“Hi, I’m Abby! I grew up in The Gambia, West Africa. My parents were missionary teachers and church planters. I loved it!”
Yep, that’s Abby! She’s an overflowing bundle of excitement and joy, but not without suffering. Her story is one of trials and triumphs, of bumps and blessings. Though she has walked through the valley of the shadow of death, she fears no evil. She believes that her God is with her always. In her journey, God brought Abby to Vision of Hope as an intern in July 2013. Here’s her story:
As mentioned earlier, Abby loved growing up in Africa (she would love to raise her own kids there someday!). There are many stories there that can’t fit into this blog post. You’ll just have to find her at church and ask her, if you get the chance. At 18 years old, Abby moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute and study pre-counseling and Bible. “I loved it,” Abby repeats, echoing her passion for Africa.
As God would have it, Abby’s simple joy was about to be tested. In the summer after her Sophomore year, Abby’s dad died suddenly while he was in Africa. “God taught me a lot through the grieving process,” Abby says, “[He] gave me a heart for people who are hurting.”
It was during her Senior Year at Moody that Abby heard about the internship program at Vision of Hope. Two of the current interns at the time were talking to their parents about their experience as interns, and their parents were friends with Abby’s mom! God was definitely going before Abby and preparing the way!
“I felt very confident this was where the Lord would have me,” Abby states, remembering her shadow weekend and deciding to accept the internship. While Abby felt ultimately inadequate for what God was calling her to, she felt more excited to be stretched more than she’d been in college, “Moody was very comfortable for me. I realized what a consumer I was. My world revolved around me and my shadow weekend [at Vision of Hope] showed me how ministry was suppiosed to run.”
For Abby, seeing the way Vision of Hope operates gave her confidence that a Biblical treatment center could focus on true heart change, not just a “band-aid” approach to ministry. “It’s been a really great experience,” Abby estimates, evaluating her internship so far. “I’m consistently being humbled but growing at the same time. God is teaching me and sometimes that is painful, but it’s good, and it’s completely worth it, if it transforms me to look like Him.”
Abby is challenged, but grateful for all the practical experience she’s getting in relationships, leadership, and even household experiences like cooking for 25 people! One of the most challenging skills Abby is learning to embrace is confronting with love. In her interactions with residents, Abby strives to balance truth and love: she has to ask herself, is this the right time to confront, give grace, or do both? “There’s no black and white principles that apply to every resident…” Abby reflects. Speaking of residents, Abby feels astronomically blessed to “get to have a part of this journey with them.” In her words, “that’s a huge privilege.”
The future is uncertain for Abby, at this point, but she’s content with that. “Honestly, His plans are a lot better than mine, and that includes His plans for my future. I don’t have to have it all figured out as long as I’m doing what I need to do every day to pursue Him and bring glory to Him. For me, that means trusting and being consistent in my relationship with Him, and in prayer.”
One passage Abby has meditated on during her internship is 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, on comfort.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
Abby is grateful for experiencing God’s comfort in the midst of grieving and hurting. She is confident that God will show up, that He will abundantly provide His comfort, and that she can confidently give that comfort and compassion to others because of what she’s suffered. “That really is what God taught me through grieving and suffering biblically: it really is worth it.”