2013 Christian Leaders of the Future

By on March 5, 2013
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Metro Christian Living is pleased to present the 2013 Christian Leaders of the Future. Over 125 high school seniors from more than 40 different schools submitted essay applications, answering questions about their faith and leadership experiences. The applications were reviewed and scored by a diverse panel of judges working independently. Scores were tabulated, and the top 27 are featured here.

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Shanequa Alexander
Madison Central High School
Ridley Hill Baptist Church

Shanequa AlexanderFavorite Bible Passage
Ezekiel 11:19, 20 is by far my favorite passage because it is my testimony. “And I will give them one heart [a new heart] and I will put a new spirit within them; and I will take the stony [unnaturally hardened] heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh [sensitive and responsive to the touch of their God], that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

Whenever I read this passage, it takes me back to when I met God for myself. I had so much unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart that it made me angry and mean. I literally felt my heart was as hard as a rock. But when I met Jesus, everything changed. He took my hard heart and made it soft and tender.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am an honor roll student, a member of the Bible Study Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Technical Honor Society, Badminton Club, and Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). HOSA is preparing young men and women for the healthcare field. I have served as the HOSA state chaplain for the state of Mississippi and am now serving at the President of Mississippi HOSA.

My community activities include volunteering at the Senior Citizen Luncheon, Salvation Army Bell Ringing and Community Political Action. I find joy and purpose in developing a foundation of principle in helping others.

Finally, in church, I am the pianist for the Sunday school and the Sunshine choir. I am a part of the Youth & Adult Department of the Youth choir, and the Youth Usher Ministry.

Future Plans
I have a heart to help young women and children who have been abused–physically, mentally, and sexually.

 

Zachary Ashcraft
Clinton High School
First Baptist Church of Clinton

Zachary AshcraftFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible verse is Romans 5:8 which says, “But God proves His own love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” This is my favorite Bible passage because it explains that God’s love is not limited to those who do something to deserve it…To be loved by our God, one does not have to follow the rules perfectly or do certain things to earn His love. He loved us when we were imperfect before we came to know Him, and He even loves us when we are imperfect after we know Him.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am a member of Attaché′ show choir, Spanish Club, SADD, Honors Science Club, Recording Secretary of National Honor Society, and Project Chairman of the Distributive Education Clubs of America.

In the community, I am a member of the Clinton Chamber Youth Leadership program and Archery Vice-President of the Hinds County 4-H Shooting Sports program.

At church, I am a member of Growth Group, Engage, and Rise Student Ministries. This past summer I was involved in a mission trip to the Czech Republic where we put on a sports camp for teenagers and young adults.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
This summer I felt that since I was going to be a senior in Attaché′, my school’s show choir, I needed to find a way to connect the guys in the group who were already believers, and, hopefully reach out to some of those who were not believers…Since then, we have met each Sunday evening. Since this Bible study began, I have seen changes in the lives of several of my fellow members, and it has definitely changed mine.

Future Plans
I believe the Lord is calling me to pursue dentistry.

 

Grant Baker
Hillcrest Christian School
Country Woods Baptist Church

Grant BakerFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible passage is “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). This verse is special to me because I realize I am not all that I need to be. I am a “work in progress” and will continue to strive to be the person Christ is calling me to be. This verse is very encouraging to me as I walk daily with Christ.

Activities and Service to Others
At Hillcrest, I am involved in student council, varsity basketball, quiz bowl team, Senior Class Treasurer, and National Honor Society Treasurer. I am a cell group leader at Country Woods Baptist Church, a volunteer for City Church in Jackson, and a volunteer at Blair Batson Children’s Hospital.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
During fall break, my school gave students the opportunity to attend Beautiful Feet Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas. I served meals, attended worship services, talked, witnessed, and prayed with the poor and homeless in the inner city. After we returned, I was given the opportunity to share my experience at Beautiful Feet Ministries with the student body at our school during chapel.

Future Plans
I believe the Lord is calling me to be a heart surgeon. In addition to having the opportunity to help others with their physical health, I will also have the opportunity to help them with their spiritual health. I will use my gifts to witness and be a Christian example, as I serve God through my career.


Kathryn Anne Barber
Northwest Rankin High School
Pinelake Church

Kathryn Anne BarberFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible verse is Psalms 4:8, and it says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” The first time I ever heard this verse was after my family and I were robbed. We were living in Kenya, Africa, as missionaries when this event occurred. The robbery induced in us a sense of fear and unsettlement. It made me realize that where we were living was dangerous and that we were blessed to have no physical injuries to show from our terrifying night. After discovering this verse, it gave me a sense of comfort and peace. It reaffirmed the fact that God is always with me and that He is always watching over me. Looking back at the robbery with this verse in mind, I am able to see that He was there protecting us the whole time.

Activities and Service to Others
I have been in Beta Club, Key Club, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes since 9th grade, and National Honor Society since 10th grade. This year I am serving as the Vice President for Beta Club, class representative for Key Club, and treasurer for National Honor Society. As for church, I am extremely engaged in all aspects of the children’s ministry. I serve in the nursery with infants and toddlers, as well as the elementary children’s classes. I am a Sunday school teacher for a 2nd-grade class and act in the Bible lesson skits on a regular basis. Last year I was able to invest in an 8th-grade girls’ middle school small group. Along with serving in different ministries at my church, I am also a part of my high school youth group. I am a participant of the senior girls’ small group as well as the high school youth service choir. For all of my community service, I have received three Distinguished Service Awards and am hoping to receive a fourth at the end of this year. I love serving those of my community and bettering the place I live.

Future Plans
I believe that God has called me to become a Labor and Delivery or Neonatal Nurse. Since I was little I have felt a draw towards medicine. Over the years, I have been able to participate in several medical mission trips and volunteer at hospitals. Throughout the interactions with the patients, God placed a burden on my heart to help them. Also, I have always loved children and infants. God has called me to use my love of medicine and children to further His kingdom. Once I get my nursing license, I believe that God’s plan for me is to spend a few years in India. While there, I will practice nursing and spread His Word—the true medicine.

Dalton Barnett
Richland High School
Pleasant Valley Baptist Church

Dalton BarnettFavorite Bible Passage
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). This scripture describes my life. I have always been afraid of how people are going to judge me. My understanding of this verse is that I do not care what other people think. I am not going to be discouraged and I am going to be brave and courageous because I have the LORD my God with me at all times!

Christian Leaders Who Have Most Impacted My Life
The most influential leaders that have ever entered my life have to be my grandparents, Carol and Mel Steinhauer. My grandfather showed me how to be a male leader of a household. He was a determined man who always had his heart for the Lord; one day I hope to be at least half the man he was here on earth. My grandmother is my best friend and she has shown me that through Christ, there is inspiration and motivation to live even in the toughest times. She is the strongest woman I know, and I am forever grateful that Jesus put these wonderful people in my life so I can be the best me I can be!

