2018 Christian Leaders of the Future

By on March 7, 2018
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Mississippi Christian Living, in partnership with Belhaven University, is pleased to introduce the 2018 Christian Leaders of the Future. High school seniors from across the state submitted essay applications, answering questions about their faith, service, and leadership experiences.

 

The applications—without the students’ names, schools, or churches—were reviewed and scored by a diverse panel of local community leaders, each working independently. Scores were tabulated and the top 31 are featured here. We will honor them along with friends and families on March 5 during a special event day for our finalists.

 

Enjoy these excerpts from their essays. They offer but a glimpse into the lives of these young men and women. You can read their words in their entirety at mschristianliving.com.

 

We are greatly indebted to our sponsors who have made this program possible. Sponsors were Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company, Miskelly Furniture, Capstone Treatment Center, First Commercial Bank, Stegall Imagery, MMI Dining Systems, and Patty Peck Honda.

 

Niel Abston

Hartfield Academy
New Vision Fellowship Church
Parents: Willie and Carmen Abston

 

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

The Bible says that God does not look at our outer appearance, but instead He looks at our heart. High school students usually do the exact opposite and judge people on their looks. Sometimes it is hard to fit in when you do not look like or act like the popular crowd in high school. It is even harder to fit in when you are the new kid in high school. When the girl who is now my best friend at school first came to our school, she was not accepted by the other girls. She was from another state, and she looked and talked differently. She didn’t wear her hair the same way as everyone else or dress like everyone else, so she wasn’t invited to be a part of anything. I connected with her because I could see beyond her hair and clothes that she was a very kind person. I also imagined how I would feel if I were the new girl that didn’t fit in. I would want someone to make me feel welcome. Reaching out to her paid off because she became one of my closest friends. I believe it was the right thing to do because Jesus said, “When I was hungry you gave me food, and when I was sick you came to visit me”. I imagine Jesus saying to me one day, “When I was the new kid at school, you became my friend.”

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I was introduced to Christ as a young child by my parents, who have lived out their faith in front of me. Prayer, Bible instruction, church attendance, Sunday school, youth conferences, and community outreach have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.), Romans 3:23 (All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.), and Romans 10:9, 10 (If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believer in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.) are the scriptural principles that were taught to me early on to develop my understanding of God’s love for humanity and humanity’s need for a Savior. The scriptures that I have learned throughout my childhood are now the basis for my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

  • Foreign Mission— Shanghai, China (Summer 2015)
  • I traveled to China with a team from my church for a two-week mission trip to minister to children at Sonflowers, which is a safe house for children, whose parents run brothels from their homes. While there I taught basic piano to students at Sonflowers, assisted with English lessons in the after-school program, mentored students in character building, and choreographed dances for their talent show fundraiser.
  • Summer Church Program— New Vision Fellowship Church, Brandon, MS, (Summers 2015-2017)
  • I assisted teachers in vacation Bible school, planned indoor and outdoor student activities, and decorated church facilities with art for the event.
  • Senior class outreach—Hartfield Academy (Bi-monthly, 2017)
  • I volunteer with my classmates by donating goods and handing out food, water, and personal supplies to the homeless community at Smith Park, Jackson, MS.
  • Chick-fil-A Leaders Academy — (2017)
  • Student leaders meet to discuss strategies for leadership and ways to serve the community.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is from 2 Timothy because it is a letter written by Paul to Timothy, a young person, to remind him that he has the same faith that his grandmother and mother had. Paul also encourages Timothy to stir up the gift on the inside of him and to boldly use his gift to serve God. I specifically identify with verse 7 in the passage because when I was about eight years old, my mother noticed that I was extremely shy and hesitant to speak up or be outgoing so she wrote the verse on a note card and posted it by the bathroom mirror for me to see every day to boost my self-confidence. I still have 2 Timothy 1:7 next to my mirror to always remind me that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but the Lord has given me power, love, and a sound mind.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

Aside from my own parents, whom I have watched be involved with prayer ministry, homeless ministry, youth ministry, and prison ministry, the Christian leader that has impacted me the most is Amy Lancaster, who along with her husband David, co-founded We Will Go Ministries in Jackson, Mississippi. Amy and her husband tell the story of how God showed them that Jackson, Mississippi was their Jerusalem. So Amy and her family immediately said, “We will go,” and they moved right into the heart of west Jackson. The Lord provided a home for them in a dark and run down area, where they began to have prayer meetings and bible study with the community. They opened their home to feed and clothe those in need. The ministry eventually outgrew the Lancaster’s home and backyard and the Lord blessed them to remodel other houses in order to train ministers to spread the gospel to those who are homeless and addicted to drugs. Amy believes that God transformed her so that He could use her to change others. This is the kind of personal testimony that I desire to have someday, that my life has made a difference for Christ.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I plan to be intentional about living out my faith in a world that is increasingly indifferent to Christianity by being as Christlike as possible. Sometimes unbelievers experience judgment from Christians before they experience the love of God so they have a negative view of Christianity. Jesus said by loving kindness he would draw others to himself. Jesus also said the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, your soul, your strength, and your mind. The second greatest commandment, which is just as important, is to love my neighbor as myself. Everyone can relate to love and kindness, even non-believers. If I let my light shine through love, then I believe that those who do not believe in Jesus will not be able to deny the power of His love. If I lovingly express my Christian beliefs to non-believers and respectfully listen to their experience, they will be more open to receiving my faith. My plan for maintaining my faith in a society that is antagonistic toward Christianity also includes regular prayer and Bible meditation to remain built up in order to avoid giving in to worldly pressure and temptation.

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

God has given me artistic, photography, and writing abilities, so I believe that He expects me to use these gifts for His glory and His purpose. I plan to use my art, photography, and writing to help individuals see the beauty in God’s creation, and in doing so introduce them to the Creator. Art and photography can be universal like music and used to communicate spiritually with individuals and bring people together from different backgrounds.

 

Levi Chinchen

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
First Presbyterian Church, Jackson
Parents: Dr. Paul and Laura Chinchen

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

In the three years since my family moved back from Africa, I have been faced with a number of challenging situations where I have had to stand up for my faith. One of the biggest problems for kids my age in Mississippi is underage drinking. I am amazed by how many kids are willing to break the law and risk serious consequences to drink. Last year a student at my high school was killed in a car accident as the result of underage drinking.

Not long after arriving from Africa I was faced with an uncomfortable dilemma. My friend Jake and I had been invited to a party. Little did I know that during the evening the kids would begin passing around alcohol. I had never seen this before, and never imagined students my age would do something like that in their parents’ home. That night I had to make a choice, to have a drink and try to be accepted, or leave. That evening Jake and I chose to walk away.

Ever since then I have felt it is my duty, especially now that I am Vice President of my class, to set an example for others. It is important for my classmates and younger kids to see that you don’t have to drink to be cool and that you don’t have to break rules to be “wow.” I have learned that it is never wrong to stand up for what is right.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I was born in Africa to missionary parents, so I have known about Jesus my whole life, but when I was five years old my sister Annabelle went to a summer camp where she was given a new Bible. She came home so excited about Jesus, and anxious to share the Gospel with everyone in the house. I was one of the first people she sat down and explained the way of salvation to. That evening she prayed with me and I asked Jesus into my heart.

Since that day I have grown in my faith, and my love for God and His Word continue to grow in my heart. I loved growing up on the mission field in Africa, attending a Christian school, and participating in all the Christian activities available at First Presbyterian Church and around Jackson. I know without a doubt that Christ lives in my heart, (Galatians 2:20).

