JR McGee BA ’92 always wanted to be involved in mission work. Even while at AU studying computer science, business, and education, mission work was in the back of his mind. And when he went to Washington state and started a successful real estate business, he was still thinking about missions. Then he was invited to lead a bicycle tour around China [picture: JR and Anita McGee with their children].
“I loved the Chinese people. Their determination, hard work, and openness impressed me,” JR says. “I came home and my real estate business continued to do well, but my heart wasn’t in it.” So he decided to go back to China for at least a year. He enrolled in a Chinese university for four months to learn the language, then he traveled the country learning how to interact with the people.
A friend who knew McGee’s desire to work with children suggested he help with a project called Gift of Joy. A Hong Kong woman, Anita, started the organization to help children who were orphaned or lived in poverty in China and were being denied access to education because they couldn’t pay their school fees.
Anita began her work in 1998 when serious flooding destroyed the homes and fields of Chinese families in Central China. Because of the devastation, several children did not have the funds to return to school. Anita raised $1,000, enough money to send 70 children to school, and Gift of Joy was born. Since then, all 70 children have graduated from college, and 65 are in the final year of their graduate work.
JR joined Anita and fell in love with her work. He fell in love with her, too, and they were married in November 2000.
Since 1998, the McGees have helped more than 1,000 children with the mission of developing their God-given dreams. Gift of Joy enables determined orphans and poor children in the third world by providing parental love, international-level schooling, and biblical leadership principles to live by.
Although their efforts in China have often been misunderstood by the Chinese government, the misunderstandings have led to an expansion JR and Anita could not have dreamed up. Their work in China has also caught the attention of mission organizations around the world. Through these connections they have expanded to South Africa. This time they are enjoying the luxury of full support by the government, South African led partnerships, and the freedom to publicly share their faith.
The McGees and their two small children, Amanda and Josiah, are beginning their work in South Africa in the northern part of the country near the Zimbabwe border. According to the McGees, South Africa suffers from a 48 percent unemployment rate. There are nearly 600,000 orphans in South Africa, due in part to AIDS. Within two years, that number is expected to grow to 1.6 million orphans.
The McGees work with children as young as 4, helping them to get an education in order to pursue their God-given dreams. But with the project in South Africa being so new, JR and Anita are taking the first three months to assess what the needs of the children are.
For more information about Gift of Joy and to follow their work in South Africa, visit their Web site at www.giftofjoy.org.
— Deborah Lilly [Signatures: Spring, 2006]