The Effects of Heart Work
Joi McClellan is a first-year dental student at the University of Michigan. You may remember her as a missionary last year when she was praying for God to lead in her decision of dental school.
Joi’s first reflection is that being a student is harder than being a missionary, “I knew to expect this, school is a lot. It is easy for it to be my number one and only focus. This year has been a journey of asking God, ‘what I am here for?’ I know I am here to get a DDS degree, but I know that God has me here for something more. To share the gospel.”
The journey began in the first semester relating to God in a transactional way. Joi explains, “I had this warped idea of that if I put God first in my studies that He would help me to do well. If I spend extra time doing work for God, like ministry activities that God would in turn give me what I need for my studies.”
However, mid-fall, all that thought process was challenged because she realized she was thinking of God as a machine. She reflected, “I give God time and He will in return He will give me good grades. I realized that even if I take the time to study the Bible with a friend that it does not mean God will give me a good grade on my test, but He is with me in my academics.”
God began to change Joi’s heart to see a bigger picture of ministry and how He desired to work in and through her life. Her prayer turned from “What should I do, God?” to “God, You put me here today, show me what serving You looks like.”
Joi’s perspective continues to grow this semester and God has moved her to ask that He be glorified no matter the grade. Now she prays, “Whatever way You think that You can be glorified, whether higher grades or lower grades, please make it happen, all I want is to bring people to You.”
While reading the Scriptures one morning, she realized that by spending time with God, He is the source of all wisdom, and He will grant her wisdom like Daniel, thus making her wiser than her teachers. As she began to pray that prayer, one particularly difficult exam came back with a solid A.
The temptation to study at the expense of her health was something she prayed about before entering the university campus. Suicide rates are very high among dental students. Students often meet the rigorous demand of academics and clinics at the expense of their health. Joi began to see the demands, but she had purposed in her heart while a missionary to not abuse her body for the sake of academics.
In March of last year, she prayed for God to wake her up each morning to have time with Him, and He has done so ever sense. She shares “It is just a confirmation that God doesn’t intend for me to abuse my body to accomplish His work and succeed in my studies.” She tries to be in bed between nine and ten o’clock at night. This has opened the way for her to minister to her classmates who often stay up very late to study.
One day she was talking with a classmate, and his seatmate said, “I am so tired.” She agreed, but he responded, “No I am tired tired.” She talked with him a bit more and realized he was very discouraged. They finished their conversation, and both went back to work. Joi prayed for him that night but was convicted to do something more. She found his email address and sent him a message that she was praying for him. He responded that her email was such an encouragement.
CAMPUS is piloting a mentorship program, where Joi is a mentee. In one of her sessions, she was trying to process how to do ministry, knowing what to say yes and no to. Her mentor pointed out that her goal is not to reach all 108 students in her class but rather to take five minutes. In other words, to be present in the five minutes she has with whomever God has placed with her at that moment. Changing her focus has allowed her to meet more of her classmates, minster to them, and pray more specifically for their needs.
The missionary training program for her was unique because it was during a time when everything was still shut down. However, the greatest work was the heart work that God did while in the program. Joi says, “So much of my experience last year was God working in my heart personally. What God was doing in my heart was the biggest benefit to help me this year.”