What activities are you in involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At MRA I have been a member of SLI (the Student Leadership Institute) for the past 3 years. This year I am an SLI leader. One of my responsibilities is to lead a Bible Study for 9th Grade boys. I am also Vice President of the Senior Class, Captain of MRA’s Swim Team, a member of the ACT 30 Plus Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a member of Model UN, and a member of the Bible Club. I am a defensive back on the Varsity Soccer team and a member of MRA’s Mixed Martial Arts team.

At church, I attend Sunday school and enjoy regularly attending the Wednesday Night Bible Study for high school boys led by two RTS students, (James Ritchie and Martin Antoon). I am a Young Life Leader, and attend all of First Pres’ RYM retreats.

In the community: Three years ago I took over management of Project Juembo, a program that collects and distributes school supplies to needy children in Africa. For the past three years, I have been organizing groups of students from my class to help me collect backpacks filled with school supplies. In the summer of 2016, I distributed 220 backpacks to a local village school close to where I grew up in Malawi. This past summer I, and a team of seven MRA students collected 300 backpacks, which we took to Africa and distributed to kids in rural village schools. This school year we are again running a big campaign at our school before Christmas to collect 600 backpacks, which our growing team of 12 students will take to Malawi in June to distribute. Here is the link to the YouTube video that documents my team’s time in Malawi https://youtu.be/OmRguTNS4yM

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite passage in the Bible is Matthew 25:31-46. This passage talks about the day of Judgement when Jesus is sitting on His glorious throne surrounded by angles. All the nations of our world will gather before Him and Christ will separate the sheep from the goats. Those on His right will be invited to enter the kingdom of Heaven, while those on His left will be asked, “Why did you not feed me when I was hungry? Why did you not give me a drink when I was thirsty? Why did you not clothe me when I was cold? And why did you not care for me when I was sick?” Then Christ will explain, “Whatever you did not do this for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

This is an eye-opening passage. God’s World makes it clear that we are to care for the poor and protect the oppressed. Having grown up in Africa on the mission field I consider this a very important passage, because I have seen first-hand the hardships of extreme poverty, and how much those in need are dependent on the kindness of others.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My father and grandfather have both had a great influence on my life. My grandfather demonstrated incredible faith when he left the U.S. and took his family to Liberia in the early 1970s. After living in the bush for seven years he started our mission, African Bible Colleges. Twelve years later a civil war broke out that destroyed the country. My grandparents were forced to flee Liberia and move to Malawi where my father was starting the second College in Malawi. Ten years later my father built ABC University in Uganda, and then reopened the campus in Liberia after the civil war ended. It is because of my father and grandfather’s tremendous faith and dedication to serving God in difficult places that we now have three successful Christian universities in Africa that are growing and having a great impact on the continent.

The prophet Daniel is another great leader who I admire and have enjoyed studying in the Bible. In the face of great adversity, he stood firm for what he believed. As a result, God blessed him far more than he could have ever imagined! Daniel was a man of no compromise whose prayer life was incredibly impressive.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?  

I plan to live my life intentionally as described in John 17:14-15 and John 15:18-21. I believe that I am called to make a difference in this world. We cannot withdraw from society. I feel we must remain where God has placed us with the intention of influencing others for good. I want to be a society-changer. As difficult as it is to live as a professing Christian in the midst of a depraved culture it is important for the world to see Christians who are prepared to stand firm in their faith. I am planning for my first mission field to be a career in the military. I have applied to all three service academies, and hope to be an officer in the next four years. I plan to follow Christ and profess my savior daily in word and in deed. I will lead by example with the help of my Lord and Savior in everything I do.

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

My long-range goal is to be an exemplary Christian leader and missionary like my father and grandfather. I was born in Africa, and feel that God is calling me to carry on the work that my parents have done in Africa. I feel that today more than ever before America needs Christians who are not afraid to go where it is uncomfortable, to live where it is not easy, and to share the Gospel in places that are not safe. I feel that God has prepared me in a unique way to be that type of difference-maker.

 

Aubree Dillon

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Broadmoor Baptist Church
Parents: Dr. Lance and Teresa Dillon

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Two years ago, I lived out my faith when I had an unexpected encounter with one of my friends. He did not believe in God and refused to listen to anyone who tried to share the gospel with him. One day at school, he started asking me questions about my Christian beliefs. In 1 Peter, it says that we should always be prepared to give an answer when anyone asks the reason for our hope. Using this as a reminder, I was able to respond with composure and confidence. After my response, he tried using his scientific knowledge in an effort to convince me of his beliefs. I knew God was going to speak through me, but I felt inferior because of his intelligence. I immediately remembered a book called The Case for Christ that was written by an Atheist who tried to disprove Christianity to his wife. Suggesting this book for him to read gave me comfort and hope that my friend’s questions would be answered and his perspective on Christianity would change. Unfortunately, I did not see him for weeks, but through prayer God gave me a sense of peace that I had done my part. Later that summer, he frequently attended my church. Seeing the effort he has made to learn more about the Lord has filled my heart. I am grateful that God worked through me and guided me as I lived out my faith during this time.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

Fortunately, I have been blessed to grow up in a Christian home with a family who has constantly encouraged me to live a Christ-centered life. Praying, going to church, and asking God to guide me was all part of my daily walk. However, when I was twelve, an empty feeling I had never experienced came over me, and I realized my heart was in need of a Savior. During church I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and surrendered my life to Christ, completely dedicating my heart, mind, and soul to pursuing Him. Continuing to grow as a Christian by serving others and showing them unconditional love has also helped me further my relationship with Christ. Until I was exposed to environments outside of my comfort zone, I did not fully grasp the power of the Holy Spirit. From an experience in mission work in New Orleans after the devastating hurricane Katrina, to a Boston, Massachusetts, mission trip, I have been able to observe unique lifestyles, share my Christian beliefs, and pray for each person in a particular community. God has uncovered countless opportunities for me to impact the lives of lost ones, and in return it has helped me grow closer to Christ and become a stronger Christian.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At Madison-Ridgeland Academy, I am Student Body President, a member of the Student Leadership Institute, and on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes leadership team. Also, I am involved with our Pre-Med Club as Volunteer Coordinator, Bible Club, National Honor Society, We Will Go Ministries, Hands and Feet Club-Chairperson, Mu Alpha Theta and captain of our soccer and cheer teams. In my church I have been blessed to be involved with WOW Week/Vacation Bible School, a member of our mission team, and involved with In His Steps Ministries. My community involvement includes a member of Junior Auxiliary Crown Club, a Mustard Seed Volunteer, Junior Classical League, Madison County Against Poverty, CJ Stewart Foundation, and Horses for Handicapped.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

There was a time when I used to ask God why certain situations occurred in my life, which led me to doubt His plan for me. Because I have held Proverbs 3:5-6 close to my heart, life has seemed less complicated. Keeping this passage from Proverbs in my mind this past year has enabled me to have a different outlook on the trials I have faced. Leaning not on my own understanding allows me to realize that God has called me to be set apart from the rest of my high school friends by pursuing a soccer career. While my friends were picking roommates for MSU or Ole Miss, I found myself questioning why I had to go through a tough soccer recruiting process. I held on tightly to this passage by putting my trust in Jesus and that He would eventually show me the path to take. Verbally committing to play college soccer brings me one step further in walking the path God has set straight for me. In my heart, I finally understand that my struggle was only to give me an opportunity to glorify the one I love by continuing to play the game I love.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My brother is one of the most influential Christian leaders who has impacted my life in many ways. Watching him lead by example and spread God’s love has inspired me to do the same. He has shown me that praying without ceasing, consistently reading God’s Word, and applying it to every aspect of life is the most important route to take in overcoming any physical and emotional difficulty. The way my brother strives to be intentional with each word and action amazes me.

