Briercrest grads link to abundant life
During His ministry on earth, Jesus gave life wherever He went—He taught, spoke the truth of the Gospel, and ultimately showed humanity what love truly meant.
He also was—and is—the Great Physician, and John and Susie Jenkinson are intimately acquainted with His life-giving power to heal.
Appropriately, the Briercrest College and Seminary grads call their life’s work Life-Link Counselling Group.
God first turned their hearts to couples’ therapy when they were younger. An older couple invested in their marriage, and they wanted to pass it on.
They started by providing some pre-marital counselling through their church in the 90s.
It “was life-giving,” Susie says, but they “didn’t know enough to do it well.”
Years later, they were praying for direction, and John was offered a job in Communications and Productions at Briercrest College and Seminary. He and Susie arrived in 1997, and a year later, they began working on master’s degrees in counselling.
John laughs as he admits he wasn’t sure he’d learn much in the beginning. “That was soon dispelled!” he exclaims. “We learned a ton.”
They say one of the most significant things they learned was “the sense of really seeing the image of God in everyone.”
Their education, which included internships in Briercrest’s counselling centre, also gave them curiosity in how they approach people.
It taught them to understand that all behaviour has a reason behind it—all behaviour makes sense in the moment. As counsellors, rather than telling their clients to behave differently, they help them understand their motivation and the beliefs behind it. Then John and Susie can help their clients change.
Susie’s biggest fear going in was needing to have answers for everything. Her education was enlightening—she learned she didn’t need to have all the answers for her clients—nor should she.
Susie believes giving advice is unhelpful—“It robs them of looking at their own journey,” she says.
John agrees: “It doesn’t allow people to own their own decisions.”
As counsellors, they simply walk through difficulties with people, helping them understand what’s happening and why.
They opened their practice in 2007, a year after graduation.
They don’t bill themselves as a Christian counselling agency because they want to work with both believers and unbelievers—but their practice makes their faith evident. Articles and resources on their website connect to sites like Focus on the Family and Christianity.ca.
They also seek informed consent from their clients during the first session, during which they indicate that they’re working from a Christian perspective, but are very careful not to push it.
They’ve worked with people from several faith and non-faith persuasions, and only one person has ever declined to return.
Susie talks about a Sikh woman she had several sessions with—they often talked about their different beliefs. At the end of one session, the woman told Susie she realized that Yahweh said she was going to hell—and she wasn’t sure what to do.
Susie assured her she should keep searching—eventually, Yahweh would find her. “They have to see Christ in me rather than me telling them about Christ,” Susie says.
Susie shares a difficult situation she navigated through once when a couple in a difficult situation came to her for therapy.
How could Susie possibly help them, they asked, if she believed so strongly that their relationship was contrary to Scripture—wrong?
Susie was honest, and told them that before each session, she prayed for the Holy Spirit’s guidance—that she would be able to “be” Christ to them.
Susie points to Jesus’ example in the New Testament: “Jesus healed people who were not necessarily living lives that were surrendered to Him. It was not a pre-requisite for Him.”
That healing is often what turned peoples’ lives around.
Perhaps He’s giving His grace to people who don’t yet believe, Susie says. “That’s how I make sense of it.”
“I always hope I’m planting seeds.”
John and Susie acknowledge that many Christian counsellors have a very different, more direct approach—some believe Scripture has the answer for everything.
“I think God has an answer for everything,” John says, choosing his words carefully. “A relationship with Jesus is key—but not everything is addressed in the Scriptures. There’s nothing about cocaine addiction.”
John and Susie know the life-giving power of the truth of the Scriptures. They also know that sharing a verse in the wrong context will simply create a barrier.
They’re not perfect—that’s part of why giving advice is “dangerous”—but by the power and grace of the Spirit, they’ve seen people’s lives transformed.
Many couples have come to them for co-therapy, during which John and Susie work together with them.
Husbands and wives have said they’re no longer in love and want a divorce, but after walking with them, John and Susie have seen love rekindled and gentle words exchanged instead of anger and apathy.
Life—that’s their goal. The Life-Link logo, which depicts an arrow pointing heavenward, was inspired by John 10:10, in which Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John and Susie have easily been passing the conversation back and forth, calling each other “love” and “hon” and talking about how much fun it is to learn and work with their best friend. They testify to a deep love and friendship that’s lasted more than 25 years.
“We love doing this work,” John says.
They know they can’t do it—any of it—without Him.