Activities and Service to Others
I am involved in Beta Club, SADD, Mu Alpha Theta, Student Council, and my church youth group. I am an active leader in the youth group and take part in our drama team, as well as our church choir.

Future Plans
I believe that the Lord wants me to pursue a career in nursing because it is easier to get into countries by saying that you are medical personnel than it is saying you are a missionary. I believe that the Lord wants me to spread his Word by attempting to heal others. I also believe that most of the time when you are in a hospital environment or some type of health care environment, a person is more likely to be open and talk about Christianity. This allows me to witness to others without being noticed by a higher authority that may not allow Christianity in their country.

 

Max Bloomingburg
Oak Grove High School
Heritage United Methodist

Max BloomingburgFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible passage is Romans 12. The entire book of Romans is great, but Chapter 12 specifically tells us how to live as Christians. Verse 1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.” This is one of my favorite verses, because this tells us that our lives should give glory to God. Not only our words, but our actions have to glorify God. It says that the true way to worship Him is if we offer our lives to God. This means that everything we do should be pleasing to the Lord so others will give glory to Him. Then it goes into spiritual gifts and how we should use them to strengthen the Church. I really like the latter part also because we as humans tend to seek revenge, but it says that the wrath of God will take this revenge for us. We should do well to those who oppose us to show them the light. If we live our life by this chapter then we will be living sacrifices for God.

Activities and Service to Others
I am the Co-President of First Priority, a Christian club that meets to strengthen people’s relationships with God and further his Kingdom throughout the school. I also am a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and I play varsity baseball. I feel that I definitely try to be a light for our team. For our community, I have volunteered for our local ARC organization to help special needs children focus on having fun rather than the difficult challenges they face. At church we go on many trips. This past summer we went on a trip for Service Over Self—a foundation that hosts churches all over the southeast to help a very poverty-stricken area of Memphis. We reconstructed houses and supplied many other needs to the people we helped. I am involved in disciple-group with some other guys from my church and meet to further our knowledge in the Word, and do many service projects to help out locally in Hattiesburg. Missions Hattiesburg was something we did this summer where we just did many jobs to help out locally and spread the Gospel. I also lead Sunday school for the boys in middle school in the youth group. We also have Bible study and I try to offer guidance with what God has shown me.

Future Plans
I believe that the Lord has blessed me with many talents and resources. I feel that the Lord has called me to the medical field. And not just to make a lot of money, but to use it and go overseas and open up a free clinic in Algeria or Haiti. I heard a statistic that said over 90% of people in Algeria have not heard the Good News. That blew me away.  So if I opened up a clinic and provided a physical need for them, I feel they would be more receptive for a spiritual need.

 

Peyton Brown
Northwest Rankin High School
Pinelake Church

Peyton BrownFavorite Bible Passage
In Ephesians 16:9, Paul talks about how God directs our steps when we go about life. In that, I understand that God knows exactly what he wants me to do, and he is going to lead me in that direction. That is reassuring because although I do have some plans for my life, I do not know exactly what I want to pursue when I get older. It is excellent to know that God will lead me in that decision as I continue to pray and walk with Him.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am involved in Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Council, and the National Honor Society. I am the Executive Vice President of Student Government and I am on the soccer team. I am also a part of broadcast journalism, where we make bi-weekly video segments for the school. At church, I am a part of my high school youth ministry at Pinelake. I am involved in the student choir (Chi Alpha), which is a group of teenagers who sing and dance and go on a mission trip to a city in the U.S. I am also involved with the adult choir, which sings on Sunday mornings. I volunteer with the middle school ministry at Pinelake Church by teaching and being a leader in small groups, and I volunteer with Vacation Bible School.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
In order to live my life intentionally, I will have to be bold in my faith. I must live my life with a purpose. I need to do exactly what Jesus calls Christians to do in Matthew 28:19 and go and make disciples of all men. It is impossible to live one’s Christian life in the shadows, if a person’s mindset is locked on what Jesus calls Christians to do in that scripture. Also, I cannot let the world overtake me. I must do exactly what God call Christians to do in Romans 2:12 and not conform to the world, but be transformed. I will not let what society says is okay become what I say is okay, because what God wants from us is completely opposite of what the world wants from us. Thus, I must continually stay in the Word and in prayer to fight the never-ceasing battle against the world’s views and ideas. Therefore, I will life my life intentionally for God day-by-day. I will continually look for opportunities to spread the Good News of God to my peers and co-workers as I go about life. In that, I will hopefully please and honor God.

 

Diana Chavez
Morton High School
High Hill Baptist Church

Diana ChavezFavorite Bible Passage
“Although I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me, ” (Psalm 23:4). This is my favorite Bible verse. The verse has tons of meaning to me. I have seen terrible things in my life and faced difficult struggles that most people are not aware of. God never promised life wouldn’t have struggles. The next part is what I find best. The section that says, “I will fear no evil for you are with me” speaks to God’s presence with me at all times. Even when I am at my personal worst, God will still be there for me when no one else will. I go to this Bible verse many times to give me reassurance and comfort that no one else can give me.

How I Came to Know Christ
I came to know Christ in the summer of 2006. I was at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, at a youth camp. That was my first year to ever attend any kind of Christian camp of that size. Before that summer, I never knew who God really was, what my plan on earth was, or even why I went to camp that year. Throughout that week at camp, I saw many things that were odd to me: kids happy about doing activities about God, preaching till no end, worship with hands raised, all the singing one could imagine, and people that just were happy for no apparent reason all the time. I started seeing who God could be to me. Our fourth night of camp, I broke down and faced who I was—a troubled girl who knew I had not been a person God would love. That night, I confessed my sins and begged for God to touch my heart and live inside of me for the rest of my life. Since that night, God has helped me in every need I have ever had and showed me that I was made to show the lost—the same as I was that night—how and where to find the truest and best help in this world, Jesus Christ.

Future Plans
I would love to pursue dentistry, but I have a great desire for missions and ministry. Once I was struggling, and someone reached out to me and touched my heart. I want to be able to lead and guide others like he helped me. I prayed to the Lord to let me be able to be a leader to others. Although I love missions, I still want to be a dentist. I hope to be able to use my knowledge in dentistry to help others less fortunate and show them God’s grace and kindness through my actions.

 

Amanda Covington
Madison Central High School
Colonial Heights Baptist Church

Amanda CovingtonFavorite Bible Passage
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” (Romans 12:12). First of all, this verse reminds me that I can always be joyful because of the eternal hope that I have in Christ. Joy is not just a happiness that goes and comes. It is a peace of heart. The verse also reminds me that I need to be patient during hardships and focus on God and what He wants to teach me. Lastly, this verse tells me that I always need to pray no matter where I am, what I am doing, or in what situations I find myself. Being a Christian is not about accepting a religion, it is about having a relationship with the Creator.

