Rona Babb is planning to graduate from Westminster in May, 2020 with a Masters of Arts in Religion degree. Rona grew up on a big farm in Arkansas, in Spain, and in South Korea. Before coming to Westminster, she served as a missionary in South Korea for six years. After graduation, she plans to go on to study Counseling Psychology while working as a biblical counselor.
Tell us about yourself. How did you come to faith in Christ?
Growing up, I always knew that God was real and would often pray and speak to Him, but I remember encountering the truth of the Gospel in a life-altering way when I was 19 years old while studying abroad in South Korea. My heart was gripped with the reality that I needed a Savior and that trusting in Him was my only hope. I experienced the truths I had heard about my whole life, that through Christ I have been adopted, given the spirit of sonship by which I can cry, “Abba! Father!” My life has never been the same.
How did you decide to come to Westminster, and what did you plan to do with your degree?
I was serving as a full-time missionary in college ministry in South Korea for about 5 years. Some of my students began to struggle and work through very dark and painful issues from their past – sexual abuse, trauma, death and loss. I began to discover through these years of ministry that I loved walking with these students and counseling them through these situations with the Word of God. I met a professor in Seoul who was connected to Westminster. He encouraged me read some of David Powlison’s work (Seeing with New Eyes), and introduced me to Van Til–and also kindly explained what VT was saying–and I was hooked. I knew I wanted the theological, biblical, and counseling training offered at Westminster and CCEF. After graduating, I plan to enter a graduate program in Counseling Psychology, specializing in trauma and abuse. I hope to open my own practice and have at its foundation the biblical training and counseling model I’ve learned here.
Are you working while you study, or involved in any ministries? Tell us about them.
I have a few part-time jobs while studying full-time at Westminster. I work as a Biblical Counselor at Logan Hope School, a street school in a rough and under-resourced neighborhood of Philly. The school is predominantly 2nd and 3rd generation Cambodian and was started years ago by a former missionary to Cambodia. The teachers and staff love the students and share the Gospel with them each day. I counsel 5th–8th graders who may be struggling in school, in their family life, or with things that have happened in their past.
I also work as a Biblical Counselor at Amnion Pregnancy Center. We work with women who are in crisis pregnancy situations by offering free biblical counseling, medical care, and a material assistance and parenting program. Many of these women come into the center feeling immense pressure to get abortions. They have no family support, no place to go, and do not have finances to raise a child. We support these women in every way we possibly can and pray that they would come to know the love of Christ Jesus and choose life. The women are from many different nations, religious and family backgrounds, and God has given me the privilege of meeting them every 2 weeks for hour-long sessions. During our time together, we share our hearts, we pray, we read Scripture, I often share the Gospel, or I teach parenting lessons and connect the young moms to community resources. Then, we take the women to our “boutique” where they are able to receive diapers, formula, and other materials to help them with their children.
Ministering to these women and children has helped me to integrate all that I am learning at Westminster and keeps me motivated and passionate about my studies.
What are some particular challenges in your ministry or field of work that you are looking to Westminster to help you prepare for?
Working as a therapist or counselor as a Christian is a very difficult thing to do in our current cultural situation. Our beliefs have their starting place in the Word of God, and we begin here because we realize we do not have all the answers, that we are finite and made of dust, and that we can only know what is true and good because of a God who has condescended and revealed himself to us, through all of history and climactically in His Son. I do not know the solution to many of society’s ills and I’m heartbroken at both the world and the church’s response (or lack of response) to what is happening. This all comes up in the counseling room.
But what I love most about Westminster is the profound humility that I believe is at the root of good Reformed theology. It takes humility to say that we as mere men and women do not know, that we are not clever enough to fully understand and solve our culture’s problems, heart issues, psychological disorders, but we know a God who is sovereign. Because He has covenanted Himself to us, we believe he is at work in the world and in our hearts, so we have hope. We stand on the Word of God, we live in the world our Father has created, and we believe in the very core of us that if anything or anyone is going to be truly helped, it will only be through God. We look to His kingdom which is already at hand and also coming and we hope, we pray, we speak His truth in love to a world that will often respond with hostility. We stand our ground because it is the only ground of truth and the only true ground of love, despite what our culture says. And the miracle of miracles is that some will have ears to hear. They will hear because God has opened their ears and their hearts.
