I recently read a short memoir about the power of friendship. It got me thinking about how being a special needs parent and serving in disability ministry has changed how I approach relationships. For example, disability teaches me benefits of slowing down. More than that, disability has taught me to trust deeply. As I watch my daughter trust us for all of her cares, she has taught me the treasure of trusting God.
The focus of Ann Hinrichs’ story, Just One, is actually short-term missions. But it reminded me that being a caregiver, sometimes asking for help and serving in disability ministries are all much like serving in a mission field. At its best, we learn how relationships were meant to be lived. In that place of vulnerability and adventure, there is a powerful exchange of compassion, trust, insight and hope. It’s a place, outside of our comfort zones, where God is encountered in both the giving and receiving.
The story of Just One takes place in a quiet village in Belize where an elderly man named Cancio becomes isolated after suffering a serious injury. When Ann, an American missionary, pays a visit to Cancio, their tender and life-long friendship forms. Together, they experience the universal languages of love and respect in the midst of poverty and suffering. For Ann, the culture and circumstances bring surprises that change her life.
Here’s the thing though. Just One has the power to inspire people in many roles—young moms, special needs parents, disability ministry volunteers, church leaders, medical professionals, caregivers for the aging and others who pour significant time into the art of caring. We can be affirmed and catch a richer sense of our purpose.
For these reasons, I want to introduce you to the author of Just One, Ann Hinrichs. I think you will be inspired, as I have been. Her passion for missions and worship spans almost 40 years. I have personally had opportunities to collaborate with Ann on ministry projects for over a dozen years. She was my missions team leader in 2008 when I served in Belize and met my friend Vickie. At the time, Vickie was parenting three children with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and had never met another special needs mom. Ann is also the photographer for our children’s book together, Jesus, Let’s Talk.
Ann, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your family.
Most of my work has been in a variety of roles as a worship leader, musician, and leading and facilitating short-term missions for about the past 30 years. I currently work full time with Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives (ACCI) as their U.S. director. My primary focus is on member care and partnership development, while also training team leaders for short-term missions. Also, I enjoy photography as a way of worship and learning about culture.
My husband, Luke, and I have been best friends since we were teenagers. We celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary earlier this year. I feel so blessed. We live in the Minneapolis area of Minnesota.
What message do you want readers to hear from Just One?
My hope is that Just One will serve as an example of the value of relationship, how we can learn from one another in the process—and mess—of everyday life: taking the time needed to really listen to one another and slowing down to be with that one person facing you in the present moment. It is a reflection of how Jesus nurtured relationships while serving on earth, His conversations with the Father, His discipline of listening and His obedience. This often challenges the cultural biases we’ve grown up with, which have shaped us and our thinking, bringing conclusions and responses that don’t always fit into the contexts of others’ lives and experiences.
The message includes a challenge: that readers creatively rethink their approach to short-term missions and cross-cultural relationships with a long-term commitment in mind, while pointing others to Jesus. We need to ask ourselves such questions as: What does that look like? How can I put this into practice the next time I serve on a mission with my church or sending agency? What are my potential blind spots? What if it takes a lifetime for one person to come to an understanding of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for them? Do I have the calling and the patience for this process? These are the sorts of questions the Lord asked of me as I began forming a friendship with Cancio in Belize.
My prayer for the reader comes from Psalms 51:12: “Lord, sustain me with a willing spirit.” As we depend completely on Him, allowing Him to help us die to self, we can choose to serve one individual at a time, for the sake of the other person.
What do you think your book has to say to readers who may not see themselves serving in traditional missions work?
Where I live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, the Lord is bringing the nations of the world to our own doorstep. In this new reality, I think there’s great value in the cross-cultural struggle I walked out in my relationship with Cancio. It can be applied to daily life in the U.S. where many of us live and work. Hopefully there’s an aspect of my story that will draw readers into the way our relationships are layered as we grow and mature in the Lord. Through taking one step of obedience at a time, with the Holy Spirit alive in us, even starting very young, God is active in bringing us through seasons that will have a profound impact on our later years. This affects how we serve Him and others as He teaches us through one another’s life stories. And the possibilities of discovery can be pretty amazing.
Second Corinthians 1:21–22 reminds us, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Amen and amen!
I appreciate your long-term vision about the impact of a compassionate and servant-hearted lifestyle. In my own role as a caregiving mom, there are tedious seasons when it’s essential for me to hold that vision. I think it’s helpful for ministry leaders and volunteers to think that way too. As someone who has followed a lifelong call to missions work, what’s your number-one piece of advice for those interested in serving others?
As you know, I’m very passionate about missions, so it’s difficult for me to respond to this with just one short answer. But here are just a few thoughts I’d start with when someone feels led to go into missions of any kind.
First and foremost, it’s crucial that a person genuinely desires to, as Jesus himself tells us, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love others as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27). I’d also encourage anyone interested in missions to prayerfully and carefully deal with anything that might be blocking their ability to live from this place—especially before entering into ministry. This will help foster a healthy longevity in missions, deep relationships while serving, and true effectiveness in whatever the Lord puts in their path.
Some years ago, when doing a personal study of the life of David, the Lord revealed something so simple to me and yet it’s become pivotal in my life and work in missions. I noticed the beautiful flow David had in his relationship with God. It was one of continuous prayer, listening and obedience, all coming from a place of tender dependence on God. This rhythm became a personal desire of mine. I wanted to learn to live in this same way, which is such a worthwhile investment. I’ve since realized everything flows out of this rhythm of love, faith, prayer, listening and obedience, translating directly into my thoughts, actions and words while also touching those around me.
One final thought: I’d encourage all of us to keep challenging ourselves to listen well to others, to keep learning—both at home and cross-culturally—and to walk as believers who remain yielded, dependent, as we choose to “walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).
To learn more about Ann Hinrichs, her ministry, her book Just One and her photography (including her work in Jesus, Let’s Talk), visit AnnHinrichsBlog.com. Just One is available at Amazon.com in paperback and ebook for Kindle. The audiobook will soon be available on Amazon too. Ann’s website includes an extensive list of mission resources. Her short-term missions team discussion tool that goes along with Just One is available for download on her website for teams to utilize as part of their training. Ann‘s Just One Photo Gallery features photos of the people, places, and events described in the book.
Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and a delightful children’s book on prayer called Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is founder-director of the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection and co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a caregiver coach. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married over 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota.