Formerly an English education major at Taylor, April Jurgensen (‘91) had no desire or idea that she would later start a missions organization.
After the university sent out a letter announcing their new writing major, an idea sparked in Jurgensen’s mind.
“As I pondered it, I kind of had this vision,” Jurgensen said. “The concept of working for a missions organization, but traveling and reporting on what they were seeing and doing.”
Jurgensen married her husband, Jim in 1992, shortly after graduating with a degree in writing.
The couple had a life plan laid out that consisted of Jim attending seminary and working everything out from there.
When Jurgensen heard about an opportunity to teach Christian morals and ethics in Russian classrooms through One Mission Society (OMS), she became enthralled with the idea.
Given the couple’s life plan and Jurgensen’s health circumstances at the time, the idea became more of a seemingly unreachable dream. But she could not stop thinking and praying about Russia.
A few months later, Jurgensen was miraculously healed of her three illnesses.
“I remember him just looking at me and saying ‘we're going to Russia, aren't we?’” Jurgensen said.
Shortly after, the couple began preparing to spend two years in Russia.
Their funding was raised in just five weeks.
“We lived there for two years and got to know the culture and fell in love with the people and learned a lot about culture and ministry because we were there with OMS International who had over 100 years of experience in missions,” Jurgensen said.
After moving back home to Greenwood, Indiana, the Jurgensens continued to work with OMS at their headquarters.
One day, Jurgensen received an interesting phone call.
“It was a friend of mine from church who said, ‘April, did you see that thing last night on 20/20 about orphans in Russia?’ And I said, ‘no, I haven't seen it,’” Jurgensen said.
Her friend described horrifying scenes of rooms filled with rows of cribs and children banging their heads up against the railings.
The next day, Jurgensen’s phone rang again.
It was another friend calling her to ask if she'd seen the video on 20/20 about orphans in Russia.
The day after that, her phone rang again, and it was a third friend asking her if she’d seen the same video.
“She told me about a woman who had a son and a daughter but she couldn't afford to keep both,” Jurgensen said. “And she had to make a decision which child she was going to keep and which one she was going to leave at the orphanage.”
As a mother to both a son and daughter, this story broke her heart.
She knew that something had to be done for these orphans.
“In light of those three phone calls that God had braided into my memory, I was like He's doing something here,” Jurgensen said. “I don't know why and, like Moses, I had a lot of excuses as to why I was not a great candidate. I was not a social worker, I am not great with large groups of children and I live in Indiana.”
Despite these excuses, Jurgensen felt called by God to return to Russia.
By the time she was to leave for Russia, she had received a significant amount of donation money.
“I went to Walmart and I bought things that kids need like bibs and Tylenol and underwear,” Jurgensen said. “I packed two suitcases literally so full that I had to sit on them to zip them closed.”
When she landed, she established connections with two different orphanages with kids of various ages.
Jurgensen was given the opportunity to talk with the orphanage directors and ask questions about their jobs and different challenges they were facing. She also got to meet some of the orphans living at these orphanages.
On her way back to Moscow, there was a knot in her stomach.
“Now, the kids weren't some third-party story from a news magazine, they were kids I had met,” Jurgensen said. “I had looked them in the eyes. I knew some of their names. I had heard some of their stories. I knew their potential, and I knew that what they needed was Jesus.”
She began drawing up a plan to contact orphanage directors and figure out what the kids and orphanage directors needed so that those items and services could be provided or sent over.
This was the beginning of the organization, which she named The Boaz Project.
Since then, The Boaz Project has expanded to include Bible classes, tutoring, mentoring and other programs. They now work with 11 orphanages in India and Kenya, in addition to Russia.
The work of The Boaz Project can be summarized by three main areas of impact.
The first is assisting orphans.
“We define that as providing everything for a child that loving parents would,” Jurgensen said.
This includes food, education, medicine and other essential needs.
The second area of impact is supporting caregivers.
“We come alongside people inside that country who are caring for orphans and we give them training in how to help kids from trauma,” Jurgensen said. “We give them financial resources to provide for the children. We give them prayer and emotional support.”
Lastly, the project engages the public.
There are several ways people can get involved, such as signing up for prayer emails, taking short-term mission trips, donating and the “orphan wish-list,” which allows people to donate money toward Christmas gifts, school supplies, uniforms and birthday gifts.
Through The Boaz Project, Jurgensen is still able to utilize her gift of writing as she writes blog posts for their website www.boazproject.org and does communications work for the organization.
She feels as though her Taylor education prepared her to do the work she is able to accomplish today through The Boaz Project.
“My Taylor experience is what opened my eyes to the world outside of my little Midwestern bubble and gave me a sense of urgency for evangelism,” Jurgensen said.