Checking in with reformer Genea Horner of The Mission
Five years ago, in the spring of 2014, Nations Media embarked on our very first project: we came alongside an orphanage—though it’s really more of a family—in Tecate, Mexico, and helped tell their story.
In Tecate we met Jimmy and Genea Horner, Leo Lopez, and all of the incredible folks who call Rancho de Sus Niños (RDSN) home. We found the word “orphan” didn’t exist there. And we walked away from RDSN emboldened by the big faith and inexplicable provision happening just south of the border from our office in San Diego.
Since then, RDSN and its umbrella organization The Mission have held a special place in our hearts. Eager to catch up, we recently spoke with Genea Horner, one of the senior leaders of the Mission. She shared about the latest happenings at RDSN and the adventure in faith that has led them to expand to Romania and ultimately, to the ends of the earth.
Children at RDSN
Catch us up since we last saw you. Tell us about the expansion to Romania.
Three years ago, God started speaking to us about continents. Not countries, just continents. We started praying into that, curious what that was going to look like, what that even means. Jimmy was praying one day and felt the Lord saying that He was pouring His spirit on Europe specifically.
So we Googled “poorest country in Europe,” and Moldova came up. We bought a couple of plane tickets over there. A lady that used to work with us was living in Romania at the time, and speaks the language. So we asked her if she would go with us to Moldova. We flew over there and toured the country, and drove around and met with a couple of different ministries that had a children’s home. We saw a lot of need. We thought “Yeah, we could do this.” We knew how to do childcare/orphancare. We knew how to build schools. And they need all of that stuff. But there was nothing from the Holy Spirit that would say “this is it.”
When we were in Moldova we decided to drive back to Romania to take our friend back home. When we drove in to Romania, Jimmy and I had a strong feeling of home. That’s always been a guiding force in our life that the Holy Spirit has used quite often—that feeling of home throughout the years.
Through these divine connections, we met this Romanian guy who is in love with the city of Sighişoara and is in the business of buying and remodeling houses; he knows a lot about real estate. When we got to Sighişoara, we also had a feeling of “Oh, this is the place.” It’s not just Romania in general, but it’s this city in Romania. He showed us an enormous building, about 85,000 square feet. It was built in communist times and was a clothing factory up until we purchased it. When we walked into the building, it was like, “Oh, Holy Spirit, here you are, this is where you want us to be.”
The price tag was $3.4 million. We didn’t have anywhere near that. But Jimmy is an incredibly savvy businessman, and he negotiated down to $1.4 million. We committed to the work, we said [to the Lord] “We’re in this, we feel you in this, we hear you, we see you, this is crazy, but what haven’t you done that’s not crazy?” As far as our history, [we have] crazy testimonies over the years of His financial provision. At this point in our lives it feels completely illegal to question [God] in that.
What kind of changes has God initiated among the families you serve?
We just started [by] reaching out to the gypsy community mostly. There is a huge population of gypsy that surround the city and are in the middle of the city. The living conditions there in a couple villages are unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
We started a family care after-school program inside of a village. A local lady let us an extra room she had, and we started building relationships with kids and families with the idea that once the purchase was complete and once we got into the building, we would start bussing kids in. We started that in September 2018. It’s been amazing. Kids whose first language is violence have come to be known as the huggers in their public school. Kids who had never had a hot shower or bath before [get] a shower and warm breakfast before school. That was something really fun to see—their reaction to hot, running water and flushing toilets. It’s been really beautiful.
One of the greatest testimonies is the behavioral changes we’ve seen in them. When you go into their village, there is such a survival mentality—like survival of the fittest. Right now, because it’s summertime, you have [ages] from toddlers to eight years old running around naked. They don’t even have outhouses, so there’s human feces everywhere. There’s a small creek that runs through one of the villages that’s murky gray, and they’re drinking out of this water. When you walk into the village, it’s survival, to the point to where it’s normal and accepted that you become married at 13 or 14 years old, and you start having babies. We haven’t met anybody in any of the gypsy communities that have over a fourth grade education. It’s really raw, really hard to see.
