By Monique Kleinhuizen
It’s not every day you get audible instructions from God, but Theresa “Terri” Rubio remembers that happening like it was yesterday.
Once a corporate IT professional, she’d made a career shift when she realized she was making a good income, but absolutely miserable. Years before she even knew who Jesus was, she felt a deep longing, thinking to herself, “There has to be more to life.”
Rubio pursued a dream of opening a restaurant with a friend, only to close it after the economy tanked in 2008. As an entrepreneur at heart, she launched a concierge service, doing odd jobs for busy professionals. From picking up dry cleaning to paying bills to coordinating home repair, she left the door open to “helping people,” whatever that might look like for a growing list of clients outside Philadelphia.
She loved the flexibility the business gave her but recalls still feeling listless, lining up job after job while taking college courses in her spare time. She collected credits from several different schools, hoping to cash them in someday on a nebulous business degree. It simply felt like the next obvious step in life, an open-ended gateway to something more, though she couldn’t say quite what that was.
It all changed on April 2014, when at age 49, Rubio gave her life to the Lord.
In 2015, she was growing in her faith but still floundering professionally until God woke her up from a deep sleep with a very clear path and direction. It was so clear that Rubio grabbed the closest piece of paper and began scribbling down the exact words she heard:
“I’m to help people–all people. I’m to comfort the sick, counsel the dying, feed the poor, console the sad, help the helpless.”
She felt a sudden and deep sense of peace. The next thing she wrote down was more of a response: “I have no idea how, but this is my path from the Lord. I know, trust, and believe He will continue to direct me.”
Her concierge service began to morph, with more requests coming in for companion care for people’s aging relatives. She was transcribing letters to loved ones, helping people make amends and end-of-life decisions, and sometimes even praying with them. She was no longer just checking things off of people’s to-do lists but consoling and counseling them–speaking truth into tough situations and navigating family dynamics. She couldn’t help but feel that pursuing that career path–formally, professionally–was what God had meant for her to do next.
“God never wanted me to have a business degree!” she realized.
She only knew of a handful of larger colleges with counseling programs, so she started asking around. Already mid-life and with a full career behind her, she knew she wanted to get her qualifications quickly and set about what God had called her to–though she wasn’t even sure what qualifications she needed. As a mother in a business with ebbs and flows, flexibility was key, and moving wasn’t an option.
“I knew I needed to be online,” she says. She remembers googling programs and stumbling across the accelerated Bachelor of Arts-to-Master of Divinity track at Crown College. It would allow her to take graduate-level courses to meet her undergraduate degree requirements, with dual syllabi dictating when she’d need to do extra or different assignments. By the time she finished her B.A., she’d already be well on her way to the M.Div. She could tailor the program to her very specific career goal by selecting a Pastoral Counseling concentration–one of 14 possible tracks.
Best of all, it could all be done remotely from her home in Pennsylvania, with a courseload designed for busy, working adults. She talked with an admissions counselor, who helped plan out her schedule, figure out finances, and go through her pile of transfer credits–nearly all of which were accepted. In 2016, she officially enrolled.
She’d log in to an online dashboard where she could manage and turn in assignments, complete readings, and get support from the team at Crown. She remembers finding a deep sense of community with fellow students even though they came from all walks of life and were scattered geographically. “Apparently the Lord works on the internet as well!” Rubio says with a chuckle.
She got to know Senior Academic Advisor Kathy Sutherland, who orchestrated Rubio’s course load and ensured she was getting the classes she needed–and was thriving.
“Kathy was amazing, and it just seemed to flow,” Rubio says. Every September, she’d get an updated printout of where she was at in the program, what courses remained, and when she was due to graduate. “I didn’t need anyone else. Even if it wasn’t her job, I think she just did it anyway!”
Along the way, she trained in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) crisis management, Trauma-Focused – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and the “Prepare and Enrich” premarital and marriage assessment. Rubio finished her dual-degree program in the spring of 2020, right as the world was reeling from COVID-19. By the time she walked across the stage in a delayed commencement ceremony that December, she had already landed a job as a pastoral counselor at Life Counseling Center in Salisbury, Maryland–thanks in part to the many relevant experiences she gained at Crown. She couldn’t help but notice that she started in the field just as the number of people battling mental health issues and relationship struggles was exploding.
Today, she’s an ordained minister and chaplain through International Ministerial Fellowship (IMF), a certified Pastoral Sexual Addiction Professional (PSAP), and even an adjunct professor helping new Crown students pursue pastoral counseling. She’s living out her calling to help all people, comforting the sick and helping the helpless. She’s profoundly grateful for the education she received at Crown and those who helped clear the path for her professional about-face.
“I see God’s fingerprints all over it,” she says of her experience, through tears. “Oh, He touched my heart so often! He wrapped everything up and got me into a career that would allow me to go back to school. I always felt a peace that Crown was where I was meant to be, not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole…”
“When the pieces just fit, and the program just works, you feel blessed.”