Name: Arianna Walker
Job Title: CEO Mercy UK
Meet Arianna: Arianna Walker is a speaker, an author and the CEO of Mercy UK- a Christian charity that exists to educate, equip and empower Christians to walk in the freedom Christ died to give them. Mercy UK runs a free of charge residential home for young women with life controlling issues, delivers pastoral leadership training days to church leaders and ‘people helpers’, and in 2017 will be launching an 8 week discipleship course called Keys to Freedom.
1.Who is Arianna Walker?
Arianna Walker loves adventure, which is good- seen as her life seems to be full of it. The best adventure is the one she’s living with God, closely followed by that of being a wife, a mother, a friend, a leader, speaker, author. She believes in saying yes (evidenced by the previous list) and laughing in the face of fear (also evidenced by the list!) She loves horse riding, skiing, reading, being with her loved ones and sunshine (lots of it!).
2. What does the word transformation mean to you?
Transformation to me is a journey. Often our prayer and desire is for God to miraculously and instantaneously bring the transformation we desire, be it in our bodies, our minds, our emotions or our circumstances – and sometimes He does. But more often than not, He takes us on a journey to discovering that no matter how trapped by your situation you may be, the best way out is always through. Transformation is not an event but a process- a journey that is made up of a series of choices that bring lasting change and breakthrough. Everywhere we look there is process, but so often we resent it or try to avoid it by finding short-cuts to our destination. We are increasingly surrounded by quick-fix, instant results, same-day delivery solutions to whatever our problem is, which only serves to feed our impatience, our longing for an instant breakthrough. We want the end result but are often not prepared to do what it takes to get there. We want the victory but not the battle, the fitness but not the training, the qualification but not the study. It’s not often we get one without the other. In my experience, God’s answer to our prayers for transformation is rarely instant and rarely without a process attached. It’s how He builds us up; it’s His way of growing us, maturing us and drawing us closer into relationship with Him. God is always far more interested in the journey than in the destination, I believe.
What is Mercy UK?
What is the heart behind the organisation? Mercy UK exists to provide opportunities for people to experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and life transforming power. We serve to resource the Church with the tools for living life in freedom and wholeness- educating leaders through pastoral leadership training days, equipping individuals through our residential homes for young women with life controlling issues and empowering churches through our speaking engagements and our 8 week discipleship course. We firmly believe that the Church is the answer to the needs of our society and so we exist to strengthen the Church, to resource those within her and to help bring health and wholeness, so the Church can bring it to the world.
4. When you look at your journey so far, what is the biggest struggle you’ve overcome?
Finding out that I’m not enough, I don’t have what it takes, my faith is too small for the task ahead, my skill too poor, my knowledge too small and so I will fail, without a shadow of a doubt. That was a scary revelation until I learned that it is precisely where God needed me to be- to understand that without Him I have nothing but with Him I have everything I need. The task ahead is too big for me but not for Him in me. I had to learn the actual mechanics of faith, the depth of His Grace and the power of my identity in Him. I’ve had to navigate the aloneness of being a leader of a pioneering organisation, whilst also being a Mum, a wife, a friend, a church leader, an author, a speaker, a woman. I am not enough. But He is. All this sounds so easy but it isn’t. So often we default to our own strengths and resources and the more we rely on ourselves the harder life becomes. For me it’s a constant decision to keep placing myself outside of my comfort zone, to keep making myself vulnerable to failure so I keep leaning on the one thing that will never let me down- His love.
5. What are some of the issues today women face when it comes to self-esteem and self love?
To be honest I don’t think this is an issue only women face- I think there is an inherent problem with the concept of self esteem that plagues us all as humanity, not just as womanhood. We all have a need to feel significant, to have a sense of security and acceptance but whilst ever we try to find those things from any other source but Christ we will be seeing our lives in the mirror of distortion. We will try to compete with each other, compare ourselves to each other and constantly try to achieve happiness and success using our own very limited strength and resource.
I actually believe there’s something wrong with the very definition of self-esteem. The Cambridge dictionary defines self-esteem as a belief and confidence in ones own ability. Well, we were never designed to live this life within the confines of our own abilities and resources, which is why we constantly fail at it. And it’s precisely when we feel like we are failing at life that we begin to fall into the trap of inadequacy and low self-esteem, so we need a mind shift. We need to understand that one of the reasons self esteem is so eroded across age groups, gender, socio-economic groups, and why depression is at an all time high is because humanity is always looking to fulfil its own needs and then realising we can’t. There is often a belief in us that says we must change so we can be accepted when in fact we were accepted first which then leads us to change. Looking in the mirror of God’s word and believing what it says about us means we look to God for what we do not have and recognise that God delights to show His power through the imperfect. Infact, it is our imperfections that create space for God’s power to be manifest. Restoring a person’s self esteem is not something that can be done to them, it has to come from within. Not external factors but from an internal shift in mind set. From a revelation of who they are..in Christ. We need God esteem – a belief that what Gods mirror says over us is truth and that the truth we believe is what sets us free.
