AJ is a Operational Consultant and has worked as an Investment Banker for over 20 years. AJ is originally from Grove City, Ohio. Jo has been a stay-at-home mom since the birth of AJ VI, and was previously a Compensation Business Analyst. AJ and Jo married in May of 2006 and currently reside in Orange County, CA. They have 2 boys, their oldest son is 5 year old AJ Sexton VI, and his younger brother, Aiden Joshua, is 3.
The Sextons are very active in their home church, Mariners Church in the city of Newport Beach. Jo is past Core Leader of Mariner’s Women’s Reach Ministry for Outreach and volunteers in the Resource Center. AJ is in the Associate Elder’s Program and volunteers on the Safety Team. As a family they volunteer for Feed The Hungry, Free Medical and Dental Clinics and have been on various Mission Trips to Mexico, as well as El Salvador.
Plywood People: What led you to start We Will Serve?
Jo Sexton: My husband lost his job in 07′ and we went from living the OC lifestyle to literally living in a tiny 1 bedroom for the 4 of us.
In need of baby items for our newborn and 2 year old we began searching for items on the free section of Craigslist and where overwhelmed with the amount of items available. I looked through the wanted ads and the needs were just as great.We began collecting as many free items as possible and matching them to those wanted ads, and within a couple of months we had over 100 families come through our garage to take the items we didn’t have need of. Families in need contributed by bringing in their children’s clothing and baby items they had outgrown and exchanged for what fit their children currently.
Plywood People: What has happened since you began your project?
Jo: Since we began this organic ministry out of our garage in November of 08′ we have grown into more then just a place that meets tangible needs of families in our community.
We have served countless families but most importantly through our own testimony we have been able to wrap ourselves around so many of them and meet spiritual needs they didn’t even realize they had.
We were blessed to be able to establish our non-profit and are now in a small warehouse space. Families and churches/organizations are continually referring those in need to us.
Plywood People: What is something unexpected you’ve learned about those in need?
Jo: Going through this experience for us suddenly put into focus that a person in need doesn’t necessarily live in a low income neighborhood, is receiving government assistance and so on. Families like ours living in affluent neighborhoods have been gripping onto their material possessions for so long through this downfall of the economy, hoping that it would rebound quickly. And in the process have lost everything. Many of these families don’t have the slightest clue of how to access resources such as ours and ask for help because they haven’t ever had to.
To be able to come alongside these families specifically and help them realize that truly what they are losing is their pride, and are gaining how to live a life of grace, compassion and humility by being able to empathize with others in need.
Plywood People: How has this project helped you through your own struggle of joblessness and financial worries?
Jo: Looking back at where we were and where we are now, it doesn’t stop amazing me at how provision has been a constant.
From clothing for our children, diapers, formula and so on, to partnership with an amazing food ministry that has provided fresh food for our family weekly for almost three years.
We went through 2 incredibly difficult years, but God restored us and our finances. By the end of our 3rd year we had completed the Dave Ramsey challenge and paid of $15,000 in debt, and have $10,000 in savings.
God knew exactly what He was doing and now that we again find ourselves in a period of setbacks in my husbands job there is no fear or anxiety.
We both say to each other “we have been through this before, and God never abandoned us, it is simply just a season. God has gone before us and is victorious in our battles.”
Plywood People: Would you share a story with us of someone who’s made an impression on you through this project?
Jo: Christmas of 08′ we received a call from our church that there was an envelope waiting for us. We picked it up and there were 2 huge Christmas stockings full of toys for our boys.
I knew whoever had donated them knew of us, but didn’t truly know us because the toys weren’t age appropriate. As much as I wanted to be grateful in all honesty I was a bit bitter because of our struggles and didn’t open the card for several days.
The day I opened it our refrigerator was completely bare and I was microwaving a variety of canned food. On top of the microwave was the envelope and out dropped over $500 of a variety of gift cards for grocery stores, gas etc.
About two years later a friend of mine posted on her Facebook that her family was at the end of their rope, and asked for prayer. I wrote her and asked how we could help, and she wrote back with details of financial struggles they were facing. We met up and I took food and other necessities over and as we chatted about what was going on she made a comment saying “Isn’t it crazy how we have come full circle!”
I had no clue what she was referring to and she realized this and shared with me that she had organized friends and family to bless us that Christmas in 08′.
This friend is who planted the seed in our hearts of serving others and coming alongside them and because of that experience I continually share with others how coming alongside someone in their time of need is life changing!