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Following the Lord to Phoenix, AZ

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Hannah Williams never planned on leaving Alabama. She never planned on going to Pursue or spending her summer in Phoenix, Arizona, through GenSend.

Her plan was to spend the rest of her life in Alabama. Little did she know, the Lord had much bigger plans for her.

Williams was a student at the University of North Alabama from 2013 to 2017. She studied social work and faithfully attended UNA’s Baptist Campus Ministries during her four years of college.

“Our campus minister always fed us the truth of the Gospel,” Williams said. “The BCM at UNA let me have a sense of community on campus. It felt like family.”

She had grown up in church and loved the BCM but had never really considered going on BCM mission trips or summer trips through One Mission Students.

“I was so comfortable where I was that I didn’t really know what or where the need was in the world, and I was not willing to find it,” she said.

She had been reluctant to join the BCM’s leadership team but felt the Lord pushing her to do so in her senior year of college.

As a BCM leader, Williams attended Pursue, the annual state conference for BCMs and other collegiate ministries across Alabama.

She attended Pursue in spring 2017 and heard several speakers and church planters discuss the importance of missions, specifically summer mission trips for college students.

One such church planter was Jesse Powell, a church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board.

Serving in Arizona, Powell spoke on the need for GenSend student missionaries to spend their summer helping church plants in the Phoenix area.

Williams was about to graduate and wanted to spend her summer relaxing and looking for jobs but could not get the idea of Phoenix out of her mind.

She said she spent several days struggling with what to do but eventually realized the Lord wanted her to spend her summer serving in Phoenix.

Williams filled out her application and flew to Phoenix for her GenSend summer shortly after her graduation from UNA.

While in Phoenix, Williams said her team worked to build relationships and a sense of community with area residents.

She would visit coffee shops, local stores and public parks on a regular basis to meet and become friends with the people there.

The team worked to share the Gospel and hopefully connect the people with a local church when the summer was over.

Williams said she was enjoying the first part of her summer but was still anxiously waiting to go home to Alabama and start a new job.

About four weeks before the end of the summer, Powell visited Williams and her team and made a passing remark about how great it would be if one of the GenSend students could “just move out to Phoenix and help serve the community.”

Williams, being the only GenSend missionary who, as a graduate, did not have college courses to return home to, said she didn’t know how to process Powell’s statement. 

“I was so conflicted about what to do,” she said. “I wanted to go back to Alabama, but I had this feeling that the Lord wanted me in Phoenix.”

Williams said she decided to look for jobs in Phoenix and decided that if God really wanted her in Phoenix, He would make it happen.

A few weeks later, she found a position at Arizona Baptist Children’s Services where she could use her social work degree.

She applied and interviewed as her GenSend trip was about to finish and secured employment as a Parent Aide in Arizona’s foster care system.

After finishing her GenSend summer, Williams flew to Alabama to pack her bags and moved out to Phoenix to work and serve her local church plant, CityView.

She said the people she met at CityView Church, along with Powell, slowly helped her feel connected and at home in Arizona. She found a community of people that supported her and wanted to see Christ proclaimed in the Phoenix area like she did.

Almost two years after the Lord put Phoenix on her heart at Pursue, Williams said she is so thankful she ended up planting herself and her career in the city.

She said she has learned a lot about herself and her own faith, as well as sharing her faith with others.

“All of the things that happened at the BCM, Pursue, GenSend, everything: … It led up to God showing me this is where I was supposed to be at this time in my life.”

Like Williams, students across Alabama can plant themselves in a city of need with the help of CareerPlant.

Students are told about cities with  great need and after prayerfully choosing one they find a job there.One Mission Students then pairs them with a local church planter to get the student settled and serving in their new location.

Williams said she is thankful other students will be able to do what she did and encouraged all graduating seniors to apply.

“You cannot always go where you are comfortable,” she said. “You have to be intentional and go where you are called. It is our purpose to go to places that need help.”

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