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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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By Jessica Nelson
It’s surreal to say that it’s been over 10 years since I graduated from Calvary Christian Academy. Looking back, I can truly appreciate how incredible my experience was at CCA. We had godly teachers, were taught the Bible, prayed in class, had access to the finest arts and athletics programs . . . I could go on and on. My parents sacrificed so much so I could have this Christ-centered education.
During that time, role models spoke into my life, pushing me in areas where they saw God had gifted me. I learned to sing, act, dance, and lead worship, and I loved it all. It was at CCA that God wrote my destiny and purpose on earth onto my heart. He designed me to be a storyteller—to share the gospel in ministry using the arts.
However, those years weren’t without their hard moments. During college, I didn’t associate with Christians despite the faith I claimed. After graduating college, I was hired to work on cruise ships as a singer and dancer for their shows. This environment normalized a lifestyle that didn’t honor God. I’m so thankful that God’s calling for my life wasn’t erased during that season of wandering.
In a miraculous work of God, I broke my foot on the job, ended up back at home, and somehow landed in a Bible study led by my former CCA Bible teacher, Pastor Bill Schott. The Holy Spirit used one offhand statement he made to turn my life around completely: “There’s no such thing as a ‘carnal’ Christian.”
This led me down an entirely new path. I gave up ships, alcohol, certain friends, and my lifestyle. Surrendering opened up a beautiful new season full of blessings and freedom. My faith had become truly mine because it had cost me something. In letting go of the passing pleasures of this world, I found my faith and destiny once more.
I now live in Hawaii with my husband and work on staff at my church as the creative director as well as the director of our school of the performing arts. Together, my husband and I serve as youth directors at our church, lead worship, a young adults team, and the drama department. I’m also co-captain of our young adults dance team.
The past decade has been . . . a lot. But I’m here now. Even during my darkest times, a part of me always believed I would eventually end up in the destiny He had for me. I now have everything I’ve been through as a testimony and can pour into students the exact same way my leaders poured into me. I pray I can help point these precious souls into their Father’s arms so one day they, too, can say, “I’m doing what He’s called me to do, and my faith is my own.”