Giving advice on dealing with peer pressure and encouraging me not to feel obligated to “go with the crowd” has been helpful as I continue to grow in my faith. In a world that tends to get caught up in materialistic ways, my brother has reminded me that my peace and happiness should come first from my relationship with Christ. He once told me that if I don’t worry about worldly situations and keep my eyes fixed on Christ, then everything else will eventually fall into place. Conversations with my brother are extremely refreshing and I will forever be grateful for having him as my Christian leader and mentor.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

As a Christian, it is important to reflect God’s light into a world that is becoming more sinful. I had the opportunity to do this by helping with a Christian based soccer camp in Victoria, British Columbia. The people of Victoria live in a beautiful mountainous area. They are educated, wealthy, environmentally friendly, and believe they have everything they need. It saddens me to see them openly deny Christianity when they have so much to be thankful for. I met parents of campers that did not want their children exposed to Jesus. One dad told us to only discuss soccer with his son because they do not believe in God, and another camper told me Jesus was fake. A special encounter with a little girl who asked me to read the bible verse on my bracelet led me to present the gospel. Telling the story of Jesus in a non-forceful way and having patience with her was the most effective way to reach her heart.

For those that speak out against Christianity, I believe I must live faithful to God’s word and continue to be a Christian witness. I understand that I will face rejection from antagonists throughout the rest of my life, but I will do my very best to use this rejection as an opportunity to pray for them. Only God can save the lost, and I believe it is my job as a Christian to be God’s hands and feet until the day He returns.

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

Living a healthy lifestyle, helping people make healthy choices, and being active in my community is important to me. Therefore, I am considering a career in the Dental field. Dentistry is more than filling cavities and pulling teeth. It is about helping people smile confidently, encouraging good dental hygiene, and keeping their teeth white and strong. Being a dentist will give me a great opportunity to interact with others on a daily basis while helping them maintain their health. When I am established as a dentist, I would like to travel abroad to help with dental and medical missions.

 

Macy Gordy

Canton Academy
First Baptist Church of Canton
Parents: Brent and Janet Gordy

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Last year, I had two really close friends, one a Mormon and the other blindly lost. I knew how much my religion meant to me as well as the both of them. One was in a broken relationship and the other confused about life and her beliefs. I continuously invited both of them to church regardless of how many excuses they gave me. I attempted to offer both of them clarity although both still struggle and are still lost. For my confused, Mormon friend, I would often ask her about her beliefs and offer mine and the differences between the two keeping Proverbs 15:1 in mind. I began to notice she was majorly impacted by the people she surrounded herself with. She let others tell her what she believed. I constantly prayed for her and poured the word of God into her life. Sadly, we grew apart. As for my lost friend who was in a terribly broken relationship, I constantly attempted to show her what true love looked like. I explained to her that sexual interaction with boys and constant arguing wasn’t it. I explained to her that God loved her for who she was and that He has the perfect man for her if she would simply open her eyes to the reality that wasn’t love. We, too, sadly grew apart. Although I no longer speak to them, I still love them and I know God is using what He said through me to work in their lives.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I grew up in a Christian home with two loving parents who always pointed me to God and encouraged me to attend church. I attended a private school where each week I learned amazing things about the incredible God I serve. I soon began attending public school. As I matured, I began to look for satisfaction in worldly things. In time, my life filled with negativity. I noticed the person I was becoming and how drastically my attitude had changed. I quickly became uncomfortable. I had become everything I had always promised I wouldn’t be and I didn’t like it, so I changed. My friends didn’t like that I was growing and becoming more involved in church. My freshman year of high school I was bullied. After spring break of 2015, I switched back to private school and began to get right with God. On November 1, 2015, Ken Freeman spoke at my church for Revival Week. On that night, I committed my life to Christ. I realized I had only ever had a head knowledge of Christ, never a heart knowledge. From that day, my life was dramatically different. I saw a light I had never seen before. Every day I wanted to glorify God in everything I did and said. I wanted to be more like Him each day. I’m not perfect and I still struggle and sin daily, but I serve a God whose grace and mercy reigns above all and for that, I am forever grateful.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am Varsity Cheer Captain, Student Body Chaplain, and a member of my school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Team. I play Softball, participate as a Diamond Girl for my school’s varsity baseball team, and am a member of the Missions Outreach Team. I am involved in Youth Ministry Leadership, National Honors Society, and Student Council.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite bible passage is Philippians 4:6-7. In January of 2017, I went through, what seemed like, a terrible heartbreak. In February of that same year, I was diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety, however, has affected me ever since I was in elementary school. In February, I was prescribed medication that I noticed altered my personality. I am a very outgoing person with a rather large heart and the medicine caused me to be alarmingly calm and not care about anything. I didn’t like it, so I quit taking it. Soon my anxiety began to surface again. I didn’t want to take my medicine, so I had to manage it on my own. However, I knew I wouldn’t be able to. The pain and worry were overwhelming. Rather than handling the situation the way society would want me to, I chose to find my comfort in Christ. I didn’t want to focus on me or my pain. I didn’t want to feel the way I felt anymore. One night while reading my Bible, I stumbled upon Philippians 4:6-7 which reminds me that God wants me to give all my worries to Him and He will replace them with peace and comfort.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My youth minister, Logan Ellzey, and his wife, Maegan Ellzey, have had a drastic impact on my life. They began working at my church in 2014 and I didn’t care to get to know them at first, but I’m glad I did. Maegan has helped me through many tough situations from being bullied to breakups with both boys and friends. Each time she has pointed me to Christ and encouraged me to show Christ’s love in the way I handled situations. She has always reminded me of God’s love for me and told me to keep my head held high. Logan, although not interested in my drama, has continued to challenge me in my walk with Christ and encouraged me to grow deeper in my faith and live my life to glorify Christ, even though it is especially tough in this world today. They have both been two of my biggest supporters, praying for me consistently and constantly reminding me of how proud they are of the young lady I am.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I know who I am as a person and I know who it is that I strive to be. I know the expectations that I set for myself and what it is that I wish to accomplish in life. I know what the Bible says about the way I should live my life. I want to see the world through God’s eyes. I want to have His genuine love for people. I want to live my life the way He wants me to. When people look at me, I want them to see something different in me. I know that my heart breaks for those who are lost and broken. With this knowledge of myself, I refuse to be like society says I should be. I strive to live my life for Christ and, although I am far from perfect and struggle daily, I know He still loves me and at the end of each day, I still wish to glorify Him for people to see that in me.

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

I feel as though the Lord has placed it on my heart to pursue a career in counseling. I strive to pour into people’s lives and impact them in a positive manner. I enjoy offering advice to people so that, hopefully, they can learn from my mistakes. I love helping people see things from a different perspective and have a positive outlook on life. I enjoy sharing my own struggles and having people understand that they are not alone and that they are loved.

 

 

Bethany Hill

Brandon High School
First Baptist Church Brandon
Parents: Kevin and Kristy Hill

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

In the past year, there have been seven deaths at Brandon High School. But the past three months, there have been two suicides and one other student that passed away from my school. Through all of those tragedies, many people have gone through tough times overcoming the sadness that those events brought. Even though those were difficult times, God was able to use me to minister to the hurting people. Specifically, one girl was extremely close to one of our classmates that committed suicide. When she was upset, I was able to love her and show God’s love to her at school. Soon after, I invited her to come to church with me and she began to slowly fall in love with Christ. She began to talk to me about what it means to truly become a Christian and I had the chance to tell her all about the goodness and faithfulness of Christ. Recently, she decided she was ready to surrender her life to Christ and asked Jesus into her heart! Through the terrible tragedies, God was able to use me and lead somebody else to Christ!

