Andrea Williams ('13)
After undergoing years of abuse from her step-father, Andrea went to college and started to realize the depth of the abuse. Her terrible experience with a dysfunctional home life and subsequent legal battles created in Andrea a passion to rescue and heal lives and hearts. Andrea says that she had previously taken on a victim mentality but that "I promised myself that I would no longer let my step-father ruin my life. He took my past but would not take my future, and I would do everything in my power to help others in similar situations. After many months of being confused and asking God, "Why?", my prayers began to change. I began asking God to use my brokenness to change and impact the life of others. Little did I know where this prayer would take me."
Andrea says that she had dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and that the dream had "stemmed from a deep compassion for hurting people." She says, "During my discovery of abuse, my desire to help people began to shift to wanting to help children who had been in similar situations as I have been in...A school of abused and neglected children had become my dream." Before there was an opportunity to do this, she married her husband, Sean, started her own family, and worked with children's ministry.
Andrea says of her work in children's ministry and subsequent work in education, "I did not just want them to learn about God; I wanted them to experience God. My children's ministry work eventually led me to start a preschool for my own daughters, and a year later as my oldest daughter was entering kindergarten, I transitioned the preschool into Forerunner Christian Academy, a K-12th grade private school. I had four years of running the school before God told me that it was time to leave. Looking back, it was amazing to see what have been accomplished with the tools that we had. The area was one of the poorest counties in the state of Texas."
Uncertain about what to do next, Andrea says, "I began looking for the next open door that God had for me, and I could not find it. We had moved an hour and a half away from Forerunner so that my husband could spend his last year on campus finishing his Bachelors before heading to Colorado upon his graduation. I felt isolated, alone, and somewhat like a failure in my departure from Forerunner despite my firm conviction that it was God-purposed. Much healing in the area came from my Master's program, specifically in the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. God was able to take my focus from everything that I thought I did wrong and show me many things that I did right. I learned that when equipped with knowledge, we are better capable of understanding the dynamics of situations, and even though the outcomes may still be uncomfortable, we are better able to handle and navigate through them."
Much revelation came to Andrea during this session and she says, "This was the beginning of our journey where God began teaching us to cling to Him and rely on Him for our daily manna. He also began removing the measuring stick that I held next to my life. Being the Founder and Administrator of a private school was a position that received a lot of respect from others. Even though I did not flaunt my position, I almost felt naked without it. I did not know how to relate myself to others. I had identified myself with the position instead of being grounded by my identity in Christ. He began showing me that I did not have to work for His approval, but that I already had it simply because I was His. He began showing me grace beyond salvation and that I am justified in Him. He began showing me the value of relationships versus duty and the transformational power of love."
Andrea processed through many things from the past as she looked towards the future and said that, "God began showing me a different way. He showed me that I did not have to work so hard. With Forerunner Christian Academy, God revealed the school's vision to me, and I took off making it happen. Looking back, I think that there were so many struggles that we handled in our own strength instead of giving them to God and letting Him work through them on our behalf. He showed me that often when I would pray that I would still strategize a solution and often initiate and implement a solution of my own doing instead of His will. Instead, I can pray, trust fully in Him that He is working without me having to do anything, and then at the right time step into the action that He needs me to do. I have seen that by operating in this way, God truly does get the glory because I have done nothing but follow His lead and act as His hands."
After moving to Colorado, Andrea started the Master in Organizational Leadership program at Regent. She says of her experience, "The program reinforced the idea of praying, resting, and trusting in God for the direction that is needed for an organization. Even when quick decisions are needed, I now understand the difference between really seeking God for insight and just making a decision on my own because I need to make one and am not sure what God wants me to do. I understand that God leads with peace and not internal tension. This program reinforced relationship over duty and taught me how to utilize everyone involved for the betterment of the organization."
Andrea enrolled in a class, on holistic international development, designed to give students an opportunity to create and then implement programs during a two week trip to Kigali, Rwanda. While researching for the class, Andrea learned that there were many destitute children that lived in the streets and few organizations that helped them. During and after her time in Rwanda working with children and women, the Lord continued to move in Andrea's heart to help vulnerable women and children.
After the trip, Andrea longed to go back to Rwanda. She also had a vision for the creation of a safe place for vulnerable women. I Will Stand International and the Invisible Village were birthed out of the trip to Rwanda, the vision from being exposed to the need that at-risk women in America have for a haven. She says, "I see pain every day and am committed to STANDing beside the brokenhearted, hopeless, and vulnerable. I know what it is like to be helpless and to have no one step in to do anything about the situation. I have suffered, but have also seen the power of restoration through Jesus."
Andrea and her IWSI team are working with churches and organizations in Rwanda to set up shelters for women and street kids and go on short-term mission trips. Also being developed, in the U.S., is a modern day sort of underground railway system for vulnerable women to use to escape dangerous situations. This network and eventual shelter is called the Invisible Village. People are opening their homes as brief refuges for endangered women. Andrea says, "I prayed that God would use IWSI for women here in America as well as women in Rwanda...His answer was our Invisible Village and our Stand Against Violence & Abuse conference." The 2013 Stand Conference centered on "restoration, healing, and empowerment, and the goal was for women to leave with a strong desire to impact the lives of others."
Please join with us as we wish Andrea and the IWSI team the best and pray for the Lord to work mightily in people and nations through these ministries.