This article appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of our quarterly newsletter, the InterACTION. Click here to read the complete publication.

“We have seen God transform people from the inside out.”

Visibly trembling, Sarah* drifted into the counseling room and cautiously positioned herself in the corner chair. Fear and exhaustion had embedded dark circles around her young eyes as Sarah glanced down and began to tell her story. The experience she relayed was so horrific, it was difficult for us to listen, and our hearts wept with her. Finally, Sarah paused, lifted her head, and with a new air of determination shared her reason for coming to counseling. “I want to be able to deal with my trauma and know how to never get hurt again.”

When Laura and I arrived with our three children in Cardston, Alberta in 2009, little did we know just how grafted into the lives of the First Nations people we would become. We first served at a camp ministry for First Nations kids and teens in the summer. As the years went on, we built relationships in the community. I was a teacher and a leader at a local multicultural fellowship in Cardston and the surrounding reserves. Early on, we realized that many in our community had severe emotional wounds and like all of us, needed the Healer of the soul. Soon we trained in biblical counseling, and it became the primary tool we used in our discipleship ministry.

Several weeks before meeting with Sarah, we were asked to counsel someone who had a dreadful past. We didn’t know quite what to expect. I had connected with Sarah multiple times before, during summers when we helped run First Nations youth camps, but I did not know her story.

Experiencing severe trauma often skews our view of truth and a true sense of personal identity. As Christians, we know that our identity is found in Christ alone, but traumatic events can open the doors to our minds, triggering us to believe the enemy’s lies. God says His word does not go out void. “…so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,” (Isaiah 55:11-12, NIV). When scripture addresses the deep wounds of trauma (biblical counseling), we often find it brings true and lasting transformation. Romans 12:2 clarifies this, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (ESV).

Gently, over the course of the next few weeks, her pastor, my wife and I walked Sarah through the Bible to show her who God is and who she is in Christ. Passages from 1 and 2 Corinthians, Zephaniah, and Psalms expressed how God delights in His people and how He has washed, purified, sanctified and justified her.
2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of redemption through Christ, so we are presented as pure and spotless before the Lord. This was a difficult concept for Sarah to believe due to her past influences. Yet, as she saw God in the Scriptures, she was drawn more and more to Him—to trust what He accomplished on the cross.

Sarah continued to grow in her faith and trust in Christ. During one counseling session, she realized that she carried a grudge against those who hurt her. So, we began working through Romans 12:14-21 and several other passages, which call us to respond with kindness and love to those who hurt us, because of Christ’s love for us. Sarah began to understand Jesus’ sacrifice—that He bore her guilt and shame on the cross. Now she sees those who hurt her through Jesus’ eyes.
Two months after our first counseling session with Sarah, Laura and I received a call from Sarah’s friend Lisa*, who quizzically asked, “Can I meet with you? There are some things I need to work through.” Meeting with Lisa was a joy and confirmation that God was at work, as she excitedly relayed her recent observations of Sarah.

“I’ve known Sarah for a while, and she was never like this before. Now she’s always reading the Bible and shares about it in Bible study. She’s so eager to help other people; she constantly looks for new opportunities! Please tell me what happened to change her. Maybe I could have that in my life?”

God continually advances His work in Sarah and Lisa. Recently, Sarah stated, “I have no fear now. God is with me and has a bigger plan for me, and I can’t wait to know it.” We prayed, thanking God for what He had done and is doing. I hope that Sarah will grow in the ability to counsel others biblically, particularly those with severe trauma.

After almost thirteen years of serving in Cardston, we had become friends and family to many. I even considered one man to be my adopted father for many years. Thus, it was not without heaviness of heart that we chose to resign from InterAct Ministries and move back to New Jersey in December 2021.

God has started a new chapter in our lives with a new calling and the opportunity to be closer to family needs. I am forever grateful for our time at InterAct and the eternal impact of our ministry with First Nations people in lower Alberta. We have seen God transform people from the inside out. We trust God will continue the good work He started there.

*Name changed

The Thiessen family served First Nations people in Canada through biblical counseling and camp ministry for over thirteen years. InterAct Ministries is grateful for their faithful service to the least-reached.


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