A year ago, Alyssa and Bryant Swiers of Strawberry Lake Church in Ogema, Minnesota, left their jobs, packed their camper and embarked on a year-long trip to learn about daycare ministry.
Before leaving home, the couple prayed doors would open for them to serve individually in ways they feel called by God. As they conclude their adventure, they have seen God answer that prayer.
“God has opened doors for us throughout this journey,” the Swiers write in a letter to their supporters. “Too many things have fallen into place for us to call it a coincidence. We truly believe that is because of your prayers.”
Intending to connect with USMB congregations, the couple began their journey in Omaha, Neb., where they served USMB congregations Stony Brook Church and Faith Bible Church. The couple helped with vacation Bible school programs at both churches with volunteers for the FBC event representing six MB churches, taught children’s church and assisted with weekly activities. Bryant served with FBC’s Good Neighbor Ministries. After four weeks of phone calls and waiting, Alyssa had the opportunity to serve at Love the Child Early Learning Center at Southwest Church of the Nazarene, where three staff members served 10 to 15 children.
“This relationship between us and this daycare has produced a great learning opportunity for us,” the couple writes in an update. “They have opened doors for us that we could have never found without them. Not only have they allowed Alyssa to come into their building and learn, they have also connected us with several more daycare centers within other churches.”
After about four months, the Swiers transitioned to Spearfish, South Dakota, where Alyssa shadowed the daycare director at Hillsview Church of the Nazarene.
“The layout of their building was very similar to what we’re working with (at Lake Region), as far as size and even the shape,” Bryant says. “It gave (Alyssa) a clearer vision for what the building should look like.”
Meanwhile Bryant shadowed the pastor, did construction projects for the church and daycare and worked at a mechanic shop, helping to fund the couple’s travels.
In mid-September, the Swiers returned to Omaha so Alyssa could fill a temporary paid position at Love the Child. Bryant, meanwhile, served at Faith Bible Church. The couple helped with Wednesday night activities at FBC and with a Trunk or Treat event attended by more than 1,000 people. Bryant also had the opportunity to preach at both FBC and Stony Brook.
In December, the couple relocated to Jennings, La., for Bryant to volunteer with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS).
“In both Omaha and Spearfish, we made our first connections with Alyssa’s mission goal in mind,” the couple says. “After we arrived at these locations, doors always opened for Bryant to serve. Our transition to Louisiana was the opposite. (MDS was) excited for Bryant to serve as a crew leader and accommodated Alyssa’s mission.”
Bryant leads crews of five volunteers rebuilding and repairing homes damaged by two hurricanes that hit the area three years ago.
MDS has a site at University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and this church runs a day school—one of the oldest in the state—where Alyssa can job-shadow in classrooms and continue online classes for her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. The school has 30 staff members and serves 120 children.
“Each daycare is a little bit different,” Alyssa says, adding sizes have ranged from 15 children to 120. “It’s been really good to see all of them, just to see what works for the smaller ones (and) what works once you get a little bigger.”
In April, the Swiers intend to return to Minnesota. Alyssa will continue to work toward her CDA Credential and hopes to open a daycare at Lake Region Mennonite Church.
“I’ve learned a lot about running a daycare as a nonprofit and having it as a ministry of the church rather than a business,” Alyssa says.
Looking back, Bryant says the adventure has been worth it.
“I’m very glad that we did it,” he says. “It turned out the way I probably would’ve planned it, but there was obviously a lot more that went into it than what I would have ever imagined. Leaving home with no plan went about as well as I thought it would.”
Read more here: https://christianleadermag.com/daycare-dreaming/
Janae Rempel Shafer is the Christian Leader associate editor. She joined the CL staff in September 2017 with six years of experience as a professional journalist. Shafer is an award-winning writer, having received three 2016 Kansas Press Association Awards of Excellence and an Evangelical Press Association Higher Goals award in 2022. Shafer graduated from Tabor College in 2010 with a bachelor of arts in Communications/Journalism and Biblical/Religious Studies. She and her husband, Austin, attend Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas.