This is Jenni. While she was born and raised in Minnesota, she now counts Montana as home… and has for 15 years! “I fell in love with the mountains, and that’s what drew me out there; and my sister and her family, of course.” For those of you from the West (or have ever visited for any amount of time) the ample opportunity for outdoor activities and adventures doesn’t surprise you. This is no secret to Jenni, either; she loves the outdoors! “I like to be outside either with cowboy boots on and a horse under me, or with hiking boots and a backpack on me, or skis on and a sled behind me.”
In Montana, Jenni involved herself fervently in her local church’s ministry and in serving opportunities. She also completed a biblical counseling degree at Montana Bible College. “God just drew me to helping people.” It’s obvious when you talk to Jenni that Montana is her home, that she loves daily adventures in the Montana wilderness, and that she loves serving with her local church.
Have we all fallen in love with Montana yet? What caused Jenni to leave such a place, such a life?
For the past few years, Jenni has been attending the BCTC (Biblical Counseling Training Conference) with a group from her local church. Surprisingly, Vision of Hope wasn’t even on her radar: “I was afraid God would call me here, to Indiana, away from Montana. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be gone for a year.”
In God’s providence and timing, He did indeed call her to Indiana, away from Montana, for a time and a purpose. When Jenni approached her church about Vision of Hope’s internship, they were unanimously in favor of the idea, and agreed to help support her financially during her internship. For Jenni, this “sealed the deal” and she packed (and packed, and packed!) her faithful Subaru Forester for the trek from West to East, starting her internship in January 2013.
Much the same as the residents, Jenni places herself in a “student” position. “I came [into the internship] with the idea of learning as much as I could about this house so I could be part of what God might do in Montana.” One of the many lessons Jenni is learning involves the redemptive atmosphere of the VOH house.
“I knew this would be a place I would be challenged because [the staff at Vision of Hope] wasn’t afraid to speak into my life and be real right from the start. You’re so out in the open, but this is a redemptive house… you come out on the other side looking more like Christ… I want to provide that kind of atmosphere to the people I’m around.”
Not only is Jenni learning at VOH, she’s also leading. “God provided many opportunities to serve people that I didn’t think I’d have as an intern.” These opportunities range from lawn care, to counseling experience; all of which Jenni counts as blessings and privileges. “The leadership here has been a good example of the principle ‘faithful with a little, given more’ (see Mat. 25:21 and Luke 16:10).”
Though she’s been “faithful with a little and given more,” Jenni realizes that it’s not her perfection that allows her such opportunities; it’s God’s. “It’s God’s pleasure to use the flawed… it still baffles my mind that a perfect God uses imperfect people. Sometimes our mistakes are what He exactly chooses, and our weakness is precisely His design.”
In the future, Jenni is pursuing her NANC certification, and anticipates beginning her supervision hours when possible. Walking in faith with her Savior, Jenni hopes to return to Montana to help her church in creating a Vision- of-Hope-type ministry, but recognizes God’s authority to call her wherever He sees fit. “I want to be ready to go back [to my local church] and serve and continue ministering however I can [but] my greatest hope is to be His ambassador and vessel and be used in whatever way He sees fit and directs me.” Submission to God’s will is a recurring theme in Jenni’s life, and bubbles over into many of her casual conversations.
One passage that has struck Jenni throughout her internship is 1 Cor. 8:1-3, which says,
“We know that we all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”
This verse reminds Jenni that her pursuit of love should be priority over her pursuit of knowledge. “Knowing something doesn’t mean you open your mouth… it’s about loving God and loving others.”