In December 2011, I happily announced in my Christmas letter that my husband and I were expecting our first child. We felt strongly that God had called us to have children, so we were overjoyed to share this event with our loved ones. Tragically, just a few days after our Christmas letter hit people’s mailboxes, we lost our child. Mourning our loss privately was not an option, since everyone knew I had been pregnant.

A few days later, during our midweek service, we sat in the front row of our church as the senior pastor announced to the congregation that we had a miscarriage. We opted to announce it this way rather than have several awkward conversations with people who weren’t aware we lost the baby. Sadness filled the room.

After that service, I, along with several other staff members, lined the front of the worship center, available to pray a blessing for people for the New Year. The moment I stood up and turned around to face everyone, I felt exposed. One of the most personal events of my life thus far was still hanging in the air. As people lined up for prayer, I took a deep breath, prepared to distract myself from sadness and focus on others’ needs. What I didn’t realize is that many of them were lining up to pray for me.

“I had two miscarriages before I had my kids,” one woman said. “My wife lost several children,” one man said through tears. “I’ve never been able to get pregnant,” another woman confessed. I heard story after story of loss. I had no idea that so many people had stood in my shoes. We cried together, shared soul-filling hugs, and prayed for each other. My pain was their pain. My loss allowed them to mourn their losses.

Several months later, when I became pregnant again, my joy was also their joy. The congregation prayed for me, asked frequently about the baby, and counted down the days with me. They had a front row seat of how God brought joy from pain in my life. When my son was born, my story of God’s restoration became their story.

I frequently tell leaders, “Who you are is your ministry.” It wasn’t until I went through pregnancy in public that I realized what that truly meant. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” That’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t staff and congregation; we were brothers and sisters in Christ sharing common pain and joy.

The key to surviving the probing questions and constant belly rubs that go along with a public pregnancy was remembering that the people I serve need my story. They need to see how I respond to pain and hear me point them back to Jesus in the midst of tragedy. They need to see God’s work in both good and bad times. When we hide our challenges and pain, we cover up faith’s most fertile soil and rob others of the opportunity to grow with us.

Worse yet, we rob ourselves of the chance to receive care from others. Not only do they need my story, I need theirs. I need to know that others are praying for me. I needed to know that I’d make it through. I need to hear how God had been faithful in their lives.

May you allow God to work in and through every part of your story as you remember who you are is your ministry.

Frances Tuck lives in Los Gatos, California, and is currently a stay-at-home parent.