Today, we continue in our series, Step of Faith, that explores our response to Jesus' command to go and make disciples.
This week, you will hear part one of my conversation with my friend Jenette McEntire. She and I have known each other for a staggering 12 weeks, give or take.
Together with Hollie, Stu, and James, we meet together weekly to discuss our lives, work, and progress towards living a focused life in a mastermind group loving called Team Treehouse.
God used our friends at The Focus Course (Shawn, Isaac, and Joanna) to create our group, but it's obvious how God has knit us together to create a special family so-to-speak.
I think I can speak for the entire Team Treehouse group in saying “thank you” to The Focus Course team for bringing us together.
Jenette's story is powerful and leads by example in trusting God for a special outcome of her story. Now, here's part one of my conversation with Jenette McEntire.
Dave Anthold: Well, good morning, Jenette, so glad to have you on the podcast with us today. Thank you for being here.
Jenette McEntire: Thanks so much, Dave. It's a thrill to be on my first podcast.
Dave Anthold: Yay.
Jenette McEntire: I appreciate the invitation very much.
Dave Anthold: I'm so excited that we're getting to have this conversation because your story is unbelievable, and I've only heard a small snippet of the story, so I'm really excited to hear the rest of it. Before we begin, maybe you can just share a little bit about yourself, what you do, what you like to do for fun, a little bit about your family.
Jenette McEntire: Okay. Well, I am, I would say middle age, but I'm past that marker probably by all accounts. I was trained as a graphic designer. That's my degree, and started in the ad agency world and really that left me feeling a little flat. Just moved through a couple of different agencies and a corporate design team. I was an in-house designer for TV Guide for several years, and still just promoting old sitcoms that I had no interest in watching, wasn't really ringing my bells.
I made my way to Christian publishing and became an art director for Group Publishing. My husband, who is also a creative, he's a photographer, he and I moved to Colorado around 2000 and we were there for a couple of years. I loved it, but still there was just something. I'd always been drawn to ministry. While Christian publishing certainly ticked off a lot of the check boxes in terms of the content and the value of what I felt like I was doing, it was still pretty corporate-y and that just wasn't resonating with me.
My husband and I struck out on our own and ended up being contract employees for TV Guide, and we would travel all over doing trade show events for TV Guide. We had a little photo setup in the booth and did that for a couple of years, decided that that work was robust enough to support us. While I couldn't imagine ever leaving the mountains because I loved the scenery in Colorado, we were homesick.
I had a young nephew at the time and my husband and I had been trying to have kids, but wasn't happening, and so my nephew and the niece who was born while we were out in Colorado were sort of the center of my universe. Loved being with them, so we moved back Oklahoma to be full-time contractors for TV Guide. Within six months TV Guide laid off all of our clients there.
Dave Anthold: You just cannot get away from TV Guide, can you?
Jenette McEntire: Yes. Like, okay. Pivot. I started freelancing and we set up a little graphic design and photography studio and were able to get several ministry clients. But we also realized that working for free isn't really a great business strategy, so we would pick up occasional corporate work as well, but still just feeling a little bit adrift in terms of where I felt the Holy Spirit moving me, which was a passion for traveling and seeing the church in the world and working in ministry.
I'd always been very interested in mission and it was sort of a trip to Mexico here to build houses or some mercy ministry oriented stuff here in the city that we live in, in Tulsa, but still not really finding the place for that as well. After Colorado and moving back and losing our clients and trying to figure out what we do and picking up some other work and being really a do-it-all studio of one with my husband doing photography work as that was needed for assignments, God just ... He opened a door to First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa, which is a place I never thought I would find myself.
I was sort of the Nathaniel saying, "Can anything good come from the FPCA?" We found our way through an invitation from my cousin to just come. We were looking for a church home. The church we'd been a part of when we lived in Tulsa before we moved to Colorado, when we moved back it had gone through a split and was messy and we just didn't want to get back into that mix. We tried the church and I remember sitting in the back pew, looking at my husband and like, "Do you feel like you're home? How could this possibly be home?"