How do you balance motherhood alongside full time ministry?
I could write a book about this haha! Basically I failed miserably at balancing these areas of my life and like most working mothers it was the source of almost all of my stress and guilt. Everything and everyone was suffering, I wasn’t good at work and I wasn’t good at home until I reached rockbottom one night and went on a long, angry drive after a blazing row with my husband (another one, we’d been fighting for a few months about the same stuff). I honestly believed I was in the right, throwing myself into building the ministry at great cost to my family and home life, believing that God had called me to do this and so I kept throwing the ‘God-card’ at anyone who challenged me on the state of my home life and marriage. I was in the car and asking God to somehow communicate to my husband that he needed to get with the programme and understand that I was called and that God had tasked me with this, so my husband just needed to grow up. What God said to me next changed my life and probably saved my marriage. He said: “I only have you to be his wife and I only have you to be a mother to those two boys. I can ask anyone to do what you’re doing at Mercy. When I gave you Mercy it was to be Mercy and, not Mercy or. If you don’t get the balance right, I’ll take Mercy out of the equation”. And just like that I found a balance. I looked at my life and decided to prioritise the few things that only I could do- everything else I shared with a great team. I learnt to delegate, I learnt to say no, I learnt the power of boundaries and setting a realistic pace. I learnt to rest and to enjoy time at home with my computer closed and my phone off. That was years ago and now my kids are teenagers and I’ve been very happily married for 24 years, we are a close knit family unit but yet release each other to do what must be done. We work very hard but we play hard too.
7. What inspired your book From Pain to Pearls?
The book is dedicated to my sister Debbie whose determined faith, ruthless trust and uncompromising hope in God is a constant source of inspiration to me. Her story of turning pain into pearls has intertwined with my own and together we have seen the mighty hand of God bring healing, restoration and transformation to many lives.
My sister was 12 years old when she met a man in the local park. He was 10 years her senior, drove his own car, and showed an interest in her that made her feel grown-up and affirmed. Within the space of a few short weeks, he had groomed her into a sexual relationship with him. Only then did it become apparent that he was a drug dealer, and that he had plans for my sister that took her from the dream life she had been living into a living hell.
Every day for three years, life was the same — hidden with the same lie that ‘all was fine’. But it wasn’t. She got into fights, began cutting herself, became addicted to drugs, and even tried to commit suicide. Caught in a spiral of helplessness and shame, her anger burned against a God who should have protected her, who could have stopped it, or who could have told someone about the abuse she was suffering. She felt let down by Him, abandoned even, and so she renounced God and vowed to live her life without Him.
My sister and I, along with our three siblings, were brought up in a loving, Christian home, with parents who were missionaries and pastors for many years. Looking back, I think we grew up with an underlying belief system that ‘bad things happen to bad people’. We took refuge in the idea that we were good people and not of this world (John 17:16), and were therefore exempt from its pain. But we failed to understand that if we are in this world, then we can be victims of its corruption. So when, as a family, we saw the full scale of what my sister had been through, it shook our world and our faith.
Debbie ended up going to Mercy in America over 15 years ago, before we had a home here in the UK and graduated there with her faith in God restored. My sister’s story has impacted my life like no other; I had to go on a journey of discovering what the Bible says about God’s character and find my own answer to that age-old question: ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ How do we respond when bad things happen to good people, and how can we learn to ‘Laugh at the days to come’ (Proverbs 31:25) when our future is so unknown? Can we trust Him with the things we love the most? And if God does not promise us a trouble-free life, then what exactly does He promise?
The book is my response to these questions. I’m not saying it’s the response, only that it is mine. During the years at Mercy UK, and over the past 20 years serving within my local church context, I have stood alongside countless people as they have navigated some of the worst kinds of things life can throw at a person — rape, abuse, torture, incest, betrayal, grief, shame, debt, loneliness and ill health.
I have felt the raging seas of my own personal trials, tribulations and adversities of life, and yet discovered the stepping-stones of faith, hope, trust and unconditional love, that have paved a safe way through the trials.
8. What’s your favourite worship song and why?
I don’t have one favourite worship song- I just LOVE worship! I learnt a long time ago that worship is a weapon, and worship is a door by which we can access the presence of God, especially when we need it the most and feel like worshipping the least! There have been songs over the years that have been the hall-mark to a season in my life and they have captured the words I could never find myself but so desperately wanted to say. It’s one of the gifts that songwriters give us- words we wish we could’ve thought of but totally communicate our heart. The Desert Song was a song that helped me through a season of lack and no breakthrough, Oceans is a song that basically describes my whole outlook on life and ministry, Amazing grace always makes me cry and at the moment, River Wild just has me on my knees!
9. What’s your favourite quote or matra you live by?
Oh great question…I have a number of quotes/mantras that I would live by but my favourite is probably from Corrie ten Boom: Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. It captures three fundamental truths that run right through me: Never be afraid. Always Trust. Know God.
INSTAGRAM: @AriannaWalker @mercyukorg
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