A Woman with Gifted Hands
By Shirley Brosius
With Gifted Hands, Dustee Hullinger reaches out to people traumatized by life’s experiences. The art and evangelistic program serves about 200 people each week at shelters, HIV/AIDS residences, community centers and churches in New York City. Volunteer artists offer workshops such as jewelry making, painting, cooking, drawing and woodworking.
“I have the God-given ability to work with people who have 99 percent going against them, find the one percent they have going for them and begin to work forward from that point,” Dustee says. “I do not give up easily, and I see the best in everyone.”
During the last eleven years, Dustee has produced 33 programs, including courses on character and life skills development, which are offered at 17 locations. Married and the mother of two, Dustee serves on the compassionate ministry staff of The Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in Times Square.
Born in North Dakota, Dustee grew up in Michigan. At age 13, she dedicated her life to God at a youth camp service, and mission trips challenged her. She dreamed of becoming a missionary or an archeologist—any profession that would facilitate traveling. God opened the door for her to become a flight attendant.
Then in 1993 doctors recommended Dustee give up her work due to injuries that caused back pain. A Make a Difference in Your World conference motivated her to work with the homeless, even though at that time she wondered what she could possibly have in common with them.
A cross-country move to New York City led Dustee to The Lamb’s Church, where she told homeless men of God’s love as she soaked their feet. Her desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus grew, and she developed an art and design class for young mothers at a homeless shelter.
As she taught in the inner city, Dustee noticed results. Wounded people developed self esteem. Battered women found community. And leaders emerged from those who had felt disempowered. Dustee solicited funding to offer art programs in the shelter system.
Dustee eventually joined the church’s staff. Through the compassionate ministry, she has offered art and socio-drama workshops and invited the homeless and needy to join singing groups. She married Jim Hullinger, financial administrator of the church, and together they developed Pathway to Wholeness, a discipleship program for men.
Although at times Dustee felt as though she walked into a field of landmines as she worked with dysfunctional people, she persevered and became a woman with a mission—to help those who could not help themselves. Rather than becoming a missionary to Africa, as she had once dreamed, Dustee found her mission field in the concrete jungle of New York City.
According to Dustee, worship services and art programs held at shelters develop relationships, plant seeds and create a bridge to connect people to Christianity.
“If we don’t step out and start these type of outreaches, people in these situations will never find the Lord,” she says. “They are so fractured by life complexities. They are guilt ridden and feel unworthy to step into a church. They live in a survival mode.”
God continues to give Dustee many opportunities to share about her work, and her ministry has invested seed money to start 13 programs in Africa.
With a patience level far above the norm, Dustee continues to fulfill Jesus’ directive in Matthew 10:42: If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward. And she motivates others to start similar programs.
Shirley Brosius Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference Released by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, October 2006. She is also a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through personal testimony, drama and song. Visit www.womenspeakers.com.