“The vision of Kids Across America is to transform urban youth to impact their communities for Christ, but God’s vision is much grander than we can every conceive.”
Tesa’s mom learned about KAA and sent her to camp when she was 12. She remembers the bus ride up from Houston. She arrived and was surprised to learn it was a sports camp, because she didn’t play any sports. However, she discovered there was much more to it and dove into the bible studies, worship, and prayer. And she loved the praise dance team! Camp was a welcomed experience because she had never worshipped with kids her age. The church she attended at the time did not have any other kids her age. While she had a relationship with Jesus, camp sparked a thirst for God’s word.
Fast forward 15 years. Tesa earned her degree in veterinarian medicine and moved to Maryland to work at a clinic. There she found her second calling: teaching English as a second language to immigrants from Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Haiti working at the clinic. Tesa didn’t want language to be a barrier for their success. Then she had an opportunity to visit Ethiopia through her church. While there, she felt God tug on her heart that she needed to be there. He gave her the vision to teach English and be a voice for those who do not have one. After much prayer, she stepped out in faith to move to a country where due to the substandard infrastructure, it is not uncommon to lose power and water for hours at a time.
With only knowing one person there, Tesa moved to Ethiopia in 2018 to teach English—a vital skill to be successful there. In fact, to advance to college after high school students must pass a standard exam in English. She learned that it was taught in the public schools, but the curriculum wasn’t quality and the teachers trying to teach it didn’t speak English either. Since discovering this need, Tesa’s ministry is focused on educating elementary school children and their teachers.
She launched her ministry All Children Count in 2020 when the public schools closed due the pandemic. All Children Count is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing children of low socioeconomic status education equality and equity through financial assistance, tutoring services, technology integration, educational resources, and school support.
This past year, All Children Count tutored 400 children and 80 teachers on ESL. It also hosts a pop-up library, since books, especially in English, are hard to get, as well as provides clothing, shoes, backpacks, and other essentials to 60 children annually.
“The hope is that they see Christ in us and see the light shining through us,” explains Tesa. “We also want to see a change in the education system.” And Tesa says change is happening, although slowly.
Then, God orchestrated something amazing. This past winter KAA CEO & President Randy Odom and his wife Kelandria traveled to Ethiopia on a mission trip. They happened to attend the church where Tesa goes. It’s unusual to encounter another American there, especially since the village Tesa lives in a remote town away from the capitol. So, after church, she went up to them to introduce herself. Quickly, the discovered the common bond of Kids Across America. It’s incredible to think the probability of this happening! “God had something in mind,” Tesa says. “It had to be something God ordained.”
Since then, Tesa has reconnected with camp. The Odoms keep in contact to encourage and pray with her, and the KAA staff organized a book drive for the pop-up library. “The children will be excited,” she said. “Many people can’t afford to buy books. We’re grateful for KAA thinking of us! These books will give some our children to own a book for the first time.”
Over the summer, Tesa was able to make a trip to the states and visited camp. As soon as she drove through the camp gates, memories began flooding back. She got visit KAA 2, where she was a camper. And as she remembers, “the cabins, the dining hall, everything looks the same.” She even remembered how the benches were stacked on the tables in the dining hall and couldn’t believe they were the same benches.
While at camp, Tesa also had the opportunity to see how camp had grown since her time there and share her story of Kingdom impact with Kaleos and counselors. Russia Beaver served as one of her counselors and really had an impact on her. She noticed that Tesa was shy and introverted and helped her to express herself. When Tesa met with the staff, she emphasized the importance of ministering to the “quiet ones” like her. As she put it, “They have a lot to say!”
“Often in life, you stumble into a God moment,” said Randy. “That was such a moment when we met Tessa in Ethiopia. Nothing is by chance. God used this moment to remind me that it might be Kids Across America, but we have an impact across the world. We never know where these kids are going or who they are going to become to change the world. Some plant, some water, but God brings forth the increase.”
Through this providential connection, Tesa is now connected with another former Higher Ground camper who is also in Ethopia doing mission work. The vision of Kids Across America is to transform urban youth to impact their communities for Christ, but God’s vision is much grander than we can ever conceive.
To learn more or get involved with All Children Count, you can go to allchildrencountinternational.com and click on “get involved.”