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New Staff Feature: Meet Jake

By September 27, 2023March 19th, 2024No Comments

The Life Launch team has been so fortunate to gain two new amazing staff members. Jake Funderburk joined us here at Stand in the Gap on July 24th, and he has been a major blessing and asset to our staff! Jake is the program manager of Life Launch.  He is in charge of recruiting mentees for the Life Launch program.  His day-to-day looks like meeting with mentee applicants, interviewing them, and strategically matching mentors and mentees together.

I got to sit down with Jake and hear a little bit about who he is and what his life has been like. It’s so clear to see the Lord has directed his path and made a way for him here at SITG, and the Lord has given him such a big heart for youth in foster care.  We are so expectant to meet the mentees and see lives transformed through Jake’s obedience to the Lord.

How did you end up at Stand in the Gap Ministries?

The story is pretty simple. It’s also really neat to think about how I wound up here. So, I used to work at Tulsa Boys Home.  When I worked there, TJ was the program manager of Life launch. I got to know him a little bit through that, and some of his mentors mentored some of my TBH kids I was caring for at the time. We didn’t know each other well, but we hit it off pretty quick. We got coffee one day like six years ago, and shared similar passions of, in a nutshell, advocating for young people. That was pretty much it.  I went on to work for DHS and I think SITG would occasionally see my emails come across when I was trying to find mentors for the kids I was the case worker for. TJ called me in May.  I saw his name on my phone, and I was just like, “Wow!” I had recently prayed, “Lord if you wanted to release me from DHS, I am ready to move on and do something else.” I didn’t want to just go do something else for no reason.  When TJ told me they were revamping Life Launch and they wanted to hire me for program manager, it was clear that God had completely lined it up. A cool way TJ phrased it throughout the interview process was that when it came to program manager for Life launch, Jesus kept bringing me to mind. The Lord is so faithful to shepherd his people into different places that he has for us, and He is faithful to use our gifting and allow us to feel fulfilled in our work. This is an amazing place to work- its just like, is this real?

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

I’d say I am kind, justice-minded, and thoughtful.

What does your role at Stand in the Gap consist of?

As the program manager of Life Launch, my main goal is to recruit mentees. At this time we are recruiting the majority of mentees from Tulsa boys home, Phoenix Rising, and Youth Services.  We occasionally get some other referral sources but those are our main ones. So I go out and meet with mentee applicants. I help them complete the application, interview them, and see if they would be a good fit for our program. On the other side of that, Shannon and I will prayerfully and strategically match our teams based off of mutual interests and things like that. Once they are matched, there is a team launch conference call with the mentors. In that time, I just tell them all about their mentee, reinforce some of our training, and give them important things to remember when it comes to working with youth. Following the conference call, the team will set up a time to meet. I am present for each initial meeting, because I’m familiar with both the mentee and the mentor. I kind of help bridge that gap and facilitate conversation during the meeting. After that first meeting, my role shifts into weekly check-ins, communication, and mentoring the mentors.

How would you describe the staff culture at SITGM?

I would say devoted, relational, and then just fun.

Where’s home for you?

I grew up in the deep south. I moved around a little bit, but I’ll just say Northwest Louisiana. My favorite part of Louisiana has pretty much always been my family. I lived in some smaller towns, some bigger towns, but my family is what made it. If I go back to Louisiana, I go because of family. I don’t really go to see anything else.

What do you value, and what shaped those values?

I definitely value community, and my family is included in that broader scope of community. Sabbath and relationship with God are also major values for me. As far as what’s shaped me in regards to those three values, the community I grew up in and have been discipled in has influenced what I value.  I also think that God’s word makes it simple and clearly tells me what is important and what I should value. I think I should be influenced by that over the culture.

What are some difficulties you’ve faced in your life that you have seen the Lord’s faithfulness in?

I feel like over the years, seeing God meet me in the difficult reality of my parents divorce was huge. They finalized their divorce in 2012. I had just moved to Tulsa and I’d been here for like three months. I’ve also really seen God show up with my former diagnoses of anxiety and depression.  He taught me that I can always give those things over to Him.  It’s not always about having an answer or even always feeling better, but just knowing that He’s good, He sees, and He cares.  One of my favorite verses in the bible is the story in Genesis, where Abraham and Sarah send Hagar away and she’s sitting in the wilderness feeling like she’s going to die.  She even sits her child far away so she won’t see her child die. In that moment, God speaks to her and identifies himself as a God of seeing. God saw her where she was at. God has always been faithful in my life to meet me in the struggles and the difficulties that I’m facing- even the ones that feel like they don’t start and end at a specific time, but have ongoing difficulties- I still see God’s faithfulness in all of it.

What is your go-to bible verse?

John 11:25, NIV

“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even if they die.’”

You know, they’re just so much pain and suffering around us, but Jesus is the resurrection. He will bring life to everything in our lives that is dead, and restore what is broken. I could probably talk about bible verses and bible passages forever.

What are you most looking forward to when it comes to involvement with Life Launch?

I haven’t fully gotten to experience it yet, but I think my favorite part is going to be for mentees to begin to know and internalize their value and know that they are loved because of the way our mentors walk with them and care for them.

If you could pick anyone to be your mentor, who would it be?

Hmmm… Who’s the best Life Launch mentor? Kidding. I don’t think I have a specific person. Somebody who’s faithful, loves the church, and loves their family.

If you could have dinner with 3 people, dead or alive, who would you choose?

I would choose Saint Francis of Assisi, Harriet Tubman, and… I’ll go with A.R. Bernard. I’d pick Saint Francis of Assisi because he renounced wealth, prestige, and comfort to live his life serving the poor, and he really sought to follow Jesus very literally. Next, I’d pick Harriet Tubman because of her courage. The way she put her life on the line for the justice and dignity of others and the fact that she went back multiple times is amazing. To continue to do that for the liberation and dignity of others is incredible, and she was so strong with the Lord. A.R. Bernard is a pastor from NYC, and I’d pick him because he’s just really wise. He has a lot of wisdom about life and the Bible and he’s just one of those people that when he speaks, you turn your head. Plus he seems like a nice guy.