And this is the work I’ve committed my life to, that I have felt God’s call to do. This work of prayer, of listening to the heart-breaking stories of God’s image-bearers, of biblical counseling, of speaking His life-giving truth into hearts and believing that He will meet His people. With all the training I have received, I still don’t feel competent to do this well, but I remember that He has made my dead heart alive, and that every day He is working this same miracle in others. What a privilege it is to say “yes” to this work, to see broken and hurting people meet a great Savior, to see dead hearts come alive. Westminster is helping me to know and love God’s Word more, and with this training face our society’s ills and the heart-breaking stories I hear in my sessions with renewed confidence in a God who calls His people to Himself and promises to wipe every tear from our eyes.
What are some books that have had the biggest impact on you, and why?
Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Dostoevsky is brilliant in the way he constructs his characters. They are terribly flawed and complex and what is most terrible is that we can see ourselves so easily in them. I love The Brothers Karamazov as well, but The Idiot has gripped me particularly since becoming a believer. One man, who walks in honesty, hope, honor, love, compassion, and kindness, is thrown into the corruption and wickedness of Russian society and is treated like an utterly insane fool. This story compels me to think on Christ, to think on the wisdom of heaven that is foolishness to this world, to think on the pride and strength of man and how it is folly to God, to think on the weakness and dependence of a man and woman on the grace and strength of God, and that living according to God’s standards may deem us “fools” in the world’s eyes.
Augustine’s Confessions. This book often leads me to marvel at the power and beauty of the Gospel. Coming from a broken family and past, sometimes I feel shame from my story and compare myself to others who’ve grown up differently than I. I struggled with this quite often when I first became a Christian. I think on my sin and my past and question whether I have a right to stand before the Lord in all of my darkness. The truth is, I do not have a right, but none of us really do by our own goodness and works. And when I read Augustine I am reminded again that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes! And that we His children can approach His throne of grace with boldness, finding His great mercy for us who are in Christ. Augustine’s raw honesty about his sin and the resplendent beauty of Christ makes me uncomfortable… and it also keeps me from trying to put on a nice and tidy Christian façade. It keeps me honest and leads me back to the God of my salvation.
Frederick Buechner’s The Sacred Journey. Buechner’s autobiography is filled with immense tragedy. So is mine. And he tells his story beautifully. I fell in love with poetry again when I started to read Buechner. The pages of this book are filled with wonder at the beauty and brokenness of life. It’s one of the first Christian books I’ve read that was able to tell a story of loss and trauma honestly, without sugar-coating it to make everything sound nicer. And it also told a story of returning to God through this same suffering, because of it, in the midst of it. I see Buechner’s journey in this book, but in every page I also see the relentless pursuit of God moving this man to look forward to a greater city and the weight of glory awaiting him. It gives me an anchor point to help me understand my past, where God has brought me, and how I can discover the grace and love of God through suffering.
How can the Westminster community pray for you, your family and your ministry in the weeks and months ahead?
I ask for prayer in my work at Amnion. There are a few Muslim women who have been coming and are now more receptive to the Gospel. I have built friendships with them over the past few months and some of them are ready to begin studying the Bible together. I rejoice in this, but it is very difficult for them. It is not safe for them to tell their husbands or families about what they are doing. I ask for prayer for their protection, that God would also give me wisdom as I counsel and work with them, and that the Holy Spirit would open their hearts and eyes to see Christ as their Savior and Lord.
I ask for prayer as I continue to study at Westminster, that I would continue to worship the Lord in and through my studies and that it would never devolve into a mere intellectual exercise. That in my counseling work, I would never forget that our Lord is the wonderful Counselor, not I, and that my job is to lean into His Word and the work He is already doing in my counselees’ hearts. I pray that my studies and ministry would honor the Lord and that He would grow me into a woman of grace and integrity. I pray God would continue to change and transform my heart through His Word. I need these prayers and am so grateful for them!