Mary Jean Preece is a presence and a force at Stoneworks.  We are very thankful that God has set her as a Living Stone with us. Here she shares about her connection with Stoneworks —

Since October 2008 I have been the Administrator for Stoneworks International.  I have been married for 23 years to John, who is an architect, and we have two children, Anna and Jake.

I first became aware of Russian orphans sometime in the 1990’s when I read an article about their plight.  After reading it, I was heartbroken; the situation was very sad.   The article included photos of the typical orphanage showing baby beds lined up side by side like boxcars in a rail yard.   Some of the children were standing with curiosity but showing no emotion while most of them were lying helpless in a bed.

The thought of no one there to interact with them, to hold them, rock them, or show them love was terribly sad for me.  My heart struggled with wanting to do something for these forgotten children.  Being a stay-at-home mother, I volunteered for several organizations: my children’s school, delivering dinners to the elderly through the “Meals on Wheels” program, and as a Girl Scout Leader; but the desperation of the Russian orphans still tugged at my heart.

Later one Christmas my family and I were at my parents’ home for the usual celebration.  Out of the blue, my sister-in-law said, “have you heard what Mike Cantrell is doing?”  When she told me that he was in Russia working with orphans, I felt a peace for the children.  At least I knew someone that was helping them.

I met Mike in 1971 when I was nine years old.  We had just moved to Athens, GA as the new preacher’s family. He and my brother became very good friends through middle and high school and kept in touch over the years.

As time went on, I kept thinking about the children.   I got Mike’s email address from my brother and wrote to him in 2000 knowing that I wanted to help in some way, perhaps administratively.  Mike and I talked and at the time there wasn’t really a need for my service.  I started helping financially and have continued to do so for ten years now.

Reading the updates that Mike would periodically send out kept tugging at my heart.  What I really longed to do was to go to Russia and rock every child in the orphanage to sleep while singing “Jesus Loves Me,” as I had done with my own children; anything to make them feel secure and loved – a feeling that so many of us take for granted; anything to put a smile on their face – to put a giggle in their life.  I really wished that I could do more, but it just wasn’t practical to uproot my family and leave parents behind that needed my help.

Finally God’s perfect timing came one day and now I am involved in helping the children of Russia on an every day basis, although in an indirect way.

As the Administrator for Stoneworks I am able to use my past administrative skills and have gained new accounting skills too.  I volunteer about sixty hours per month doing the administrative tasks essential to a non-profit charity.

It has been a pleasure to assist my new Russian and Belorussian friends that are on the front lines directly helping so many unfortunate children.  It warms my heart to know that they are not only caring for the children, but more importantly, they teach the children about the unconditional love and hope of Jesus Christ.

My daughter, Anna, who is 15 years old, has begun to help me with various tasks.  She opens the mail, inputs the donations into the computer, prepares the deposit, and processes all of the donation thank you letters that are sent for each donation.

Having been a Girl Scout for ten years, she enjoys volunteering whenever she can, and she continues to gain valuable life-long experience.

My eight year old son even likes to participate.  He frequently asks, “what can I do to help?”  We recently gave him the title of Stoneworks Mail Getter and Shred Man; he gets to open the mailbox with the key, and he shreds any sensitive documents we may have.

We are all proud to be a part of Stoneworks and tell others about the ministry.  When we mail out the thank you letters for donations, we pray for the donors because YOU are the strength behind the ministry that validates our volunteering.