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Scripture Keeps Hegefeld ’20 Rooted

by tom campisi, managing editor

Haley Hegefeld made a bold decision at the beginning of 2018.

A leader with Christian Union’s ministry at Yale, she proclaimed that this would be “The Year of No Fear.” By God’s grace, Hegefeld ’20 has indeed been walking more in faith, and less in fear. She recently reflected on an academic year of spiritual growth that included being a key member of Christian Union’s Rooted leadership lecture series and culminated with being baptized this spring.

“For many years, I struggled with anxiety; not debilitating fears, but annoying ones,” she said. “Nonetheless, I found that I avoided many activities, from playing sports and telling people when they were upsetting me, to getting a new haircut. I felt convicted at the beginning of this year to try and remove fear’s grip on my life. I was tired of it telling me what I could and could not do.”

Instead, Hegefeld obeyed the Bible’s exhortation to “fear not,” and took solace in Scriptures like John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

“This verse is a beautiful depiction of the conflict between succumbing to fear and trusting God—you may feel the fear or darkness pressing in, but the hope you have in the Lord shines into that, and fear cannot overcome it,” she said.

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In the spring semester, Hegefeld shared a testimony about overcoming fear at Rooted. Jane Hendrickson, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Yale, was impressed with how students resonated with the topic.

“Several students spoke to me afterwards and said that they really struggled with anxiety and fear and were so grateful that she shared what she did,” she said. “They particularly appreciated that she took the initiative to work on this issue in a very practical way, instead of waiting or wishing it would go away on its own.”

A psychology major who hails from Austin, Texas, Hegefeld wants to work as a therapist for adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. She wants to dedicate her career to helping mental illness be “addressed and understood.” In the summer, Hegefeld is doing research work at the Yale Clinical Affective Neuroscience & Development (CAND) Lab, which studies how the brain develops over time, and how early-life trauma and anxiety affect this development. The CANDLab also seeks to devise and test strategies that clinicians can implement when working with their patients.

Hegefeld called being a leader at Rooted this past year “wonderful, yet challenging.” She enjoyed the process of meeting, brainstorming, and collaborating, as the team sought to present topics ideally suited to challenge Yale students. In the spring, Rooted hosted a semester-long series on the “Idols of Yale.”

One of the most compelling lectures of the semester, according to Hegefeld, came when Leon Powell, project manager for the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, spoke to the students about the importance of observing the Sabbath.

“All Ivy League students know the intense pressure to work continuously, even though God commands us to take a break to rest in Him,” she said. “Leon urged us truly to take the Sabbath off from work, to resist the temptation to check our e-mails or reply to group messages from our student organizations. After the lecture, I could feel the conviction in the room from my fellow students, and I felt like he had really gotten through to some people. Those are the moments that you really cherish.”

Being part of the Rooted team with Christian Union has been a blessing for Hegefeld, who appreciates the leadership training, Bible courses, and seeking God emphasis of the ministry. Click to Tweet

“Christian Union has taught me to look continually to Christ as the model of a leader,” she said. “He put others before Himself, loved and listened to them, taught them, and served them. A leader needs to focus on people. Christian Union at Yale’s motto really sums it up for me: ‘Seek God, love others, lead humbly.’”

Reaching out and ministering to others is a strength for Hegefeld, according to Hendrickson. A well-rounded student, she is also a member of the Groove Dance Company and serves as the organization’s treasurer.

“Haley’s extremely likeable because she’s so relatable to all kinds of people and genuinely kind. She has a deep faith, but it’s totally unpretentious, and she’s honest about where she has doubts and what aspects of biblical teaching are hard for her to accept,” Hendrickson said. “Haley makes people feel welcome. She’s a great team player and a joy to work alongside, both for me as a ministry faculty member as well as for her co-leaders the last two years.”

As the spring semester ended, Hegefeld’s decision to be water baptized neatly fit into her “Year of No Fear.”

“Although I made the decision to put my faith in God well over five years ago, I was always fearful of being baptized. It seemed like such a big commitment,” she said. “Once again, fear was holding me back from placing my life completely into the Lord’s hands.”

Hegefeld, however, stepped out in faith and invited close friends—Christians and non-Christians—to witness the ceremony on a beach in New Haven. Pastor Josh Williams, of Elm City Vineyard Church, presided over the baptism.

“I will never forget walking into the ocean with the pastor of my church, only to be dunked and raised back to new life,” she said. “It was a moment of surrender, freedom, and victory.”