Women & Work
Work Done Well: Joanna Dennstaedt
Executive Director of Radiant Hope
Connect with Joanna Dennstaedt
Joanna is the founder and Executive Director of Radiant Hope, a nonprofit organization that’s mission is to support and encourage lives impacted by cancer. She has chosen to allow the pain she has experienced as a cancer survivor to be the catalyst for the calling to which she is actively living out. Joanna is passionate about people, relationships, loving others, and walking through pain and suffering with those who are hurting. Joanna believes that God’s goodness and love is unchanging; that he is the same in the blessings of life and the same in the suffering.
Coaching has been a passion of Joanna’s since being an athlete all of her life. She is a certified coach with Nothing is Wasted Ministries, helping guide others through the Pain to Purpose course. She also coaches a local Women’s Varsity High lacrosse team. Joanna is married to Kevin and has four amazing kids. She cares deeply about emotional and physical health and stays active at her Cross-fit gym. She spends free time with her family and her friends and is constantly reading and learning something new. Joanna’s life verse is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Today we are thrilled to feature Joanna Dennstaedt, who has a powerful story of how God has used suffering in her life to make a difference in the eternal kingdom. Joanna, welcome to Work Done Well! Please share with us a little bit about yourself and the organization that you started.
I am so thrilled to be able to share what God has done with my life. I want to encourage others that the path they are on is often refining them for a calling and a ministry right in front of them. I have been married to Kevin for eighteen years and we have four kids ages 15, 14, 12. 10. I played college sports and my competitive spirit has helped me through many challenges. I currently coach a high school lacrosse team where I live as well. I work with Nothing is Wasted Ministries and am a certified coach, helping people find purpose in their pain. But my main job is being the Executive Director of a non-profit, Radiant Hope which I get to share more about with you today!
In 2014, as a young mom, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Malignant Metastatic Melanoma. I had two surgeries and almost a year of debilitating treatment. That year, through much help from family and friends I experienced what I hope everyone can find in suffering. I became the first recipient of what would become one of our HOPE packages. One impossible day when I was about to embark on a cancer journey neither I nor my family was prepared for, a package arrived on my doorstep. A stranger, states away, prayed over and sent me an encouraging package after she heard about my cancer journey. It was that day that began the vision of Radiant Hope. Seven years later we have turned our non-profit into a care package organization but along with that we serve the cancer community through support in many different and unique ways. Whether supporting families over the holidays, in the hospitals, providing family pictures, or scholarships for kid’s activities, we are finding ways to come alongside families impacted by cancer.
It’s my mission that through Radiant Hope we can walk with others and encourage them in their cancer journey. I do know first hand the struggle that a cancer diagnosis and survivorship can be. No one chooses cancer but they can choose what they do with their cancer, there is always HOPE.
How are you leveraging the gifts God has given you for his glory and how do you seek to represent Christ and image Him through your work?
I love this question. It really is all about God and what he’s done! I can go back so many years and see where God was always preparing me for this ministry. Coach, leader, Enneagram 8, as I moved forward it was easy to establish so much of the necessary parts of the organization. Unpacking personality traits and life experiences is what I have learned is called, when our talents and burdens collide, and that is what has happened to me. My spiritual gifts of encouragement, faith, and shepherding combined with being burdened by cancer and the hopelessness it can bring, led me to establish something that would not only bring support and encouragement but also HOPE to a hurting world. Way back when I was in college dealing with knee surgery after knee surgery, the verse 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 became my life verse. It says, “Do not lose heart, though our outer self is wasting away our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This foundation has brought me through difficulty so that when cancer came my way, my heart and mind were prepared to focus on what God was doing for eternity. I believe that I had been preparing for this my whole life, and that story can be for a book I’ll write one day (lol). Really and truly coming to your weakest and seeing God’s glory shine and thrive can only magnify who he is to this world. How would a mom of four, fighting cancer, start something like this? People ask me all the time but really, God did this. Because when we are weak then HE IS STRONG.
A supportive community seems to be a huge part of your story! How have you been able to build such a successful organization and team of women by using the community around you?
