Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memoirs of a Mentor

(Please forgive me for the cheesy title). I have had the tremendous privilege of serving on the Pendergraph Women's Ministry Board this year at Southern. Last night we hosted an event on mentoring and they asked me to give a brief testimony on my experience as a mentor. I decided to speak about two dear friends of mine, Brittany LaBonte and Whitney Waldemar. Below is what I said at the event. We also made decorated tables in honor of our mentors, so I did mine in honor of my mom. In the next couple of weeks I hope to blog about mentoring and what Titus 2 ministry looks like as a single woman (though I will also talk about it more generally). I hope that this testimony is a blessing and an encouragement to you today!

I used to think that discipleship was about me. As I felt God calling me to ministry I began feeling the burden to minister to other women, which was not a wrong desire. But, I thought it would work my way. And my way was a romantic idea of finding a girl to disciple. We would meet. I would see her desperate need for my help, and I would disciple her and change her life. Thankfully, God rescued me from this sinful and very wrong idea. I first met Brittany in the beginning of my senior. She was a freshman who I didn’t have any real interest in getting to know. She immediately had a lot of friends, and I, in my sinfulness, questioned her love for the Gospel because of her friends. The week before I left for Fall Break she approached me in the cafeteria. Freshman couldn’t have cars and she needed a ride home for break. I just so happened to be the only girl on our campus who lived near her house. The last thing I wanted to do was to give her a ride home. And I definitely knew God would rather me use my drive time for my personal edification—not driving some freshman home. I mean, I had already had a hard semester trying to disciple women, I needed the break. But I had no legitimate reason to say no, so one week later we were headed to Michigan for break.

God used that ride to shatter a lot of pride in my heart. I told her that we would listen to sermons on the way home (thinking that she probably wouldn’t want to do that, but I was going to put my foot down anyway), but she seemed very excited about the idea and I still remember the encouragement that I felt when I saw her pull her Bible out and take notes. She and I shared our testimonies, which were very similar, and she asked me a lot of questions about moving on from a sinful past because hers was fresher than mine. As the drive continued, the Lord began to soften my heart towards her. And the entire week that I was home I felt the Lord leading me to ask her if she wanted to meet on a regular basis.

It was after that drive that we began to meet almost every week for nearly two years. We went to church together every Sunday, we prayed together often, and I always looked forward to our rides home at breaks. God used her to break my ideologies about discipleship. God knew exactly what I needed when he brought Brittany into my life. Discipleship was not about me seeking out the girl who I thought needed the most help, rather discipleship is about me being obedient to the Titus 2 mandate that God has placed on my life. Discipleship was just as much, if not more, of a sanctifying process for me than it even was for Brittany. As I would seek to pour truth into her, I myself had to believe in and know the Gospel that I was proclaiming. We always joke about how I always have the same experiences right before she does, and God has used all of those experiences in both of us to conform us more into the image of his Son. As I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I grew in my relationship with Brittany because she and I were both striving for the same goal.

Because God changed my heart about discipleship first with Brittany, it freed me to be more intentional in pursuing ministry to women. I knew that I was discipling not because of my great intellect or righteousness, but because Titus 2 is for all of us—including me. I began working with senior high girls at my church in Minnesota after college. It was there that I met the Waldemar family. Whitney, their now 16 year old daughter, was in my small group and her parents had been praying about asking an older girl to mentor Whitney. After praying and talking about it, they asked me. We hardly knew each other, but they felt God leading them towards me. And for six months, the Lord allowed me to not only mentor Whitney, but be apart of her family as well. She and I went on a mission trip to a Jamaican orphanage this summer as a part of a team of mothers and daughters. Mrs. Waldemar and I would talk often, not only about Whitney, but about what God was doing in me as well. She was one of the primary encouragers of me coming to seminary. She was even my ride when my car broke down, and it broke down often. By the time I moved here, both she and Whitney had become like family to me. Their love for the Gospel and desire to know Christ caused me to love him more.

I can remember many occasions where I walked away from meeting with Brittany and Whitney with an intense joy in the Gospel because of what they were saying about their love for the Savior. Their walks with Christ challenged me and spurred me on to greater holiness and pursuit of Christ.

Often we feel strange talking about our discipleship of other people. We don’t want to sound self-promoting or arrogant. But this stems from an unbiblical understanding of discipleship. It is not because of my merit that I discipled women. And it is not my merit that will enable me to continue discipling women. If discipleship was about my ability and righteousness, I would be doomed. It is the Gospel that moves me to discipleship. God has commanded that we disciple younger women, even now, not because we are great but because he wants people to know him and grow in him. Titus 2 ministry is not based on merit, but on grace. And if I was not growing in my love for the Savior while I discipled these women, then there was something lacking in my life. There was not a moment that went by in my relationships with these women that I did not walk away praising God for the work that he had done in their and my lives. Discipleship is not just a one-sided effort, and there is no manual besides the Bible. Rather, it is a life-on-life relationship rooted in the Gospel.

I still talk with both Brittany and Whitney. And there is not a week that goes by that I do not miss them and long for their friendship. God was so good to me in giving me them. They were, and are still, a blessing to me, and tremendously used by God to point me to the Cross.

Thank you for your friendship, Brittany and Whitney. Not only do I consider you dear friends, but I consider you my sisters, too. Our God is good indeed.


Chelsea Bass said...

This is sweet. I hope to have the privilege of discipling more girls. It is such a blessing. I sometimes think that I learned more than they did!

debt said...

Thanks, Waldemar family, for loving and caring for my daughter while she was in Minnesota! Hi, Brittany! Hope to see you again one day. Courtney, you continue to humble and encourage me, all at the same time!!! Looking forward to tomorrow!

Whitney said...

Courtney! I love you so much! You have been a huge blessing in my life and I think about you and pray for you all the time! I cried reading this post. I miss you dear friend! I can't wait to read the rest of the mentor series!

Waldemar Family said...

I am so thankful for you, Courtney!

cdt said...

I am thankful for you guys, too!