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Jen Oyama Murphy


My love of good stories led me to Yale University where I received a BA in English. Upon graduation, I felt called to bring individual stories into relationship with the Gospel Story, and I have worked in the areas of campus and church ministry, lay counseling, and pastoral care since 1989. Over the years, I sought a variety of ongoing education and training in the fields of psychology and theology, including graduate classes at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology and Benedictine University. I also completed the Training Certificate and Externship programs at The Allender Center, and I previously held roles on their Training and Pastoral Care Team, as Manager of Leadership Development, and most recently as the Senior Director of The Allender Center. 

Believing that healing and growth happens in the context of relationship, I work collaboratively to create a safe coaching space of curiosity and kindness where honesty, care, desire, and imagination can grow. Using my experience and expertise in a trauma-informed, narrative-focused approach, I seek to help people live the story they were most meant for and heal from the ones they were not. I am passionate about personal support and development, particularly for leaders in nonprofit or ministry settings, including lay leaders who may not have a formal title or position. I’m especially committed to engaging the personal and collective stories of those who have felt invisible, marginalized, and oppressed. I love facilitating groups as well as working individually with people.

I currently live in the Chicago area with my spouse, and we have two adult daughters.


The Japanese paper crane has come to symbolize hope and healing as it is connected to the story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was a young girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing when she was only two years old. Later diagnosed with leukemia, Sadako began folding paper cranes, hoping to make 1000 so that she would be granted, as tradition stated, one wish for a full and happy life. When Sadako died at age 12 having folded 644 cranes, her friends and family completed and strung the 1000 cranes in a collective effort to honor Sadako’s life and wish for peace and healing. Many years later, her brother would say, “She let out the pain of our parents and her own suffering with each crane.” 

As a Japanese American, I have folded many paper cranes, both on behalf of myself and others. I am reminded of how our stories come from a historical, cultural, familial, and personal context and can hold both heartache and desire. However, if we are willing to let out our pain and suffering —folding, unfolding and refolding our stories—then something beautiful can emerge. So, I chose the paper crane to honor my culture, my process, and my desire for hope and healing.

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