Activities and Service to Others
At Madison Central High School, I have been a member of the Reveille Show Choir for three years, and I am honored to currently serve as a captain of the 64-member group. I have been a member of the varsity power lifting team for five years where I received third place in my weight class at the Mississippi State Championships and was named the Region 2 Lightweight Flight Outstanding Lifter as a sophomore. I have also been a member of my school cheerleading squads for four years. I even pole vaulted for the track team for three years until there became too many scheduling conflicts. I am currently a student leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, secretary of the Thespian Troupe, secretary of the Drama Club, and a member of the Interact Club. At church, I currently serve as a small group leader on Sunday nights for girls in seventh through tenth grades. I have enjoyed getting to serve as a mentor to them and form close relationships that I know will continue long after I leave the youth group. I have also performed as part of the Solid Ground Drama Team, served as a chaperone on various middle school trips, and worked as a Bible story teacher and recreation leader at Vacation Bible School. I enjoy volunteering with my youth group at We Will Go Ministries and Mission First in downtown Jackson.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
John Stonestreet once said, “Whether the world spirals up or down, we still need good Christian leaders.” During the Summit Ministries conference, we specifically talked about the need to intentionally live out our faith. In order to do that, I realize that I will have to not mind being different. I plan to continue to have a daily quiet time, become actively involved in the Baptist Student Union on campus, and find a local church to attend while away at college. I will continue to pray at meals and make time to actually stop and pray with someone when they ask me to pray for them. I will be willing to miss certain parties and dress modestly even when that is not the popular thing to do. I want to be so full of Christ that I overflow with His love. I want to share God’s word with everyone I come in contact with and stand up for what I believe no matter the cost. I plan to intentionally live unashamed of the Gospel of Christ.


Shellie Dukes
Northwest Rankin High School
First Baptist Church Jackson

Shellie DukesFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible passage would have to be Romans 8:28-31. Paul states that God works everything for our good and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” In my life, I have had a number of things not go “my” way. I have learned that it is not my way that matters; it is Christ’s. I have been through my share of struggles, and Romans 8:28 helped me through. Through reading the verse I accepted the fact that I would have trouble, but it didn’t matter—everything would come out for my good in the end. Even when I think I cannot go on, God is making it good. As I go through my life with sin and the world whirling around me, I know that God is on my side. For me, that gives me so much encouragement.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
I think the most important part of living my faith intentionally, in a world that is antagonistic towards Christianity, is influence. Since God is on my side, I have a substantial amount of power backing me as a Christian. I am planning to go off to college at MSU and I will be surrounded by sin and a lifestyle that I have never seen firsthand. Stuart Hall once told my youth group at a church camp, “The most powerful person in a dark room is the one with the light.” I believe that we as Christians hold this light. We live in a dark world full of sin, and we are the light. To me, that is such an encouragement and a blessing. I, Shellie Dukes, a girl of no specific importance, hold the light of Christ.  It’s my job as a follower of Him to share His story and not just keep it to myself. For me, sharing my faith has always been an area where I struggled. I didn’t really feel comfortable asking the generic “what do you believe” kind of questions. Every single time though, God has come through. I cannot live out my faith on my own in this world; I must depend on Christ and Him alone. If I depend on myself to live out my faith, it becomes me trusting in myself and that’s not what Christ has called me to do.

Future Plans
I know exactly what God has called me to do. He is calling me to be an elementary school teacher. I have helped out at VBS at my church ever since I was allowed to start helping. I know that if I love volunteering at vacation bible school every year, that I will love to teach. God has put a love for children in my heart that I know he wants me to fulfill through teaching.

 

Brent Ferguson
Jackson Academy
Christ United Methodist Church

Brent FergusonFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Bible passage is the verse Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This verse has always been the verse I look back to when I am down. Reading it makes me remember that my life is meaningful. Living like this ensures that you live a life that is good in the eyes of Christ. Knowing that I have a meaningful life—that I am living for Him— always revives me on my bad days and encourages me to continue living the way He wants me to live.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am involved in many clubs that include Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Habitat for Humanity, and Chess Club. I am on the baseball team, in National Honor Society, and the Cum Laude Society. Every year I have been a part of the Student Council, and this year, I am the Student Body Treasurer. In the community, I have volunteered at many Habitat houses, the Neighborhood Christian Center which is a place that helps inner city children, and the Bethlehem Center which is another center where inner city children can go to play and be taught Sunday School lessons. I have been on a mission trip to Peru. At church, I am an active member of the youth group, where I have led a Discipleship Group the past three years. Also, I have led a Confirmation group of sixth graders for the past four years, as they become a part of the church. By leading these groups, I have learned that I have to be a great influence every day, no matter where I am, for I know that my guys are always watching me.

How I Came to Know Christ
I have always felt like I knew Christ and that I had a relationship with Him. However, I never truly felt a connection with Him until ninth grade at a camp called BreakThru. Going into the camp, I was confident that I had a relationship with God, but for some reason I still felt like something was missing. One of the services was about God being the living water for us, and how if we believe in Him, than we would have living water flow through us. Hearing this made me realize that though I knew of Christ, it was not truly a relationship until that night. Though I did not understand it before, I then realized that God was truly inside us, flowing through us, giving us the living water we need to continue living through Him.

Future Plans
Since I started school, I have always had a love for science, especially biology. I have thought for the past few years that God wants me to go into the medical field as His servant and care for people that are hurting. Knowing that I could make a difference for many people would make me enjoy working each day.

 

Austin Fortenberry
Madison Central High School
Broadmoor Baptist Church 

Austin FortenberryFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite Biblical passage is Romans 12, simply because it has a little bit of everything. It gives instructions to believers about not living in accordance with the world, discusses spiritual gifts and their usefulness, love, revenge, evil—basically, anything a Christian needs to know is contained in this short passage. My favorite part of the passage is verse two, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse is just a great reminder to me that as a Christian, I am not supposed to blend in with or conform to the rest of the world; instead, I am supposed to be transformed. The imagery of “transforming” and “renewing” our minds is extremely powerful, as it shows just how different our spirits should be after we accept Christ—we should be completely new creations. A transformation has occurred, and our minds can be renewed in such a way that, as verse three explains, we will be able to discern what God’s will is in various situations.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
Today’s world is definitely becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity, but that does not decrease our responsibilities as Christians—we still must live our lives to honor God and speak Truth to the lost. As a Christian in this generation, I think one important way I can live out my faith is by being genuine in my actions. People can spot hypocrisy from a mile away, and many will use a Christian’s hypocrisy as grounds for not believing in Christianity. The “I’m a Christian and everything is perfect” front many people put up will not attract unbelievers in today’s world; honesty, on the other hand, will. It is not hypocrisy to share the Gospel and admit you struggle with a certain sin. Being open and sharing that Christians are real people with real struggles who have been redeemed by a real God is a powerful and effective way of living out the faith and honoring God. Finally, I believe it is important to build quality relationships with people who need the Gospel before witnessing to them, so they will trust you and not write you off as a crazy Christian. I have confidence I can still live out my faith and spread the Truth, even in today’s changing times.