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

My whole life I have been involved in church. From as young as I can remember, my family rarely missed a Sunday or Wednesday and attended most other activities and events. When I was 7 years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. My pastor talked about the plan of salvation during the evening service, and later that night, while talking to my parents, I accepted Jesus Christ. I never followed through with baptism. Even though I was not a baptized, I knew I was a Christian, and continued to be involved in church, but I did not have a true relationship with Christ. But in 8th grade, I went to middle school camp at Lee University. On the last night, the speaker’s main point that he kept coming back to was if you are truly a Christian, you are surrendering your life to Christ every single day. Then, I realized when I did accept Christ; I did not have a full understanding of what it really meant to be a Christian. I also knew I was not surrendering daily to Him. So on the last night of camp, I rededicated my life. A couple weeks later, I was baptized. From that day on, even though I fail every day, I try to fully surrender and follow Jesus in every area of my life.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am very involved at First Baptist Church Brandon. I currently serve on the leadership team in the youth group as well as teach a preschool Sunday school class on Sunday mornings. I also help with various preschool and children activities outside of Sunday morning. There are also times when I have to privilege of helping different staff members. Outside of church, I was involved in Mayor’s Youth Council. At school, I am a member of the National Honor’s Society, Key Club, BETA club, Dog Pack, HOSA, and a part of the Health Science Academy. I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in various activities and the chance to use those activities to have the chance to lead more and more people to Christ.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

I have many favorites when it comes to passages of the Bible; one of them is Ephesians 4:1-6. In this passage, Paul emphasizes you have to live a life worthy of Christ and the importance of maintaining unity with others. One of the reasons this passage is one of my favorites, in relation to question six, is because to be able to lead others to Christ my actions have to be worthy of Christ Jesus. I love the truth in that and the reminder that everything I do is for Christ and needs to honor Him and bring Glory to Him. Also, the second part of that passage talks about maintaining unity with others. I believe that is so important, not just in the church, but also outside of church. If you are leading by example, how can one point somebody to Christ if they are not in unity with others? I love how Paul included that part, and it is always something that I can be encouraged by.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

The person that has been the most influential Christian leader is my youth pastor, Kevin Anthony. As soon as I joined the youth group and started getting involved, I noticed that Kevin was going out of his way to get to know me and the other new students and invest in our lives. He was also the one I talked to and prayed with when my life changed for the better and I rededicated my life to Christ. Throughout my years in his ministry he has continued to invest in me. The way he has shown me what a true leader looks like is how he has impacted me the most. He leads by example and through his actions. He also demonstrates the importance that a true leader is held to a higher standard than anybody else and should be held accountable. Out of all of the amazing Christian leaders that I am grateful to have in my life, he has been the most influential.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I believe the most powerful way to show the love of Christ and minister to other in this world that is constantly changing and becoming more and more “antichrist” is through my actions. Words speak louder than actions. I feel like the way I treat people is the best way I can show Christ to others. For example, going out of my way to look for people who need a friend and be the Christian friend they need. After developing a relationship with them, I invite them to church. Also, when all of my friends are gossiping, I have to be bold enough not fall into that temptations and gossip with them. Instead, find a way to change the subject and talk about something else. When all of my friends are doing something that is not right, standing firm in what I believe and not doing it. Lastly, bringing up God and church in conversations will spark questions and give me a way to tell others about Christ. People notice my actions and also doing the right thing will allow me to live out my faith in this world.

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

I believe God is calling me to continue my education at Mississippi College and to go through the nursing program there. After that, I feel led to go to seminary and spend the rest of my life in missions. Whether my mission field is a church or in another country, I believe that is what God is calling me to.

 

John Mark Huff

Homeschool
Grace Bible Church
Parents: Mark Huff and Debbie Huff 

Briefly describe a specific situation where you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

The other day, I was in the math lab at Hinds CC studying for a Calculus 1 test with my unsaved Venezuelan friend, Simon D’Abade. Simon believes God exists but not that Christ died for his sins and that salvation comes by faith in Christ. While studying, he asked, “John Mark, you believe that all people who believe in God—like Muslims, Jews, Catholics—but don’t believe as you do will go to Hell?” A couple of heads perk up and started listening. I felt my temperature quickly rising, as I felt nervous. I prayed, “Oh boy! Please God give me the words and strength to speak the truth.” I replied, “Yes, Simon, I do if their faith isn’t in the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s only one way to God and that is through belief in His only son Jesus.” Simon questioned me further concerning Catholicism. I answered him according to my knowledge of their beliefs being works based to obtain salvation versus my belief that salvation is a free gift obtained simply by “Faith alone in Christ alone.” The Catholic instructor interjected and began to tell Simon how to obtain salvation. I was concerned because I didn’t agree with her and didn’t want Simon or the many other students to be led astray. I’ve had further conversations with Simon about how salvation through faith produces works but works do not produce salvation. I pray Simon will believe and if he does, I will have two trustworthy friends at Hinds.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

When I was 8 years old I was walking home from visiting my grandparents and I came upon my 14-year-old brother mowing the grass. I don’t remember what we were arguing over, but we got into a heated argument and a physical fight. I had never been so mean to my older brother before. My mom was extremely disappointed in our behavior. The neighbor’s son, who wasn’t a Christian yet, saw the whole argument as he was sitting on his dirt bike directly across the road. He was going through a difficult time as his parents had recently divorced. When my mom asked me why I didn’t think about my witness to our neighbor before I started yelling at my brother, I told her that I didn’t even know what I was supposed to be witnessing or what I believed. I vividly remember the tears coming down my mother’s face like it was yesterday. Such a strong woman was broken. I realized that I was missing out on something very special and I wanted to be a part of that. It was in the kitchen of our house, with my hands in my mom’s, that the gospel was clearly and simply given to me and I accepted Christ into my heart.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church? 

CHURCH

  • Member of Grace Bible Church (GBC) on Highland Colony Parkway (12 years)
  • Grave Bible Church high school and college weekly Bible study-Pastor Chip Davis

AWARDS AND HONORS

  • Eagle Scout- Troop 29 Brandon First United Methodist Church (12th)
  • Phi Theta Kappa Scholar- Hinds CC, dual enrollment (11th, 12th)
  • 4-H Dixie National Dairy Goat Premier Exhibitor (10th)
  • Congressional Award- Gold Medal to receive in 2018 (12th)
  • Mu Eta Sigma- National Math Honor Society (12th)
  • Order of the Arrow- Honor Society of Boy Scouts, elected member (10th-12th)

LEADERSHIP

  • 4-H:
  • Mississippi 4-H State Council President (12th)
  • Mississippi 4-H Foundation Board Member (12th)
  • 4-H Cooperative Business Leadership Conference (11th)
  • Mississippi 4-H State Ambassador (12th)
  • National 4-H Dairy Conference Planning Committee Member, Madison, WI-selected through interview process (11th-12th)
  • National 4-H Dairy Conference delegate, Madison, WI (11th)
  • National 4-H Congress Delegate, Atlanta, GA (11th)
  • Rankin County Junior Livestock Board President (11th-12th)
  • HOBY-Hugh O’ Brien Youth Leadership (10th)
  • Electrical Cooperatives of Mississippi (ECM) Youth Leadership Delegateselected (11th)
  • Rankin Youth Leadership (12th)
  • Teenpact Leadership Schools-Elected Senator (11th)
  • Teenpact Leadership Schools (10th-11th)
  • Boy Scout Troop 29 Senior Patrol Leader (10th)
  • Page for Mississippi House of Representatives (10th)

COMMUNITY SERVICE- 423 hours

  • Eagle Scout Project: “Lyme Bites”– 67 hours; (August 2016- April 2017)

I gave awareness presentations on Lyme Disease to several groups in my community to educate and raise awareness. I discussed the following: What Lyme disease is, history, ticks that spread it, how to prevent getting bitten by a tick, what to do if bitten by a tick, the symptoms of Lyme Disease, other tick-borne coinfections, and how to live with Lyme Disease.

