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“My mother taught me to love sewing and cooking,” Judy says, explaining how she decided upon the Home Economics Education major. “I had grown up on a mission field with no electricity, phone, or TV, so that is how I filled my recreational time. It had always been my intention to return to a mission field, and when I learned that Home Ec also included nutrition and resource management, I felt that these were all things I could use to help meet the felt needs on any mission field. I believe Jesus cared for people physically and emotionally, as well as spiritually, and I wanted to be able to do that too.” Judy followed her palpable passion for service to a major that could best cultivate her natural talents for the work she felt called to do.
Learning to listen to the viewpoints of other people is one of the most important lessons Judy ever learned from Messiah. “Up until [Messiah],” Judy says, “I had mostly been exposed to one way of thinking and doing things. My mind was stretched in many ways through courses, professors, and friends—because they thought in different ways to what I was used to. It was a time of deciding what I really believed for myself. Through this process, I learned to be less judgmental and narrow than I had been previously—this has been invaluable in the work that I do now. While I still feel strongly about certain things, I am very open to hearing and understanding other’s points of view.”
“While I have never used my major in the way I initially thought I would,” Judy says, “it was invaluable to me. A major part of my work now is getting alongside either individuals or small groups and helping them on a journey of spiritual discovery. Usually I do this through stimulating discussions by asking good questions—so in a sense I still do a lot of lesson preparation that I was taught to do in college. I don’t teach as much as I guide. I still see myself very much as an educator—I help people to learn through discovery. I still use other aspects of my training: reading and gathering information to prepare for teaching and/or discussions.”
As earlier expressed, Judy had long felt the call to mission ministry. Her husband felt the same call. It did not take much consideration for them to decide what they wanted to do. Right after graduation, Judy and Ben moved to Zaire to get involved in short-term mission work. There, “I helped keep books for a Bible school,” Judy recalls, “and taught a class to the wives of Bible school students once a week in their language (I had grown up knowing Swahili).”
• "God has a way of working despite you, if you are willing to take His advice and 'be content in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.' "
• "Many times we tend to think there is only one 'right way,' and if we miss following God into that right way, then we’ve missed his blessing on the rest of our lives. But God is much more long-suffering and gracious than that."
• "At times college may seem really difficult. Don't quit! You'll always be glad you stuck it through."
After returning to the United States from Zaire, Judy took a break from missions work. She worked in part-time and full-time secretarial positions from 1986-1995 as she raised her young sons. In 1990 Judy and Ben also resumed their church-planting work, this time in Vermont. After their time in Vermont concluded, they felt ready to go back into full-time church planting. They applied for a job through the Southern Baptist Convention, and were soon transferred to Tasmania, where they live and work today.
Judy’s day centers on relationship-building. The most important aspect of her job is to forge a strong relationship with the people in her area, so that she can best minister to them through the bond they share. “We are just ordinary people,” Judy says of herself, her husband, and others in the misson field, “who intentionally lead, influence, and disciple others by going into the world of the unchurched. We work to understand people by spending time with them and learn by listening to them, developing deep give-and-take relationships. We provide many opportunities for our friends to discuss the deeper, more important things in life, including the spiritual dimension in our lives. We hope to be a part of a movement which sees many people discussing and discovering Jesus through a spiritual journey.”
“I have found that in giving, I get," Judy observes. "It is in making myself vulnerable and open, that I gain the same back; it is in being real, that I gain real friends; it is in tackling a certain topic, that the Lord challenges me with the very same topic. It is true that sometimes I get hurt, but I have decided that the reward of gaining some dear friends is worth it all. It is most rewarding to know that I am truly loved for being me (by my non-Christian friends). My job is to love others and to share Jesus with them,” Judy says. “I don’t believe I am gifted in making a big difference in a lot of lives, but I do believe that if I can truly make a real difference in a few lives, working together with many others doing the same, we can make a big difference…Making a difference in a few lives is the most rewarding thing in the world for me. Having [others] trust me enough to discuss spiritual matters with them is truly one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever known.”
Judy is able to use the talents God has given her and the skills refined at Messiah to serve the people she encounters every day. “I mainly use my teacher training to run informal small groups,” Judy says. “My main aim during these groups is threefold: I offer a topic which will help women with something they need in their life. I will use our group time to develop relationships that go beyond just the topic, so that by the time the topic is finished, the group wants to stay together as friends. I also always introduce them gently to God’s view and spirituality. As friends, there are also many literal ways that we are serving others: babysitting for them, helping someone in the community whose house burned down, or spending time when they just want someone to listen.”
Find out what paths other certified teachers are pursuing:
Stephen Lias, music theory professor/composer
Katie Lebhar, high school theatre director
Ben Armacost, church planter/missionary
Todd Parnell, general manager, Altoona Curve (AA baseball)
Lyle Blackketter, financial advisor/performance ministry
Owen Byer, mathematics professor
Profile by Angela Kriebel, 2005