COCHRAN, GEORGIA- Heather Hitchcock knew when she was growing up what she wanted to be. She told The Murphy Gazette, “I always wanted to be a wife, mom and teacher.”
The married mom of four – three girls and a boy – has accomplished that and then some. Currently, she is working to earn her bachelor’s degree in early education from Middle Georgia State University.
She has been married for almost 13 years to Kelly Hitchcock, a local youth and children’s minister. “I graduated from Bleckley County High School, and married Kelly a year later. He became a friend to me in a time in my life where I felt like I had no friends, and we quickly became best friends.”
Heather stated, “I am so thankful for how the Lord has written our story, and for the foundation we have in Him.” The couple was married May 5, 2007 at Bethany Baptist Church in Cochran, and a week later, they started their lives in ministry as part of the church staff at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Cary, Georgia.
“Marriage and ministry are two of the hardest things I have ever done in life. You don’t go into either knowing what you are doing, but both of you grow the longer you are married, or at least you should, and the same is true the longer you serve in the ministry.”
The stereotypical image of a minister’s wife is, well, there is not one, as a daily life in ministry is never the same. When asked about what she does in that role, Heather said, “Mainly, I support my husband in every way that I can.”
She continued, “This has changed in different ways over the years, especially once we began having children. When the kids were babies, I helped him as much as I could by planning trips and events for the youth we served. When our kids were smaller, it wasn’t easy to help him in the ways that I wanted to. There were many times that I helped him most by taking care of things at home so that he could serve in the ways God had called him to.”
Heather said the struggle was there. “There were many times that I had to tell Satan where he could stay, because those days were long and hard and he (Satan) tried to steal my joy and passion. I have seen the fruit of those days in many different ways, and those moments remind me how blessed we are to get to serve in ministry.”
“Mostly I pray for my husband always. Satan wants to destroy any and everything he can, especially a pastor, his family, and ministry. I pray for Kelly daily … multiple times a day,” she explained. “I feel like this is the most valuable way that I can ‘help’ him in his service in ministry.”
Heather stated, “There have been so many blessings through the almost 13 years we’ve served in ministry. I would have to say the greatest blessing for me is seeing Kelly’s love for Jesus and the Gospel. His love for Jesus and the passion he has over his calling to be a minister is the fuel for his ministry. It’s the ‘why’ for everything he does now, has done, and will do in the future. Kelly loves Jesus more than anyone or anything in this world, and that blesses me as his wife. Because of this, I know that he will lead our family and ministry well.”
There are times when being a part of a church ministry team can be difficult. She said of those times, “two things stand out: watching people hurt and juggling our family in the midst of the demands of ministry. Watching people hurt sometimes involves watching people struggle with sin, broken relationships, death or other such circumstances in their lives. This part of ministry is what makes you not be able shut your mind off.”
In her own life, Heather has experienced hardship as well. She uses those experiences to be a help to others.
“There have been so many times that our circumstances were hard! The one that surpasses them all was my daddy walking through cancer and winning that battle in Heaven and not here. My daddy was not a perfect man, but he was an amazing husband, daddy, son, brother and friend. He worked hard to provide for our family, and it never took much to make him happy. He was a humble man, and he taught me so many valuable lessons throughout the years.”
“Daddy was an overcomer and a peacemaker. He would face issues head on and not blink. None of those characteristics changed when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was so brave throughout the entire process, but so was my momma.”
Heather said, “Daddy didn’t have to fight cancer long. He was diagnosed at the end of 2014, and went home to be with Jesus on April 11, 2015. Learning how to do life without daddy here with us is the hardest thing I, well, all of us, have ever done in life. I still haven’t learned how to do it, but we just do it. The joy I have in Jesus is my hope for the future.”
She explained, “I didn’t say ‘bye’ to daddy on April 11, I said ‘see you later.’For the first year after he passed, I wanted to be strong for my momma, sister and my kids. I didn’t cry in front of anyone, but Kelly, if I could help it. Over time I began to realize that approach wouldn’t help me or my kids, and it certainly didn’t make the pain any less.”
“Learning to grieve has been hard, walking through every holiday, every special occasion, every birthday party, every solo, every ballgame, and knowing that there are so many amazing days ahead for my children is bittersweet. It always stings… it always feels unreal.”
“But with Jesus, a lot of time in scripture, and prayers, we make it through every moment without daddy here. I used to constantly say things like, ‘I wish you were here’ or ‘God let there be windows in Heaven so he can see this day.’ I don’t anymore. I truly would never want to bring daddy back.,” Heather said. “He is the happiest he has ever been and at peace for eternity.”
“Why would I ever want to take that away from him? Life here on earth is not the prize, Jesus is the prize. Coming to that understanding, and being at utter peace with where God has our family was something that took time for me.”
She concluded, “I won’t say that I am the overcomer in this story. Jesus overcame the grave, and death has lost it’s sting. Learning to walk this journey is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do in my life.”
One of the ways that she has been able to survive the journey is through music. “My daddy was an amazing musician. Honestly, he could have been a country music singer. There isn’t a time in my life that I don’t remember my daddy not singing. Music was a huge part of who he was, and music was a huge part of our family. Every day there was music in our house, and I am so thankful that I was able to grow up this way.”
“My parents instilled in me a love for music, and I am trying my best to pass that on to my children. I wouldn’t call myself a musician, but I do love to sing. I sing every time I get the chance, and so did my parents! We would sing together as a family at church or just at home. My daddy had the neat ability to hear a song once and be able to sing it almost perfectly the next. I’m not as talented as he was, but I did inherit his ability to sing by ear,” Heather said.
“Often times I rely on my ability to hear the notes versus my ability to read music when I’m singing or learning a certain piece. I’m thankful for every song we ever were able to sing together. One of my most treasured videos is of my daddy, sister and I singing just months before he passed away. I’ll never forget that moment, and I’m forever thankful to the sweet soul who videoed it for us. Momma, Morgan and I sang the same song at Daddy’s graveside. The song was ‘Amazing Grace.’”
“To this day, I can barely sing through the entire song. Not solely because of the memories tied to it, but because of the truth found within that song. It’s only by the amazing grace of Jesus that I am married to Kelly, and have these four beautiful children. It’s only by His grace that I get to be a minister’s wife.”
Heather said, “I stay encouraged through having an active prayer life, and spending time in God’s word. I also rely on the people that I am blessed to have in my life who love me and love on me.”
She said, “I really do not have a lot of time to myself, and I am perfectly OK with that. This season of my life isn’t about me, and there is going to come a day when I have to much time for myself.” She laughed. “I am not ready for that.”
Imagine a smile appearing on Heather’s face. “If you would’ve asked me as a teenager if I would be a minister’s wife, I would’ve probably laughed. I don’t deserve this life, and all the ways that I am blessed and I give Jesus every ounce of credit for all of the good things I have in my life.”
In offering advice to a wife of a minister, Heather said, “The biggest thing I wish someone had told me before jumping into ministry was that it would not be at all what I expected. Having had experience with church all my life, I was not prepared for the difficulties that leading ministry would bring. With that said, I would never want to change the calling the God has placed in our lives. As hard has it has been, it has also been far more rewarding than I could possibly imagine. The wonderful experiences and people that we have been a part of have definitely over-shadowed the many hard and difficult things.”
Heather concluded, “The Lord has been better to me than I deserve. esHe’s given me more in my life than I could’ve hoped for or dreamed of.”
And that is certainly ‘good news’ – a story of hope for us all.