How to recognize ministry dreams
By Lindsay Peyton
Imagine a dark cave, suddenly illuminated. For the first time, you can see that there are diamonds shining on the walls. That’s how Pastor Juanita Rasmus of St. John’s UMC in Houston sees each disruption in life – whether it is divorce, mental health struggles, a physical diagnosis or simply facing a future that no longer makes sense. Even in the darkest times, she explains, there’s potential for transformation, for strengthening faith. It’s how she thinks about her own bout with depression – and how she also describes the pandemic. “We’ve learned so much, but we haven’t mined it yet,” she said. “Now we have the opportunity to mine what is ours to keep.”
Rasmus has created a full-day experience to help participants identify their dreams and move towards making them a reality. She also will share tools to help along the way. The “Learning to Be Immersive, ” scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 20, will be virtual, as well as in-person for a limited capacity at St. John’s UMC, 2019 Crawford Street in Houston.
Rasmus co-pastors with her husband Rudy. In August 1999, at a time when both their congregation and their nonprofit Bread of Life were taking off, Juanita hit rock bottom. “Everything was working on the outside, but it wasn’t working for me,” she said.
In December 2019, she shared that experience in a TED Talk entitled “Learning to Be Me: Why is it so Difficult?” presented at the TEDxHoustonWomen event held at Unity Church. She explained that since her childhood, she was writing her own story and the title was “Good Little Girl.”
Rasmus had imposed high moral standards, followed all the rules and did everything expected of her. “I lived that way for a very long time,” she said during the TED Talk.
When St. John’s started, there were only a handful of members. Less that 10 years later, more than 3,000 members gathered on Sundays. Pastor Juanita wanted to be a good leader of her church, a good wife, a good mother and a good friend.
All of the pressure she placed on herself eventually led to a meltdown. She would spend months in bed, feeling as though falling into a deep pit.
During that time, however, Rasmus ended up finding her identity – and a better understanding of God. “That place was the single most transformative in my life,” she said.
Instead of the God she expected to punish her for not being good enough or being able to do enough, she found a nurturing God, who loved her just for who she was.
Rasmus also discovered tools that helped her draw closer to God and become still enough to recognize her own dreams. For instance, she adopted a practice of meditation and breathing. She fell in love with Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, which is an intentional method of understanding scripture. And she took time to pursue her own dreams, including climbing a mountain and skydiving.
To share the techniques Rasmus learned along the way, she decided to create a Learning to Be Experience last year. “That was a catalyst,” Rasmus said.
She realized how attendees responded. One told her, “I feel like I’ve been asleep, and what you said woke me up.”
That launched her into creating an even more in-depth seminar. The Learning to Be Immersive in November will be the first of many. She is also designing other courses in the same vein.
“What kind of life would you love?” will be a main theme of the event. Other topics will include health and well-being, calling, relationships, time and freedom.
“The immersive is about calling people to be alive,” Rasmus said. “This is my life’s work. This is the place where I’m called – to empower other people. And that’s what God wants, that each of us is living a life we love.”
Rasmus hopes that offering the workshop before the new year to spark reflection and change. “Let’s dig deep,” she said.
To sign up, visit www.juanitarasmus.com.