Published July 9, 2018

What I Would Have Missed if I Didn’t Face My Fears

Education, kindness and generosity laid the foundation of my future.

From an early age, my parents encouraged my siblings and me to pursue education and to work hard so that we would excel. They would often remind us, education was the stepping stone to a successful life. My dad and mom also taught the languages of kindness and generosity. During my childhood, there was always a guest in our home who was down on their luck, and our dining table always had room for someone who needed a meal. This tradition of sharing had been passed on from my grandmother to my mother.

My mother was one of 11 children. A Salvation Army missionary encouraged her to pursue her education and helped sponsor her so she could stay in school. She worked her way from a home-economics teacher to senior government official, which was quite a feat for a woman in her day. Along the way, she never forgot the generosity that gave her a chance at living a meaningful and fulfilled life, and she continued the tradition of kindness by educating other children quietly and without fanfare. (Story captured in my self-published book:  Esther’s Hope.)

Since education was such a value in my family, I pursued my education, and graduated with a Master of Arts in Literature in 1991. After teaching for a few years, I began to experience a call to ordained ministry.

God prompted my soul for the next season of my journey.

I came to the USA and graduated with my Master of Divinity in 2000. I got married and served with the non-profit organization Hope Network for 13 years. God blessed me with a son in 2007, and unfortunately my marriage ended in 2009. It was about that time when I began to feel the Spirit’s gentle prompting in my soul. By 2017 God was leading me to leave my position to work full time to establish what He had put on my heart 10 years earlier.

On my mother’s deathbed in 2006, she asked me to continue her work, giving voice to urging I already felt inside. As I reflected on my mother’s life, I wanted to find out why she had such a passion for helping women. My research revealed the incredible obstacles young girls (particularly in developing nations) face as they pursue their education. As I began to comprehend the disparity between female and male education and began to look at the effects on the quality of life for these young girls, I felt an urgency to do something about giving these young girls a chance.

The Summit helped me face my fears.

Gary Haugen’s talk at the Summit in 2017 reminded me that safety is not the antidote to fear; that often fear is God’s way of inviting us to be brave. I confronted my fear and gained the courage I needed to pursue my dream to launch Esther’s Hope Ministries.

God had planted the seed in my heart through my upbringing and my mother’s legacy, but if it had not been for the Summit, I would still be negotiating the “But how, Lord?” I would have settled for safe. I would still be sitting in my corner office, sporting my title and receiving a steady paycheck, and all the while, I would have had to live with the agony of not taking that leap of faith. I would know the sorrow of not saying “Yes, Lord.” The Summit has given me the courage to take the first step, and trust God to lead me forward one step at a time. The Summit has given me the wisdom to be steadfast even when the going is rough. The Summit has taught me to reach out and ask for help. And most important, the Summit has encouraged me to wait patiently, for that one connection that could catapult the mission forward.

Esther’s Hope sponsors and mentors 100 girls in three schools in Kenya.

My dream for Esther Hope Ministries is to see young women receive access to transformational and life-changing education, and to see these young girls embrace the mindset that we are not our own. We are Christ’s and he blesses us, so we can be a conduit of blessing to others. If every one of these girls can teach these values to just one other girl, and encourage them to do the same, then my dream will be complete.

What if I missed this?

Had it not been for the “nudge” at the Summit, the miracle of these girls would not have been possible. I would never have experienced what it feels like to truly walk by faith, relying wholly on God, and see him working miracles in my life, one day at a time.

Attending the Summit is like a personal revival. 

Not only have I found the atmosphere at the Summit uplifting and inspiring, with ample opportunity for networking, I also feel as though God has spoken directly to me through every presentation and challenge. He has invited me to go deeper still, and not settle for safe or as one speaker put it: “Don’t let anyone fool you with a title and a paycheck.” To me, each Summit has felt like a commissioning to go forth boldly, confront my fear and serve people passionately. The Summit and the stories I hear remind me that every time I feel like quitting, I am not alone in the vineyard. If I can persevere and work my space while they work their space, together we’ll create a beautiful tapestry of Christian service in the world.

Leaders must know that their invitation to the Summit is a divine appointment to  experience the incredible stories of those who stepped out by faith and allowed God to use them in new and extraordinary ways.

About the Author(s)
Joan Cornelison

Joan Cornelison

Rev. Joan Cornelison grew up in Kenya. In 1996, she moved to the United States to continue her education when she felt called to ordained ministry. In 2000, she received her Master of Divinity from United Theological Seminary. Her career includes service as a college professor, a pastor and president of Esther’s Hope Ministries, an organization she founded to see young women receive access to transformational and life changing education in her native country of Kenya. Through The Global Leadership Summit, she was inspired to face her fears with her ministry, and go all in to become a public non-profit organization previously serving 10 girls to now serving 100 girls at three schools.