In some ways, The Space is brand new. We're stepping into the community in a bold new way we haven't in the past, because we believe the days are evil and we want to make the most of every opportunity (Eph 5:16).
However, this ministry and all of its unique vision comes out of a story that began back in 2008. We've been developing story work, Bible study, and mentoring relationships for over a decade, and all of this is now coming into play just at the time when our young people need it more than ever before.
In many ways, The Space is a culmination of a lot of smaller ministries that our founder, Hannah Ploegstra, has been cultivating in Visalia. As each of these has flourished, a community has been forming around the truth of God's word and the good news of the gospel for our times.
Hannah begins writing The Disciple Curriculum Year 1 (The Creator - Adam/Christ), an immersion Bible study for parents and children.
Hannah writes The Disciple Curriculum Year 2 (The Shepherd-King - David/Christ). Families get involved locally. Word spreads.
Disciple Curriculum, Year 3 (House of Faith - Abraham/Moses/Christ). More families ask to participate. Curriculum goes online and is sold across the U.S. as well as in England, Chile, and other countries.
Disciple Curriculum, Year 4 (God With Us - Prophets/Apostles/Christ). Hannah holds "pep rallies" for moms twice a year, to encourage discipleship in the home.
Disciple Curriculum, Year 5 (Path of Wisdom - Wisdom Lit/Christ). Continue pep rallies, with around 70 in attendance. Hannah writes and teaches Inheritance, The Gospel, looking at the Christ-story of inheritance from Genesis to Revelation. Hannah begins in-depth research in Scripture to answer the question "why did God create gender?"
Curriculum and pep rallies continue to draw more families around the word of God. Hannah begins teaching high school "story classes" to train young adults to "think in story" as well as to listen, speak, and write as essential to developing a core of leadership in their own lives. Hannah invites 12 children and youth to sing five chapters from Revelation (The Living One) - word spreads and 30 join the choir. The kids give the choir the name "SHEMA Bible Choir." Hannah privately continues gender study.
Disciple Curriculum continues; pep rallies continue; story classes grow to two per week. SHEMA Bible Choir performs again (A Better Word - four chapters from Hebrews), this time with 70 children, youth, and young adults singing. Hannah writes and teaches another Christ-story from Genesis to Revelation - = Power Flow. Hannah privately continues gender study.
Due to work overload, Disciple Curriculum stops sales nationally and internationally. Story classes continue. SHEMA Bible Choir continues locally, attracting 100 students, representing 22 churches in the Central Valley (performs Lifted Up - the 4 gospels and Psalms). Hannah privately continues gender study. Begins having recurring dreams about a house full of many rooms.
SHEMA Bible Choir grows to 115 singers and performs again (Everything New - theme of creation from Genesis to Revelation). Gender study solidifies and Hannah begins to call it "The Life Matrix." Story classes continue. Hannah writes and teaches Discovering Rest, the Christ-story of sabbath from Genesis to Revelation.
SHEMA Bible Choir performs (Fearless - book of Ephesians). Hannah continues to develop The LIfe Matrix. As students grow into adults, mentoring relationships with Hannah begin to develop.
SHEMA Bible Choir performs (Resting Place). Life Matrix develops. More mentoring relationships develop with high schoolers and young adults.
Due to changes in family's needs, Hannah steps back to see where God is leading her ministry. SHEMA Bible Choir takes a break. Story classes continue to invite high schoolers into deeper thinking about life and faith. Life Matrix continues to develop and Hannah begins to share insight on gender and sexuality in mentoring contexts, with positive reception from young adults.
SHEMA Bible Choir plans are cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdown. A group of people in Visalia gather to support Hannah financially through starting a non-profit, Brineknit. Hannah continues to mentor young adults during the lockdown. The Life Matrix continues to develop as a way of communicating the Christ-story in the language of identity, sexuality, and leadership to young adults. Story classes continue. Hannah senses a major shift coming, and begins to ask God for insight into what's next.
Hannah begins intensive daily prayer walks in Visalia, which reveal a growing move of God towards the sexually wounded and broken children, youth, and young adults in Visalia. Hannah teaches The Life Matrix to a mixed group of leaders, ages 16 through 60 - seven months of deep-dive into the Christ-story of gender and sexuality from Genesis to Revelation. Great reception and attendance confirms this as the direction forward. Prayer walks by the end of 2021 reveal clues for what's coming. Meetings with leaders from local pregnancy center confirm: ministry of identity to young adults is desperately needed. Mentoring relationships grow into the community with high schoolers and young adults.
Hannah invites community (all ages) to join SHEMA Bible Choir for a concert at the Fox Theater in Visalia. Over 100 people from 14 different churches sign up to sing five chapters from Revelation, over 700 people attend the concert. Hannah begins Call To Life Podcast. She connects to key people from Care Pregnancy Resource Center (Visalia), Visalia Unified School District, Tulare Association of Churches, and supportive churches, pastors, and individual community members. Hannah begins training from The Allender Center on dealing with stories of sexual abuse and brokenness. Story classes continue with middle schoolers. Hannah teaches The Life Matrix to a group of young men.
In July 2022, vision is cast for The Space Life House. Immediately a group of committed young adults ages 19-24 jumps on board, recording video interviews to pitch the idea to investors. Several change major life plans to rally around getting The Space up and running. Without effort, we stumble on a house for sale that reflects the recurring "house dreams" Hannah has been having. Young adult team begins praying and we concur - The Space needs a space to meet so we can extend the truth and love of Jesus to every kid in our community who is struggling to understand...who am I and why does my life matter?
Like every story, our story has themes. This ministry certainly didn't grow in a vacuum; it had a context and God is doing something much deeper than just a program, something we believe has value for what he wants to do in our community now.
During the time the ministry has developed since 2008, Hannah lost her dad (2010) and her husband, John, lost his (2015), both due to terminal cancer. They also unexpectedly lost a grandma (2011) and a sister (2012). These losses, along with struggles with depression and other physical health issues as well as many other life-altering crises and changes which happened during the years since 2008, could easily have diminished their ability to push forward with the ministry work. But it was the delight of God's word - the Christ-story - that kept them "all in." Where else would we go? Jesus has the words of life! This theme of following Christ into and through suffering has major implications for the ministry moving forward, as we step into realms that will certainly bring hardship and sacrifice.
The losses and the gains in the fellowship of others over the course of this ministry have solidified the value of home and family. We learn who we are in the context of relationship with others and the stories that inevitably are created as we bump up against others. Identity is not self-formed or decided in the privacy of one's own mind. It is first given and defined by God, and then developed through mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers - both biological and spiritual. Sexual brokenness is always the outcome of a life apart from God, and is more frequently than not the outcome of a broken relationship with the human family. What we've learned over the course of our story is, family matters. Fatherhood and motherhood are forms of leadership that point directly to the heart of a sovereign Creator God. If we are going to see lasting change in our society, the heart of family must be refreshed and restored.
In spite - or perhaps because of - of many changes, a global pandemic, and deep internal crises, Hannah has found that the sexuality meltdown in our culture is a design of Satan to undermine the heart of leadership in an entire generation. By dismantling sexual distinctions and paving a path of sexual perversions, the enemy is robbing a generation of their identity as fathers and mothers. He is robbing them of their very futures. If we are to tackle the problem of sexual sin, we must be ready with the good news that being a man or woman matters. It's not just about morality. It's about leadership. It's about each young man or woman carrying a future that matters to a whole new generation of humanity.