  • Eagle Scout projects-111 hours (9th-12th)
  • Mississippi 4-H President and 4-H State Ambassador 59 hours
    1. Wounded veteran’s care packages 14 hours (11th)
    2. Project Achievement Days (PAD) 28 hours (12th)
    3. 4-H Day at Mississippi State Fair 6 hours (12th)
    4. Books for Africa 8 hours (11th)
    5. 4-H Promotional videos 3 hours (12th)
  • Farm tour guide 62 hours (9th-12th)
  • Dairy Goat Husbandry 43 hours (9th-12th)
  • Soapmaking classes 19 hours (9th-12th)
  • Agriculture Awareness and education presentations 54 hours (9th-12th)
  • Senior Care Ministry 23 hours (9th-12th)
  • Mentorship-41 hours (9th-12th)
  • Taught how to raise and show goats and showmanship skills 15 hours (9th-12th)
  • Taught goat husbandry to families 31 hours (9th-12th)
  • 2017 Congressional Award Gold Medal to receive in 2018. Awarded to anyone between 14-24 years old who has completed and recorded 400 hours of community service, 200+ hours of personal development, 200+ hours of personal fitness, and has gone on a 4+ night trip within 2 years.
  • 2017 Mississippi Science Fest 6 hours (12th)
  • The Proclaimers Mission group to the northwest US

EXTRACURRICULAR INVOLVEMENT

  • Victors Homeschool Tennis (9th-12th)
  • Reflections Drama Club (9th-12th)
  • Boy Scouts of America Troop 29 (9th-12th)
  • Philmont Scout Ranch Hike (11th)
  • CHEC (Christian Home Educators Connection) (9th-12th)
  • 4-H Livestock
  • Dixie National Livestock Dairy Goat Premier Exhibitor (10th)
  • Dairy Goat Record Book- Blue award- (9th-10th), 1st place (11th)
  • Dairy goat showmanship- 7 time champion at MS State Fair and Dixie National (9th-12th)
  • Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion Dairy Goat—23 time champion at MS State Fair and Dixie National (9th-12th)
  • State Livestock Judging Team-1st place and Reserve High Point Individual (12th), 2nd place (11th)
  • 4-H Meats Judging Team- 2nd place (11th), 3rd place (10th)
  • 4-H Dairy Visual Presentations 1st place (11th), 2nd place (10th)
  • 4-H Shooting Sports
  • Shotgun
  • Archery (9th-11th), Qualified for state competition
  • Grace Shape Note Singing School (9th-12th)
  • Mississippi Junior Cattlemen’s Association (9th-12th)
  • American Dairy Goat Association (9th-12th)
  • Jackson Optimist Club Oratorical Contest (10th)

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

After giving this a lot of thought, I realized my favorite passage is Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Because I’m going through a time in my life where my future is very cloudy- I have many career interests, many things I want to do, and so many people pulling at me- I often feel my life is spinning out of control. These words are very comforting. Hebrews is one of my favorite books in the Bible. The “Faith chapter” is grounding for me when I am unsure of what to do. When I’m struggling to settle on a college major, when I’m faced with either going to Bible study or studying for a big test, when I desperately need my mom’s help but she can’t be there because she’s so weak from Lyme Disease that she has to rest, when I feel so much pressure on me from various leaderships roles I’m involved in, and when people are asking for advice and I don’t know what to say to them, I think of Hebrews 11 and specifically 11:1. I calm down and say, ” Okay God, I know what I hope for and I know you will show the answer. I know that I can’t see the future but You can and are taking care of it and me”. Because of that passage, I have been able to overcome countless trials and am thankful for it.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

When I think of Christians who have impacted my life, they aren’t renown, well known leaders such as C.S. Lewis or Charles Spurgeon but instead people with whom I have a close relationship such as my pastor, scoutmaster, and parents. My pastor, John Ward—a man after God’s own heart—has played the biggest role in teaching me and instilling in me the scholastic knowledge of scripture. Pastor John always has a simple answer for confusing questions. While he thinks deeply and possesses vast knowledge, he’s simple and common sense minded. I am grateful for the vast pages of notes from his teachings that break down the minute details of scripture to guide my worldview. Grant Fox, my scoutmaster and mentor, has guided me through many difficult, worldly issues via adopting a Christian worldview. When I am faced with a difficult situation in which few share my Christian views, he is there to encourage me to hold fast. God in His Word clearly teaches parental duties but strong, Christian families are struggling. I am beyond grateful for my parents who continue to push and encourage me to adopt a firm, Christian worldview and set of ideals.

How will you live your faith intentionally in world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I believe that the answer to this question is harder to carry out than many believe. It definitely cannot be disputed; this world is becoming more and more antagonistic towards Christianity. I am dual enrolled in my 4th semester at Hinds CC. Every time the subject of Christianity is brought up; it’s scoffed at and mocked. I get ridiculed by some of my closest classmates and get shut down when I try to present the gospel to them. At 4-H and extracurricular events there are many youth who claim to know Christ and while I have no right to judge them, their actions don’t reflect Christ in their lives and they often persecute those who hold them accountable. I often ask myself “How am I to remain strong and not succumb to peer pressure?” Gradually I realized the peers who are making me want to succumb, aren’t people with whom I should be spending time. At Hinds, I spend time with my best friend and we encourage each other. At events and during activities, I do my best to associate myself with trustworthy, strong Christian friends. We correct each other when one stumbles and encourage each other when one is down. We make it a point to be like iron sharpening iron. But I also have to stay in the Word and pray constantly talking to God. I can’t just set aside time for Him because when I do, I also set aside my faith in Him. 

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

I believe God is calling me to work as an engineer for an agriculture-based company that produces equipment and technology used in the agriculture industry. I want to earn a minor in business or MBA. Because I’ll have around 40 credits from being dual enrolled at Hinds CC, I am considering completing the required courses for medical school as well. This desire came from the 2017 4-H National Dairy Conference. Having raised dairy goats and milked them my entire life, I want to be the one who helps find solutions to industry problems after learning about modern, farming practices.

 

Ryan Huffstutler

Lawrence County High School
New Life Church
Parents: Rich and Shann Huffstutler

Briefly describe a specific situation where you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Honestly, I am unable to think of a particular instance where I lived out my faith. This is because to me Christianity is a lifestyle. I do my best to live out what I read in the Bible and to obey the Lord. I show Christ’s love through my actions, words, and attitude. For example, I am kind and friendly to people who no one else will talk to. I try my best to share the joy that the Lord has given me with others when I see them down. I speak out for what is right and against what is wrong, and I am not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus when someone asks about my beliefs. My faith isn’t determined by a situation, but by the way I live my life, and I do my best to live out my faith every day, so my specific situation is every breath I take.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I grew up in a Christian family who took me to church every time the doors were open. I walked the aisle and was baptized when I was seven years old. However, I didn’t always live like I was saved. I had been playing this game with God thinking that it was okay; I had been baptized and that being a “good kid” would cover me. Then on November first, 2016 my cousin, Dakota, died in a car accident. I grew bitter and distant from God and began to live how I pleased. That all changed this past year at church camp. The Lord opened my eyes, and I realized that I needed to make Him Lord of my life, that being a Christian is more than just going to church but it is having a relationship with Jesus, and that the road I was walking would lead to destruction. He turned my life around and I put Him at the center of it.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At school I am involved in First Priority and JROTC; I am also a part of the cross-country, track, and soccer teams. Community-wise, I enjoy being involved with the Brookhaven Little Theater. In my church I am heavily involved in my youth group and help with recording the Facebook live videos we do on Sunday mornings. I also preach for some of the youth lead nights.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Romans 12:9-21. This is my favorite Bible passage because it puts the basis of Jesus’s teachings very simply in just a few verses. In a time when the world distorts what being a Christian means, these verses give one an example of what a true Christian’s life looks like. A Christian’s love should show true, Christ-like love; this concept is extremely important in a society that distorts the meaning of real love. We must hold fast to Christ, who is the only true and good thing, when the tribulations of this world come against us. Christians must also continue pressing towards the goal, not giving up and continue serving Christ, no matter the circumstances. We should continually show compassion towards others, just like Jesus did. Humility is another mark of a true Christian because even the King of Kings came to serve. We should not seek revenge, but rather turn the other cheek and pray for our persecutors. Lastly, in a world that is full of evil and darkness we must continue to shine the light that has been placed within us so that the whole world can see Christ through us.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

