DALLAS (BP) – June Hunt’s international biblical counseling ministry Hope for the Heart was seeking an accountant when president and CEO Curtis Hail met an accounting professional in her 50s who seemed especially passionate about helping the ministry. So he asked why.
After a difficult childhood, this accountant suffered through codependency as a young adult. Then, seemingly by accident, she discovered Hunt’s book on codependency in the seat-back pocket of an airplane. She read it, and her life was transformed. Decades later, with a healthy family and successful career, she maintains a supply of Hunt’s books – which number more than 100 – to distribute to others in need. Through them, she has seen many others similarly transformed.
That accountant’s story is paradigmatic of what Hunt, 76, has done for decades. A pioneering female broadcaster and author, Hunt has brought biblical solutions to hurting people for 35 years. With her materials in 36 languages and 60 countries, and a spot in the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Hunt is positioning the ministry she leads for continued impact in the years ahead.
“The phrase ‘biblical hope, practical help’ is who we are,” Hunt said.
Her journey to helping others started with overcoming her own brokenness. When Hunt was a child, her father had three families at once, which left her hurting and challenged to cope with life. Then in high school she was saved through the ministry of First Baptist Church in Dallas with what she describes as “an eighth of a mustard seed” worth of faith.
That faith germinated, and as a young adult, she became director of the 600-student junior high ministry at First Baptist. That’s where she caught the vision of spreading hope and help.
Hunt befriended a teen named Jerry who was a “loner” and had no father in his home. A few years later, Jerry died in a drowning accident, and his mother thanked Hunt for her ministry, saying, “There were only two adults who invested in him, and you were one. You gave him hope.”
Hunt found herself in a Christian singing career by the late 1970s, serving as guest soloist with Billy Graham and appearing on NBC’s Today Show with Barbara Walters. Yet she wondered if there was a way to address the needs of hurting people more directly.
The answer came when singing gave way to a Christian speaking ministry. Hunt’s focus narrowed to counseling as audience members told her their problems after speaking engagements and she realized how limited the selection of Christian resources was on topics like domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.
“I thought, ‘Why is this not in the Christian world?’” Hunt said, “and it bothered me.”
So she immersed herself in studying the relevant Scriptures on a host of real-life problems. That led to the launch of a radio show in 1986 when four broadcasting executives told her there was a need for more females in Christian radio.
“As perhaps the first female Christian broadcaster dealing with substantive issues beyond cooking recipes, she broke some serious new ground,” Hail said. “She took on issues like sexual abuse that were unheard of on most media outlets of any kind in the mid-80s, much less in the church or Christian radio. Yet she was addressing real problems facing real people by bringing her patented ‘biblical hope and practical help’ to bear on the topic.”
The ministry reached a critical juncture around 1990. Hunt taught a three-year “counseling through the Bible” course at Fellowship Bible Church in Dallas. For each session, she tackled a new topic by utilizing the same four categories: definitions, characteristics, causes and solutions. She hit everything from anger and depression to marriage and suicide.
The method stuck. Hunt has since utilized it in all of her “Keys for Living” books (which address dozens of topics), each episode of her call-in radio program “Hope in the Night” and her new 50-topic Lifeline to Hope video-based lay caregiving training for churches and individuals. Her counseling methodology impacted higher education too. In 2008, Hope for the Heart helped establish chairs of biblical counseling at Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress has known Hunt since he was a teenager under her counseling ministry at the church. He cited firsthand knowledge of her impact.
“All of her life June has been able to address the real needs people experience by pointing them to Scripture,” Jeffress said. “I will be eternally grateful to June for the impact she has had on my life, our church and the kingdom of God. Her 100-topic library of books providing biblical solutions to today’s problems will be her lasting legacy throughout the world.”
Plans abound for Hope for the Heart’s next 35 years. Its International Christian Coaching Institute is a global network of life coaches. The ministry’s Hope Center in Plano, Texas, is a 180,000-square-foot facility that provides workspace for more than 60 evangelical ministries. The center’s aim is to facilitate the global work for years to come.
A speaking engagement at Harvard University highlighted the unique angle of Hunt’s ministry. Addressing 200 women on “women, religion and politics,” she explained the biblical teaching on wives’ submitting to their husbands. She went on to explain why that’s no excuse for domestic abuse – a charge commonly leveled at the biblical marriage ethic by secularists. Husbands must love their wives as Christ loved the church, she said, and Proverbs teaches a “biblical right to move out of harm’s way.”
Following the presentation, Hunt’s sister, who worked at Harvard, was among flabbergasted audience members. “The Bible really says that?” she queried.
Though the years, others have asked the same amazed question weekly. But the amazing part isn’t Hunt, she insists. It’s the relevance of God’s Word.
“It doesn’t matter what the venue is,” she said, because Scripture applies to problems everywhere.