MyWalk is a new feature on the BCEC blog, exploring how people conduct their walks with God.
This month highlights Jodi Hurlow, who has been spending the past six months in Birmingham with Pioneers Ministry.
Hi Jodi, thanks for meeting up. Now I know you came over to England for a short-term ministry trip. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up here?
*laughs* Well, I’ve been working back in the States for almost 10 years at a counselling agency as a counsellor. But I’ve always wanted to live in another culture and through a series of events the Lord brought me over to England under a mission organization, Pioneers, that serves international students and the Chinese church. I was really excited because I’ve long had a heart for Chinese people and the fact that I could work with them in an English-speaking country was quite appealing. Plus the Pioneers team was a great fit. Everything just came together to confirm that I should be here.
What about your job back home? Did you have to give that up to come over here?
Work is amazingly flexible; they’re a Christian organisation as well so there’s a lot of understanding there. They were willing to give me time off to travel. So yeah! Here I am.
And do you have a church back home that has been supportive as well?
Yes. They are amazingly supportive in all my overseas travels. They’ve poured out abundantly to me financially and especially in prayer. It has meant a lot having the support of my church family: it makes me being here possible.
That’s great. How long have you been attending that church?
Oh, for years. I was raised in a Christian family and grew up in that church. I’ve been a believer since I was a little girl, probably four or five.
Over such a long period of time, you obviously change so much. How have you seen your own Christian life develop?
I was very blessed to grow up in a Christian family as well as attend a Christian school. So I think my spiritual journey has been a bit unique because I’ve obviously had so many positive influences around me. My church has been amazing; I’ve been in the same church [all my life] so I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people who have invested in me over the years.
And they’ve seen you grow up as well.
Yeah. I think for me, going from childhood to teenager, the challenge was to understand what it truly means to be a Christian since I had made the commitment when I was little girl. The youth pastor and so many other people showed me what it looked like to be Christ’s follower. Then when I went to university it was another step of making my faith my own. Not the faith of my parents or teachers, but my own.
There was a turning point [after a long period of doubting and questioning] while I was at a Christian concert. Everyone was singing a song, I don’t remember what now. But during the song I heard the Lord speaking to me, almost like an audible voice, saying, “Jodi, I love you.” For me to hear those words of Jesus loving me and caring about me, that was the point of change. I was stunned. It’s like, wait a minute I’m in the middle of a concert, and then suddenly to hear this voice of the Lord saying he loves me. That was the turning point for me in the journey of doubt. It became, if he loves me, I can do anything. I can live this life and move forward.
So does worship play a huge part in your daily walk with God?
It does. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I can connect with God in many different ways. And worship is one of them, whether in a church service, or with a group of people singing praise songs, or me listening to music on my own and worshiping in my own way. I definitely love that aspect of connecting with him. But there are so many other aspects, whether it’s praying and listening to his voice, reading his words obviously, or even reading other books. I think good books by Christian authors have been an important way for me to learn.
Sure, since they all have a role in your growth. What might a one-on-one time between you and God look like?
I’ve found like I said earlier that I can have quiet time with the Lord in a variety of ways. It looks different on different days. Most important is spending time with God and reading his word. But I also try not to beat myself up if I don’t open up God’s word in some way or another [every single day] because I’ve found I also need time to process what I’m reading and learning. Sometimes I just need some time to worship or listen to praise songs. Or to read a book or pray. Since I’ve been here I’ve learned even more the importance of depending on God and spending time with him in a greater way. Because of that I’ve lately spent most of my time reading the Bible in-depth. The copy I use has a lot of good notes in it.
Like a concordance study Bible.
Yeah. On the sides it has references to the words or related verses. So I’ve been picking a couple books [of the Bible] and studying them, figuring out what God wants to say to me through this, how I can live it out daily. The Psalms are some of my favourites because even when I’m struggling and having a difficult time getting into the Word, I’ve found that even just spending a few minutes reading a Psalm a day can be just as much encouragement [as reading a large chunk]. You’re reading God’s word, you’re hearing the truth, you’re learning about who He is, and you’re seeing struggles throughout the Psalms (and victories). So I think for me…
It’s something that’s easy to relate to.
Yeah, and when you feel crunched for time or don’t know where to begin, the Psalms are a great place to start. Another thing is spending time in prayer just being honest with God. I’ve learned over the years that I can be as honest with God as anyone. He can handle when I’m feeling pressured, or sad, or angry and upset. On the other hand he also loves to hear when I’m excited and feeling joyful. I can come to him at any point in my life without fearing that I’m not good enough to talk to him. It’s ok to just enjoy that friendship with him. So right now my times with God are mainly reading [the Bible] and praying.
And what about the other books you mentioned earlier? Is there any particular one that’s been monumental in shaped your thinking?
Well I’ve found a couple really good devotional books. One of my favourites—just a small book with daily readings—is Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts. That book is, the most amazing book I think I’ve ever read. The author has taken perspective of God, like it’s [God speaking directly to the reader]. He takes a verse every day and writes a commentary about it or how to apply it to your life. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve just opened that book and it’s just been exactly what I needed to hear for that day. I just felt like the Lord was speaking directly to me through it. So that’s another of my favourite things to do; if I’m having a stressful day to just quickly read a page of it.
And how have you found your walk being shaped by your role as a counsellor, with people looking to you for answers?
I’ve learned, especially being here in England, that spending time in God Word and applying it to my life is the most powerful thing I’ve done.
Going straight to the source.
Exactly, and realising that it actually applies to my life. That the Bible’s not just some book written years ago by a group of people, but it’s something I can take right now and find relevant truth in it that applies to my life. And also giving myself grace, knowing that I won’t always open it every day. But knowing that when I go back to it, even if it’s a day or two later, it’s still there.
I’ve been learning more and more to rely on the Lord in His leading in conversation instead of just following my own inclination. Because nothing I say actually matters. In working with others I want them to develop their relationships with God, even the believers. I’ve spent a lot more time listening and a lot more time praying for people. Trying to be more aware of people in my life that I need to pray for and being more active in my prayer life for others.
Because he’s the only thing that will never let us down. Thanks again for your time today and all the work you’ve invested here these past months. We’ll be praying for you as you head back to Ohio.
You’re welcome. Keep in touch!
MyWalk is a monthly feature on thebcec.org.uk. This interview was written by Rebecca Hung, one of the regular contributors at thebcec.org.uk. If you’d like to take part in a MyWalk feel free to get in contact with her.