The most influential Christian leaders in my life are Blake (my youth pastor), my older cousins, and Brother Calvin (the director of the church camp where I was a cabin leader). Blake has impacted my life by being an example of how to pursue God and His will for my life. He has shown me what it looks like to be a Christian leader and lead others in their faith. He has also always been there for me when I just needed to talk, and he supports me even outside of a church setting and will tell me when I shouldn’t do something that may interfere with my walk with Christ. My cousins have shown me what a Godly marriage looks like, how to treat my future wife and how to respect women in general. I met Brother Calvin in 2016, which was my first year to volunteer for junior camp. He made me feel welcome and like I was “camp family.” He is an example of compassion and leadership. He allowed me to gain experience by placing me in a leadership position. He is approachable and has helped me understand many dilemmas.

How will you live your faith intentionally in world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I will continually seek God by digging deep into His word and standing firm upon it so that the world can see the light that Jesus has placed in me. In the words of Rachel Scott “If I have to lose all my friends to be with my one true friend, Jesus, it’ll be worth it.” I will persevere through the trials and pain. I will speak out for truth and refuse to back down or compromise my beliefs to fit in with the rest of society. I will keep my mind focused on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and, commendable. I will remain unashamed of the Gospel no matter what threats come against me, because I know that people can threaten my flesh but where I’m going I won’t need my body anyway. I will continue striving towards the prize knowing that the more I am persecuted, the more seeds will be sown.

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

The career that I feel the Lord is leading me into is teaching. I believe the Lord is leading me into teaching because it allows me to use many of the talents that the Lord has blessed me with such as acting and making people laugh so that I could make the lessons entertaining for my students. I would also have many opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with teens and fellow teachers at the school.

 

Blake Humphreys

Manchester Academy
River Mountain Church
Parents: David and Holly Humphreys

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

No matter where someone goes to school, private or public, religious or not, one person does not believe the same as another. Since the first grade, I have attended a private school, and I have encountered many situations where my faith was tested. Making decisions whether to follow the crowd or be a leader was, and still is, difficult. Throughout high school, I have declined participation in many activities that would jeopardize my beliefs. For example, I have been a member of the drama club since seventh grade; however, I was not a member this year. Even though I wanted to be apart during my senior year, I could not participate in a play that went against my Christian beliefs. I could have participated in the play, but I had to choose between my faith and my social status. Though I was not able to do what I loved, I know that God will reward me for my faithfulness to Him. I have lived out my faith not only through extracurricular activities and academics, but also through other activities such as tutoring. By helping other students in their studies, my time and dedication to tutoring them has helped them and their grades. In my schoolwork and socializing, I make daily decisions about my actions and hope that they are parallel with my words. Spending time daily in the Word and prayer helps me to become more like Christ and more aware of how my actions affect those around me.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I am blessed to grow up in a Christian home and be raised by Godly parents. I committed my life and began my relationship with Jesus Christ when I was four years old, and my pastor baptized me when I was five years old. Even though I have known Jesus for most of my life, I did not realize how deep His love was and how wonderful His presence was until I started attending a conference in Birmingham called Motion when I was twelve. Motion is a conference of 20,000 students ranging from junior high to high school who gather to worship God. Every year throughout high school I have gone to Motion, and my hunger has grown stronger and stronger for the Lord. As a “PK” (Pastor’s kid), everyone expects me to attend church every Sunday because he or she believes it is a requirement. Attending church is a priority to me; however, I view it as something I love to do every week, rather than a duty that I am required to perform. Beginning my week off gathering to worship and learn about God is the highlight of my week. I love growing in my relationship with Him and being equipped with His Word for whatever life throws against me.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am involved in many different activities and clubs in my school such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Team, Interact Rotary Club, Student Council, Quiz Bowl, Beta Club, and Students Against Destructive Decisions. In my community, I am a member of the Gateway MAP Youth Coalition and the Revive Yazoo committee. I volunteer with the Gateway MAP Youth Coalition regularly and participate in many projects throughout the year. As a member of my church, I am the youth small group leader, announcements coordinator, and media/soundboard director. I play the piano every Sunday and sing on the worship team periodically. Being involved in these activities gives me hope that I am making a difference in my school, community, and church. Even though I am only one person, I believe that the help and teamwork of those around me contributes to the betterment of society and the strengthening of my character.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is John 8:1-11. In this passage, The Pharisees bring a woman who was caught in adultery to Jesus. Instead of condemning her, Jesus tells the Pharisees that whoever is sinless can cast the first stone. The Pharisees realize that they are all guilty and walk away one by one. Then Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. I love this passage because it reminds me that everyone makes mistakes, all sins are equal in God’s eyes, and that I should treat people around me with kindness and compassion, regardless of their past. Instead of judging them, I need to share Christ’s love with them and be a light and voice of hope in their life 

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I admire many Christian leaders around the world, whether they are athletes, public speakers, or pastors. I have a long list of famous people whom I follow on social media and listen to their podcasts. The list is long, but the two people at the top of the list who impact my life the most are my father and mother. Growing up over the years, my parents have not only been my guardians; they have also been my pastors and friends. Through it all, they have been my rock and have imparted wisdom and unconditional love into my life. For instance, when I have felt alone in the past, my parents have held me up and reminded me of God’s love for me and that He is always with me. An example of their compassion is that whenever they see someone in need of help, they are never reluctant to lend a helping hand. They live as great examples of Christ in every area of their life and push me everyday to be a better person.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Living out my faith is a challenge each and every day. As I embark on my journey to college, I hope to live out my faith in every way possible. By joining different Christian organizations, staying grounded in church, and surrounding myself with Godly influences, I will grow deeper in my relationship with Christ, and I know that God’s protection will surround me as I face the world and its troubles. Though this world gradually becomes darker and darker, the light of Christ becomes brighter. As a radiant vessel of his light, I will have to make difficult decisions that will cause the world to hate me; however, God will be pleased because of my diligence to His Word. Even if I lose friends in the midst of my persecution, I know that, according to Matthew 5:12, my reward will be greater in heaven.

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

As a senior, my major is not definite, but I plan on becoming a tax attorney. My practice will focus on justice. I will fight for the rights of those who need my help. As an attorney, I want my actions to speak louder than words. My faith will be evident in my practice and when I assist people with their problems. Through this occupation, I can help people legally, financially, and spiritually. Not only will their legal problems be solved, but I pray they will find God, and their lives will be changed forever.

