They get to share their faith at work every day
Wendy and Brent Baumler offer family counseling in a Christian context.
Not many lay Christians get to go to work on a week day knowing their professional skills will directly serve their faith convictions.
Brent and Wendy Baumler get to.
The Baumlers are licensed Christian therapists. Christ’s message of love and forgiveness is standard fare in the conversations they share with adults and children. Those who come are struggling with a variety of issues — from mental illness to rebellious teens to internet pornography addiction.
Whatever the problem or pain, the Baumlers ground their offered help in a timeless truth: Christ’s saving love sets us free.
Brent and Wendy are employed by Christian Family Counseling, a division of Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Service (WLCFS). From their office in West St. Paul they serve the Twin Cities area. They work closely with most area congregations of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and also elementary and secondary WELS parochial schools in the region. That’s a natural fit for this married couple. Both were raised in the church and, growing up, attended WELS-affiliated schools.
“We feel God has directed us to use our gifts and talents to serve and glorify him,” says Wendy, who exudes a calm strength and wisdom that belies her years. “We feel [God] guided us to this profession.”
Married for 4-1/2 years, the couple met through a mutual friend. Brent recalls they talked for an hour that day, discussing their common vocational goal. A family member played cupid five years later and they began dating.
Wendy primarily counsels parents, younger children, and women, while Brent works more with married couples, adolescents and men. At the beginning of therapy, people must read and agree to sign this statement: “The mission of Christian Family Counseling is to provide Christ-centered, Scripture-based counseling services with the purpose of reflecting the healing and helping ministry of Jesus Christ to the people of a sinful and troubled world.”
Brent and Wendy also conduct marriage enrichment seminars. Brent says, “People aren’t usually aware of God’s design for marriages. When you begin to understand that, by serving your spouse you are really serving God, it brings a whole different motivation to marriage. If our marriages aren’t founded on Jesus and his unconditional love, then there really isn’t anything in us that wants to serve our spouse. You get swept away with what the world says, and what’s in it for you.”
When asked about trends in society, Wendy mentions the growing number of children in pain because of their parents’ divorce. She tries to help them understand they are not to blame: “You did not create the divorce or the problems within your parents’ marriage, neither can you fix them,” she counsels.
She helps the children understand that, while the parents may have sinned against and hurt each other, they are forgiven. “Bible stories are helpful, too, in terms of giving kids hope,” she says. “We draw pictures and read Bible stories like David and Goliath and Noah and the Ark, because kids need the message of God’s protection — ‘Our family is going to be okay. God loves us and will protect us. God will give us the resources to survive this.’”
Brent mentions the growing number of men addicted to internet pornography and young girls who cut themselves. The list of behaviors and issues that the couple helps people to work through and heal is printed on the clinic’s pamphlet. It is lengthy.
Pastor David Huebner is a guidance counselor at St. Croix Lutheran High School and has referred students to, and worked closely with, Brent for the past 10 years. He says, “A lot of psychology today is not owning up to your part — we pass the blame onto our parents or society instead of facing our own shortcomings. Brent helps people to see they don’t have to be afraid because we know that God, through Christ, forgives us for our sins.”
Elizabeth Oldfield is a kindergarten teacher who often calls upon Wendy for advice with troubled youngsters. She says, “Wendy is [truly] insightful and helpful. One of the most outstanding things is she won’t take the credit. She’ll say, “The glory [belongs] to God.’”
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Killian is a freelance writer and a member of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.