Future Plans
I believe I have been called into vocational ministry, specifically preaching. I have been told that I have a gift of public speaking, and I love teaching others new things and explaining difficult concepts, especially about the Bible. I am very relational and I love working with people—both traits that would be beneficial as a pastor. I have a passion to help people who attend church weekly but haven’t really been transformed by God’s grace, and I think being a pastor would be the perfect way to minister to that group of people.

Hannah Friedeman
Homeschool
Dayspring Community Church

Hannah FriedemanFavorite Bible Passage
While there are many Bible passages that have hugely impacted my life, one of the most challenging is John 15:12-13. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” It’s easy for us to write off the greatest commandment, to see ourselves as selfless, compassionate people. But if we measure our “love” by the ultimate Lover, and our “selflessness” by His ultimate sacrifice, it’s quickly evident that we’re using a flawed set of scales. Only through Christ is it possible to love our friends—and enemies—to the extent that He loved us.

Christian Leaders Who Have Most Impacted My Life

There are certainly well known Christian leaders, both historical and current, who are inspirational to me. However, the leaders who have been most impactful in my life are relatively unknown to the rest of the world. They are the men and women who serve alongside me, both within my church and outside of it.

My parents, who have managed not only to lead lives “worthy of their calling,” but to raise six children who are following in their footsteps; “Mrs. Patricia,” who has faithfully ministered outside abortion clinics for 24 long years trusting God to bring justice in His own time; “Mr. Henry,” who recently took his eightieth mission trip, spurred on by a passion for making disciples of all the nations.

The primary lesson these and countless others have taught me is simply this: God rewards perseverance. None of these people will ever have the renown of Billy Graham or the influence of C.S. Lewis. But there are children laughing and playing today because of Mrs. Patricia, and there are Christians all over the world that can testify to Mr. Henry’s love for the Lord. I pray that any impact I have will be even a fraction of theirs.

What career do you believe the Lord is calling you to pursue and why?

Over the past few years, I have come to realize that God has gifted me with the ability to work with children. I have decided to pursue that gift, seeking a career in Elementary Education. However, rather than finding a comfortable job in an upper middle-class community, I feel called to use this vocation as a ministry to “the least of these.” Whether I end up on the mission field or in the inner city, I look forward to touching as many lives as I can with the life-changing message of the gospel.

 

Lauren Griffin
Simpson County Academy
Harrisville Baptist Church

Lauren GriffinFavorite Bible Passage: My favorite Bible passage is the entire book of Job. I love reading about Job’s life because He inspires me to have faith. He endured many tests to his faith and stayed strong in Christ through them all. My favorite verse in Job is Job 9:10, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed. Miracles that cannot be counted.” This verse had helped me through many situations.

Activities and Service to Others

At school, I am a member of the varsity basketball team, and currently hold the Captain position.  Also, I served as water girl for the varsity football team. I am a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization, and in my local chapter I am the Treasurer. I am also the state Treasurer for FBLA. I am a member of Mu Alpha Theta, as well.  In my community, I am a member of the Simpson County’s Future Leaders program. I am also a member of the MS Youth Ambassadors Organization. In my church, I am active in the youth program. I attend these activities on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and any other chance I have. I am an active choir member at my church, and the music leader for the children’s choir at our Vacation Bible School.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
There are many different times I have lived out my faith in a school activity. I was given the opportunity to give my testimony at an assembly my school was having for “See You At The Pole.” After I gave my testimony, I had the opportunity to lead three students to Christ. That day, I was amazed at how the Lord worked through my Christian friends and myself. I saw a change at Simpson Academy that day. Another way I have lived out my faith through school is by having devotions every Wednesday morning with other students before school. This became a great time of fellowship with fellow classmates. I was also given the opportunity to lead my varsity basketball team in devotions from time to time. Also, I led our varsity football team in the blessing before each pre-game meal. I try my best to take advantage of any opportunity I am given to be open about my love for Jesus Christ.  For my Senior Project, I held an Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive and collected 234 shoeboxes for children in need.

 

Sara Beth Gross
Leake Central High School
First Baptist Church of Carthage 

Sara Beth GrossFavorite Bible Passage
Though I have many bible passages that I look to for guidance and comfort, my favorite is Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” To me, this passage is a passage of encouragement and hope. We all face hard times and the feeling that we just can’t go on. This passage shows the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter what trial I am facing, God reminds me in these verses that he has my path all planned out. He knows my future and his plans for me are good and full of hope. Because of this, as long as we allow God to lead in our life, we have boundless hope. This doesn’t mean that we will be spared hard times, but rather that God will see us to a glorious conclusion.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
Last summer, I was inspired by three seniors who had raised enough money to provide a Bible to every high school student in Panola County. I thought, “If they can do that for their county, then what’s stopping me from doing it for mine?” God called us to be disciples of him and to go unto the world preaching the gospel. As a 17-year-old student, my world is my high school, where every day I come in contact with over 650 students who need the Lord. This is where I believe God needs me to preach the gospel and share his love. I began by contacting the superintendent of education in Leake County to ask for approval. Upon receiving his approval, “Project Radical” began. I traveled to churches all across my county raising awareness of this project and asking for prayer and donations. God has provided $17,000 for Project Radical. Because of this, we now have enough money to place a Bible in the hands of every high school student in Leake County. I truly believe God called me to this project and I believe he will do great things through it. Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your day that you would not believe, even if you were told.” I believe is He going to do just that through Project Radical. After all, Jesus was radical, so shouldn’t we be radical too?

Activities and Service to Others
In school, I have been the president of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes for two years, first chair trumpet, and section leader in the Spirit of Leake Central Band, Beta Club member for four years, Science Club president, Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.), Student Government member, class president, Spanish club member, and Annual Staff member.

In my community, I was named Leake County’s Distinguished Young Woman (DYW) for 2013 and received third alternate to Mississippi’s Distinguished Young Woman, as well as receiving a preliminary self-expression award. I have also provided the entertainment for many local services such as, the Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life”, Leake County’s Senior Citizen Day, the Leake County Chamber of Commerce Banquet, and served as emcee for pageants.

I have been a member of the Mississippi Baptist Allstate Youth Choir and Orchestra and the Mississippi Baptist Symphony Orchestra. In my church, I am currently the Youth Worship Leader, and a member of both the Youth Choir and Adult Choir. I also assist with the children’s ministry and work with the outreach programs.

