Northern Seminary student finds calling to God in modern-day ministry challenge

 

Life for Adrienne Gibson has not followed a path she imagined her career and ministry would take. When she and her husband, Matt, married about 20 years ago, she knew she wanted to serve God.  Yet, she insisted it would be on her own terms.  That meant no kids!

Adrienne laughs often, especially when remembering her early days of ministry and marriage. “Kids were just a non-starter for me,” she recalls.  Today, Adrienne has three children, with her oldest child on the precipice of challenging teen years and husband Matt serves as pastor of young people at the fast-growing Red Mountain Community Church with nearly 2000 people worshiping each weekend just outside Phoenix.

When Adrienne talks about the challenges of the world, her work and faith, she is “on brand” with the mission of her church which touts on its website:

“We live in a time where the chasm between Biblical values and cultural values is increasing. More than ever, darkness reigns in the seemingly “put together,” safe and quiet neighborhoods around us. Red Mountain Community Church must be a clear, loud, and persistent voice in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, stores and businesses, proclaiming in word and deed the good news of Jesus Christ.

Adrienne, a current student at Northern Seminary pursuing a master’s in New Testament studies with Dr. Scot McKnight certainly lives out her days as a persistent voice for Christ in neighborhoods, workplaces and families.  She is the clinical director of a large Arizona state agency that provides mental health counseling, assisted living services for the elderly and programs to protect children from abuse.

Adrienne started down this demanding work path after she received a counseling degree from Denver Seminary.  With that degree and commitment to speak into people’s lives through her work, Adrienne hits the ground running each day as she is responsible for the well-being and effectiveness of  600 employees who labor to share good mental health and coping skills with families living in a world where trauma seems like an ever-present threat.

2020 opened with an even bigger challenge for Adrienne and the agency’s staff when the team faced its first-ever, visually recorded, in-country pandemic.

When Adrienne answered God’s call on her life while on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic, 20-plus years ago, she did not know she would be saying “yes” to helping people with mental health issues – especially in today’s environment “where people are scared of dying.

“I earned a master’s in counseling and thought I would be teaching people how to have good family and home lives,” Adrienne says.

Now, this Gen-Ex working mother realizes trauma is closing in on American families. Though American families and children live in one of the safest times in history. They are more fearful than ever, Adrienne explains.

Heightened awareness of issues and problems have pushed families and communities to the edge of their coping skills.  It seems more paralyzing because they relive the trauma over and over as they watch it on TV, post it in social media and speak of little else when they should be relaxing with loved ones and/or seeking guidance from God.

The problem?  Adrienne says it is PTSD … Post traumatic stress disorder.

Before the Vietnam War, PTSD was not even a diagnosis.  By 9/11, PTSD was very well known and threatened to leave entire generations crippled by its effects.

Now everyone has the ever-mindful picture in their mind of terrorists flying into the Twin Towers.  That reinforces the clinical definition of PTSD that requires people who experience the trauma re-live and repeat the trauma through non-stop media, high profile discussions about the problems and pictures of the event that always remain top of mind.

Given the realities of our world and the uncertainties and threats like the current Corona pandemic, what are God’s people to do to stay physically and mentally healthy?

Adrienne encourages clients, and the therapists she supervises, to know themselves …. “and know God.”

If you want to help others Adrienne insists you need to learn how to step away from a crisis in a healthy way.  Those who do not heed this advice will experience burnout, quit their counseling jobs and find themselves bowing to the debilitating power of the same trauma that plagues their clients.

Adrienne encourages therapists to find healthy places to step away from the trauma.  “Don’t take it home with you.” Adrienne learned as a pastor’s wife and executive in social work that home needed to be the go-to place where she, her husband and children could “laugh, cry, and just ‘be’ with family and God.”

This week, Adriene is utilizing Zoom technology she learned as a current student at Northern Seminary to talk with hundreds of therapists and support staff about how they are doing as the country shuts down under the weight of the pandemic.

She is checking in on staff via technology to make sure employees are not letting worry and anxiety overtake them.

Today’s pandemic makes Adrienne wonder if a PhD is in her future once she has earned a master’s in New Testament in Dr. Scot McKnight’s cohort.

Perhaps.

But for the rest of this day, a Sunday, Adrienne will worship God with her family, enjoy her husband and children before she steps back into the viral pandemic battle tomorrow.  Thank you for praying for students like Adrienne who minister all week long, study with faculty and other students then apply what they learn to their challenging careers … for God’s glory.

 

 

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