You’d never guess petite Jamie Zumwalt is the mother of five children, runs a church/coffee shop in the seediest part of her town, and once came close to taking her own life.
But all of that, and more, is true about this spirital dynamo who spoke at our women’s ministry this morning. I was touched by her passion and commitment to the Lord, and I think you will be too.
Some of what I’m sharing came from a personal conversation with Jamie and other parts came from the talk she gave. But I’m going to wrap it all up as if it were an interview. Hearing Jamie speak felt like having a heartfelt conversation with her, and I want you to have the same experience.
Holley: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Jamie: I grew up as a preacher’s daughter. At age eight, we watched a movie in church about missionaries. At that moment, I knew God was calling me to be a missionary. When my dad asked for anyone who would like prayer to come to the front, I went.
H: You said you think a "target" was put on you that day. In other words, the enemy knew what God had in mind and set out to interfere.
J: Yes, during my teenage years I experienced several abusive relationships, eating disorders, and at one point even came close to taking my own life.
H: What changed everything for you?
J: When I almost lost my life, I clearly remember my Dad running into the hospital room. It reminded me of the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. I love that story because it says the father ran when he saw his son. I told my Dad things that I had kept secret for many years. Then I asked him, "How do I get back to Jesus?"
The next week I decided to go to church. I slipped in and sat on the back row. The pastor stood up and said, "We’re going to show a movie tonight about missionaries." It was the very same movie that I saw when I was eight!
I knew God was calling me again. This time he was asking for complete surrender. I sat in the back pew and argued with Him. Looking back, I didn’t think I could trust Him with my life.
Finally, I felt like I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, "Do you think you can do a better job with your life than I can?" I knew the answer to that question was no. That was a turning point for me.
H: Was it difficult to be close to God after all the abuse you had experienced from past boyfriends?
J: Yes, it was very difficult. I definitely had intimacy issues. That’s been a huge part of my journey. I’m writing a book called Simple Obsession. It’s about discovering the tender heart of God and having an intimate friendship with Him. I’ve realized that God created us for togetherness. He wants to experience life with us.
H: What passages of Scripture have helped you understand that better?
J: The entire book of Song of Solomon has been really healing for me because it’s a picture of Christ and the church. Even the parts where the man is praising the woman’s body were healing because of the eating disorders I experienced. I felt like God was saying that He created me and He loves me just the way I am.
H: Speaking of men and women, how have your experiences affected your marriage?
J: I met my husband, John, a week after I almost lost my life. He was totally into missions. We fell in love and got married. The first year was really hard because I thought all men were like the ones who had hurt me. I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship. But God has used John to bring a lot of healing in my life.
H: And the two of you have been missionaries together, right?
J: Yes, we served together in Asia. That was really hard. I told God every day, "I can’t do what You’ve called me to do." He spoke to me through the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." And that’s what happened. As I continued to build an intimate friendship with Him, He gave me a love for the people there and a desire to minister to them.
H: Now you and your husband are serving on the mission field in a different way.
J: Yes, we established Heart of God Ministries. We train other missionaries to go to places all over the world. We hope we can go again one day too, but right now we know this is where we’re supposed to be.
We also established a church. It’s right in the middle of the only area in our city where women dancing in clubs don’t wear any clothing. The church is actually a coffee shop called "Joe’s Addiction." We’ve been able to get to know and minister to everyone from dancers to drug dealers. It’s a totally different world than what I grew up in as a preacher’s daughter but I absolutely love it.
H: Right now you not only have a full ministry life–you have a full house at home too!
J: Yes, we have five children ranging in age from fifteen to three. We also have five other children from another country staying with us. And we’ve taken in a couple of other young people through our work at the church as well. Altogether, there are fifteen of us!
H: Do you have any final words you’d like to share with other women who may be struggling with intimacy with God?
J: God has a dream for your ife that may be different than what you expected. It’s on the other side of the line of surrender that you’ll find it. You can trust him with your heart. He is your father, friend, and bridegroom. You are God’s simple obsession and His heart is tender toward you. Because of that, He wants to be your simple obsession too.
You can find out more about Jamie’s work through the Heart of God Ministries site. She is also the editor of Frontlines magazine. Her book Simple Obsession will be published this December and I’ll let you know when it’s out so you can get a copy.
Thank you, Jamie, for sharing your heart and inspiring us to discover God’s heart for us as well!