Future Plans: While most children waiver from career to career, I never once desired to be anything other than a doctor. By being a doctor, I will not only have the tools to heal physical bodies, but lead people to spiritual healing as well.

 

Sarah Beth Hansford
Madison Central High School
Christ United Methodist Church

Sarah Beth HansfordFavorite Bible Passage
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11). This is my favorite Bible verse because it lets me know that God has a plan for me. I might not understand His plan right now, but I will someday. It says in the verse that His plan won’t harm me, and it will prosper me. It also reminds me that His plan will give me “hope and a future”. That really makes me happy because I know that, whatever my past, God has placed a great future ahead of me, and what happens between now and then is all part of His beautiful plan for me.

Activities and Service to Others
I am involved in several school, church, and community activities. My school activities presently include cheerleading, Interact Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Cooking Club, and the mentoring program through my school. Through the mentoring program, I drive several times a week to Madison Avenue Lower Elementary School and help my “little sister,” a first grade girl, with homework, classwork, and social skills. My church activities presently include being a small group leader (for the last three years) for a group of junior high girls. Basically, that means I am the girls’ Christian student mentor and meet with them weekly for bible study. I regularly attend my church’s Sunday night high school Bible study too, which has become an important part of my life. I have also gone on mission trips for the last six years, and for the last three summers, I have gone on the Peru mission trip through my church. During this particular mission trip, we helped build schools and led prayer walks and Vacation Bible School. I am forever changed because of these mission trips.

Future Plans
I believe that the Lord is calling me to be an elementary teacher. When I tell people I want to be a teacher, they look at me like I’m crazy and say that teachers don’t make much money. For me, it isn’t about the money at all. I know that God will provide. For me, it’s all about letting children know of God’s unconditional love for them through my example, behavior and teaching. I love children, and I know that God wants me to show them how much He loves them and to teach them about Him.

 

Tate Kirby
Madison Central High School
Christ United Methodist Church

Tate KirbyFavorite Bible Passage
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” (Psalm 51: 16-17). These verses have really stuck with me the past month due to the struggles I have gone through with school, work, relationships, and just everyday life. I was trying to “win” or “earn” God’s love and forgiveness by trying to commit to all these things that I could never keep.

 

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
Just recently, Kiel Higginbotham, of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Organization, put together a free-to-the-public worship at Rosa Scott Junior High called Fields of Faith. As a leader of FCA at Madison Central, I had the opportunity to confess to the audience about the struggles I have gone through in high school such as depression, stress, doubt, and feeling alone. Then, I was able to testify to them about how I rose above it because of God, who never left my side and lovingly put people in my life so that they could help me take up my burdens and carry them to the cross where I could once again be set free. I explained that they, too, can be set free because God never leaves anyone’s side, and He also puts a certain someone in their lives for them to reach out to for help and encouragement: they just have to ask for God’s love and forgiveness and constantly strive to maintain the path of a righteous man every day, as well as, accepting that there are people who love and care for them because God has a will for everyone—and in that will, there are the people who will lead them away from death and to a life everlasting.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
The way I plan to live in this world today is going to be by the way I am trying to live my life right now: by God’s commandments. I, as a follower of Christ, will not just lead myself into everlasting life; I will lead those around me to everlasting life. If I put no other god before my God and worship the one and only, I am striving for perfection, and people notice that. If I love my neighbor as God calls me to love myself, people will notice that. If my enemy attacks my right and I also give him my left, people will notice that, and if people notice that I am living for something bigger then myself, they ask “why?” and my response will be, “Because there is a God out there who is bigger than the stars in the sky. If you want to know of him, then let’s grab coffee.” I will live my faith in the world today by offering myself for the salvation of others.

Future Plans
My career will soon be Mechanical Engineering at MSU. God has given me a strong passion for math and science, but He has also given me a strong passion for Ministry! I am hoping to get my Doctorate in Engineering, and when I come out of college and into the work force, I want to be able to find me a great Church family and hopefully become a highly active leader in their Youth Ministry; maybe take some online Seminary courses and try to become a part time youth minister, if there is such a thing…


Betsie MacLellan

Homeschool
Restoration Church

Betsie MacLellanFavorite Scripture Passage
“He has made everything beautiful in its time,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In 2011, I spent two months on a mission trip in Thailand, a spiritually dark place. With less than 1% of the population being Christian, there is not much hope to be found. Even still, I could not but fall in love with Thailand and the people who live there. I hated leaving after my time was up and cried on the flight home. As my seatmates snored and I wept, I pulled out my Bible and flipped to Ecclesiastes. That is when I read the above passage. I had read it without being affected before, but it spoke to me on that flight. It gave me peace and hope—hope for Thailand and the people there. I am confident that God is not done with that country and believe that He will make it beautiful in time, just as He restored and made me beautiful. I have not returned to Thailand, yet, but that scripture hangs on my wall, and whenever I read it, I am given peace and hope for all areas of my life. He has a beautiful plan, and I know it will come to pass.

Activities and Service to Others

Writer for “Faith Made Flesh,” a website featuring five selected writers and their take on Christianity and other cultural issues from the point of view of the Millennial Generation; Active member of Florence/Richland Homeschool Group and winner of Group Spelling Bee, Most Outgoing, and Christian Character award. Mission trips to Mexico, Romania, Thailand, and Swaziland. Worship leader, Vacation Bible School and Sunday school leader at Restoration Church, Pinelake Youth Leadership Conference. Full-time residential intern at We Will Go Ministries in Jackson, Bible co-leader at Opportunity Center (day shelter for homeless in downtown Jackson), frequent public speaker at churches, youth groups, and library story times.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
I will intentionally live out my faith in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity by living on Earth as it is in Heaven. In a culture that is all about individualism and “me,” I will choose to live in true community with my Christian brothers and sisters. In a culture where women are often defined and given self-worth by their romantic relationships, I will choose to wait and find self-worth in my Creator. In a culture that promotes self-gain, I will choose to give away when what I have will meet another’s need. In a culture that encourages one to live out one’s dreams, I will choose to sacrifice mine for His. In a culture that revolves around success, I will choose to go not necessarily where I will be successful, but where I am needed. In short, I will intentionally live my faith in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity. I will let go of absolutely anything that will keep me from doing just that. I will say goodbye to my home and my mother and father, if need be, and run after Christ and all that He has for me.

Future Plans
God has called me to be a teacher who doesn’t just teach a subject, but teaches life. Living in inner city Jackson, where many are in cycles of destructive choices, I’ve learned most are school dropouts. Why? The fact is they were never taught there’s a better life. No one said, “You have potential. Let me help you become someone.” I want to teach at schools where others refuse to go. Most importantly, I want to teach children that God has a plan for them and with Him, they can overcome statistics, rise above circumstances, and become all God created them to be.

