By May Olusola
June Hunt and her three siblings were born out of wedlock to H.L. Hunt, a married man who lived a few blocks away with his first wife Lyda. June’s mother, Ruth Ray Hunt, was Mr. Hunt’s secretary and had an affair with him for a number of years. Ruth and her children lived in a simple house, and her children bore the name Wright; in these early years, June recalls, they were content and happy. June was approaching her teenage years when Lyda, her father’s first wife, died. Two years later, in 1955, Mr. Hunt married Ruth and moved her and their children into his White Rock Lake mansion in Dallas, an elaborate replica of George Washington’s plantation house, Mount Vernon. It was at this point that the children dropped the name Wright and legally bore their father’s last name.
Moving with their mother from a simple to a very sophisticated life was a leap that did not end in a smooth landing. The glory on the outside was a far cry from the inglorious conditions at home. Living with their dad meant walking on eggshells, watching him dominate their loving mother, continue his infidelities, and hardly show affection toward his children. This is what birthed the pain, anger, and hate June Hunt developed for her dad. She loved her mother so much and could not stand to see him mistreating her. “I wanted him to do and say all the things to me instead,” she says. “I analyzed and decided in my heart that ‘God hates sin, Dad is sinning, God hates Dad, I hate Dad.’”
The crisis at home opened the door for a personal relationship with Christ. They started attending First Baptist Church of Dallas under the leadership of legendary pastor and preacher W.A. Criswell, and found much-needed relief there. It was unlike churches they attended in the past—this one was Bible-based. Ruth began slowly peeling away the layers of guilt that had plagued her about her adulterous relationship with Mr. Hunt. In the past, she’d kept to herself; she’d drop her children off at church but not go in because she was ashamed. June Hunt remembers her mother being a devout Christian who read her Bible all the time, opened her home for Bible studies, and gave to many charities.
After attending church and studying the Word of God for some months, June Hunt had questions, even though she already realized that Christ was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. When she became a youth director in church, she discovered many people with unspoken pain like hers and saw the need for a fountain of hope by which people’s thirst for help would be quenched. With years of experience as a church department leader, conference speaker, and teacher, June Hunt’s life ended on a path she never would have envisioned.
Out of the pain of the sad experiences at home and seeing what other people were going through came a compassionate ministry called Hope for the Heart. Founded in 1986, it is known for a five-volume set of 100 “Counseling Through the Bible” courses that address topics such as marriage, parenting, depression, anger, stress, and suicide. Today, it has impacted many lives and is published in 27 languages. There is also a Hope Biblical Counseling Institute, an award-winning Hope for the Heart radio program heard on 900 radio outlets around the world, and the popular Hope in the Night two-hour live radio counseling program that allows call-ins. June Hunt is the author of many books, including Caring for a Loved One with Cancer, which she wrote after her own experience with cancer. She is a sought-after conference speaker and an accomplished musician who has been a guest soloist with Billy Graham Crusades.
In June 2010, June Hunt’s dream of bringing nonprofit Christian ministries under one roof came to pass with the opening of The Hope Center, a $48 million, 185,000-square-foot structure built in theh style of a mountain lodge, with an atrium, restaurant, bookstore, and, most important, a place for counseling. The Hope Center is located in Plano and houses 50 ministries.
MannaEXPRESS interviewed June Hunt at The Hope Center, where she graciously answered questions, her humble attitude plainly evident.
Where did the passion for the Hope for the Heart ministry come from?
I was raised in a very painful home situation that for years I did not talk about. I was born in a family that was off on the side when my father was married to another woman, not my mother. There were secrets; there were things I didn’t talk about for years. I did not know how to even give voice to the pain, and yet it made huge a difference once I came into a full relationship with Christ. Eventually my parents married when I was a teenager, but there was a huge amount of pain in the family. So I know what it is like at one point to want to literally end the pain–meaning end life. Did I verbalize it to anyone? No. I know that so many people have unspoken pain and feel the situation is hopeless and life is hopeless. And so when that sense of hopelessness comes, people need to know God says, “I know the plan I have for you…” [Jeremiah 29:11.] Even though we don’t see what the plan is, we need to yield our will to His will. I needed to yield my will to His and trust there will be that peace that passes all understanding.
After I became a Christian, I was a blank page with no knowledge of Scripture, but once I experienced it I began to change in several ways. If we can be a part of helping people become all that God created them to be, what a privilege. Whether it is in print like MannaEXPRESS, as long as we stick to what is true and encourage people that whatever God promises is what is guaranteed, then hope comes.
You talked about going through a lot of pain growing up before your parents got married. What was your turning point in encountering Christ, and how was your knowledge of Christ able to take you to where you are today?
