Monday, September 26, 2016

Honey, they have been very quiet! Perhaps we should check on them!

    Aren’t those always famous last words, right before you find your children have gotten into something they shouldn’t be?  Well, we have been quiet this summer, but for us that is a sign that we are working hard and are staying busy!  It was crazy how busy the summer was and how fast it went by! We thought we would take this opportunity to blog and give you a brief recap of our summer activities!

    We started this summer, as we do every summer with a BBQ kickoff for our Kids’ Connection program on Memorial Day weekend.  We were excited to see familiar faces and welcome back several families from our previous years as well as to meet new friends.  We also picked up some new volunteers this summer.

     Kids’ Connection used a curriculum called Some Assembly Required.  It is a curriculum that incorporated building with Legos into the lessons each time we met. It was a hot summer, but we enjoyed all of the Kids’ Connections which culminated with our pizza party this past Saturday.  We have noticed a drop off in our attendance numbers once school starts and will adjust from the 8 Saturdays down to 7 for next year.  This will overcome some of that while allowing Kids’ Connection to overlap Mom’s Connection for a meeting or two.

  Men’s Bible study is going well!  Tony has a committed group of about 4-6 men who meet with him at McDonalds every Sunday evening.  They discuss a topic of interest and what the Bible says about it.  We are so excited to watch these men grow spiritually!

   Two Sundays ago, we took a bus of 50 people to the Atlanta Braves game. We were blessed by the Braves donating all of the tickets and a church donated to pay half the cost of the charter bus!  We left early in the morning after a light breakfast in a local church parking lot.  When we arrived at the stadium, we tailgated lunch and served hot dogs and bratwurst, chips, fruit, and cookies.  Park Avenue UMC not only paid for half of the bus, they also donated 50 snack packed bags for our people containing Gatorade, plenty of snacks, and even some candy for the game.  The game was great through the middle of the 6th inning when it opened up and poured!  After the rain delay, we had to leave without seeing the rest of the game. We quickly served pizza for dinner and took a group picture before it began to pour again! Then we boarded the bus for home.  On the drive home, we heard that the game was rained out and we had seen almost all of the game play!  The good news was the Braves won!  That trip was so much fun and was so successful that we will plan to do it again!

  Mom’s Connection is our newest program and it started with the beginning of the school year.  Using a curriculum written by Group Publishing, we are navigating through A Year of Encouragement. The mom’s have discussed how to overcome stress, how to pray for their children, and how to encourage others.  We have a handful of participating moms and we look forward to even more joining us as we continue the year.

    Transformations 2016-2 began 2 weeks ago.  This newest group of students who are learning how to overcome poverty is our first all female class.  We are enjoying them so much and ask that you pray for Eunice, Tia, Tonya, Whitney, Erica, and Santavia as they work through this program.  Our first Transformations class of 2016 is in the middle of phase 2.  We are working on resumes, job interview skills, and character required for a job.  We love this phase because we are able to incorporate speakers from the community into what we are doing. Please continue to pray for Clarence, Franklin, Taffiney, Jocelyn, and Diane as they work to graduate in late January or early February of 2017!

    That about sums up our summer!  Time to get back to work!  There is a fall Clothing Exchange in 2 weeks and I am up to my neck in laundry!

Until next time,


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thinking Outside the Box

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings.   
1 Peter 4:10 (the Living Bible)

I am not a very creative person, in fact the discovery of Pinterest a few years ago was indeed one of the happiest days of my life!  It didn’t rank up there with accepting my Jesus as my savior, getting married or birthing 4 boys, but it was a special moment because I no longer had to come up with all my own ideas, I just had to follow the directions and copy the pictures “pinned” by others! If I have a burst of creativity, I can also share the idea with instructions up to Pinterest as well! When we founded Living Bridges Ministry however; the necessity of creative, out of the box thinking became immediately apparent!

Every program we run has its own needs for donations and volunteers and we are still growing and expanding so the needs are ever increasing!  Our prayer is always that God will bring what we need to do the things He has called us to do!  This includes both volunteers and donations.

