Jo's Story

Gift From God

Life on the farm in East Tennessee was simple and sweet. As the youngest in my family of four, I had it made. Sure, I had chores, but I was also free to roam the fields and pastures, woods, and springs. We were a tight-knit family with about a dozen aunts, uncles, and grandma (lovingly referred to as ‘Mamaw’) within a 5-mile radius of the farm. I could literally run through the back pasture, up the hill, through the woods, cross the fence, down the back pasture, across the yard and end up in the arms of my Mamaw just about anytime I wanted. Yes. Life was sweet.

Growing up, I was told my name means “Gift from God”. I’ve heard the stories surrounding my birth often over the years. Phrases like ‘miracle,’ ‘lucky to be alive, ‘so small we could hold you in one hand’, always accompanied the telling. Medical technology was lacking a bit back in the sixties when it came to pregnancy and the RH factor. All I know is that mom ‘had it’ and it meant emergency surgery and blood transfusions. I was going to be named ‘Katherine Joyce.’ But, I livedhence the new name of Jo Ann.

A Life Of Performance

I’m not sure what led my brother and me to start piano lessons when we were in grade school. I can remember carrying my John W. Schaum music books to school and being taught lessons by Mrs. Wolfe in a tiny broom closet off the cafeteria that was big enough for a piano and the two of us. I enjoyed playing the piano, but I sure didn’t like to practice. Fortunately, I took to it pretty quickly and naturally. And so began my life of ‘performance.’

Being the youngest with a desire to be approved of, seen, and thought to be wonderful, I sang and played my way through elementary school, high school, and college. Music became my love language. I found that I could express myself so much better at the piano or behind a microphone. When I discovered Contemporary Christian Music back in the 80s, it was life-changing for me. I could express my love for God through music. I spent several of those years playing and singing at local youth revivals and churches.

Unfortunately, my need to please and my desire to perform led me to believe in the lie that my self-worth = my performance + what others thought of me. It would take years to begin to understand and comprehend God’s unconditional love and His overwhelming grace.


My lack of coaches and mentors has been felt over the years. This innate desire to be seenfor someone to tell me what to do and how to do it—has plagued me for too long. I truly desired to have someone recognize my abilities and want to take me under their wing and help me grow and develop. I knew that if I just had a little help, I could do amazing things. I felt too afraid to step out on my own and fully live. If only someone would see me…

My role with Wycliffe centers around training and developing staff. Coming alongside themseeing them right where they areand through coaching, mentoring, and training helping them to flourish and grow in their personal and professional lives so that they can be all that God desires for them to be. What fun! Because this was a desire of my heart, I know the need. What a privilege it is to help meet the needs of our staff in a way that speaks to my own heart.