A conversation with Haley Chrisman
The 22-year-old Freed-Hardeman University education major has taught students from Henderson, Tenn., to the Central European nation of Romania. She learned Spanish to be able to talk to children on mission trips to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
She’s part of a blended family — one of six siblings — and was baptized at age 10. In high school she served as regional state president of Future Business Leaders of America. At Freed-Hardeman she has served as president of the Student Teacher Educator Association and sophomore class representative to the student government. She has served as a judge on a peer teen court and directed school plays.
After graduation, she wants to continue ministering to children — at home and abroad. She plans to earn a master’s and doctorate in education to teach at the university level.
“Overall, I hope to live my life in a way that brings others to Christ by following my example,” says Chrisman, whose home congregation is the Park Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn.
What was it like growing up in a blended family?
I have two older sisters and three younger brothers — with most of us being around a year apart.
After our parents got married, they told us that we could choose to be siblings or not. We chose to be siblings. These are some of the things I learned:
• Love is a decision.
• You can love someone even if you don’t like them.
• You don’t have to be related by blood to be family.
• Laughter and tears are close kin.
• When there is chaos in the family, God is still in control.
• You can have an argument and still love someone.
•Life is not always fair.
• The world doesn’t revolve around me.
• Family “disasters” can make humorous stories.
With our blended family, we had a lot more people to love and argue with. We depend on each other spiritually. I am so blessed to be from such a loving and supportive large family.
Why is educating others your passion?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved learning. I am deeply encouraged by issues that challenge our world and drawn to the dilemmas and potentials of the young people who come into class each day.
I attempt to live in a way that exemplifies Christ so my students know I am a Christian without my saying anything.
One day at school, one of my students said that no one cared about him. Another student quickly responded, “Ms. Haley cares because she is a Christian.” Since then, I continually remember that my passion is to teach everyone that is around me about Jesus Christ, whether by word or example.
Tell us a touching experience you have had.
On my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic in the summer of 2011, we were unsure how receptive the children would be to Vacation Bible School because it had never been done there before. Our second day, our mission team had car trouble, so we got to the church building late. All of the children turned around as the team walked into the building and gave us a standing ovation. Some of the children told me that they were worried that we were not going to return. We do not always realize the impact we have on others.
Later, we learned many of the parents of the VBS students returned with their children after we left and many had Bible studies and became Christians.
Does ministry provide a real opportunity to lead children and families to Jesus?
I truly believe that ministry leads families and children to Jesus. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
My goal of any ministry I participate in is to teach children and adults about God’s word. I fell in love with ministry because it provides an opportunity to help others come to Christ and become more interested in developing their own faith. Ministry can also help families come together as they develop spiritually.
My life’s goal is to get to heaven and bring as many people as I can with me. The only way I can bring people with me is by teaching them the Gospel no matter what age they are. Many times that means just being an example.
What attracts you to impoverished countries?
People in developing countries have brought me to the realization of the unimportance of earthly things. They are searching to fill their lives because they do not have very many things.
Traveling to these countries has taught me that God will provide for me exactly what I need — not what I think I need. These people are content living on what I consider bare necessities.
When they learn about God, it is as if they are complete. Traveling to developing nations has allowed me the opportunity to be filled spiritually and help others in the same way.
What have children taught you?
Children are constant reminders of how we should be caring and loving to everyone. Small children do not judge each other on physical features or where they are from. They are friends to everyone. Children truly exemplify “for whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”
Children have also taught me to put my trust in God no matter what I may face in life. They have faith. They do not worry about every little trifling event in life or things that have not occurred. They are flexible. They exemplify Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.”
My students have also taught me not to be afraid to try. When an adult says they “can’t” do something, sometimes they are saying they are too afraid to try because they do not want to look foolish. When a child does not succeed the first time, they keep trying until they are successful.
Children teach me about prayer because their prayers are heartfelt and very specific. Their prayers remind me that it is OK to talk to God about anything.
Children teach me about evangelism. They have faith easily. Once a child learns about God and salvation, they immediately want to tell everyone they know.