I saw people who had something I wanted but did not know what it was. They had this quality that was very drawing to me. They were not caught up in money or status, but they knew the Bible. They had information that if I learned it, it could give me what they had. I had no idea it had anything to do with a relationship with Christ. I continued to watch for consistency, and they were consistent. I was like a sponge that had never seen water, and I was absorbing till it got to the point I asked a teacher, “How do I know if I am a Christian? I think I am.” I would love to tell you I recognized what was off in my life or that I had all this faith, but that was not the case. I knew what they had was what I needed. Based on their lives and testimony, I was willing to give Christ a try despite not having huge faith. I prayed and asked Christ to “come into my life and do whatever it is you want to do.” I was not aware my life was changing, and that is because previously I was focusing on how wrong my father was.
I had bitterness and resentment toward him. Over time, when we give our lives to Christ, He gives us a new heart transplant. While I was changing in a number of areas, it took me longer to change in the area of bitterness and hatred for my father for how he treated my mother. I could not change him; he was not a believer. I was bitter because of something he said to my mom, and I asked her, “How could you be so nice to him?” “Oh, honey,” she said. “He doesn’t know the Lord. If he only knew the Lord, he wouldn’t be that way.” That statement changed my paradigm, because I had been focusing on the fault and she focused on the need. From that point on I saw “love your enemies and those who persecute you.” I began to pray for his salvation and to look for things that would be meaningful to him without expecting anything in return. This was agape love and not Valentine love. With Christ in my life, my whole perception changed.
I like what you said about admitting it was a process. There is a lot of brokenness in you. Is it tied to your faith or a revelation you got?
I realized first of all I have done nothing to earn authentic salvation. I did not deserve it. I was sincere but sincerely wrong in the beginning. Why did I get to hear a life-changing message that I didn’t deserve? Everything I do is not a sacrifice; it is a privilege to be able to help people come into a life-changing situation with Christ. When I became a Christian, the more truth I had, the more I was set free. You have to be patient about sharing the Word and not trying to force-feed someone if they are not hungry. Keep praying, wait, be consistent, and let your light shine in darkness.
There is so much exuberance coming from you. For people hurting and going through unimaginable circumstances, what message do you have for them?
The reason I can do the Hope in the Night radio program is because I have gone through so many bizarre things, and all of the pain that I experienced is not wasted—that is the key and the message. The Bible says we are called to suffer, but no matter what we are going through, we need to entrust ourselves to the Lord, who judges justly, and He will be able to use our pain to give us an increased capacity for compassion. So whatever the pain is, it becomes your platform to literally say to another person, I understand, I can hurt with you, I will walk with you, and this is what I learned and want to share with you. Our mess becomes our ministry, because we have pain with a purpose.
How did the vision for the Hope Center come about?
I don’t think churches do a good job of working with one another. There is jealousy, competition, fear of collaboration, suspicions, and so on. I don’t think that is what God wants. I have always wondered why ministries cannot work with each other. The Hope Center came about when we were about to renew our rent contract some years ago, and someone suggested, “Why don’t you buy the building?” I felt it was too big at the time but kept thinking of it for several years till I started thinking of multiple ministries under the same roof blessing one another. Today, the dream is a reality.
What is the international arm of the ministry doing and how is it impacting lives?
Our books are in 27 languages now. We have a strong Biblical library that is very practical. We deal with relevant Biblical-based topics with practical application. How do you get the principles to work? Hope for the Heart provides the practical how-to’s. We have materials on multiple addictions and countless works on abuse, guilt, grief, marriage, family, and teenagers. I just finished teaching on dating. Next month will be on boundaries, dysfunctional families, and blended families. People want practical help; they want to know how to do it. Don’t just say “pray.” It is not enough to just say pray–the person wants to know how to pray.
If you were told 40 years ago that you would be doing this, would you have believed it?
No, I had no idea, no concept of being involved in ministry. A lot of people have asked, “How did you plan your course for ministry?” and I tell them I didn’t plan my course. Someone once asked me what excites me the most about what I do. I said it is when I am able to share something and I see the light bulb come on; it gives me the most joy. The highest purpose for all of us is based on Romans 8:29, where we are predestined to be conformed to the life of the Son. I will do whatever it takes to be conformed to the character of Christ–I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. If you can’t, He can, because He is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Thank you, June, for a wonderful interview.
May, June [pointing to herself], and when you find April or July, we can all just line up in a row. [Laughs.]
For more information on Hope for the Heart, visit www.hopefortheheart.org.
May Olusola is the founder and publisher of MannaEXPRESS.