By Felecia Datus
Paint brushes, stethoscopes, and Bibles are some of the tools used by these servants of God. Here are three young women whose response to God’s call was like Mary’s; “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me, according to your word.
| Photo by Robert Fuste and Joanna Jones
Cathy Tang: Health and Fitness to Art Therapy
In 2012, Cathy Tang, along with 18 youth from Hong Kong Adventist College, boarded a plane from Hong Kong to Malaysia for a two-week mission trip. Little did Tang know that her artistic skills were about to save a woman from committing suicide. The group’s aim was to carry out a series of religious services, combined with English classes and volunteer work. Each day, Tang and the other volunteers met with the children from the villages to teach them songs about Christ, as well as participate in other activities designed to uplift the spirits of the villagers. A portion of their duties also included packing materials for distribution amongst the villagers.
One night, the youth were jolted from their sleep by sounds of someone attempting a break-in. Even though no one managed to break into the house, rumors and stories quickly circulated amongst the small group. “I was so disappointed,” Tang explained. “We were Christians on a mission trip and here we are afraid.”
While everyone else bickered back and forth and fear stifled their once joyous disposition, Tang grabbed a few markers lying around the living room. She vented her frustration on a box of supplies stacked in a corner of the living room that was supposed to be delivered to needy villagers.
“The drawing was really abstract,” Tang described, in reference to what she drew that night. “It was just graffiti.” The scribbles included the words hope and faith, and by the time she was finished with her doodle on the box, the tension and fears had subsided and everyone returned to bed. Four days later, the missionaries returned to Hong Kong and Tang never thought about her drawing on the box; until two months later.
“An email came to our choir director who headed the trip and they were asking who did the drawing on the box,” Tang stated. “I thought I was in trouble.” The choir director explained to her that messengers delivered the box to a home where a woman was struggling with an ill daughter. The child’s illness had driven the mother to despair and she made a decision to end her own life. Moments before doing so, she went outside and saw the delivered box. The words faith and hope, artfully drawn on the box was a message from heaven to the woman not to end her life.
“When they told me this, I was like, Wow!” Tang smiled and said. “I saved someone’s life!” She realized that God was capable of using anything, even her own purposeless doodle on a cardboard box, to save someone from death.
The experience changed Tang’s life. Years later, having already obtained a degree in health and fitness, Tang decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Art Therapy at Andrews University. “With art, I can help persons who are suffering from PTSD or those who are autistic. I can help them share feelings that aredifficult to express through words.” She realizes that she need not limit herself because God’s power works with simple things to achieve life-transforming results.
|Photo by Robert Fuste and Joanna Jones
Dana Connell: Aspiring Architect to Gospel Minister
Although she grew up as a pastor’s kid, Dana Connell nonchalantly viewed the Bible as a boring book. Though active in church, school, and the community, in high school she wrestled to understand the purpose of religion as it seemed like church people were just as bored and stressed out as the rest of the world. It seemed to provide no life-changing joy or solution for the struggles she witnessed in people’s lives. She wondered whether there could be more to life. In desperation she told God, “I need to see you are the same God I see in the Bible — the One who speaks clearly, guides clearly, and interacts clearly today.” As her academy years were ending, the search for a field to study came into focus.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to be growing up,” Connell says, “During a mission trip to Nicaragua, we were working on a multipurpose building and it was affirmed that I had a good eye for laying blocks and making good mortar.”
The mission work created a love for physical labor, working outdoors, and experiencing purposeful Christian service. With this new love, combined with her passion for interior design, Connell enrolled at Andrews University in 2001 and launched into her study. “I wanted to change the world through architecture.” She saw how lighting and colors affected people’s moods and health. She saw that strategic city planning could reduce crime, build community, create spaces of peace, provide more efficient systems for people to get home more quickly, as well as opportunities for humanitarian works. Yet during her sophomore year, a conversation with a dynamic, practical, spirit-filled female pastor during a week of prayer challenged everything the pastor told her, “I believe God has called you to be pastor. Go back to your dorm room, pray about it, and God will show from the Bible.”
