Good morning, Friends! Happy Tuesday!
Today’s interview is with someone very near and dear to my heart. Emma and I have been able to connect over a very special commonality: We both have a condition called Hydrocephalus and have shared openly about it. (You can read my Hydro Story here) Through this connection, it has been so beautiful to hear more of her personal life and faith journey. She is seriously an inspiring woman and I am so honored to be able to share her story with you all!!
+ For those who aren’t familiar with you, please introduce yourself.
Hi! My name is Emma Jane Maurer. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, but grew up spending my summers in New Jersey, and now attend college in Virginia. I’ll graduate in December with degrees in theatre arts and journalism, along with a minor in French. I would eventually like to do music and drama with refugees overseas and write about my experiences.
+ When did your relationship with Christ first take root in your life? What encouraged you in striving for a deeper relationship with God?
I accepted Christ when I was six years old. I don’t remember much about that day, except that I was sitting outside in my playground, and I asked my parents to help me ask Jesus into my heart. We weren’t talking about anything religious, so I wouldn’t say they had any influence on that decision (other than the fact that I was brought up in a Christian home). But, my experiences with hydrocephalus and my experience abroad were definitely catalysts in encouraging me to pursue a deeper relationship with God. (I talk about how my health issues brought me closer to God in different questions, but I can expand on the trip here):
Prior to going on the trip, the professor who led it said that our team members were all chosen because he felt they were spiritual leaders. I remember thinking, “Not me! I don’t read my Bible every day; I only pray at meals or when I need something from God or want Him to do something big in my life.” I knew that I needed to be more grounded in the Word prior to going on the trip because I needed to be able to defend my faith (spoiler alert: I had never read complete books of the Bible before this point, only select passages during devotions or sermons). I read through the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles because people had told me they’d give me a good foundation for having beginning gospel conversations with people. And also because what better way to prepare for a missions trip than reading about experiences from the Bible’s greatest missionary (apart from Jesus, obviously) himself?) Through this experience, I realized how much I enjoyed spending time with the Lord each day. It eventually got to the point that I couldn’t function without starting my mornings with Him. (I had experienced some spiritual warfare when I didn’t spend any time with Him during the day at all.)
+ Joy is such a beautiful part of Christian life. How do you intentionally live joyfully for Christ in your daily life?
I think one of the biggest ways I do this is just by being me. I have found that the more time I spend with Him each day, the happier I am. It is hard not to share this joy with others. But, I don’t have to go out of my way to do this. I think it just happens by being positive, encouraging, helpful, and kind to those around you. When people ask why you’re so happy or why you did what you did, then that can open up a door for a gospel conversation.
+ You have such a beautiful passion for helping refugees. Where did this passion stem from?
Well, I went on a mission trip with my school’s theatre department to France and Belgium in the spring of 2017. We were originally told we would be working with refugees while we were in France, but that didn’t happen. When we were leaving France and heading to Belgium, we looked out the bus window and saw a whole row of refugee tents on the side of the road. It was my first time seeing anything like that, and it was pretty depressing.
When we returned from the trip, one of our class assignments was to create three wordless street dramas based on issues we observed in either country. These dramas were then sent back to our hosts to be used in their summer ministry and by the team that was sent back from our school in 2018.
While all three were somehow related to the refugee plight, one in particular had a profound effect on me. The basic premise of it was that “Jesus speaks our language, even when the world around you does not.” I had (and still have!) dreams of performing this piece back in the specific park we performed at in Paris.
Additionally, this year, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a research project examining how drama can be used as an alternative to talk therapy among various marginalized populations. One of the groups that I specifically researched was refugees. I was astounded by how many different studies were done on this topic.
I believe both these experiences (the mission trip and the research project) made me want to continue to use drama with refugees. I have seen firsthand how drama can be used as a ministerial tool, and would like to further explore how drama therapy could be used as a ministerial tool with refugees, especially those with disabilities.
It may be that I even feel a special connection with refugees due to my medical conditions, and the fact that I sometimes feel part of a marginalized group myself due to having them that made me want to work with refugees, too…I don’t really know. For all I know, it could be a combination of those factors (life experiences + health issues).
+ How have your travels and time abroad helped you to develop a world perspective and an awareness for the struggles of our brother and sisters in Christ?
