“Social work . . . [allowed] me to use my painful childhood experiences in a productive way,” says Dr. Ling Dinse, Social Work Prof

by Kelsey Madas

September 16, 2019


Dr. Ling Dinse has taught social work at Lancaster Bible College for many years. We asked her to share why she’s passionate about the field, what kind of skills she hopes to pass on to her students and more.

1. What’s your role at Lancaster Bible College?

I serve as an assistant professor in the Counseling & Social Work Department, where I teach social work.

2. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Hong Kong in a government housing project. Our family was surrounded by gang violence, poverty, and a deep sense of hopelessness. My parents did not have any education and worked very hard to support our family of nine. A religious organization attempted to “help” the poor families in our projects with the false assumption that people living in poverty were lazy and their plights were the result of their bad choices. The material assistance this organization offered us was laced with judgement and disrespect. In reality, many of the families I grew up with were honest and hardworking people like my parents. Most of these families lacked the skills and education that could propel them out of poverty. My childhood experience provided me with the insight and motivation to advocate for the vulnerable and marginalized in society. Before I committed my life to Jesus, I viewed the social work profession as a natural choice that offered me the opportunities to use my painful childhood experiences in a productive way. As I grew in my faith, I began to see clearly that my path to social work was full of God’s markers. God has blessed me with this amazing opportunity to live out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 through my profession: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

3. Can you define what social work is for us?

I consider the social worker’s role as an encourager and a facilitator. A social worker affirms an individual’s worth as an image bearer of our Holy God and encourages each person to reach their potential as gifted by God. Social workers also serve as facilitators to the broader society and equip communities to address and advocate for the needs of their marginalized members with compassion.

4. Why do you think it’s important for Christians to go into the social work field?

Jesus came to this broken world to save us and lavish His love and grace on us. He modeled his care for the marginalized in the society through His earthly ministries. The profession of social work has six core values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, competency and integrity. Each of the six core values reflects Jesus’ heart beautifully when practiced. Christian social workers have a unique opportunity to demonstrate Jesus’ love in action in their professional field. The gospel is “preached” when a social worker responds to their clients with a servant attitude, cares for the least of these, and advocates for the voiceless in our midst.

5. What’s the toughest part about being a social worker?

The toughest part about being a social worker is keeping God’s metanarrative in perspective. It is easy to become discouraged as social workers witness so much suffering while engaged in the field. It is easy to be jaded by sinful human nature and forget that redemption and restoration are also part of God’s plan.

6. What’s the best part?

Personally, I am constantly in awe of God’s redemptive power and how God brings me to a place of healing so that I can serve Him through the social work field. Professionally, it is very humbling to witness a client come to the realization of his/her worth as the image bearer and reject the lies about their worthlessness. It is exciting to witness an individual breaking out of the bondage from their past wounds and embracing a new life.

7. How do you teach cultural competency to your students?

It is important to understand that cultural competency is not defined by one’s depth of knowledge but more by an attitude of openness to learn from those from other cultures and life experiences than our own.  One of the classes that I have the privilege to teach at LBC is Cultural Diversity. I have this great opportunity to explore racial and cultural issues with the students during scheduled class time. I am intentional in creating a trusting environment within the classroom, so the students can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and asking tough questions. This semester, I am collaborating with Millersville University to conduct research and examine the effectiveness of intentional dialogue in discussing sensitive social topics. However, the best way to teach a student is often through modeling the very behavior that you hope the students would acquire. I enjoy serving as a journey team leader, and I hope I did well and will continue to model cultural competency to our students on these trips.

8. Tell us about the best advice you’ve ever received.

The best advice I received relating to the practice of social work was collected from observations working in the field and engaging in many conversations with various colleagues. I noticed a good percentage of my fellow social workers came from a very difficult childhood like myself. I observed many of them experiencing burnout and struggling with treating the clients they vowed to serve with contempt. Social work truly is a very challenging profession and it is very important for social workers to take time to retreat and reflect on their motivation to serve. It is easy to fall back into old, unhealthy habits, especially when one has painful family history. I have been a social worker for 23 years, and I continue to schedule regular personal retreats so God can examine my heart. I want to be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance as He points out areas of life that need refining and stay focused on my motivation to serve Jesus through the social work profession.

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