 

Sarah Katherine Mills
Jackson Academy
Christ United Methodist Church

Sarah Katherine MillsFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite verse is Ecclesiastes 6:13-14, “Accept the way God does things for who can straighten what he has made crooked? Enjoy happiness while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both came from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life.” These lines speak to me. When I face trials, this is definitely my “go-to” passage. It reassures me that things will get better; it can’t rain forever. God says both happiness and sadness come from Him and that thought settles me. After a rough day, this verse lifts my spirits. God speaks to me saying that everything is for a reason.

Activities and Service to Others
I am involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Habitat for Humanity, and other various clubs and organizations at my school. I am the Secretary of S.A.D.D., co-captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, vice president of the senior class, and have been a cross-country runner since 7th grade. During spring, I also run track. My memberships include National Honor Society, Academy Honors, Mu Alpha Theta, Latin Honor Society, and Chi Alpha Mu. At school, I’ve enjoyed being a member of the yearbook and creative writing staffs, and am now serving as an editor of the newspaper. Last summer, I was nominated to apply to the APEX Leadership Summit in Oxford, highlighting leadership skills, and was chosen to attend this conference. At Christ United Methodist Church, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a small group leader for the same group of young girls at my church for four years and as a Confirmation table leader/mentor for four years. My own discipleship group has been an influential part of my life over the past six years. Each summer I have enjoyed the opportunity of participating in mission trips to areas including Youthworks, an inner-city Nashville mission group, and Frontline Peru, where we organized VBS, prayer walks, and church building projects for a very impoverished area. I’ve been a volunteer VBS leader every summer since 6th grade. In my community, I have spent numerous hours building homes for Habitat for Humanity and helping out at CARA, a shelter for neglected animals. At Timber Creek, I volunteered as a teen counselor for several weekend youth and church retreats.

How I Came to Know Christ

I first asked Christ into my heart at the age of eight. I clearly remember my VBS leader asking, “Who wants to have Christ live in them?” When all my friends said yes and accepted Christ into their hearts, I wanted to do it too. I asked Him into my heart, but did not know the real impact of the life changing choice I had made. As the years progressed, so did my knowledge about what I had committed to on that day. As I matured, I came to realize that my relationship with God was something that not everyone had. Once I fully understood the love for my Father, I asked Him into my heart again. This time it was a powerful and emotional moment for me as I finally got a glimpse of all the love he had for me—and the promises he had provided for His child. As I grew closer and closer to Christ each day the love I had for Him continued to grow thanks to my small group, church activities, mission trips, and devotionals. Of one thing I am sure: Christ is the One that makes me complete and I would be nothing without His love and guidance.

Future Plans
Psychology or teaching is my primary interest since they open a door to working with children. The Lord blessed me with a love and passion for working with children.

 

Ashleigh Norris
Brandon High School
First Baptist Church of Brandon

Ashleigh NorrisFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite book in the Bible has always been James because I will never forget the first time I opened it. I started reading one verse and it led to another chapter; before I knew it, I had read the whole book in one sitting. It captured all of my attention, and I loved everything I was reading. Several verses in the book stand out to me, but the first one I see is, “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing,” (James 2-4). That verse encourages me to never give up on myself because God is always there to lean on in times of need and distress.

Activities and Service to Others
First Baptist Church of Brandon Youth Group; Brandon High School Cross Country team; Beta Club co-President; Spanish Club Vice President; National Honor Society; Brandon Mayor’s Youth Council secretary; Rankin County Relay For Life Committee; First Priority; Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Rankin County Junior Auxiliary Crown Club secretary; high school swim team; environmental club and Key club, and Blair Batson Children’s Hospital volunteer.

Future Plans
My career ambition has always been to become a physician, mainly because of my compassionate heart and desire to help others. I was attracted to the medical field when I was old enough to start planning my future and looked up to a doctor at my church. God has opened doors along the way to confirm what I am going to spend my life pursuing and perfecting for the glory of God. I attended Furman University for a weeklong Pre-Health class on campus as a Summer Scholar, and I began volunteering as the “Morning Coffee Girl” at the Children’s Hospital two summers ago. After these experiences and praying about my future, I have been reassured that God is calling me to serve Him as a physician.

 

Rebecca Parker
Jackson Academy
Northminster Baptist Church 

Rebecca ParkerFavorite Bible Passage
My favorite bible verse is Song of Solomon 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; for there is no flaw in you.” I know that this passage is about a love story between a man and a woman, but I believe that the symbolism behind this verse also portrays to my life in how Christ views his children. Every time I read this, it reminds me that I am perfect in God’s eyes, and my identity in the Lord is made whole. Throughout my life, especially living in Northeast Jackson, I have struggled with insecurity. These lines give me comfort and help me to always remember that the Lord sees me as flawless, just the way I am. Although I am far from perfect, I have begun to accept myself and this verse has definitely aided me in doing so.

Activities and Service to Others
In a leadership role, I am treasurer of the senior class, editor of the JA Chronicle (our school newspaper), and a straight A student. I have been a committed member of the Accents, our school dance team, for three years. I am also active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Spanish Club, the Pre-Med Club, National Honors Society, and Habitat for Humanity. I have a special interest in the Mississippi Children’s Museum, where I have served as a student ambassador for three years. I am an active member of the Youth Group at Christ United Methodist Church where I have been a discipleship group leader for the past three years and have participated in two mission trips with to Lima, Peru. Also, I am also truly blessed to have a pastor who is not only my guide through my Christian journey, but also my friend.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
This may seem paradoxical, but in a world that is increasingly antagonistic towards Christians, I feel more challenged than ever to be grounded in my faith in Christ. I pray that I am as accepting of all people as He was. This does not mean that I soft pedal my faith, or not stand up for what I believe in. As with the early Christians, I know faith can truly blossom through adversity. I am trusting that the Holy Spirit will empower me, give me strength and courage, help me face challenges, and most importantly be true to myself along with my faith.

Future Plans
I know I am a helper/ server. I care a great deal for the “least of these” whether it be a person or an animal. I have such a heart for those that cannot help themselves, and my passion has always been to be involved with animals. I truly feel called to be a veterinarian and show God’s love to these dear animals (and their owners) that often show me in the simplest ways what God’s grace and love is all about.

