Connection Story: Cindy Gellingher and I met at an Ethics for LMTs class in January 2018. The timing of class was set for Cindy and her timing/licensure requirements. It was an intimate 8-hour class and we chatted over lunch. Through that conversation we swapped hobbies and she shared her love of crafting. She showed me photos of her crafts on a facebook page called “Crafts for Costa Rica”. I asked what that was about. She casually said she sells the crafts to go on massage missions trips. My internal dialogue, “Hold the phone. Massage missions trips? That’s a thing?? Also, does that mean you’re a Christian??”
I’m an adult MK by way of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve been in Portland, OR for five years and was led to train and work as a massage therapist in that time. In these five years, I started to follow Jesus, I’ve been growing in relationship with him and in a rooted community here, and he’s been integrating all the things - the TCK things, the high-mobility things, the questions about calling and purpose.
Practicing massage has been this thing that I knew he called me to and he has used deeply in my own life to mold me and reshape me.
I worked for two years in a clinic that equipped me with excellent technical skills and experience, but was a difficult spiritual atmosphere. I felt isolated as a believer working in a Chinese-medicine clinic in a city and field resistant to Jesus. Coming out of Cambodia I had a sense of the spiritual climate and recognized opposition when I encountered it. It was subtle, but over those years trying to figure out how to “be a missionary where I was,” to share the gospel in my work environment and to continue to heal and grow in the ways God was working in my life, I increasingly became burnt out.
In August 2017, I left that job and needed space to heal. I needed space come to Jesus with all my grand visions, plans and desires around massage, around living internationally, a frozen state, relational grief, lack of contentment, and ultimately the sort of relationship with him I sensed I was missing. I had been working HARD “for him.” Why was I so burnt out and unhealthy?
I returned to working in childcare - God provided a nanny job minutes from my new house (I moved from my apartment of three years to a house of six other women in that month.) I learned how to nanny two infants while Jesus worked me through compounded grief, and gave me space to work through things I couldn’t do in the environment I’d been in. He used the new place; the women I lived with, the consistency of schedule, the alone time to teach me things about Him and teach me practical things - like driving (got my license and bought my first car in that time), and normal American things I’d been able to avoid up to that point. He also lovingly helped me give over my identity that had become rooted in “all the things I would do….with him as an afterthought.”
I ended up loving that job, as I grew competent in it and bonded with the kids and their families, which took months. Babies are hard, ya’ll! Respect to all you mamas and childcare lovers out there.
The tight fists I’d had around my career goals and desire to return to SE Asia loosened into more open hands with a looming question mark. I asked God to make his heart desires my heart desires. He used Psalm 103 in my life every day in that season. I went to it for his promises and reminders of his character.
Secondly, something I’d been praying about for the last few years was to connect with a mature believer who was an LMT. There are things that came up in this work, pondering the mind-body-spirit connections, and the only folks I could find who got it were the more New Agey folks I went to school with. There were questions I was having difficulty reconciling with mainstream medicine and with mainstream Christian culture, but I wasn’t satisfied with fully rejecting or embracing the secular language around healing, energy, and the physical/spiritual/emotional impact of touch.
January 2018 rolled around, and I sensed that my next obedience step was to maintain my massage license and not let it lapse. My nanny contract ended in May 2018, and I felt he’d open a door to move back into massage from the different heart posture and perspective that had been forming in me.
Back to the story:
Massage missions trips? What the what? Cindy told me about Azmera, and that they were going to Cambodia in February. I hadn’t mentioned anything about my personal history or connection there.
This is where I got to praying. First reaction, “God, I’ve gotten used to handing over my heart desires to you, is this is a test? I’m not going to get excited about this unless I know you want me to move in it.”
I asked more questions, she shared about her experiences with Azmera and another awesome organization and encouraged me to look into them. She was also open to meeting up for coffee and connecting more.
