“I’ve learned there are many mountains in life. I don’t see the other side, but the Lord sees.”Discovering God’s purpose in the cracks of life
The Rev. Dr. Florence Juma was called into full-time ministry while growing up in Kenya. She has a doctorate in Historical Theology, a Master of Divinity, and a Masters in Education (Policy Studies). She is ordained with the PAOC, is an associate faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, and is the author of three memoirs and two children’s books. Dr. Juma attends Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly.
Q1: You are pursuing a number of different educational and ministry opportunities. Can you briefly describe what you’re focusing on right now?
I work as a spiritual care educator at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. I teach one course per semester at the seminary at Wilfrid Laurier on Spiritual Care Psychotherapy. Students who take that course are required to take a practicum at the hospital, and that connects my teaching with my time at the hospital.
Q2: What led you to consider full-time ministry?
I was 18 when I received a calling on my life to be in full-time ministry. The challenge was that [I] was a girl, called to be a pastor. Even my pastor in Kenya was confused. My parents thought there was something not correct. I found myself working in a male-dominated field. Even when I did my postgraduate education … I had to defend myself and justify what I was doing.
Q3: You lived in Kenya and South Africa before your family came to Canada. What has God taught you on that journey?
It’s been humbling. I have five children. I’ve been in school throughout the time they were born and raised. When we decided to come to Canada, this lady from our small group came to see me to give me warmer clothes and a winter coat. She had lived in Europe and had warm clothes. She gave me a piece of jewelry made with precious stones and said, “As precious as these stones are, this is nothing compared to your value in the sight of the Lord.”
For 10 years, I worked in a factory in Listowel, Ontario. I wondered if maybe my calling would be realized in a different way. Eventually, I found myself using my gifts and talents in many settings: in a hospital serving people with mental issues and serving in the church.
I’m honoured that the Lord had all this planned. The Lord has seen me through as a wife and as a mother, and there is no separating one from another. Raising the children was part of ministry.
Q4: On your website florencejuma.com, the theme of waiting is very prevalent. What have you learned about waiting on God?
I am still learning. Sometimes the answers [to prayer] do not come as quickly as we’d like. I’ve learned there are many mountains in life. I don’t see the other side, but the Lord sees.
I used to say that if I prayed for food and died of starvation, I would still, with my last breath, say that the Lord provides. The fact that I’m dying of starvation does not discredit, define or change the promises of God. There have been times when answers did not come immediately, or [came] in different ways. But always, at the end of the day, God is faithful to His Word.
Q5: In your book Beneath the Cracks, you explore the idea that through every trial we have a choice to be bitter and angry, or to trust and find joy. How did you choose to trust and find joy?
Beneath the Cracks [tells] of a time when, in my human knowledge, what I had acquired ended in a manner that felt inconsistent with what I had been taught to expect. I had a position and had almost achieved what the Lord had been preparing me to do, but within a few months that ended.
I took a time out. I asked, “Why did this happen?” I was filled with anger and bitterness. [Then] I started journaling what was going through my mind. That became therapeutic. I saw things more clearly and realized that the Lord was working through that situation.
Q6: You work in spiritual care. What does that look like in a hospital setting?
In a hospital setting, when people needed to be prayed for, their own pastor would go and visit them and pray for them. There’s a feeling that when people are in the hospital … faith and prayer … are not effective except when they’re visited by their pastor. Even though every avenue of treatment has been used, without accessing the coping skills of their spiritual resources, [a patient’s] healing processes are slower. That is why spiritual psychotherapy has been added. It uses different approaches like prayer, reading Scriptures, meditation, and sometimes singing hymns to encourage people at very difficult physical or mental times.
Q7: Storytelling is an important aspect of many cultures. Can you share about the motivation behind the storybooks you’re writing for children?
When we left South Africa, our children were five through 16. I [used to] meet with some Kenyan women with young children and teach them the stories that were passed on orally … from my dad and grandparents. That’s how most people learn in oral cultures in Africa. I saw an opportunity to take the stories I learned from my dad and grandparents and carry on that tradition here. That was the motivation for writing them. Storytelling is very important. Education is acquired through storytelling.
Lisa Hall-Wilson is an award-winning journalist. She writes exclusively for the Canadian faith-based community. You can find her on Facebook or on her blog at www.lisahallwilson.com.
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photo courtesy of Florence Juma
This article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.