Finding Faith Out on a Limb

This article originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of STILLPOINT, the magazine of Gordon College.

Liz (Heeren Hurley) Williams ’84
First Responder Chaplain

“The reality of La Vida begins on the last day,” says Liz (Heeren Hurley) Williams ’84. During that final Discovery class, when students internalize their quad semester spent in the outdoors, they emerge more in tune with their own strengths and with what God asks of them.

A former Discovery facilitator of 25 years, Williams identifies those steps forward as “commitment moves”—opportunities to prayerfully go out on a limb. In Discovery, an important exercise is physically practicing commitment (literally going out on a limb on the ropes course or leaning back to rappel down a rock wall). In doing so, students gain confidence for the bigger—perhaps situational or spiritual—commitment moves ahead of them.

In Williams’ own life, a memorable commitment move was becoming a chaplain for first responders in Molalla, Oregon. She and her husband, Nick, had made plans to travel the country and serve disaster relief organizations (the pair met in New Orleans supporting recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005). They had even sold their home and moved into a fifth wheel camper.

But God had other plans.

When the couple was invited to serve the local police and fire departments as chaplains, they parked their camper and re-established roots in Molalla. Now in this unexpected role, Williams (along with their dog, Baxter, a valued guest at the stations) provides a different sort of disaster relief as she comes alongside people who have experienced trauma.

“Even though I feel inadequate at times, God is using us,” she says. “My husband and I both are called to serve this population and bring his presence.”

Williams often recalls “Two Fish and Five Barley Loaves,” a poetic retelling of the feeding of the 5,000. “That’s often my prayer—that God would just use what little bit I have to offer,” she says. Like she learned on the ropes course and in the wilderness, “The Lord is using every moment. Trials and tribulations produce character and maturity, and the end of one thing is the beginning of something new.”