Hannah Browning is from the small East Texas town of Bremond, TX (like some Dallasites and Houstonians, she just says she’s from “Do you know where College Station is? Bremond is about an hour north of College Station”). She was raised in a religiously-split home, one parent a Catholic and the other Church of Christ, but Catholicism would turn out to be the clear ruler of the home for most of her early years––whether it was her weekly confession to a priest, rosaries, or CCD, if a Catholic ought to do something, Hannah did it.
She and her family were very religious. The problem was that religion by itself wasn’t fixing her.
“Until about my junior year of high school, if you would’ve asked me, ‘How do you get right with God?’, I’m sure I would’ve answered, ‘Just be a good person and do good things.’ If you had asked, ‘If you died tomorrow would you go to heaven?’––I hoped so.”
Ill-equipped to function as a Christian, even if Hannah had known that God had spoken the answers in the Bible, she didn’t know how to find them. “I never opened the Bible, I didn’t even know how to read it, I thought it was so scary with all the different chapters, I didn’t know how to turn with the numbers and everything.”
Passionately in pursuit of her, God was about to intervene in Hannah’s life through suffering, and it would be both effective and tremendously painful.
During her early years of high school, Hannah’s parents divorced after more than 20 years of marriage, her grandmother passed away after a short fight with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and her mom was laid off from her job of 7 years and then diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. The foundation of her family was rocked and broken within just a few months.
False gods were forced to betray their insufficiencies, repeatedly defaulting on their promises they had made to Hannah. Alone in this wilderness, God had prepared her to meet with him.
She would agree to go on a mission trip with a friend thanks in large part to a misunderstanding (“I remember seeing on the list to ‘Bring a Bible and a journal’ and I thought, ‘Why in the world would I take that?’”). It was here that God began to allure her. “It’s just so crazy cause at the time I had no idea what God was doing in my heart. It was slowly being softened.” Afterwards, through their Bible studies and her experiences on the trip, Hannah went back home “on fire for Jesus.”
A short time later, when Hannah came to Lubbock for school, she started going to a Bible study with her sorority sisters. Led by a couple Redeemer members, she recalls the group’s vulnerability. “One leader was like, ‘I have body image issues so today I took out my mirrors cause that’s not healthy’, and I remember that was the first time that I had seen someone be so vulnerable with a group. I had been raised that if you have a problem, you deal with it on your own. Get it together and then let’s go, and don’t tell anyone. Cause vulnerability shows that you’re weak, and you don’t need to be weak (or at least that’s what I thought).”
Since then, Hannah’s become a member at Redeemer and joined a Gospel Community. Her own rescue from dead religion has lead her to be missional in her workplace, telling her family and friends about what Jesus has done for her, while continuing to pursue him more each day. “I’ve learned so much, and I’m still learning. I just want to do anything and everything I can to know Jesus more.”