The Holy Spirit was so rich there. We are blessed with an incredible senior pastor who certainly is spirit-filled and leads with an incredible heart for the Lord. We continued to try and church search. I should say, in Tulsa, we're firmly in the buckle of the Bible belt, which I love, but there's churches everywhere in this city. In fact, so much so that the downtown portion that our church is located in is called the Cathedral District because within four city blocks of relatively smallish, large city, there are I think seven cathedrals.
Our church is a huge gothic sanctuary space that was built in the 1800s and ... or excuse me, our church was established in the late 1800s and the sanctuary was built in the '20s. First Baptist is down the block. There's an Episcopal church that has a cathedral. There's the Catholic cathedral right there. It's a really beautiful place to go on Sunday morning and all the church bells are ringing and things. We found ourselves at PEACE USA.
We started getting engaged when we joined the church and they go through a new member class. As part of that, you get your photo taken and a little bio is put in the church newsletter about who you are and how you've come to the church. They were looking for a director of communications when we joined. When the chair of the communications committee saw my bio, he was like, "Why haven't we talked to this girl? Could she fill this job?" I interviewed.
I had been praying about putting my name in the hat for that because I had seen it and I thought, "Maybe this is a way to get into ministry." Because that had always been my heart's desire. One of the pastors called and said, "Hey, do you know? We're looking for a director of communications." I said, "Yes, I've been praying about whether or not I should apply." She was like, "Well, okay, this is your confirmation to apply." I did and the committee was very gracious and saw my portfolio.
As I was getting in my car, I had of course walked out of the interview, walked to my car and I was pulling my door too. The chair of personnel was standing at my door and I thought, "Oh my gosh, did I do something wrong? Did I leave something on the table?" He offered me the job. It ended up being director of communications. While I was there, another couple who had come to the church and been there a couple of years was heavily engaged with a ministry in Romania.
They felt like it was time to introduce that ministry to our church. I was asked if I would pray about being part of the pilot program with the pilot ministry team. I said, "I've been praying for this for eight years." Because then going back in time as my husband and I went through our infertility journey, his cousin ended up adopting from Romania.
That was of deep interest to me because I grew up idolizing Nadia Comaneci and was always as a kid ... My dad was a pastor, so missionaries would come and I was always completely fascinated by stories from missionaries who'd gone behind the iron curtain. I remember really pursuing reading about that and figuring out what is that about and why are these government systems doing this to these people?
In my imagination I guess because I'm a visual thinker, I really thought there was this iron curtain. It's like a little door would open every now and then.
Dave Anthold: Slip in there.
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. Yeah. It was just ... I don't know, it was fascinating to me. Then with my husband's cousin, going through the process and adopting from Romanian and coming back with stories from the Romanian orphanage and just hearing about the corruption there and hearing about not only the conditions the kids were in, but the desperation of these families who were abandoning their children, just my spirit really came alive listening to those stories.
I wanted to just drop everything and go to Romanian and find an orphanage to be the Maria von Trapp of. The Holy Spirit were very clearly, eight years prior to the invitation to Romania said, "Wait." It was something that would kind of bubble up in my prayer life and it wasn't a constant thought or prayer, but certainly was something that I revisited often through that time. Then the rest is history.
I'm sort of getting away. I'm realizing as I'm rabbit trailing around that I was supposed to be talking about my background.
Dave Anthold: That's okay. Well, we got some of it, which I didn't know about the communications background so that was kind of interesting. We didn't talk about that in our mastermind. I was like, "I'm going to get these little snippets of Jenette." I'm like, "This is going to be great."
Jenette McEntire: Yes. Well, and I also, just as a mental exercise, while I was director of communications, I spent my mornings baking for the coffee shop that we love.
Dave Anthold: Of course you did. If you could see a picture of Jenette's table, it's like everybody wants to come over and have breakfast or brunch at Jenette's table because it's like, "Oh my goodness." It's like Starbucks every day it seems like.