I prayed about the Cambodia trip that weekend and told God I’d do whatever needed to happen if he clearly showed me that this was an open door. I sensed him telling me to politely knock on some doors.
I emailed my bosses about the trip, and they worked out their schedules to accommodate it and give me some PTO, even though that time frame was outside of my contract. The timeline correlated with one of their vacations.
Christina and I met at Mission Connexion in Portland the next week. She moved some administrative mountains and hills to get me on track (the trip was in three weeks!) My parents’ prayer team covered the trip and supported me in fundraising. All of my financial needs were met in 12 days. WOAH GOD.
Cindy and I met for coffee in that time and got to know each other more. We shared about how God brought us into massage, where’d we’d been with it and where we hoped to develop.
We set up a massage trade in her space at Lake Oswego Adult Community Center (LOACC).
Cindy has healing hands and a gentle, unassuming spirit. She’s a person who ministers by being present and using intentional care in her work. She is nurturing, vibrant, generous and gets things done.
As I wrapped up giving her a massage she asked me if I’d be interested in working in her space with her. I suggested we talk about it after her massage. A few minutes later I was washing my hands and praying in the bathroom. My prayers had shifted from months of questions, of wavering and wondering to a confident, “Yes. Lord, the timing’s yours, I trust you.”
God is so awesome.
I asked her why she asked. She said she sensed that he told her to. She hadn’t been planning or looking for someone to share with. He is so good. She is faithful and obedient.
I left for the Cambodia retreat that weekend. It was a whirlwind, and God used connections, language and his word to minister to a lot of women that week. He did a crazy amount of healing, integration and growth in me through that. I came back more whole.
A month and a half later, Cindy asked me when I could start, and after some waffling on timing and fear of the responsibility of self-employment, I gave my two weeks at my nanny job and dove into setting up my business as an independent contractor.
Cindy equipped everything. Her space is intentional, her equipment is high quality and the space we work in provides marketing, receptionists and a built-in client base. I was able to start working right away while Cindy was at the Costa Rica retreat.
Our work complements the other as we offer our strengths to our clients and refer to each other from our weaker points.
It’s been seven months and both of our schedules have expanded. Our practices have grown and the massage program at the center is expanding.
I’d asked God to provide a space where massage could be more financially accessible to lower-income folks. We work with mainly seniors on fixed incomes, but anyone can come. The price point at LOACC is fixed and comparatively low. Our personal needs are met. God is blessing this work in this place.
The Fruit Keeps Coming:
● Massage Therapists for Christ Facebook Network (MTFC): Through the Azmera Retreat in Cambodia and connecting with MTs from across the US, as well as reconnecting with a Khmer (Cambodian) massage therapist in Phnom Penh; I wanted to create a space for continued communion, connection and support for global MTs. It’s growing, with thanks to connections through Azmera!
● Cindy connected with a woman at the Costa Rica retreat who connected her with Danielle Carr, a MT in Denver, CO. She joined MTFC and connected me with Trauma Touch Therapy, a body-based modality helping folks who’ve experienced trauma and need help connecting back into their bodies. Another whirlwind, but I was able to meet her and join the open house of her new massage collective, Anointed Massage. It is a healing space with male and female therapists offering healing prayer, trauma-informed massage, and pastoral care in Englewood, CO.
Projects we are engaging with and building in our city:
● Chair massage with the social workers in Child Welfare at DHS, prayer coverage in the visitation rooms for our community’s most vulnerable families is made possible in part through the flexibility and scheduling that working at LOACC has provided, and wholly through God’s provision and community.
● Cindy does chair massage for families with kids going through cancer treatment at the children’s hospital. He is providing for us in ways close to our hearts!
Interested in joining MTFC? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Facebook: Mary Everitt.
Praise God for how he works. He taught me to keep asking and to trust him more this year, and through asking and trusting he taught me to stay where I am as he changes the details. I hope wherever you are at, this story of God’s provision, vision, timing and purposes will encoura