God has been faithful in His calling of people to volunteer and to donate and we thought we would share with you about these “out of the box” areas of service and creative donations which might spark creativity in your mind about ways you can get involved!  On the volunteer side, in addition to the outdoor event service opportunities, we have several ways people can get involved.  First, we always have and always will ask for prayer and while that is not an out of the box area of service, it is the foundation of everything we do and we cannot stress enough how much we need your prayers! We have a volunteer who has written a letter to area businesses telling them what we do and how they can get involved!  That is helping us make the most of our Chamber of Commerce membership! We have another handful of volunteers that are taking bags of our sorted clothing donations to their homes where they wash, dry, and fold the laundry and bring it back so we can sort it into bins and distribute it!  This is saving us so much time (not to mention the cost of detergent, water, electricity etc) as we used to wash ALL the donations ourselves!  We had a group who came and sorted the clean clothing donations into the bins by size, season, etc.  This will make the setup for the Clothing Exchange go so much faster! We have had volunteers cook homemade dinners or purchase dinners for our Transformations class!  This is saving us so much money and time as we used to buy and cook 95% of our meals!  We have a volunteer who is helping by keeping one of our student’s child two nights of class each month!  This helps this student not to have childcare expenses on top of her other monthly bills. We have a lady that we email when we need to purchase something and she scans the internet for the best deal and lets us know where to purchase the item.  This saves us hours of research time and helps us to be even better stewards of the money donors entrust us with! Several people help simply by liking and sharing our Facebook posts.  Those activities boost the number of people who see what God is doing in Valdosta and they allow people to be invited to our events that might otherwise miss the information.  We alone, can not reach as many people!  Other areas of service where we could use some help include, writing notes of encouragement to the students in our Transformations program (a one and done service opportunity), stuffing and mailing flyers to our families inviting them to our events ( could do this one time or ongoing), gift basket assembly for those who receive homes from Habitat for Humanity (we have all the goodies and the baskets), and creating flyers for our events. There may even be things we need that we have not yet realized, if you have a gift or talent and feel led to volunteer, please reach out to us and we will find a place for you to use those gifts!

  In the donations arena, we do accept cash donations like any other non-profit, but we also collect material donations.  Some out of the box ideas for donations are toothbrushes/full sized toothpaste!  Now that we have added the Easter Egg hunt, we are distributing these necessities twice a year to our families!  We collect bottled water to hand out with our lunches.  It is not uncommon during the Kids Connection for us to go through 60-80 bottles of water in a single Saturday. There are 8 Saturdays of Kids Connection total.  We collect $5 fast food gift cards for our Transformations class.  These are used as incentives for our students to bring their homework, be on time, and participate in the class.  We have accepted used/new storage bins to store craft supplies and clothing for our programs.  We also take extra craft supplies to use for our ministry. We accept gently used and new toys/board games/children’s books for distribution at Christmas time.  We accept home decor to give as bingo prizes when we play bingo with our adults.  We also ask for new pillows, towels sets, tools, drinking glasses, kitchen items etc for bingo prizes.  People have also collected food items from our list (the list is specific because we make 7 matching food bags for each class) for our Transformations program.  

All of these volunteers and donations make our ministry possible!  There is no way we could have imagined all that God would do in the short time we have been around! We are so thankful for each and every person that God brings into our path!

Until next time, be blessed and think outside the box! :-)


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

We're Heading Into The 4th Inning!