Community is so important! I think some people wait their whole life until they have all the loose ends tied up before they start that book, or business, or non-profit they have “wanted” to start. Here’s the thing. I became the sick mom, weak, needy, and I mourned and fought that fight so hard. But once I let go, accepted help, allowed others to pour into my life, I became the recipient of the hands and feet of Jesus. When it was time to start Radiant Hope I had a community surrounding me that was willing and able to help with anything and so people jumped on board right away. I guess the take away from this is, sometimes the valley that you’re in, is just the place where God is rebuilding something beautiful. He is making all things new while others are praying for a place to help, someone to give to, and you may be that answer to their prayers. You may be that person God is using to impact someone else’s life. So, say yes, and be content in whatever hard circumstances you’re in, rejoice always, and let God to the building up part. He will, He is faithful. It’s also worth mentioning here that everyone is or will be at some point in their life impacted by cancer. It’s a place where so many are familiar and so many want to help. It’s not easy to build up an organization, especially with constant volunteer turnover, but I have never received a no from one person I have asked to join.
How do you keep yourself encouraged that the work you’re doing is valuable and worthwhile when the world tempts women to believe otherwise? Are there any Scriptures God has given you to keep you present in the work to which He has called you?
I have to stay focused. My eyes stay on him. I remember all of his faithfulness in the past, and know he is faithful now too. As soon as my sights start to wander I have to keep my mind on him. There is no question in my mind that this is the seat that I was always supposed to be sitting in. I am confident of that. Some days are hard, long and exhausting so I have to soak up his promises, not look ahead of where he has me, but see the day in front of me. This work isn’t always fun for sure. It really is walking in the trenches with so many in their hardest season of life. Shepherding people in their most vulnerable place is a high honor that comes with great sacrifice and complete trust. God values his people and their work. He has assured me of that so many times, and there is no temptation or season of suffering that can take that away. The year I was sick I received many visions and things in my life that have built up this confidence. Maybe you have too. Write them down. Look and see them. We too often miss those “whispers” of what God is doing but they are there. I centered my organization on some scripture such as:
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19.
“Comfort those who are in any affiliation with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,” Isaiah 26:3.
“I shall not die but live to declare the work the Lord has done,” Psalm 118:17.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
What are some challenges you have experienced in starting your own organization and how have you seen God at work around you despite them?
I stepped into a place where I was confident of what God wanted me to do. I had no choice at first, realizing that it took cancer to get me to a waiting room full of hopeless, alone, hard corners. But that is where He gave me a vision to be in those hard places with others and to love them well there. Starting Radiant Hope was following a call, as well as trusting with confidence and knowing along the way that there would be bumps and bruises. But this was all God’s idea and plan not mine, so to own that would take him out of it, but instead I put him in the driver’s seat and he has taken it to the level we never would have imagined.
I think the most challenging part of the journey has been the business side of things. When you’re in ministry knowing God has called you there sometimes the details come last. Understanding all the processes and stewarding that part has surely been a learning experience and has made me lean on others to come in and help. But nonetheless, I always know that there is so much to learn in this life we are living and for me that is inspiring. It’s never too late. When my life felt like it was on a timeline, there was a seize the day spirit within me. That kept me focused on big important things knowing details would work out if I just stayed the course. And God has blessed my obedience every step of the way.
What advice would you give to another woman who wants to take what she has been through, i.e. suffering, and turn it into something beneficial for the kingdom of God?
Friend, God is using all of your circumstances, pain, and life for his glory. There is purpose in it all. I would encourage those women to see all the ways God is bringing them through their hardest parts. Often our seasons of suffering are preparing us, showing us who we are, perfecting our ability to love, humbling us, making us more effective, and sometimes increasing our capacity. I would encourage others to pray a lot and ask God to use whatever pain they have had for his glory and to ultimately use their life to magnify who he is to the hard and hurting world. The easy part is using your gifts, the hard part for many is finding that calling. We over complicate it, when it is usually right in front of us. Jesus in his kindness is whispering right into our lives. I help lead others through a course by Davey Blackburn called Pain to Purpose and it helps establish a path through pain into making purpose out of it in your life. Intersect your passions, gifts, with a need this world is lacking, and you will find what you are searching for. Because of your pain God has qualified you. God makes no mistake with each of our lives and really trusting that He can use you, YES EVEN YOU, is the first next step to living out his plan for your life.
Lastly, where can people reach out to you with more questions, get involved, and follow the Radiant Hope journey?
Everyone knows someone whose life has been greatly impacted by cancer. We are here to help survivors, caregivers, and those navigating cancer with their community. You can find us online at our website www.hisradianthope.org
Of course you can always email me personally at [email protected], or find me on social media.
Work Done Well: Joanna Dennstaedt Joanna Dennstaedt Executive Director of Radiant Hope Connect with Joanna Dennstaedt Instagram Facebook Link Joanna is the founder and Executive