Emotional Healing on Campus
LAKELAND, Florida — Southeastern University sophomore Haleigh J. Stallings has undergone a transformation since she started classes in the fall of 2021.
Before she moved to a dorm on campus, Stallings lived in the grip of social anxiety, fearing rejection and abandonment. However, Stallings says the first time she stepped onto this campus, she sensed healing beginning.
“I don’t feel like the same person anymore,” says the 19-year-old green-eyed blonde. “Southeastern University has helped me understanding how God is a loving Father.”
The Orlando native says she needed restoration from various traumatic episodes of her past, including alcoholism, verbal abuse, and unrealistic expectations at home. She struggled with a negative self-image and went through counseling.
“I didn’t know how the Lord could love me,” Stallings says. “I didn’t want Him to leave me or forsake me.”
Despite the progress she made once she enrolled, Stallings still struggled.
“Many of my friends’ lives seemed perfect, and I felt like I was the only one who was broken,” she recalls.
That changed in February 2022, when Stallings attended an annual three-day worship conference at Southeastern. There she heard Brittany D. Powell testify about her own eerily similar dysfunctional home growing up. Powell and her husband, James, became campus co-pastors before the 2021-22 school year.
After Powell spoke at the event, Stallings approached her, in tears. The two went to lunch and Stallings unloaded her emotional baggage.
“It was the first time I ever felt seen by a leader,” Stallings says. “Britt helped me fully surrender to God. I don’t know where I’d be without her.”
Powell, whose arms are covered in tattoos, grew up in a Cajun Louisiana home in the presence of alcohol, addiction to pain pills, and abuse. Like Stallings, Powell, 35, learned not to base her image of the Heavenly Father on what she experienced from her earthly one. Both women learned to stuff their feelings growing up and to put on a pleasant face before arriving at church, even if a family fight had occurred en route.
Powell helped Stallings discuss her confusion and anger toward God. Stallings grasped the need to take thoughts captive and to renew her mind in the face of spiritual warfare.
The Powells married in 2010. They sensed God calling them to minister at Southeastern in 2021, even though that meant a steep pay cut from the Pentecostal megachurch they pastored in Roseville, California. They gave up their dream home to move onto campus, with their two elementary-aged children. The Powells earlier worked as executive pastors at North Point Church in Springfield, Missouri, where lead pastor Jeremy Johnson and his wife, Leanne, mentored them.
Thanks to Powell’s input in her life, Stallings felt equipped to minister to first-year female students as they navigated moving to campus from home last fall. Stallings leads an emotionally and spiritually healthy small group at the school.
“Haleigh has a heart for ministry,” Powell says.
Stallings is studying human psychology at Southeastern. She considers her mother Kaprece, a psychotherapist, her best friend.
“I teach girls to be authentic and I promote vulnerability,” Stallings says. “I don’t want to be fake. Authenticity helps us heal.”
“The only expectation I can have is in Christ,” says Powell. “People on earth will always fail us.”