Who we are: Called to the High Country

Special to the DailyJenn Holste smilies with students from her life skills training classes in South Africa where she volunteered through Breckenridge nonprofit Tentmaker Ministries.

Jenn Holste wanted more out of life.

She worked as a middle school biology in Chester County, Penn. last year, but did not find the line of work completely fulfilling. As a devout Christian, her spiritual side went unfulfilled in her line of work.

She and a group of nine of her peers from her local church signed up for a mission trip to Africa with a Breckenridge-based nonprofit organization called Tentmaker Ministries. The nonprofit was founded by a couple from her area named Bill and Susan Weibel who live full-time in South Africa empowering and educating churches to better serve impoverished individuals and families. Holste spent 13 days in South Africa planning life skills training for children at the church the Weibels had been working with. The plans included lessons on anger management, risk-taking, drugs and alcohol, AIDS, negotiating skills and conflict resolution.

“There was a pleasant symmetry between using my skills as an educator and helping the less-fortunate in Africa,” Holste said.

The experience changed her. After her relatively short stay in South Africa, Holste knew she wanted to give back more to Tentmakers, so she spent her summer off from teaching by volunteering at the Tentmakers offices 1,400 miles away here in Breckenridge.

“A lot of organizations dump off gifts, but then they pack up and leave,” Holste said. “Tentmakers was different. I felt like I was really making a difference.”

The Weibels come back to the states infrequently, so having someone to tend to their offices was a real plus. After just a month, Holste knew her place was in Colorado, so she resigned from her teaching job in Pennsylvania and dedicated herself to the Tentmakers cause.

“Teaching is awesome, but my skills can go so much further,” Holste said “That’s why I came on full-time with Tentmakers as a volunteer.”

Like many young people living and working in the High Country, Holste had to take on several part-time jobs. When she’s not volunteering her free time at the Tentmakers offices, she works at the Avon Recreation Center and tutors at both Colorado Mountain College and privately. The adjustment from Pennsylvania to Colorado hasn’t been too much of a culture shock for Holste, but there have been some changes that took adjusting to.

“It’s beautiful, and it’s really different from anywhere I’ve lived,” Holste said.” I had to get used to P.O. boxes. The mailman doesn’t come to your house, and that’s a little different.”

Holste continues to plan life skills training lesson curricula and performs various administrative duties at the local offices. This Tuesday she will host an event in Edwards on behalf of Tentmakers for World AIDS Day.

“She has been a real blessing and answer to prayer for us,” Bill Weibel said. “Our greatest need was, and still is, more people to work alongside us both in the US and here in Africa.”

While her current life is more fulfilling than the one she left, Holste still has the itch to serve abroad. She plans to rejoin the Weibels in South Africa again in January, but this time she will stay in South Africa for six months before returning to the U.S. in June of next year.

“Lots of South African churches need more training,” Holste said. “They need someone to teach them how to manage finances and reach out to the community. What we do will equip and train them to stand on their own two feet.”

For more information about Tentmaker Ministries, visit the website at or e-mail or call (970) 797-1852.

SDN reporter Drew Andersen can be contacted at (970) 668-4633 or

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