Hello, my name is Cindy Johnston, and I am the Counseling Director for New Hope Ministry & Counseling Center as of June 2014. I entered this position at the stage of my life when many people are thinking of retiring from their careers. When I added up the years of my Social Work/Counseling career prior to joining the staff of New Hope, it came to almost 30 years. Perhaps becoming the Counseling Director at New Hope is the crown of my career and God is smiling and saying “My daughter, I am not done with you yet.”
My favorite scripture is Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever Amen.
Oh and has He ever done immeasurably more than I ever asked or imagined. I would never have dreamed that when I accepted Christ as my Savior during my 6th grade year that the Lord had a plan and purpose for me that would take me on such a journey as I have traveled. For you see, I grew up a farm girl in Manhattan, Kansas. I absolutely loved the farm and country life and still do with the exception of cleaning/clearing pastures. I always thought if I got married, I would marry a farm boy. And does God have a sense of humor. I went off to Ottawa University, a Baptist college in Kansas and met a Colorado mountain boy who planned to become a pastor. Yep you guessed it. That is exactly what happened. Two years later and only 20 years old, I married Lloyd Johnston. I questioned the Lord if He really thought this was a good plan for me. I learned from what I observed and heard from adults as a child that pastor’s families were held to a high standard and I was not sure I could measure up to the “perfection” I perceived I needed for the role. I would say repeatedly bits and pieces of the following script to the Lord, “Are You sure, because don’t You remember Lord I don’t do well speaking in front of large groups of people. As I recall Lord, I always got marked down for talking too fast in high school speech class and at 4-H Day competitions when I gave demonstrations and project talks. And then Lord, did You forget that I stopped taking piano lessons in 5th grade, so I don’t even know how to play the piano good enough for Sunday night services. Just a reminder Lord, You know I sure don’t sing solos. Really Lord, I know I am not good enough for this task.” And finally, “Lord You know how I can be.” Could the Lord have rolled His eyes and thought, “Oh goodness, here is another one of My children with one excuse after another, questioning My plan and purpose.” After all, He has heard excuses for trying to get out of His plans and purposes since Moses and before. But the Lord said, “This is the plan girl so let’s get on with it.”So since I was in love, I just went with the plan (not always without grumbling) and what a ride.
We finished college and Lloyd went on to seminary. I got my degree in Social Work and I was gonna fix the world. We’ve served churches going on 40 years in Wyoming, Kansas, Wisconsin and Iowa. The Lord blessed us with two daughters and a son and with two grandchildren to date.
Throughout this journey, the Lord had a lot of purging to do in me to “perfect” me. Not to make me perfect as a pastor’s wife, but as His daughter. One of the first things He revealed to me very early in my journey in ministry was that I was a people pleaser. For the first couple churches, I thought there must be a way to keep everyone happy in a church. I did everything I could think of to make that happen. At times, I still struggle with that, but the Lord continues to remind me over and over, that I am only to strive to please Him and not man or that one lady, Mildred). Actually there has been more than one “Mildred.” Looking back at my “Mildred’s,” I give thanks for all of them, because they’ve helped grow me up in the Lord whether they meant to or not. I have learned so much from God’s people as we have gone through trials and pain together, some of which I know grieved the Holy Spirit. As the scripture says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-3)
There is that word “perfect” that I mentioned earlier describing how I questioned God about my readiness for His plan for my life. Throughout the almost 40 years since those conversations with the Lord, He continues to show me He is not done with me. I AM is perfecting me, so that I reach perfection and completeness by the time I see Him face to face. The Lord is not perfecting me to be the “perfect” pastor’s wife, Social Worker, or counselor, but rather his perfect and complete daughter. Readiness is a journey I continue to learn on my ministry travels.
I have lived in two main different spheres of people on my journey; one sphere within the Body of Christ and another sphere that at times appeared to be light years away from Christ. I understand that God’s people have their own trials and struggles but in my professional career, I saw pain and ugly and sorrow in ways we are often protected from within the Church. I’ve seen the pain and ugliness of poverty, addiction, child abuse, domestic violence and broken families as I walked with many hurting families on an unprotected journey. I’ve been asked to make assessments and recommendations to government agencies and testify in court numerous times about where children should or should not live for all or part of their childhood. I have supervised other Counselors regarding their decisions and recommendations regarding the same matters for 16 years. My professional role in the lives of many people has not been popular over the years with some groups of people. More than once I’ve been threatened by hurting people who perceived me to be the enemy or very self-righteous. I’ve experienced people asking me how I could be part of making “God -like” decisions and proclaim to be a Christian. Those challenging questions kept me on my toes to always go to the Lord for direction before making any recommendation that would change the course of a family’s life. I’ve been to hundreds of trainings on how to utilize different therapy techniques and how to and how not to counsel other people. I gained lots of knowledge and advice from many experts. But the expert above them all is the ONE and TRUE LIVING GOD, THE GREAT I AM. I have come to the conclusion that in order for me to accomplish the Lord’s command to “Go and Make Disciples of all Nations” (Matthew 28:19), those two spheres must interact. My observation is there are people from both spheres who are either hurting as they run ahead or lag behind in their walk with the Lord without growing in their relationship with Him, or they are walking alone without the Lord’s salvation. Those folks continue in their self-destructive habits and life styles without the Hope of Christ. As the body of Christ, which obviously includes the local church, we are expected to reach outside our doors. I think there are unlimited ways to reach the hurting by thinking outside the traditional box of ministry opportunities and avenues. In my opinion, New Hope Ministry & Counseling Center is one venue as part of the Body of Christ that reaches into the spheres of our community who are currently outside of Christ’s hope and healing power, or who remain a babe in Christ, not taking part in all of His inheritance.
Although I have been part of New Hope Ministry & Counseling Center for a number of years as a Counselor and/or Prayer Partner, I never saw on my radar screen this opportunity to serve as the Counseling Director coming my way. But God did have it on His radar screen for me even back when I was making all my excuses why I wouldn’t be a “good” pastor’s wife as well as when I thought I was going to change the world as a Social Worker. He has given me a tremendous opportunity to continue my journey in my career as well as ministry at New Hope. Although I think the secular counseling community can help people with issues, I know for sure that Biblical, Christ centered counseling can heal people of painful and debilitating issues without just a band aid approach, but with the true healing balm of Christ.
And here I am; a daughter of the King, pastor’s wife, mom and grandma reading over this testimony and the life my Lord and Savior has orchestrated, my favorite Bible verse becomes even more precious. He has done immeasurably more in me than I ever imagined or thought possible. I say to you my Abba Father, Chairein, Chairein (Joy to you)!