 

Brooks Italiano

Ridgeland High School
Church of God in Prophecy
Parents: Guy and Regina Italiano

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

You don’t fully understand or appreciate what you have until it’s taken from you. As a result of an athletic injury, my relationship with God and my family grew, and I was able to focus on the “little” things that truly are the best things in life. I really started paying closer attention to detail, seeing the full effect of everything and looking at the possible outcomes of everything I do. I’m very grateful for that. In the fall of 2016, my junior year took a spiraling downspin when I tore my ACL at the end of football season. I was devastated. I knew I would miss most if not all of our school soccer season, but later realized I would miss the entire baseball season as well. I knew because of my outward profession of faith, others would be watching me to see how this impacted not only my attitude towards others throughout these seasons, but also to see how it may affect my trust in God. As I worked through a range of emotions I learned quickly to lean on God for understanding and daily strength. Because of His help, I became a better leader from the sideline and in the community, and was also able to focus on my academics more than ever before. Since that time, I’ve had several teammates turn to me for guidance on how to handle the emotional drain it takes on a student-athlete to overcome a season ending injury. I’ve been able to share scriptures and prayers with them that I found helped me get through it all.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I have attended the Church of God of Prophecy my entire life. My family attends church regularly 2-3 times each week. At the age of five, I began attending our church summer youth camps where my parents volunteered each summer. It was there that I began to have a stronger understanding of Jesus Christ and what He means to me personally. At the age of six I committed my life to Him at summer camp and I’ve grown stronger as a Christian over the past several years, even more so over the past two years. I now volunteer in our local church with the children’s ministry. I am on the student leadership team with our youth group, and I also volunteer in the summer youth camps that gave me such a strong foundation. Through each of these opportunities, I am able to share my faith and experiences with others and help lead them to a personal commitment with Christ.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

Athletics:

  • Varsity Football, 2 years; Captain 1 year
  • Varsity Soccer, 6 years; Captain, 2 years
  • Varsity Baseball, 6 years
  • School Clubs and Activities:
  • Student Government Association, 4 years
  • Class President, 4 years
  • Ridgeland High School Ambassador, 3 years
  • FCA Leadership Team, 4 years
  • Homecoming Escort, 4 years
  • Ridgeland High School Who’s Who, 4 years

Community:

  • Ridgeland Jr. Diplomat, 2 years
  • MHSAA MS Leaders in Training, 1 year
  • University of MS Trent Lott Leadership Institute attendee, 1 year
  • Mayor’s Youth Council State conference attendee, 1 year

Church:

  • Children’s Ministry Department volunteer
  • Youth Department – Student Leader
  • Kamp Kumbaya – volunteer staff member, 2 years

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I firmly believe that when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, we no longer live the life we once knew. We become new in Him and should walk daily with the assurance that He is walking with us and guiding us in every decision we make. I never fully surrendered to Christ until I read this verse. Once I was old enough to really understand what it meant, it helped me fully give myself to Him. Now I strive to walk in faith so that others can see Christ in me. My body has scars and becomes physically sore and tired at times, but through Him I regain my strength to move forward each day and be the best that I can be to glorify Jesus.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

One person who has helped me a lot over the years is my cousin, Quentin. While he is not a lot older than I am, he has experienced a lot of the same issues I have dealt with in regards to athletics, injuries, and socially. I see a lot of myself in him as far as his drive to want to succeed and his compassion for others. A life-changing event for him was during his first mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Because he came from a single parent home, he had to raise the funds himself to attend the trip. He has since returned on two more trips and will gladly share his experiences with anyone who asks. Probably the most influential thing he did that helped me was during my recovery. He was the main person I could reach out to when I was discouraged and he always knew exactly what to say to keep me motivated and encouraged. He would randomly send me scriptures or call and pray with me when he knew I was feeling down about not playing the sports that I love. He’s always made time for me, even though his schoolwork and job is very demanding of his time. I try to model that behavior when I see a friend who needs encouragement through tough times.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity? 

The Bible tells us what to expect in the days leading up to Christ’s return. We are already seeing many of these prophecies being fulfilled daily. Each time I read about events happening in the world or see how even our schools have changed since my earlier years, I’m reminded of His promise to return for us. The best I can do is wake up each day and pray for God’s protection over my life and my family and friends. When faced with a decision, I pray and try to look ahead to the consequences of my actions. I know that because of the leadership roles I play in my school and community that others watch how I handle even the smallest decision. Because of this, I try to view my words and actions from their standpoint and to see what they would see in me.

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

I feel my calling is to serve others in some capacity. I am still praying and seeking God’s will in my life as far as my career choice, but I know it will have something to do with helping other people. I have been given many opportunities through leadership activities during my high school career to plan, organize and lead activities. I enjoy making decisions that impact large groups positively. I’m excited to see what God has in store for me and where He leads me over the course of my college path.

 

Caroline Loeb

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Madison United Methodist Church
Parents: Ronald and Rhonda Loeb

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Mark 10:45 has truly opened my eyes to envision how a Christian should live his or her life. Even the Son of Man did not come to the earth to serve, but instead, He came to serve others and even gave His life for sinners. I feel blessed to be the Lord’s hands and feet on this earth. My student initiative project, Operation Celebrate, is one such way that I can help others. Three of my friends and I partnered with the elementary students at our school and asked them to bring birthday presents for children from low-income families, who otherwise would not have been able to provide their children with gifts or help them celebrate with a party. I loved this project because as a teenager, I feel that sometimes it is difficult to make a big difference, but Operation Celebrate allowed me to share God’s love with these children and to help make their birthdays special.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

For the past two years, I have been involved in student government, where I served as vice president my junior year and am currently serving as senior class representative. I am actively involved in Young Life, FCA, National Honor Society, and Student Leadership Institute (SLi). I have also been a member of the Madison County Youth Leadership Council, and the Mayor’s Youth Council. I attend Broadmoor Baptist Church youth group on Wednesday nights and have enjoyed volunteering at the Jackson Symphony League through the Sub Deb program. I have also volunteered at the Webster Animal Shelter, Madison County Library, We Will Go Ministries and the Ronald McDonald House. I am a varsity cheerleader and have been a member of the volleyball team since seventh grade and am serving as team captain my senior year. I also had the privilege of playing for Mississippi Volleyball for two years and was named captain of the team my junior year.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?  

My favorite Bible passage is Matthew 6. The focus of this passage is worry, which is one of the biggest struggles in my Christian walk. I find it easy to become overwhelmed with deadlines, grades, and sports, but this passage reminds me that there is no need for worry. Matthew 6:27 asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” In Matthew 6: 26 we are reminded that the Father feeds and provides for the birds and that we are much more valuable than they are. It is human nature to be prideful. We see ourselves as so superior that we feel it is our responsibility to take matters into our own hands to ensure that our lives go as we plan, but this view is entirely wrong. Instead, we should put our hope and trust in the hands of our Creator, for His plans are perfect, and if we are under His control, the ultimate end will be for our good.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My school counselor, Libbo Crosswhite, is the Christian leader who has most impacted my life throughout high school. I have had the privilege of having Mrs. Crosswhite as a teacher and SLi leader, in addition to being my school counselor. She has impacted my life the most because she has shown me that it is OK to be imperfect. I relate to her because we are both perfectionists and worriers, and she has shown me the Christ-like way to deal with worry and stress. She has demonstrated to me that achieving worldly goals should not be the top priority in my life. She is a living example of how to completely surrender one’s life to Christ. She doesn’t “have it all together,” but she has shown me that Christ does not require His children to be perfect; all He asks is that we rest at His feet and be willing to have our hearts of stone be turned to flesh. Christ is the only one who has the power to radically change my life, and through her actions, Mrs. Crosswhite has shown me what this looks like.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I personally feel that people are turning away from Christ due to the actions of Christians, which is heartbreaking. People see Christians acting the same way as non-Christians do and think that there is no need to turn to Christ because it doesn’t actually make a difference. They see Christians as hypocrites and want nothing to do with their faith. I will live my faith intentionally by trying to hide the Word in my heart and trying my best to live a life as close to Christ as humanly possible. I will try to be more loving, gentle, and patient. I will be slow to judge because as seen in John 8, our Savior was not quick to judge. When the woman was brought before Him by the Pharisees, Jesus said that he who had not sinned could throw the first stone. These men left because they realized that they were all sinners by birth. Being human, it is inevitable to fall into the temptation of sin, but I will put my focus on the Lord, doing all I can to live a life that glorifies Him and points others to the one and only way to an eternal reward, which is through Christ Jesus.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me to be a physical therapist. God has equipped me with a heart to want to help others as well as the ability to do well in school. I feel that being a physical therapist is the perfect job to utilize these God-given skills. I have been blessed with patience and the ability to work with children, so my dream job would be working in a hospital where I would help children get back to their normal, daily lives.

