We are all having to put “suffering with hope” into practice this week as we mourn the loss of our beloved former counselor and 2nd Shift Supervisor, Debbie Costa. Debbie served with us faithfully for over 4 years before having to resign in 2012 due to her battle with cancer. During her time here, Debbie greatly impacting the lives of countless young ladies in our program. This impact extended even further toward anyone who came in contact with her as she battled this illness. Throughout her trials and suffering, Debbie and her family remained faithful to the Lord and never doubted His plan for their lives. Anyone who came in contact with Debbie could clearly see God’s light shining brightly from her smiling face.
Listen in as some of our current and former staff, residents, and interns of VOH share how Debbie greatly impacted their lives during her time with us:
“As Debbie’s co-worker I considered it a privilege to work in the office right across from Debbie. Debbie and I had several conversations about the challenges we faced as Biblical counselors. She was such an encouragement to me as we both wrestled with balancing speaking truth, admonishing, and disciplining vs. restoring gently and showing grace. I so appreciated her wise words of wisdom. One conversation that I will never forget happened while we were closing out some case files. As we were writing up notes we started sharing with each other how amazed we were at the Holy Spirit’s direction in counseling. We were both sharing how God brought Scripture to mind during counseling that as we looked back on it were surprising to us because if we were counseling that situation right that
moment, we might not have thought to go that direction. We were rejoicing together that God always provided just what the counselee needed even through sin cursed counselors. I would describe the way Debbie lived with the phrase: godly
“When I first arrived at VOH, Debbie was my first counselor. Apparently the day before, a few girls had received a “not talking” consequence from Debbie for some offense they had committed in the house. In counseling and in interactions with her during my first month at VOH, Debbie was serious and straight to the point. In my immature, addiction-twisted mind, I thought that Debbie was the “mean counselor.” What I once despised in those initial weeks as a resident is something I later came to respect. Debbie was never malicious; she took God’s holiness very seriously and was bold in speaking the truth found
in God’s Word. She didn’t show me love the way worldly women show love, which usually comes across as soft and sweet but is actually rooted in cowardice. No, Debbie Costa loved me wisely. After my graduation from VOH, Debbie’s attitude and wisdom whilst under the attack of an unrelenting cancer spoke to my heart intimately; even in the seasons where I watched from afar, her actions whispered promises of God’s loving-kind-faithfulness. When my own mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last year, Debbie’s reflection on her own experience with cancer challenged me to seek a deeper theology of suffering. She has held me as I cried over my mother’s suffering, knowing exactly why I cried. The hard-edged woman that I had thought her to be years earlier was one of the only people who could look into my trial and say, “I understand.” Her unwavering trust in God through her own suffering of cancer still reminds me that when our hope is only in the gospel, even
cancer can’t steal our joy.”
“While I was a resident at Vision of Hope some circumstances revealed that I’d never grieved the loss of my father and aunt to cancer. Debbie, dear, wise Debbie, discerned that I needed to commence the grieving process so she opened up the conference room for me (after hours, which was a real privilege and a big deal!). Compassion flooded and spilled out from her eyes when she encouraged me to cry before God for these losses “for as long as it takes.” Because of Debbie’s wisdom and sensitivity to facilitate the opportunity, I did. Debbie poured out a labor of love into my life as my counselor and friend. My view of God is bigger because of her. My love for Jesus is richer because of her. My life is free from life-dominating sin because of God’s work through Debbie’s counsel, prayer, wisdom, and love. Debbie’s life rings out to me as an attractive song of truth and grace. She knew her God, and He was made known to the watching world through her joy, her counsel, her priorities.”
Debbie will be so greatly missed, but through our mourning we have great joy knowing that she is resting sweetly in the arm of our heavenly Father in perfect paradise.