I just wanted to update everyone on what is going on with Living Bridges.  To do this I thought I would put it in terms of something I really understand as a huge sports fan.  As you may or may not know baseball season is just around the corner, opening day is next Monday, April the 4th.  Our season on the other hand has been going on for almost 4 months.  We started looking at our budget, scheduling events and updating our website at the beginning of the year.  In terms of baseball, we are about to enter the 4th inning and things are going pretty good for us.  We are leading, but the pitcher is starting to show the effect of all of the pitches he has thrown.  What does that mean in terms of the ministry?  Well, we have a very good first quarter of the year, but we are about to enter a crazy part of our schedule.  We are about a month into the Transformations class, a clothing exchange is scheduled for next month, a fellowship lunch is scheduled for May and of course we will be starting Kids’ Connection back up in June.  We know it’s about to get crazy and we will be looking for relief from the bullpen.  Yes, that is you!  We are asking for your continued support in the game (ministry).  First of all, please continue to pray.  They are the foundation on which Living Bridges is built.  Please continue to send your donations both materially and financially.  Even though we have done really well throughout the first quarter of the year.  We still need more to continue what God has led us to.  We have also started a new fund raising project.  We are selling T Shirts with our logo on them from now until April 15.  All the information about pricing, sizes, colors, and neckline choices is available on our website ( on the “Ways You Can Help” page.  If you can, we will also be in the need of volunteers once Kids’ Connection starts.  If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please call or email us.
Again, thank you for being a part of our team and helping us serve where God has led us.  Please continue to work and help spread the word about what God is doing in Valdosta through the ministry.  We always welcome and need more members to the team for even more support.

Thank You For All You Do,


Monday, March 14, 2016

March Madness!

March Madness!

   12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

  Every year, Tony and I stop all Living Bridges Ministry activities after the Birthday Party for Jesus in December.  We enjoy the holidays with our family and spend the month of January in prayer and resting up to be ready to serve again.  This year we scheduled no events in February either!  We used that month to network with other churches and ministries and to promote our Transformations program.  During the last week of February, we did two nights of interviews for that program and selected 9 students for the class.
 That brings us to March!  The rest is over and March Madness has begun!  No it is not the basketball kind, but I do get bonus points with the hubby for the sports analogy!  This madness, also known as the Big Dance, begins our whole year of ministry for 2016! We will be performing carefully choreographed moves through teaching our class, attending meetings, speaking about what we do, running our events, typing these blog posts, picking up and distributing donations and more from now until the Birthday Party for Jesus rolls around again in December!
  Our version of the “Sweet 16” entails 15 events (8 Kids Connections, 2 Clothing Exchanges, 1 Easter egg hunt, 1 Trunk or Treat, 1 Memorial Day weekend BBQ, 1 Thanksgiving Luncheon, and 1 Birthday Party for Jesus!) and the Transformations Class of 2016!  Our Elite 8 is more like an elite 9!  Those would be the newest students in our Transformations program: Diane, Taffiney, Jocelyn, Clarence, Samuel, Cassandra, Travis, Franklin, and Fathiyah!  They will be spending 8-10 months with us learning their way out of poverty and into self-sufficient living! Your prayers are appreciated for each of them! Our final four will be the kick off of our newest program, Mom’s Connection, during the final 4 months of the year.  Mom’s Connection is structured similarly to MOPS (Mothers Of PreschoolerS) and runs during the school year.  The difference is that the moms can remain in the group all through their children’s growing up years!  We are excited to be able to bring this program to Valdosta beginning in September 2016!
   All of these efforts are made for our Champion and Lord, Jesus Christ!  We are thankful everyday that He blesses us with prayer partners, volunteers, donors, and with those who share our information and help us get the word out about the things we are doing!  We do all that we do first and foremost to point people to salvation and eternal life through Jesus as their savior!  Secondly, we have a goal to make a difference in Valdosta and in the neighborhood we are serving in! We are off and running, pressing on toward to the goal!  Your prayers are appreciated!

Love, hugs, and prayers for each of you as well!


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Caution: Answered Prayers May Bring Tears!