Jenette McEntire: Well, the gift of hospitality is one that God has gifted me with. It's fun for me. I can't help myself but overdo a bit.
Dave Anthold: Of course, we're all coming over for Sunday brunch
Jenette McEntire: Yes. Please.
Dave Anthold: Then we can run down the street to the cathedral churches and it's just a ... It sounds like I'm going to have to take a trip to Tulsa. This is what this sounds like.
Jenette McEntire: Yes. That's right. Plan some extra time when you come through Texas and-
Dave Anthold: That's right. We'll just swing on up and so-
Jenette McEntire: If you don't mind taking a flight with two or three legs, you can fly anywhere from Tulsa.
Dave Anthold: I have no problem. I am dying to get back on an airplane. I've been off of for one for way too long with this pandemic.
Jenette McEntire: Do love travel?
Dave Anthold: I love to travel.
Jenette McEntire: I do too and for years I felt guilty about that. Like it was this ministry should be grueling and it's all of those. If I'm having fun then people will think they're just paying for me to go on this trip to have fun. It was like joy is the best part.
Dave Anthold: It's so much fun. Like going with friends or meeting new friends, that part of the whole thing.
Jenette McEntire: Yes.
Dave Anthold: My parents took me to the airport when I was like five or six years old, before you'd had to go through all the TSA pat down stuff, but I would just sit there and watch the planes and make up my own stories of interesting people. Where'd they come from? Where did they go? What do they do? When do I get to do that?
Jenette McEntire: Yes. Exactly. I do that, not at the airport, but when a plane flies overhead. My husband has started saying, "Okay. Where are they going?"
Dave Anthold: Oh yeah, I don't need anybody else. I make up my own conversations about what's happening. I'm the guy that's listening to all the conversations on the airplane.
Jenette McEntire: I'm told my first word was up and I was pointing at an airplane, "Up, up, up."
Dave Anthold: Oh, it started so early.
Jenette McEntire: Yes, it did. It did. When I was little, I wanted to be a studeress. That's the proper way to say it. Yeah. Then sadly in high school, I got this inner ear infection and my equilibrium has never been the same, so I couldn't-
Dave Anthold: Traveling is not quite fun.
Jenette McEntire: I couldn't do the turbulence.
Dave Anthold: Oh, yeah. Obviously, you love to travel. Romania, I'm excited to hear about the rest of the Romanian story. Well, we'll come back to that. Where are some of the places that you've traveled?
Jenette McEntire: As I mentioned, we've been to Mexico on mission, and that was with ... There's several ministries that do the same thing, but you go and you build a house over the course of a week. I've done that. Romania obviously is the main place. Unfortunately, for me, my husband really has been the one that's gotten to do all the traveling. After about three years as communications director at the church, I received a call from a guy who had been a youth pastor at the church we attended before we went to Colorado and came back.
He had moved from that ministry to Texas and then ended up with a ministry called Christ in Youth in Joplin, Missouri. He called me out of the blue and asked me to come help that ministry with their communications. It was started in 1969 and was a ministry then for high school students. Their ministry model is during the summer. They rent out a college campus all across the United States. They do this in probably 12 or 13 sites.
They rent out these college campuses and then youth groups come to them and they have a week of church camp on steroids basically. It was founded by a youth pastor, always facilitated by youth pastors. These guys coming from a youth pastorate ministry would come and create this programming and content and do all the execution, but they'd never had any real communication support. Their summer conference was called Summer Conference.
They didn't have any branding, no logos, nothing professionally done. They were at a point where they were ready to bring that kind of polish to what they were doing. He invited me over and it was a really, really tough decision for me because I was so at home and so happy being director of communications. It was one of those things where I really felt the Lord challenging me, "What will you give up for my name's sake?"
Because it really was leaving this ... Like finally found this ministry home that I loved and our church community is so amazing, but we prayed about it and prayed about it and cried a lot and so went over to CIY. Through that, my husband was able to go to Cambodia, Tanzania. Those trips with Christ in Youth were in connection with Compassion International.