 

Varah Potter
The Education Center
Redeemer Church

Varah Potter 1Favorite Bible Passage
My favorite bible passage is 2 Kings 2:23-25 because it teaches a good lesson. The prophet Elisha is on his way to Bethel. As he’s walking, some youths start making fun of him. Elisha turns around, curses them, and sends two she-bears from the woods to maul them. There were 42 youths altogether and most of them stood by while the others made fun of Elisha. Yes, I know this passage is graphic and violent, but there is an excellent message behind it. My economics teacher told me that if I found myself in a dangerous situation (such as someone attempting to rape me) and needed help, that it is better to scream “Fire!” instead of “Rape!” because studies show that people are more likely to run for help with a possible fire than to a girl being abused. According to my teacher, this is because our society is becoming more and more immune to identifying what is wrong—much like the youths among the 42 who did nothing while others taunted Elisha. This passage shows us that we should always stand up when we know something is wrong. Being silent and doing nothing makes us just as guilty.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
My dad is a theologian so we talk about this all the time. He’s teaching a course this semester entitled “Developing the Christian Mind in Post-Christian Times,” which is right on point for this question. In order to live out the Christian faith in a culture that’s antagonistic toward Christianity, the first order of business is to develop a Christian mindset—a Christian worldview my dad calls it. As a Christian in our modern world, I must have a firm understanding of the central teachings of Christian faith, but I must also have a firm grasp of the non-Christian cultural climate in which we live. I am definitely a young student of these things, but what I am learning helps me live more faithfully as a Christian within our post-Christian environment. The basic resource for developing a Christian mindset is the Word of God, the Bible. I read it and pray, and I stay connected to a strong Bible-based church—all of which help me cultivate a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am my Student Council’s Co-President and many of our activities involve the surrounding community. For Red Ribbon week, we planted red tulips to promote a drug free world. Along with other fellow students, I participated in dog walks, clothing drives, and canned-good drives for various charities. I take every opportunity to tutor children in our school and mentor them as they strive to become better students. My five-year participation in the Mississippi Girlchoir brings me pride. Traveling to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall for breast cancer awareness is a highlight of our activities. I enjoy my role as the videographer for our church choir, and my videos can be seen each week on the Redeemer Choir’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Everyone tells me how much this service means to them because it allows them to enjoy hearing songs they love by the choir again and again.

Future Plans
I feel the Lord leading me to pursue some kind of communications career combined somehow with psychology. I have gifts and talents in communications—public speaking, poetry, writing, thinking, and humor. My heart is also leading me to child psychology. I want to help children who are challenged in life, children who have been damaged by the adults around them, or who were born with mental or physical challenges. This is where my heart is.

 

Laura Beth Reeves
Madison Ridgeland Academy
Ridgecrest Baptist Church

Laura Beth ReevesFavorite Bible Passage
In Romans 7, Paul gives a sermon to explain the reason he sins. He explains that “For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Paul is saying that he knows the difference between right and wrong but he still does what is wrong. I love this passage because I can relate to it as a teenager…I use this passage to remind me that all people struggle with sin. Fortunately, Paul goes on to say “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This affirms the fact that God will always lead me down the right path instead of the path of destruction as long as I follow him and allow him to work in my life.

Activities and Service to Others
I served on student government as a class officer or student council officer from 6th-11th grade. I am an officer in the National Honor Society and president of Habitat for Humanity. I am a member of FCA, Rotary Club, and Mu Alpha Theta. I have been a cheerleader since 4th grade and have been on the basketball, softball, and track teams since I was old enough to participate. I was selected to the All-Star team for softball and chosen as the Wendy’s High School Heisman recipient because of my involvement in four sports. My peers have chosen me as a Class Favorite six years in a row and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to represent my class on the Homecoming Court. I am active in Young Life and the Campaigner Bible study group that is associated with Young Life.

As an active member of the Madison Junior Ambassador program…I have volunteered at the animal shelter, assisted at the Fall Scarecrow Cruise and Car show, represented Madison in the Christmas Parade, helped with Easter in Strawberry Park, and worked the Petco Paws and Claws Parade. I have spent many hours volunteering for the CJ Stewart Foundation to raise money to help underprivileged kids have the opportunity to hear about God’s love. I have volunteered at Jackson City Church, the Ronald McDonald House, and the We Will Go homeless ministry.

At church, I have been involved in youth choir and youth programs. I attended Desperate youth trip to Georgia, Beautiful Feet trip to Texas, and Big Stuff in Florida. I have served at the Bond Nursing Home, shared my faith in the parking lot of Target, donated to many charitable organizations and delivered Christmas surprises to the needy.

Future Plans
Teaching is in my blood. My grandmother, aunts, and mother are teachers. Since I was a little girl, I have enjoyed standing in front of people and teaching. Thankfully, God has blessed me with the gift of leadership. I have received leadership awards in softball and cheer and also by the MRA faculty. I believe God has called me to use my gift of leadership to teach high school math. I plan to be the type of Christian teacher that can be used by God to shape other students’ lives just as mine has been shaped by the teachers in my life.

 

Callie Shirley
Madison Central High School
Broadmoor Baptist Church

Callie ShirleyFavorite Bible Passage
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (Jeremiah 29:11). This verse is applicable for every stage of life, but I particularly enjoyed studying the background on this verse. The Israelites were exiled in Babylon, and the prophet Jeremiah sent them a letter. In his letter he states what God has ordered him to tell the exiles. God tells them to settle where they are, get married and increase in number, grow crops and produce food, and seek peace and prosperity, even though they have been exiled to a foreign city. Above all, they are to pray to the Lord because He will prosper them. This verse is applicable because even when I feel like I have nowhere to go, I know if I just trust God with my future and my worries, he will prosper me. What a wonderful truth I can rest in.

Activities and Service to Others
At school, I am a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Interact Club, and serve as the president of the S.A.D.D. I have also been a member of the French Club, Crown Club, Junior Classical League, and Global Studies Team. I am a part of the Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring program through which I mentor at an elementary school each week. I serve at a ministry called God’s Haven Boys’ and Girls’ Center, teaching music to less-fortunate children. I coach Upwards Cheerleading through my church. One of my passions is playing the piano, and I enjoy playing at different venues, such as nursing homes for Christmas. I am very active in my church’s youth group. I teach small groups at camp, as well as lead Vacation Bible School groups. One thing I have a heart for is serving. Through my church I have been blessed with opportunities to do just that by going on mission trips to the Mississippi Coast, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Jamaica.

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
“Actions speak louder than words” can hold true in many situations. However, in this one, I believe both are equally important. In order to live out my faith and let others know about it, I must be aware of my actions. One of the greatest tools to use when showing someone Christ is how one behaves when he or she thinks no one is watching. Telling someone about the Lord is equally important as my actions. I must be careful what I say also, because people pay attention to that too. There is an old saying that still holds true today: “You might be the only Jesus some people see.” Keeping this at heart, I act intentionally to spread the Word and the love of God to all. When I get up in the morning, I want the devil to say, “Uh oh, she’s up again!” I live each day with a purpose, and that is to draw people closer to Christ. Through my actions and words, I plan to do just that each day.

Future Plans
One day in Sunday school I took a spiritual gifts test. My greatest strength was encouragement. Along with the test came career suggestions in which one uses their spiritual gift. Mine was nursing. Wow! That sounded just like me. I have a passion for working with others. God began to work in my heart, and He blatantly revealed to me that He wanted me to pursue a career as a pediatric nurse.