But you can tell which kids are our kids in the village, and it’s not because they’re clean. We can give them showers, and when they come back they’re just as dirty as before they took a shower, but their behavior is so different. There’s such love now. The way they worship. The consistent love of Jesus through us has brought remarkable transformation in their lives.
We started a church there in April, and it just keeps growing. People are so drawn to freedom, especially in a country that has constantly throughout history been overtaken and conquered and oppressed.
A young boy in Sighişoara, Romania
What is the most beautiful thing about Romania? What is the most difficult?
There’s so much beauty in Romania. It stole my heart, just the landscape. Coming from the barren desert, there’s so much green in Romania. It’s just breathtaking. It’s so rich with potential. But the most beautiful thing about Romania is the people. The way Romanians communicate with each other and with you comes across as harsh and abrasive. It’s just the way they talk to each other. But they’ll invite you into their home and make you this amazing dinner [even though they] have no idea who you are.
People warned us going into Romania that [Romanians] are so cold, they’re not welcoming, [that we’re not] going to get far, that there’s spiritual oppression…we have found it to be the exact opposite. People want to interact with us and welcome us into their homes. They’re so ripe for Jesus that when they experience his presence they’re very open to it.
“Kids whose first language is violence have come to be known as the huggers in their public school.”
There hasn’t been anything that God hasn’t broken through really easily. When his grace is on what you’re doing, there’s so much power behind it. We got the building completely covered financially. We have amazing staff that we transported from Mexico, which has inspired Mexico to know that they are a place of resource, both financially and the people. We have six Mexicans on full-time staff over there right now. That’s a powerful thing we didn’t see coming.
What does expansion mean for Rancho de Sus Niños? What’s been going on there?
We made Karina our base director, so [Rancho] is officially hers. She grew up there; she came in 1991, a couple years after being in the orphanage with her siblings.
We have 220 kids in the daycare now, about 200-300 kids in junior high and high school, and 60 kids in orphan care. She has become quite the powerhouse. She is an incredible leader. I would follow her anywhere.
Rancho de Sus Niños // Tecate, Mexico
What does this mean for you and Jimmy and your roles now?
I get asked that, and I have no idea! Because we are not retiring; I’m only 42 and I have a lot still in my heart. Jimmy and I split our time between Mexico and Romania. We are “in the mud” of what it is to pioneer and build in Romania.
“People are so drawn to freedom, especially in a country that has constantly throughout history been overtaken and conquered and oppressed.”
The role we have is the dreaming, [and asking] where do we go next? What country is the Lord highlighting to us? We still believe we’ll be on every continent. It feels like God has given us the green light to choose where on each continent. He’s got some countries that he’s highlighted to us…we’re in the dreaming role and vision role, and we’re still very hands-on in helping Karina grow into her position.
We are in a strange transition, where we’re not in the hands-on position that we have been for years. I’ve been working [at RDSN] for 25 years, and to not be the one changing the diapers and putting on the birthday parties and teaching everyday is very different for me. I know there’s a grace for this. Mostly for myself, I’m looking for language, I’m looking for what God has for me now in this season, and I’m finding it’s more of a teaching place and making sure each one of the bases is cohesive with our core values, that the essence of who we are is expressed in everything we do, and as we grow that doesn’t get lost.
The connection between the bases is really important to me and Jimmy, that Karina and Leo’s influence is seen in Romania, so that as we grow we can genuinely say that we are one gigantic family that crosses language barriers.
Part of the Rancho de Sus Niños family
How can we pray for you?
There is a country on our heart that we’re hesitant to look at and get our feet on the ground because it means that we’ll keep expanding. [We need] prayer for the challenge of keeping our personal family and the Mission family deeply connected in the midst of expansion—that’s our challenge right now. We can’t raise leaders fast enough. We need people that are raring to go—high-level leaders. That, and about $3 million per year [laughs].
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Photos 1, 2, 4, and 5 by Gregory Woodman.