On the Road of Restoration

Our 2024 Graduates, Tati Jones and Ethan Smith, have a lot in common. Both spent more than half their life growing up as kids at Show-Me. Both enjoy reading, drawing, and serving as their school’s team captain in multiple sports. Both work around 20 hours a week at a part-time job, and are set to start college in the Fall. Each feels called to develop a professional skill set that they can not only turn into a career but which they will use to serve in the mission field. It is a calling that they feel God led them to and confirmed by the people and events they experienced through their time at Show-Me. “I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for all the people in my life at Show-Me, who have helped me to strive to be the best I can,” stated Ethan. 

Life on the Move

Tati doesn’t remember having much of a childhood. She was too busy being a protector for her five brothers and sisters. Growing up, the six constantly moved from home to home, living with people they hardly knew, and rarely staying in one place very long. The instability left her feeling unsafe and unwanted.

In 2010, a church helped move four-year-old Tati and her siblings to Show-Me. Things didn’t magically change overnight; each child struggled in different ways as they adjusted to their new life. Being the older middle sister, Tati constantly flipped between roles to try and be the thing each sibling needed. Sometimes it was a shoulder to cry on. Other times it was the tough-love voice saying grow up. As her new houseparents’ attention focused on dealing with the kids who were having problems, Tati faded to the background and began to feel invisible.

The Perfect Burden

On the outside, Tati tried to appear as the perfect girl: happy, outgoing, and talkative. “You feel an over-bearing pressure (as a Show-Me kid) to always be perfect,” Tati recounts. “In your mind, the devil whispers that you can’t show pain or struggles because if you aren’t perfect, then no one will want you.” Her young mind believed that this must be the reason she had to move so much. The only way to stop it was to not show weakness, and give anyone a reason to reject her. Any pain or hurt she felt had to be kept hidden.

No Longer Invisible

She found solace in art and sports. Her art allowed her to express herself when she could not put it into words. She no longer had to keep the feelings isolated inside her. 

Sports were her safe place. The place she felt the most in control and wanted. She excelled at almost anything she tried. In sixth grade, she played on the varsity teams. By middle school, she was being selected for the All-State First-team in multiple sports. “When I was on the court, hearing people cheer, I no longer felt invisible,” stated Tati. “My team and everyone in the stands wanted me, and I knew I was making an impact.”

Cries are Answered

For a time, keeping a mask up and going through the motions worked. Focusing on sports and school, she hardly had time to think about how she really felt or all the things about her life that she did not understand. Then, one night as she lay alone on her bed looking at her mom’s mugshot, the only picture she had of her, Tati broke down. She cried out to God, “I don’t understand my situation. I don’t understand why I am here. All I know is I am just hurting.” In that moment, she felt God’s presence and a peace come over her like she had never felt before.

God became the One she went to when she could not find the answers. Singing praise and worship or playing a song on the piano allowed her to feel that connection with God and peace that passed understanding. She joined the praise and worship team to help lead other students. As her relationship grew, she felt a closeness to ask Him the questions she still did not understand.

God, what do you want me to do with my life?

Since she was little, Tati wanted to be a nurse. She likes helping people and has a passion for helping fix broken things, whether it was people or situations. In 2016, her passion was steered towards the medical field after reading the biography of Ida Scudder, a medical missionary to India. She was inspired by how Ida used her professional skills of nursing to save women and unwanted children who had been outcast by their community. Like Tati, Ida originally wanted to be “nothing like her parents.” Yet, Ida was willing to pray, “God, if You want me to, I will.” Ida created one of the first female medical schools and brought life-saving care to women in India, who, because of religious beliefs, could not be treated by male doctors. Tati saw how her faithfulness left an impact and legacy of hope that still touches millions. 

“God, how do you want me to make an impact?” Tati prayed. God’s confirmation would come in a way Tati least expected.

In 2023, her younger sister, Taija, was severely injured in a car accident and flown to a hospital in Columbia, MO. The accident had done a lot of damage to her head and body. When Tati first arrived at the hospital, Taija began to freak out. At that moment, Tati realized that she was able to control her own feelings, stay calm, and focus on what Taija needed. Like when she was a child, Tati remained positive and told her that things were going to be ok. Tati realized that in these dark and unsure moments when a patient feels out of control, they will reflect the emotions of the nurse. If Tati believed Taija would be ok, then she would, too.

It was confirmation to Tati that she was supposed to go into nursing. All her life, she had been developing the skills and empathy that she would need to help others in their greatest time of need. This Fall, Tati will head to College of the Ozarks to start her degree in nursing. One day, she hopes to use that nursing knowledge to do missionary work in Africa.  

 Fly Like an Angel

Ethan moved to Show-Me at the age of seven, when his parents, Nathan and Belinda Smith, returned to start the new Leadership U program and serve as relief houseparents. As the middle child of the Smith family, and as a sibling to dozens more Show-Me kids, Ethan has an easygoing, calm to him. He doesn’t say much, but you can tell he is always observing, and always thinking. As a kid, Ethan wanted to be a construction worker. He spent hours building elaborate worlds, planes, and other creations with his Lego and erector sets. At the age of 13, he realized that rather than build a plane, he wanted to fly it.

A family friend and supporter of Show-Me heard about Ethan’s interest and offered to take him up for a plane ride. He was a private pilot, who volunteered with Angel Flight. The mission provided free medical transportation to people in need. They delivered blood or organs needed for transplants; they helped get patients from one hospital to another. To get the medical care they need, a person might travel thousands of miles with different pilots handling different parts of the journey.

“After I saw how grateful people were when he flew them where they needed to go, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of,” recounted Ethan. 

Ethan plans to get a degree in aviation from The University of Central Missouri. He then wants to work as a commercial pilot to pay off his student loans and build a career.  His end goal is to one day become a missionary pilot. “I’ll go wherever God wants me,” stated Ethan. 

The Road of Restoration

While both graduates are grateful for all the people who have helped them along their journey, they know that their foundation must be built on something stronger. “(As kids at Show-Me) we have this joke, that when you cross that stage and receive your diploma that you are going to hear ‘oh, you are now restored, now complete,’” stated Tati. “But it is always going to be an ongoing work. People cannot restore people, only God can. Putting your faith in anything else will eventually fail. There is only one place you can put your trust and not have it broken.”