 

Rae’ Jean Spears
Meridian High School
Agape Storehouse Apostolic Church

Rae SpearsFavorite Bible Passage
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18). Oftentimes I ask myself, “Is this all worth it?” Life can be filled with so many curve balls that I can find myself frustrated to the point that I don’t see the purpose of earth. We suffer, hurt, and face obstacles, but what’s the point? Well, this verse answers those questions for me. It’s a wonderful reminder that these problems we’re facing now won’t even matter when God starts to bless us. They won’t even matter on that glorious day when we get to see our King and hear the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” This Bible verse is God’s personal and daily encouraging message to me to continue to persevere because better is coming.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith
School talent shows offer students an opportunity to either become really popular or really embarrassed. For me, however, it served as neither. After my school’s talent show in May of 2010, I was officially labeled “That Jesus Girl.” While my fellow classmates got together and performed dances to Beyoncé and rapped to Jay-Z, I recited a poem about my relationship with Jesus Christ. I got onstage with the most confidence in the world and told an auditorium of teenagers about my love and appreciation for Jesus coming into my life. When I finished, I heard a measly 10 people clap; five of those people were judges. Needless to say, I did not win. Oddly enough, however, I was neither disappointed nor shocked. The next day, several of my peers approached and asked me, “Why did you do something all religious and not fun for the talent show?” My answer was simple: Jesus has called all of us here on this earth to lead people to Him. I would rather spend my 5 minutes of fame and possibly lead someone to salvation, than sing some pop song that plays on the radio 25 times a day. From that day forward, I have worn the proud label of “That Jesus Girl.”

Living My Faith Intentionally in a World That Is Becoming Increasingly Antagonistic Toward Christianity
I will have a mindset like that of Paul. He faced so much persecution while trying to spread the Gospel. To name a few, Paul was imprisoned in Philippi, stoned in Lystra, and persecuted in Jerusalem and Rome. Amongst everything, however, Paul always prayed fervently and all of his hardships made him a stronger man spiritually. Just like Paul, I know that while trying to share the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ, I will be ridiculed by friends, family, and strangers. Since I am a disciple for Christ, however, His opinion of me, and my life, will matter more than anyone and anything else. I am reminded of my favorite Bible verse, Romans 8:18, when thinking about my future and servitude for my Savior. I would rather face the judgment of others while living my life for Christ, than endure a lifetime of misery. If Jesus can go to Calvary and withstand torture for a dirty mess of a person like me, I will press toward the mark unapologetically despite what the world around me does.

Future Plans
I believe the Lord is calling me to a career in elementary education. As a child who grew up in the lower income part of town, good teachers are what saved me. I can remember looking forward to school because it was the only place that I felt like I belonged. I want to be that source of inspiration, compassion, and hope for another child. Children deserve to feel wanted and loved, if they only receive it at school. It takes a village to raise a child and I want to be a part of that community.

 

Sarah Todd
Terry High School
Hillcrest Baptist Church 

Sara ToddFavorite Bible Passage
Proverbs 31:10-31 is my favorite Bible passage because it describes a Godly woman and her attributes to her family, children, and community. Verse 20 says, “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” This is a commandment James tells us to do in order to show God that our religion is pure and faultless in James 1:27. Proverbs verses 25-31 are what I aspire to be when I am older. She is respected by her children and praised by her husband. She trusts in and fears the Lord. She knows that her looks will fade, but God is constant. She is strong and dignified.

Activities and Service to Others
In my school, I am involved in the National Honor Society, Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Students, and Beta Club. In my church and community, I am involved in Hillcrest Baptist Church youth ministry, HBC Youth Leadership Team, My Father’s House pantry, and Stewpot in downtown Jackson. At school and church, I support Angel Tree, Mississippi Food Network, Relay for Life, and Children’s Miracle Network.

Future Plans
I believe that God is leading me to become an art and music teacher. When I was younger, I believed that teachers had the worst job ever. Now I see that they get the chance to make friendships with students and that they can have a tremendous influence on the generations to come. Teachers train the leaders of the future. I want our future leaders to believe in Jesus. I want to help my future students reach their dreams and express their feelings through art and music, which are both languages that anyone can speak.

 

Maggie Traxler
Madison Central High School
Liberty Baptist Church

Maggie TraxlerFavorite Bible Passage
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4). This is a verse that helped me as a little girl to not be afraid of the dark. As I grew older, it encouraged me to not be afraid to be myself and live by the values that God expects, even when so may people in our culture look down on Christians. I don’t want to be a person who reacts to situations out of fear of not being accepted, but yet that is hard for a teenager. We have a natural desire to be accepted by the people around us or to prove that we have value. But, when you consider the Word of God and His promises, it gives you the ability to go against the culture even though that may mean that you are not popular in your own community.

A Situation Where I Lived Out My Faith

I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a large tumor in his chest that presses on his heart and lungs. I told my parents I wanted to do a fundraiser to help his family with medical expenses. After speaking with the principal at my school, I submitted a proposal that was approved by the School Board, which allowed me (with the help of many) to organize a musical concert fundraiser at our school. We designed a t-shirt and sold over 300, held the fundraiser in our school cafetorium, sold concessions, and had a wonderful night of fun, food, fellowship, and entertainment that crossed all age and socio-economic barriers. The great result was that we raised over $12,000 for his medical and related expenses. My mother told me at the outset, “We have to stay prayed up at all times. If we do, God will bring the people to us that we need for every task that needs to be done.” That turned out to be very true and I had the pleasure of being the emcee for one of the best events of my life. I am usually a quiet person and this was very much outside of my comfort zone. But, I am so glad I stepped out in faith and allowed God to use me to help a very special person.

Christian Leaders Who Have Most Impacted My Life

The leaders who have most impacted my life are local people who invested time and love directly into my life. This includes the Children’s Director at my former church, my piano teacher, and a couple of my high school choir directors. Each of them lived out their faith in Jesus Christ in front of me and helped me to understand that Christianity is not just something you do at church, but it is something that you do daily—at home, at work, at church, at school, at the mall, at the grocery store, and even when you are alone and no one is watching. They also helped me see that being a Christian does not mean that life will be easy and “happy” all the time. Instead, Christianity means that you never walk through difficulties alone and that you never celebrate good times alone either. Because, Christ is always with us!

Future Plans
Career choice is a very frightening thing right now. I love music and believe that God gave me the gift and love of music. Because of this, I plan to pursue a degree in music. Many people discourage such a degree in our current economy. But, I believe that if God put it in me, it is my responsibility to use that gift to His glory. So, I plan to pursue a degree in music with a focus on piano and then trust Him to open the right doors at the right time in my life, which he has already shown that He can do.