When Compassion saw the quality of his work, they invited him to go to Ecuador as the photographer for a trip that Proverbs 31 Ministries took to visit their Compassion children there. He's the one who's like, "Eh, I'd rather stay home." I mean, in terms of ministry, he loves going out and being in ministry and stuff, but he doesn't have that like, "Get me on a plane. Send me somewhere."
Dave Anthold: But don't send me to Africa. Do you remember that song had please don't send me to Africa?
Jenette McEntire: Yes.
Dave Anthold: Yep. Every missionary, "Please don't send me to Africa." Then that's where God sent them. I love it.
Jenette McEntire: Well, it's funny that you mention that. One of my freelance projects when we had the design studio was for a ministry, they're based in Pagosa Springs and Bay and Peg Forrest are the missionary names. She wrote a book, God Please Don't Send Me to Africa. I didn't design for that one. Anyway, their ministry story took them to Africa. That was not what she wanted to do.
In fact, growing up as a kid in the Independent Christian Church, my dad was a pastor and started out as an associate pastor and then ended up in campus ministry for most of his ministry. It's the way the Lord prepares you. Nothing is wasted in God's economy. Nothing. As a kid, we were in Northwest Missouri right up the very tippy top corner, two hours north of Kansas City. His campus ministry was supported by little rural churches primarily all around.
We'd go to Iowa one Sunday, because he would fill the pulpit and it was a way to talk about the campus ministry and share that story. Then also give these little country preachers some relief and a weekend off. We were always going out and about, and I was like, "Ugh." I hated it because I'm creative, but I'm also fairly organized and fairly linear thinker. I was a member of 15 Sunday schools. Those were the days when you had the attendance chart and the little foil star.
Dave Anthold: You had a star like every four weeks.
Jenette McEntire: I see you laughing. I know you know what I'm talking about. These other kids that lived there they'd have these rows of stars and I'd have a star and eight blank spaces and a star. It was never filling in the blanks, Dave.
Dave Anthold: I have to fill in the blanks.
Jenette McEntire: I felt like, "I want a Sunday school of my own." Then fast-forward in Romania, that's what we did. We would go to these little village churches all around. It's like-
Dave Anthold: Those little stars are coming back to haunt you. You're like-
Jenette McEntire: God was preparing me. Yeah. Right, exactly. You go, a little marker in each of these places.
Dave Anthold: I don't think we touched on it, but I don't think you say what you do now, but you do something really cool now. I want people to hear that.
Jenette McEntire: Yes, I do. I would love to talk about that. Now I am engaged in local ministry. I am executive director of Masterwork Academy. That is an afterschool faith and fine arts program. We are getting ready to move into our fifth year, which is incredible to me because I'm like at the point where four years of, "Well, where do you want to be in five years, Jenette, with this ministry?" Suddenly I'm here, but we teach ballet, visual art, music, Bible, and physical fitness.
In the course of a week, a student gets an hour and a half of instruction in each of those areas. All of our instructors are professional artists in their own right. They all come from teaching backgrounds as well and have an incredible heart for the Lord and love Jesus. Our mission statement is to cultivate in children a love for Jesus through mastery in the arts.
We're really trying to give them those basic building blocks so that they can start interpreting the world through the lens of faith and an understanding that their ability to create comes because they themselves were created. Everything connects back to the father and to the word. It's just been the very best thing. It's combining all of these parts of my past, because it is mission.
We're working with a population that largely lives in poverty and has a completely separate set of circumstances from the typical First Church member, or certainly from my background. I've been always very blessed even though our family was never wealthy. We had that anchor of faith that was always like, "Well, the Lord will provide." I didn't have the designer jeans I wanted when I was in junior high, but I always had something clean to wear and food on the table and all of those necessary things.
It's really beautiful to see a child coming. Another part of the story is poverty just it consumes even though there's nothing, and the same is true in Romania. My husband would say the same is true. He saw it in Tanzania and Ecuador as well. That you would think having nothing just means having nothing, but having nothing in some ways makes you have even less than that because there's no resource to repair your home. That deterioration just continues to get worse and worse.
