I started in a career of education before I graduated high school, and after many years of serving students and parents, started to realize my time was coming to an end. You know, after being in a certain space for so long and you deal with some of the same stuff year after year, but then that same stuff begins to annoy you, well that’s where I was, so I knew then, it was time to move on. Now let me be very clear. It was never the students who annoyed me. Of all things, I miss them the absolute most. But small things started to become annoying and my husband said, “I think it’s time for you to start making a transition.” So I started to look into other options. I asked God what he wanted me to do. I worked in the bank for a short period, but knew that wasn’t for me. So what was I to do, but sit and wait for God to answer my question of what it was He wanted me to do, so that’s what I did.
I was reminded of a situation that happened at the school where a young lady lost her aunt who was like her mother to her, and God put me in a space where I was able to really encourage her through her grieving. At the same time I had lost my grandmother and so we were able to connect on a deep and spiritual level. Educators wear several hats, from being a counselor, nurse, coach, parental figures and so many other things. I found myself being that person for not only my students, but also for the staff and other faculty at the school, not to mention the parents that I worked with as well. During this period of reflection I began to see God’s answer to my question unfold right before my eyes. People were reaching out to me to talk and pray about their challenges and unbeknownst to me I was already operating in His purpose. It was becoming clear to me that God was calling me into full time ministry as a Christian counselor. There was a need at Bayview and I wanted to make it my business to tend to that need. I talked with my husband, expressing the need we had at the church, he agreed and that’s when I got to work.
I talked to a couple of trusting individuals who I knew would speak truth, encourage and lead me in the right direction. Those conversations led me to go back to school, Seminary to be more specific. For the next two years I worked on and obtained my Masters in Leadership Ministry with a focus in Christian counseling. I was able to connect with Saddleback Church and The Rock Church. I started attending their pastoral counseling training. During my time at Saddleback and with the relationships we established I was able to connect with Kay Warren who is a huge advocate for mental health. The resources I received from Kay and the Saddleback community were a huge asset in helping me lay the foundation for what was to come.
We were going to start with Celebrate Recovery but that felt like such a huge feat. So we decided to scale back and focus just on Christian counseling and mental health. We started with mental health support groups, which we call Grace Groups- Living Grace and Family Grace. Living Grace is for those who live with mental health challenges themselves, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, and Family Grace is for those who support those living with a mental health challenge.
Once we got that up and rolling, our focus then shifted to the Christian counseling component. We put out the call for people who felt like they would be an asset to the ministry but would also benefit from the ministry as well. It was more so of a call to a specific group of people. I literally, in my mind, could see faces of people I thought would be a good fit. I felt like the Holy Spirit was putting people on my heart to reach out to.
Allow me to go back a bit, after having those conversations and going back to school my journey started when Donna Rose, the Director of our Family Matters Ministry asked me to be a coordinator for the Single and Parenting support. Donna told me not to make a decision right away, but take a week, pray about it and then we would connect again. After praying over whether or not this was what God wanted me to do, Donna and I talked again and I gave her my decision, it was a “yes”. As the coordinator, I not only made sure all the specifics were tended to, but I also facilitated the discussion of the actual groups. I had to mention that process that Donna took me through, because it was the same process I took my potential counselors through. I made the call, presented my request and then instructed them to take a week to pray about their decision. Out of the 10 people I contacted, I received a yes from all but 2. I took the quipping process so seriously because we were tending to the hearts of God’s people. In addition to completing the six week training, there are a number of requirements that have to be met in order to serve in this ministry, some of the requirements are to agree to a background check, be a member of the church for at least 2 years and having completed our Membership Classes called GET F.I.T (which means Faithfully and Intentional Transformed), and be a member of a Small Group, just to name a few.
Before we launched in 2018, my husband, our pastor, did a whole mental health series from the pulpit. Because of his sermon series and his transparency, it opened doors for our church community to begin having conversations about mental health. Members started to feel comfortable enough because their leader, their pastor, talked about his own mental health challenges. For our community the stigma is, what happens with us stays with us. We don’t talk about it. We suppress it. We cope in many different ways that don’t include counseling or therapy. Culturally and historically, that’s just how it’s been. But just because that’s how it’s been doesn’t mean that’s how it has to continue. We started to pick away at those barriers, and started to remove those stigmas by saying, “Hey, we all have something we’re dealing with. You’re something might not be my something, but we need to work through it and we can do it together.” It’s okay if we have challenges, but we don’t have to continue to struggle, we shouldn’t continue to wallow in our stuff. We need to talk about it, we must talk about it. Our church then recognized the need and so we began creating safe spaces for those conversations to happen. See, most people don’t realize that the root of their issue is something deeper. When we start to have those conversations, we see layers of the metaphorical onion start to peel. There is trauma that has been endured and passed down through generations but we are trying to show people how to deal with it in a healthy way. While you might not have all the answers or you might not have all the tools, your voice is power. You have the ability to use your voice and say, this is what I’m feeling and I know that something isn’t right. A lot of times people think it’s a weakness, but it really isn’t. We’re tapping into our superpower and we’re using them for the good of ourselves and in some cases for the good of others as well.. We’re setting not only ourselves up for success when it comes to our mental health, but we’re setting up the generations to come after us for success when it comes to their mental health. By doing our work, we’re eliminating excuses and trying to break those unhealthy generational cycles by not allowing what has happened to be what will happen in the future.
We see a wide variety of people come into the church for services. Sometimes we get people who aren’t members. Sometimes we get people who aren’t even saved. As people are being counseled they are learning more about Christ. They’re learning more about themselves and how God sees them. We’re directing people to salvation and encouraging them to be a part of the body of Christ. I would say to date, we have probably served a little over a hundred people, within the ministry. We continue to be open to being used by the Holy Spirit, even in a pandemic.