.
Donda had three children when we married – she was a step-mom, adopted mom, unwed mom, and single mom for years before we met. This past year we fostered our two grandchildren while their parents got back on their feet. Our definition of “family” is very inclusive. Our vision is to open our home and offer hope, provision, and support to women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.
Donda: Our mission is also to partner with new mothers as they raise their children. I have worked with countless moms and caregivers, of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities to become loving, responsive, and intentional parents and teachers. I believe in delivering education with heart, encouraging, supporting and facilitating individuals in finding their own knowledge, strength, and courage.
Genesis House is a place of spiritual respite and renewal for mothers and babies. My hope is that we will continue this mission and leave a legacy of hope and healing.
Sandra Novinger – President
Ron Harrison – Vice President
Denise Brechue – Treasurer
Aaron Rye – Social Media