Ginger Saunders found her way into the family of Lipscomb Missions a little later than most. It was not until she had reached her fifties that the opportunity arose for her to be a part of a mission trip, and for the past two spring breaks, Saunders has not only gone as a missionary to Nevis, but also helped lead the Nevis team! By diving head first into this unexpected twist in God’s plan, she would see her life changed in ways she could have never dreamed and discover how God’s plans far exceed our own.
Raised in Clarksville, Saunders grew up in a Church of Christ home and was very involved in her youth group. Saunders shares, “I’ve always had a heart for the Lord.” When it came time for college, she attended Lipscomb and eventually got married, having two kids. Becoming a stay at home mom, Saunders devoted her time to her family but had always had an interest in missions, she says.
In her late forties, she found herself facing an unexpected obstacle. “I went through a divorce,” she shares, “And I needed to go back to work.” Thankfully, the Lord opened a door at Lipscomb and she took a job in the College of Pharmacy. At this point, Saunders became very involved in youth ministry at Otter Creek Church. “As my senior girls graduated high school, I turned my focus to college and mentoring,” she shares.
So, after all of these life changes, what exactly sparked a curiosity in missions? “Mark Jent who works with missions on campus, spoke at an event I was attending and my interest was peaked,” she explains, “I began to pray about it.” A year later, she spoke with Jent about her desire to serve, and he asked where she might be interested in going; however, Saunders did not want to simply pick a destination, “I wanted to be led somewhere,” she says. While Saunders contemplated trip options, Jordan Bates, the Nevis leader at that time, told her that they were looking for a female leader for the trip. “He said it would be a perfect fit,” she says, “I was finally in a point in my life where I could do it. One of my sons had graduated and my youngest was a junior at Lipscomb.” So, with nothing holding her back any longer, Saunders accepted the life-changing task of Nevis team leader.
As a first time leader and trip goer, there were many things to be learned. “It’s hard to lead a group somewhere you’ve never been,” she explains. Saunders did have one very familiar face on her team, though: her youngest son, Christopher. “I didn’t want to get in his space. He always goes to Honduras,” she shares, “But he decided to go with me; I laugh and say he got in my space!” On the most recent trip, she had the blessing of getting to have her older son, Patrick, as a team member, as well.
When asked about her most memorable experiences on that first trip to Nevis, the team leader expresses how welcoming the natives were, saying, “I was so touched by how generous and loving the church and people were to us. They even cooked us meals.” When planning a trip for the first time, there are understandably many doubts, as well. Watching the team come together was a major moment for Saunders, as she explains, “College students are spread so thin. I kept thinking, ‘Is this going to happen?’ But it did.”
Having recently spent her second spring break in Nevis, Saunders was again blessed in immense ways. “This trip far exceeded my expectations. We were able to go into five different schools, which we have never done. We would go to one school and there would be someone inviting us to another school that they also worked with,” she says. As she returned to the people whom she had formed relationships with a year ago, Saunders found herself forming even tighter bonds, making leaving very painful. Saunders explains how badly she missed those with whom she had formed bonds upon her return, “I sat in church on Sunday crying as I thought about my church family in Nevis and wishing that I could be worshiping with them.”
Through all of her life experiences and those blessed times spent in Nevis, Saunders has learned so many lessons. She shares the wisdom she found after her most recent trip, “I need to keep my eyes open daily to see what God has in store for me, who I need to have a conversation with, who needs some type of encouragement or who God puts in my path to encourage me.” By stepping outside of her comfort zone, Ginger Saunders found a deeper faith and a greater purpose as she followed a plan that differed in so many ways from her own.