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22

    Everything we do with Living Bridges is bathed in prayer.  Tony and I firmly believe it should be the foundation of all that we do!  Throughout our nearly two years in this ministry and for years in our lives before we began Living Bridges Ministry, we have seen God answer many of our prayers! From the start of Living Bridges, we have prayed that God would let us see the people we work with like He sees them.  We prayed that we would love them like He loves them.
    When we went to Florida to observe the Transformations program there, the people told us that after beginning their first class they had a waiting list to get in for the next one.  That sounded so exciting to us!  As we interviewed and started our class last year, we kept thinking: “Wow, what would it be like for this class to be so needed by our people and so wanted that they would need to interview competitively to get in?”  We had 6 slots for students last year and filled 5 of the 6 slots.  There was no disappointment there, we were happy to have a good size group for the manpower and budget we had.  As the class got further along, we started publicly sharing the results on our blog, on Facebook, and honestly with anyone in earshot who would listen. We kept talking and kept sharing the results of our students and kept thanking God who supplied all the donations we needed to keep the program going during its first year.   
    As we wound down the class of 2015, we began thinking and praying ahead for the class of 2016!  We prayed and expanded our budget to accommodate more students.  We prayed and networked with more agencies in town.  We prayed and asked God to send people who would need this class!  We prayed for volunteers!  A local Christian radio station had us on for an interview.  We shared information with a couple of local churches.  We spent more time in prayer!
    Monday and Tuesday night we will begin the interview process with more candidates than we have slots for students even though we have expanded our class.  As I have talked with these people on the phone and looked over the applications we have, I have cried!  I don’t know any of these people, but I love them and I want the best for them.  Many are desperate!  One lady cried on the phone with me when I called to confirm her interview yesterday.  She told me about how this program is the answer to her prayers and how she desperately needs to get to a place of financial independence.  I prayed with her on the phone as we ended the call!  God is giving us a love for people who are just names on forms, just voices at the end of a phone call, just referrals from agencies in town. I have figured out it is because they aren’t “just” anything, they are people who have endured a lifetime of struggle, who need change in their life, who need God, and for many/most/all this is the ticket they need to get the information necessary to change their life!  I cry because we can’t help them all and some will have to go on the waiting list!  I cry because while on the one hand the waiting list feels like success for us on the other it is a further rejection of  already broken people and I personally can’t stand it! I cry because they will have to survive another whole year before we can help them!  I cry because I know on Wednesday, I will have to be the one who calls them to tell them they didn’t make it in.  I prayed that God would break our hearts for what breaks His!  I cry because He answered our prayer and my heart is broken for these people!

   So if you think of us on Monday and Tuesday, please pray that God will give us wisdom and discernment that will guide us in choosing the candidates who He would desire us to take.  Then on Wednesday, please pray he would give me the words to say  and the courage to speak them to those who did not get into the program.

And yes caution is needed when you pray because answered prayers can and do cause tears!

Hugs, love, and prayers,


Monday, February 15, 2016

A New Year For Living Bridges

                                                    A New Year For Living Bridges

     Well,  here we are again!  We are getting ready to kick off another year of activities.  Interviews for our Transformations class are next week.  The class will start for our new students start the 2nd week of March and there is an Easter Egg hunt on the 12th which will be facilitated by New Harvest Methodist Church.  We would like to thank them for volunteering to host this event and others throughout the year.

     Of course, we will still be having Kids' Connection this summer.  Kids' Connection is held every 2nd and 4th Saturday June through September.  This is an opportunity for children and their parents to come out and participate in different events that tell several fun events such as crafts, games and story time to learn more about Jesus and what He has and continues to do in our lives.  We also feed everyone who comes out and provide needed items throughout the summer through giveaways.

     Another thing we do is hold what we call clothing exchanges.  These events are meant to give families an opportunity to come and receive clothes for themselves as well as donate items they may not be able to wear any longer for items that are more suitable.  The exchanges will also be hosted by New Harvest.

    More information on all of these events can be found on our new and improved website:

      As you can see we have a very busy year ahead of us.  The Transformations class will be going on through the whole year.  Kids' Connection will be held during the summer.  There are 2 clothing exchanges planned and there are other luncheons and events on our calendar.  Please check it out at our website.  But, none of this would be possible without your help.  We are in need of volunteers, item donations and financial donations.  If you can help with any of these, please let us know.  There are several ways you can help.  Please see the "Ways you can help" page on our website.  Of course we do need these things, but what we need most are your prayers.  None of this would be possible without them.  Please keep them coming!!