My trip abroad definitely helped me form a broader worldview. I think when we first arrived (and even prior to departure), I thought we would strictly be ministering to French people, and I was excited to put some of my language skills into practice. However, from our first day in Paris, I realized how many different languages and cultures were present in the city. This was an eye-opener for me.
+ Why do you think it’s important for Christians to be aware of the struggles that surround them and to strive to serve others?
I think (and this is something that was not just derived from my trip abroad, but something that has been taught to me and modeled for me ever since I was little), is that it helps take the focus off you and your troubles and helps you focus on other people. You realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Someone once told me, “Whenever you are having a bad day, try to remember someone out there is dealing with something worse.” This was especially apparent to me during my times in the hospital because there were even hydrocephalus patients who had it worse than me. So by serving others, we realize that a) we are not the only ones out there, and b) other people are dealing with situations we can’t even fathom. This is especially apparent when you go overseas because you are exposed to things you might not otherwise see in the U.S. This could have a significant impact on you, just like it did for me. While going overseas was a great experience and gave me firsthand access to issues going on in the world, I learned that you don’t have to go overseas to make a difference. There are opportunities to serve and show the love of Christ right where you are.
+ You are also the first person I have ever met who shares in a very similar health struggle as I do! We both have Hydrocephalus, a condition that stops unneeded fluid from leaving the brain. How have you learned to trust God through this illness?
Hahaha wow, this is SUCH a good question! J My hydrocephalus is treated through a shunt, and I have had nine shunt revisions to date. With the exception of a revision at six months old, the rest occurred during adolescence. Every time I experienced symptoms of a shunt malfunction and we headed to the emergency room, I would often pray that something else was wrong with me because I dreaded the thought of having another surgery. However, after I realized that the Lord brought me through two, three, four, five surgeries, there was no reason He could not do it again. I also had a great support system around me, including family, friends, and people from church, who would pray for me and with me. I remember one pastor in particular praying that I would come out of surgery better than before. And this particular prayer rang true, as that summer, I was able to learn to ride a bike without training wheels (as a result of my hydrocephalus, I also have cerebral palsy (muscle weakness) on the right side and my cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, was damaged. That said, it took me six years to learn to ride a bike due to the balance issues created by the damaged cerebellum). So, that’s just really one example of how I learned to trust God through my hydro complications!
+ How has your faith grown through your experiences with Hydro?
Oh man, my experiences with hydrocephalus are responsible for helping me to grow in my faith.
There was one night in the hospital where my mom left the room to go update others on my condition after I went to bed. However, I woke up in a panic, so disoriented because I didn’t remember where I was or where she was. I remember calling out to God and saying, “If you are real, I know You will protect me.” Needless to say, I survived that night. From that point on, I made a commitment to grow stronger in my faith and to follow His will for my life.
+ Let’s talk about Christ as Healer. As you explore refugee-based mission work, and through your own personal health experiences, how has Christ’s healing power been made manifest to you?
Ohmygoodness, I love this question too! It’s funny, because as our team was contemplating a theme or verse to use on our trip last year, we decided on Isaiah 53:5-“By His stripes, we are healed.” We had the word “guéris” (“healing” in French) printed on our team tees and drawstring bags, along with three stripes to represent the Trinity/three crosses.
This was just another confirmation that I was supposed to be going on the trip, since a majority of my testimony deals with physical healing.
Prior to departure, we practiced what to say if someone asked about the meaning of our shirts. I had prayed for an opportunity to share my story, because I didn’t think I’d have an opportunity unless I specifically sought it out. As it turned out, I was able to share my testimony with a man at our outreach at the park in Paris. I wept when I learned his story was a lot like my own.
So, getting to share about the healing power of Christ with a stranger in a foreign country, not to mention the fact that I have not had any hydrocephalus-related surgeries in seven years is a testament to the healing power of Christ in my life!
+ How would you encourage other young women to courageously follow God’s will for their lives, no matter what the world may throw at them?
I think the best way you can do this is by staying in constant communication with Him—both through prayer and reading the Word. Through it, He will show you the paths He wants you to take. If you want God to do something specific, then you have to pray for that thing specifically. Through these tools, He will give you what you need to accomplish His will for your life. Also, reading the Word will give you the tools you need to remain strong in your faith despite attacks.
Be sure to give Emma some love over on Instagram @emmajayyy94.
Have a beautiful day!!!