There's no resource to plant flowers or to do something, create some little space where something's thriving and beautiful. They live without a lot of necessities, but they also live without a lot of the ... just kind of the natural joyous things that other people get to have and enjoy. To be able to give them the tools to create something beautiful, whether it's in music or whether it's the way they move their body, not in a herky-jerky hip hop way.
Dave Anthold: Two left feet? That would be me.
Jenette McEntire: Yeah. Yeah. Have that self-control and the way the arts just speak to so many other areas of life, it's really been an incredible, incredible joy.
Dave Anthold: That's exciting. I mean, wow.
Jenette McEntire: It's really been amazing. Another beautiful part of the story is this ministry was launched in response to a vision that one of our church members had where Tulsa was once the oil capital of the world. Though the oil bust and a lot of that stuff has moved to Texas, but there's still a lot of old money here and there's still a lot of very, very wealthy families that live in Tulsa. First Church is blessed to be home to several of those who love the Lord with all their heart and give their resources freely.
One of those families, the gentleman had a vision in the middle of the night, woke up, wrote it down. We're a downtown church and so across the street from our church, there was a five-story office building that had been vacant for years and years. It was built as the Studebaker dealership.
Dave Anthold: Wow.
Jenette McEntire: It had been vacant. I mean, we joined the church in 2003 and up until eight or so years ago when we purchased it, I didn't recall anything ever being in there. He came to the church leadership and said, "If I buy this building and gift it through the church, will the church commit the resources to turn it into office space that then can generate revenue for local Tulsa ministry only? None of the money goes to the church operating budget. None of the money goes to any kind of fund of the church. It all goes into local mission."
The leadership said, "Yes, we'll do that." Then circumstance, it flooded before they were able to go in and do some minor renovations, but then that ended up being a blessing because they were able to completely gut it and start from scratch and have turned it into really gorgeous office space, which is fully leased and at least in like two years, and we projected that it would lease in six or eight.
That is an asset that spins off about a million dollars a year. All of that money goes directly into local Tulsa ministry. Masterwork Academy was established as the banner carrier for what would be possible with those kinds of resources at our disposal.
Dave Anthold: We will pick it up right there with the second part of Jenette's story next week. If you would like to learn more about Masterwork Academy, Jenette, how can they learn more about the academy? Is there a website?
Jenette McEntire: We don't have a website yet. That's coming. Bookmark masterworkacademy.org. Hopefully before this summer's end, we'll have a web presence. For now you can find us on YouTube by searching Masterwork Academy. There you will find lessons from our teachers and some of our student work. We've been creating videos at the end of each semester of the things that they do. Those are a lot of fun to check out.
You want to watch the Nutcracker Retold and Vivaldi's Seasons are our two from this year. Then on Facebook, you can find us on facebook.com/masterworkacademy.
Dave Anthold: Great. If somebody wants to donate to your nonprofit?
Jenette McEntire: The donations now currently go through First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa. You could go to firstchurchtulsa.org and donate. Then I think there's a dropdown menu that would allow them to choose Masterwork Academy.
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I hope you enjoyed part one of my conversation with Jenette McEntire.
Lord, thank you for the blessing of friendship, dreams, and your will for our lives. I ask you to be with all of our missionaries who are serving you faithfully. I ask you to protect them and to guide them as they do your work at home and around the world. Amen!
Dispatches From the Field
I have been fortunate to travel the globe with many different organizations as a short-term missionary. Over the years, I have collected photographs and stories from my trips.
Each day this month, I am releasing a photograph and story from a trip. The pictorial journey is titled Dispatches From The Field, and you can get these dispatches exclusively from the Rocking Chair Devotions website by signing up for a free account at https://rockingchairdevotions.com/signup.
I have posted two pictures and stories to give you a taste of the dispatches. I hope you will check out the dispatches and see how God can use you to make a difference in missions across the street or worldwide.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links contained on this website are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”