A devastating relationship, unease in her chosen field, and wrestling with God during her student missionary year led Connell to study theology at Union College in Nebraska. She was not convinced of what she would do after her studies. Having graduated in 2007, she would not entertain the thought of going to the seminary. Instead, she travelled to Indonesia and preached an evangelistic series organized by Share Him Ministry. “I was amazed to see Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, celebrities, and atheists come to accept Christ!” Connell exclaims, recalling the mission trip.
Later, as God led her step by step to work in an organic cereal factory, where workers of different faiths would come to her to request prayer; doing literature evangelism amongst a Muslim and atheist population in England; being a care-giver; and doing chaplaincy and Bible work — it saturated Connell with a love to see people connect to God and grow their relationship. In time, God routed her to return to Andrews to enter the seminary.
Connell continues to allow the Lord to train her focus to remain completely on Him and gospel work — whatever form that appears in and wherever that may take her.
| Photo by Robert Fuste and Joanna Jones
Monique Brown: Forensic Scientist to Nurse
Monique Brown stared at the white board, pen in hand, hunched over her desk. The chemistry formulas danced as the professor’s voice came out as nothing more than a contorted speech on forensic science.
Nothing registered in the doctoral student’s mind. What am I doing here? she thought. It dashed across her mind as quickly as the professor’s lecture. I can’t live like this! I can’t do this! She left class that day knowing what she must do.
One year later, she dropped a resignation letter onto the desk of her superior and walked out of the forensic lab of the New York City Police Department. Though her early upbringing presented challenges, including watching her parents’ divorce and witnessing her mother spiral downward into mental illnesses, Brown graduated college with honors, earning a degree in forensic chemistry. “I chose the field because I was good in math and science and loved watching crime shows like CSI.”
Finding employment after school became a challenge. “I applied to all the major crime labs in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area and got denied. I was vexed and disappointed because I thought I had done everything right. I made good grades and had a great internship, but I couldn’t even land an interview and that made me depressed.”
Miraculously, due to a mass hiring that was taking place in the New York City Police Department, Brown was employed six months after submitting her application. As a novice, she quickly settled into the lab scene and did exceptional work.
However, the gruesome murder of a coworker and fellow trainee shattered Brown and caused a major turning point in her life. “I realized that you don’t know the impactthat you have on people. I wondered whether I had showed Christ to her through my life
and if I presented the gospel.”
During this period, her long-standing, unstable relationship with God had started to take shape. “I was searching,” she says. Despite the fact that she was not completely devoted to God at the time, she recalls sincerely wanting to find truth and serve God. Brown was baptized into the Adventist faith in June 2009. Before long, Brown, who was overweight at the time, was invited to health expos and other activities centered on presenting the Gospel through the tool of health evangelism.
“I started applying the principles to my own life and lost 50 pounds,” she says. Physical and spiritual improvements were becoming evident in her life. Other attendees at the health workshops where Brown began volunteering were reporting drops in blood pressures that were once dangerously high; overweight individuals showed tremendous change, and, above all, souls were being won to Christ.
“I felt called more and more to health ministry,” Brown recalls. “But I was still working in forensics. I was being called to testify against so many young men and I thought it was so unfair.” Brown felt an inner struggle as her work was helping to send people
to prison who she knew needed Christ. She battled with the decision to either go fulltime into health ministry or remain in the lab.
During this time, Brown was enrolled in a Ph.D. program seeking higher education in the field of forensic science. As the time drew closer for her to make a decision, Brown says, “I was sitting in class and I knew that I did not want to do this for the rest of my life. I did not want to spend all my time in the lab.” Health ministry overpowered her desires as she saw the impact on her life and the lives of others. She had been in the forensic science program for a year by now and fears began to swirl in her mind.
“Then I heard this sermon and the preacher spoke about how God will provide and that we shouldn’t worry. I knew it would work out.”
In September 2011, Brown drafted and delivered her resignation letter to the NYPD. She got on a plane to Arizona where she learned about growing her own food and participated in a health program that yielded many baptisms. Preaching, leading out in cooking classes, and colporteur work brought the joy that Brown had sought. After initially being accepted to Loma Linda University, she enrolled at Andrews University. “I wanted to work more closely with the patients, so I chose to do nursing,” she says without a hint of regret.
From a forensic scientist working to solve crimes, to a nursing student serving God by teaching others about a healthy lifestyle, Brown looks forward to other work that God has for her.
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