alison-sanderson-1.jpgI decided to attend seminary because I have always felt a call on my life, especially serving women. I am the co-founder of EncouragHER Ministries, and our mission is to promote faith, fellowship, and fruitfulness of all women. Not sure what to expect from school and how the narrative would connect, I made the decision to attend anyway. I remember arriving at Candler and feeling intimidated by the expectation of Contextual Education; yet I was intrigued by the opportunity.

Well, that clarifying moment happened for me during my first year, when I was able to get my hands wet serving at Metro Transitional Facility (MTC), which is a transitional facility for incarcerated women. I remember after being there just a few days thinking, “There are just so many hurting and lost people outside of the church, yet not enough ministers willing to get out and do the work to help.” That year at MTC taught me so much not just about the world, but about myself. It became the stern reminder that I had only scratched the surface of the work that God had called me to do, but if I were to do it faithfully, I had to be open to the learning process.

Two years later and I am still learning and enjoying every moment of it. During my last year at Candler, I was able to do an internship as a spiritual development advisor at Breakthru House, Inc., a transitional facility for women in recovery. I want to start by saying thank you to the women for allowing me to participate with them in their journey to recovery. From the smiles, to the stories, to the tears, each will be a reminder of why I am in ministry in the first place. The thing I appreciate most was the opportunity to work with such a diverse group of women. I was able to create and integrate a curriculum that brought both sacred and secular conversations to the table. The women in the facility came from a variety of spiritual backgrounds, which made me appreciate the tools I have taken from Candler. And the interreligious dialogue always made for learning moments.

The greatest lesson I took from both sites has been the power of listening. I didn’t realize just how much there is to learn until I had to listen to the many stories about who God is, and how these women came to those understandings. Prior to Candler I might have been offended, probably focused on fixing people; but now what I prioritize is respect for the individual. Love has been the language that has made possible the hard conversations in my time at Breakthru House.

As I prepare for graduation, I feel empowered to continue serving marginalized communities of women. There is much work to be done, and as long as I am able, I pray God give me the strength, the humility, and the compassion to do his great work!

Mark 13:31: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”