Welcome to our series of interviews with women who are using their influence in NI to further God’s Kingdom. You see, this year our girls have been learning about women of Influence in the Bible in the GB Scripture Course. These were amazing women, but we also wanted to highlight the amazing ordinary woman, doing extraordinary everyday things, right here and now around you! Please meet Dr Claire Rush. She has written blogs for us in the past when she was one of the first GBNI Executive Youth Reps. Have a read on to see what she is doing now…..
Tell us a wee bit about yourself and how you came to be doing what you are doing.
Hello! I’m Claire and I’m 29 (but really 19 at heart). I live in Carrickfergus and I recently got married to my lovely husband Chris. I work for GB England & Wales as the Esther Generation Project Co-ordinator. This is a fantastic role which enables me to develop projects which inspire, equip and empower the 18-30s – GB’s Esther Generation. It also means that planes and trains are my second home as I commute back and forth.
I am also the GB Europe Youth Co-ordinator and as a result, I am involved in writing for the GB Europe Connected blog (www.gbconnect.wordpress.com), helping to plan GBI’s The Gathering 2013 and developing partnerships with other organisations like the European Fellowship of Christian Youth and History Makers.
Most of all, I love being a leader in my local GB group in Islandmagee (a big shout out to all the Islandmagee ladies who brighten up my Monday evenings!). GB is very special to me; it is how I came to know Jesus in a big way and discovered that He had a plan for my life. When I am not doing GB stuff, I love watching DVD box sets, movies, cooking, reading and travelling. There is a big, big world out there – and I just want to see it all!
Are there any women who have influenced you in your walk with God?
I have been blessed with so many influential women in my life. I would love to share about two of them. First, my mum! She has been an awesome role model and a real woman of God. Over the last 29 years, she has continually reaffirmed and spoke God’s promises over my life. Her faith is strong and she constantly shows me the need to be a servant leader.
The second woman who has influenced by walk with God is Morva Brown, a former President of GBNI and current FIZZ partnership co-ordinator for GB Europe. Morva helped to lead GBNI successful through a difficult period of change and transition as GB moved premises to Antrim. Change is difficult and I was struck by how God blessed Morva with vision and stamina to follow his calling especially when it was not easy. When I first met Morva, I had just joined the GBNI executive team as a youth rep and Morva always empowered me to feel that my opinion and contribution mattered. I have encountered very few Godly women with the humility and grace of Morva.
How do you influence those around you to further the Kingdom of God?
I love the word ‘influence’ and thoroughly believe that we are all ‘influencers.’ We can have a positive or a negative effect on people and the world around us; we have to make a choice about what we are going to do with our power. For me, words only go so far. We all know people that say one thing and do the other. I do honestly believe that actions speak louder than words.
Take a minute and a look at the culture that surrounds you. We live in a very selfish, consumer-driven and sexualised culture which is completely at odds with the counter-cultural living that Jesus promoted – serve others before yourself, acknowledging that relationships not things are important and not making idols out of possessions, sex or celebrities. The greatest influence we can be is to embrace this counter-cultural living and point people to Jesus through our words and actions.
Although Jesus performed amazing miracles, I challenge you to read the gospels and notice the ‘small’ things that he did – speaking to lepers who were regarded as scum, noticing a woman at a well who was isolated because of her race, gender and immorality and calling and equipping and empowering a group of lowly fisherman (with no education or status) to be his team who would spread the message of the Good News.
I am addicted to Facebook and I often wonder what Jesus’ facebook page or twitter stream would look like. The world of social networking presents us with a huge opportunity to be a good influence. I love using my facebook page to share Bible verses, links to justice projects and info which helps us challenge and engage with the culture that surrounds us in a constructive way. How do you use your facebook page?
Are there any messages or verses of encouragement that you would like to share with our GB girls?
I would love for you to be ‘an Esther.’ I am not sure if you have read much about Esther in the Bible? Esther was the Queen of Persia which was a huge and important empire. We have the tendency to portray her story as an X-Factor style beauty contest… a kind of fairytale, but her reality was quite different.
She was plucked from her home when she was very young, probably just turned a teenager, and taken to the palace to be prepared to be part of the king’s harem along with hundreds of others. The king was looking to replace his wife who had disobeyed him and he was judging all the young girls on the basis of their beauty and sexual prowess. This is one of the most prominent examples of sex slavery in the Bible. The Bible tells us that Esther captured the king’s eye and soon became his wife. Esther had a massive opportunity to exert her influence – but what did she do? She simply was content to be the beauty that everyone wanted her to be, immersing herself in beauty regimes and self centred existence.
But we shouldn’t be too harsh on Esther – she was simply being shaped by the culture surrounding her. Women were only valued for their beauty and were actively dissuaded from using their voice to share opinion or ideas.
I often look around at the culture that surrounds you and I – has anything actually changed? Magazines, TV shows and advertisements demonstrate the same kind of values – we are only worth what we look like. It is a hard message to swallow. But take encouragement from Esther – with God’s prompting, she found her voice and helped save her race from being murdered.
I believe that God is calling up the next generation of Esthers – young women who are not afraid to be bold, counter-cultural and speak out for justice. Is God calling you to speak out for your generation? I really urge you to use the voice that God has given and refuse to be a passive consumer of culture – actively question the lyrics of the songs that you listen to and the advertisements which catch your eye. Be an Esther and challenge the status quo.