New Staff Introductions: Meet Victoria Hassell
I joined the New Wineskins staff in June and have enjoyed learning a hundred new acronyms, finding new places to hide our stash of chocolate from the church staff we share an office with, learning what a IRS 941 form is, and learning how to be a part of this team of Godly women as we run 100mph in a million directions.
I grew up as an InterVarsity staff kid and oldest of five. For most of my growing up years, we lived in Ambridge, outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The gift of growing up as IV staff kids was my siblings and I hearing about ministry and college students seeing their campuses as a mission field. Growing up in this environment, the idea of viewing ourselves as missionaries in our own contexts was ingrained into our identity.
Through InterVarsity, I also had the unique privilege of traveling internationally at a young age. By the time I started high school, I had been to Russia, Austria, and China with InterVarsity’s summer cultural-lingual exchange programs. These experiences were deeply transformative in my young life. I saw God’s church as a global body connecting us together. I also became aware of the persecution many face because of their faith as well as the spiritual strongholds in a Buddhist lamasery. But even after seeing all this, I had not yet understood grace or how deeply and intimately God knew me and still desired a real and messy relationship with me. As I went through the rough years of high school, the doubts and self-protection grew deep.
I went to the College of Wooster in Ohio, where I became a part of the InterVarsity chapter and studied International Relations. My freshman year was the year of Urbana 2012. God used that week to stir up my heart and grow the seeds for long-term ministry in East Africa. I also was invited to be a part of the 2013 global trek to Cairo, Egypt. That summer in Cairo was cut short by the second wave of the Arab Spring and the establishment of President Sisi’s regime. But, for the three weeks that we were there living in a slum community and working predominantly with special needs children, God poured out his Spirit on me and changed my life. My life wasn’t perfect and I still had many questions for God; but, I have never questioned God’s realness, power or desire to be intimately involved in my life since that time.
Also on that trip, I met a boy. We started long-distance dating that fall and by my junior year we were engaged. A year later, I had called the whole thing off and was in the darkest, deepest hole of my life, up to that point. In that place of deep brokenness, pain and depression, the Lord was waiting to hold me tightly and repeat over me that I was His and in Him, I was safe. The healing journey has been long and difficult, but so worth it as I have grown closer with God and he is making me new. As God was reshaping and redirecting me, the call and heart for the church in East Africa was re-ignited with more hopes and vision for what God may be preparing me to step into.
I graduated from the College of Wooster in December of 2016 with a BA in Political Science and a focus in International Relations. Unsure of what was next and not yet feeling released to pursue a placement in East Africa, I moved home to Pittsburgh where my parents were planting an Anglican church. Through a series of unexpected events and connections during the next seven months, I ended up moving down to Greensboro, NC, to participate in the Greensboro Fellows Program at Church of the Redeemer. At the end of our nine month intensive program of work, leadership and faith development, theological classes and mentorship, we joined the team from Redeemer on their annual trip to Rwanda.
Church of the Redeemer has a partnership with a sister church in Karangazi, Rwanda, and every year for the last nine years we have gone to visit our brothers and sisters there. The Lord blessed me immensely on this trip and continued to grow in me a desire to join his family there. Still, I wait for the Lord to open the door for me to go to this country that somehow feels more familiar than it logically should.
In the meantime, God has given me the opportunity to work with New Wineskins and with Church of the Redeemer, on our Rwanda partnership and co-lead the upcoming trip. I am so thankful for this season of learning and growth!
You can contact Victoria here.