Rebecca Baker teaches and directs in the theatre program at Cedarville University. She has participated in mission trips to The House of Laughter in Kosovo and co-wrote When You Don’t See His Plan with Nadine Hennesey.
1. Rebecca, can you tell us briefly who Nadine Henessey is?
Nadine is the visionary leader behind an educational program for children in Kosovo. That’s who she is professionally, but to many of her students, she is “Teacher,” and by that they mean more than the woman in front of the classroom. She is a life mentor, friend, and to some, a “second mom.” Nadine and her husband, Ed, had dreamed of a life in missions. That dream was shattered when Nadine discovered Ed sitting motionless in his office, and heard the word later at the hospital: Dead, at the age of twenty-six. Nadine was four months pregnant, and that night she felt her baby move for the first time. Nadine found herself at the crossroads of whether or not she could trust God, and after months of struggle, she put her future in His hands. “Please, Lord,” she prayed, “give me a ministry I wouldn’t have had before losing Ed.” God led her to an orphanage in Albania, from which she was recruited to head up a new school in Kosovo. And there she found herself, as a young widow raising her own fatherless child, in a country where civil war had broken out . . . where streets were full of women whose husbands had been killed, and children were living with painful memories of losing fathers and brothers.
2. How did you meet Nadine Henessey and what was it about her story that made you want to write it?
Nadine was invited to speak at my church. Though I’d heard of her from a friend who taught at Cedarville University, where Nadine had studied education, I’d never met her myself. At the end of the service, I was so moved that I stood up and said aloud, to no one in particular, “Someone has got to tell this story.” And the amazing thing is that the story I heard that night turned out to be just the introduction.
3. What is God doing in Kosovo now through her work there?
The school Nadine opened in 2001, named The House of Laughter, was a safe haven where students could learn academic and life skills, play sports, and find a way to pick up the pieces of their lives. Over 400 students attended during the eight years the school was open. It held its last graduation because not only were students ready to move to the next level, but the school was, as well. The House of Laughter had achieved outstanding success in the community, and Nadine had approached the local educational and political leaders about her next dream—the Kosovo Leadership Academy and Ministry Center. The proposed curriculum would provide opportunities for students in grades 1–12 to take classes in partnership with other schools and universities, participate in a community sports outreach, and gain leadership skills with which to serve their young country. Leaders in Kosovo have granted Nadine a piece of prime real estate on which to build, in enthusiastic support for what they see as a way their young people can embrace the future.
4. How has your life been impacted by Nadine’s story?
I’ve gone on three short-term mission trips to Kosovo, to teach drama classes and find out more about the children there. I have seen firsthand the value of the words of my former pastor, Eric Mounts. “Keep going,” he said, “head up, knees down.” I’ve watched kids navigate through anger and despair, to the place where they could laugh again. One person, one teacher, can change lives. And those lives multiply that change to impact a country. It’s happening. Right now.
5. What is your hope for others who read about Nadine?
My prayer is that all readers will see that some of our greatest opportunities come from trials. Nadine and I hope to be a special encouragement to single mothers, and young people who may wonder if they can make a difference. They can!