     If you would like to know more about our programs, please get in touch with us.  We would be glad to answer any questions you may have.

In His Service,

Friday, January 15, 2016



Scripture: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be renewed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and prefect will.  Romans 12:2

       When we began our first Transformations class last April, we could not have imagined all that God was going to do through that program!  If Tony and I are honest, we were probably some of the least equipped people on the planet to lead that class.  It was kind of like a flash back to being first time parents again where you have this tiny human who depends on you for everything and you don’t have the first clue about what you are doing.  Friends in our circle like to call this “trial by fire.”  We call it crazy! However; we were quite convinced that God had called us to lead this program and so we set off to do His will.  We selected 5 students to begin the inaugural class and we set off together to see what God would do.  As always, God was faithful and at the end of 8 months we had three students who completed the program. 

     All of the students would tell you that they learned a lot.  Two of the students have applied what they learned and are on the way to having lives vastly different from where they were!  All of them would tell you (and we would too) that we grew very close during that 8 month time and those students are like our family now.  We are thankful for the two years of accountability group that continues after the class that keeps us connected!  We are also thankful that the program recommends hiring back some of the students to help teach the new group through the class.  We are hiring back two graduates. The plan is that within the next couple of years, Tony and I will not teach this program anymore; it will be completely run by its own graduates!

  At this time, we want to thank you once again for your love, prayers, volunteer support, and the donations that help keep this program growing! The investment to put a single student through this program is $1200.  As recommended by the curriculum a meal is shared by the group before starting class.  In our case it is dinner. Students are given a food bag at each class that ranges in value from $15-$25 depending on the phase of the class we are in, and they are given either $5 fast food gift cards or cash for attending and participating in each class.  As expensive as it is to put one person through the program, it is not as costly as it would be to leave them in the public welfare system.  According to the US Budget Committee ( search Total Welfare Spending 2012), in 2012 it cost the tax payers $168/day for each household on welfare.  Now, please understand the recipient doesn’t get all of that money.  Part of the money pays for the employees/equipment/building rent to administrate the program, another part pays for fraud within the program, and then we get to the part that the recipient gets.  Some people disagree with that number saying it is inflated. For those who feel that way, even if the $168 is divided in half, that comes to $84/day.  So dividing the $1200 it costs for a student to go through Transformations by $84, shows that we can give a participant in our program all the information they need to leave the system and live independently for the cost of roughly 2 weeks of what taxpayers pay to support them on the system.

By the grace of God we are expanding the program this year to accept 8 students with a goal of graduating at least 5.  We are already praying for these students even though we don’t know who they are yet! We are fully confident that God is already leading and guiding their hearts to where He wants them to be.  Applications are already available at several agencies in town and on our website! If you know anyone who would benefit from this program, please encourage them to apply.  Applications will be accepted on a first come first served basis through February 20th or until the 20 interview slots are filled.  Interviews will take place on Monday, Feb 22 and Tuesday, Feb 23 in the evenings.  The first night of class will be on Tuesday, March 8th.

  As this program expands, so does our needs! First, we always need prayer!  It is the foundation of everything we do and we don’t take it or the value of it lightly.  We need volunteers who can speak on a range of topics (what do employers look for in their employees, how to get involved in the community, financial skills, getting financial aid for school, etc), and we also need volunteers who will come in and conduct mock interviews supplying our students with feedback on their interview skills. Last year we had a few people who cooked or purchased dinner for us and we appreciated those meals! We also accept donations of food from a specific list (all food bags are the same for our students) and of $5 fast food gift cards to be distributed as incentives during class.  Lastly, you can sponsor a student for a night of class for $30.

No matter how God calls you to be involved, we are thankful for each and every one of you!  We are humbled for the small part we are playing in a greater plan!
Until the next update, may God bless each of you!

Tony and Darcy Gunter