 

Caedon Malone

Oak Grove High School
Venture Church
Parents: Byron and Donna Malone

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

From the time I was a small child, Fall meant one thing to me. Football. There was nothing I loved more than strapping on my helmet and playing every Saturday. I had one dream, to some day play under the Friday night lights on my high school field. With that goal in mind, I went to work to make that happen. At the beginning of my junior year, I was named the starting Center for my team. I saw my dream shattered one week before the first game when I tore my ACL during practice. My season was over before it ever began. I was immediately faced with the decision of how I would handle this adversity.

As a Christian, I knew that God was in control and that this was going to be part of my story. I also knew that God could use this setback to show my teammates what it looks like to trust in the Lord at all times. When one of them asked how I could possibly remain positive, I was able to share my faith and invite them to come to church with me and hear about my Savior. Another chapter to my story was written in the sixth game of my senior year when I tore the ACL in my other knee. While I would never have chosen this path for myself, I still have no doubt that God can use this situation to make Himself known.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

Growing up in a minister’s home, I was made aware of who Jesus was from the moment I was born. When I was five, God began to work in my heart and I realized that I needed a Savior. My older sister had also come to that same realization, so she told my parents that she was ready to ask Jesus to come into her life and save her. Our family gathered around in her bedroom while she prayed to receive Christ. As I sat in the top of her bunk bed listening to her pray, I knew that God was calling me to follow him too.

While she was praying, I said the same prayer to myself. I shared this news with my parents later and I realized that they were a little skeptical that someone so young could have a grasp of this concept. They encouraged me to wait until I was a little older to make this public and to be baptized. I waited a little over a year, worked through a book on salvation, and told them I didn’t want to wait any longer. At the age of six, my father prayed with me, I made my faith public, and was baptized in my church. I have no doubt, however, that God saved me in that bedroom at the age of five, when I first acknowledged my need of Him.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am a four-year member and Captain of the Oak Grove High School football team. At school, I am a member of the National Honor Society and the Fellowship of

Christian Athletes, and was elected as a Junior Class Favorite. Each year, I have been named as part of The Pride of Oak Grove, an honor chosen by the teachers and administrators. I have also had the privilege of serving as a peer tutor to my fellow students. This year I was named as a Wendy’s High School Heisman winner for my school. At Venture Church, I have served as a youth small group leader and Project Genesis mentor program leader. I have also served in the Greeter Ministry, been a backyard bible club coordinator and a Summer Mission Intern. I went on my first mission trip with my church when I was 7 months old and have not missed a year since. In my community, I have volunteered for Samaritan’s Purse, ARC, the Special Olympics, Disaster Relief Teams, and Oak Grove Youth Football.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

One of my favorite Bible passages is 2 Samuel 22:33, “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure”. Whenever I play a football game, I wear a towel at my waist that has this scripture printed on it. It hangs there as a reminder to me that God is the one who gives me not only physical strength, but also emotional and spiritual strength, to face whatever comes my way. God is always present and in his presence, there is security. I know that he is going before me to make a path even when I can’t see it.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

God has placed godly men to serve as Christian examples in every area of my life. At home, my dad has shown me what it means to walk with Christ daily and trust Him in all situations. My dad has placed within me a drive to do my best and to represent Christ wherever I go. He has modeled for me what it means to love your wife and children sacrificially. Most importantly, he has shown me what it means to love people unconditionally and to see others as Christ sees them. At church, I have been mentored by tremendous student ministers, pastors, and small group leaders. They have taught me the word of God and given me a place for my faith to grow stronger. They have shown me what it looks like to serve and give your time. At school, I have had the privilege of being coached by a group of men who not only love the game of football, but love their Savior. They have encouraged me to not only be a better player, but a better Christian and man. These men have shown me how to use the platform that God has given you to extend His kingdom.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

As Christians, God has called us to live a life different from the world. While this can be difficult at times, God assures us that “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Living this different life can mean that we are misunderstood or excluded sometimes. However, it can also mean that God can use us in a great way. We can literally be the channels through which lives are changed. I once read a quote that said, “You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.” People everywhere are looking for something or someone to fill the void in their lives. Our differentness can be the very thing to point them toward Christ. If we keep that in mind, the rejection and misunderstanding we face seem small.

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

As the son of a minister, I have been told my entire life that I should be a minister like my Dad. From an early age, however, I have felt God leading me in a different direction. I believe that God has called me to be a minister, but not in the usual way. I feel my ministry will not be in a church, but on the field and in the classroom. I feel that God has called me to be a coach and a teacher. Without a doubt, I believe that He can use me to reach others through this profession.

 

 

Laine Marler

Brandon High School
Brandon Baptist Church
Parents: John and Amy Marler

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

I have always had a passion and desire to mentor to children with special needs. At an early age, I recall having numerous opportunities to go in to the special needs classroom and interact with these children. I have always been at ease when interacting with special needs children, and I truly believe that God gave me this talent for a reason. I recall numerous times teachers inviting me into their classroom to socialize and interact because I found it so easy to connect with the children. Each time I was invited into their classroom, it became apparent that God was paving a way for me to make a difference in the lives of these kids. It was natural for me to play, converse, and communicate with them just like any other child. This year, I had to opportunity to volunteer for the BHS Joy Prom. Seeing these boys and girls getting to experience “Prom” for the first time brought so much joy to my heart. Having the opportunity to witness them dancing, laughing, and doing what most kids take for granted was the most heartwarming feeling. This was by far one of the best experiences I have ever experienced. It taught me that while we may all be different in many ways, we are still human beings. I am forever grateful to have participated in “Joy Prom” but I am most grateful God gave me the talent and comfort level to make a difference in the life of special needs children.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

As a young child, I was raised in a Christian home where Christ was the center of my family. Whether at Sunday school, Church, Wednesday night Supper, GA’s, choir, Church youth outings, I was there when the doors open. When I was old enough to attend Summer Camp, I attended Lake Forest Ranch, a camp that my Mom and older Sister both attended as children. Once we arrived and settled in, my Mom told me she wanted to show me something very special at this camp. She walked me to a tree and shared with me that this tree had a very special meaning. This was the tree that my Mom and sister both accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Throughout the week, I did my quiet time at this special tree. On the last day, my quiet time was about the end of life. I then realized that I needed a personal Savior to come into my life, so that I would have no doubt where I would be spend eternity. Lake Forest Ranch will always hold a very special place in my heart. It was at this tree that my life was changed forever.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, HONORS, AWARDS:

  • Brandon High School Hall of Fame: 2017-2018
  • 6A South All Star Team Player: 2017
  • Wendy’s Heisman Athlete of the Year for Brandon High School 2017
  • Clarion Ledger Athlete of the Week: 2017
  • AVCA Phenom Watch List: 2016,2017
  • Beta Club: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Brandon High School B.E.S.T Ambassador: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Brandon High School Yearbook: 2016, 2017 (Assistant Editor), 2018 (Editor)
  • National Honors Society: 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Brandon High School FCA; 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (Volleyball Representative, President)
  • Brandon High School Diamond Girls: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Brandon Bulldog Buddies: 2017
  • Brandon High School Citizenship Award: 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Brandon High School Leadership Award: 2015, 2016, 2017
  • Brandon High School Bulldog Award: 2017
  • Brandon High School Volleyball Team: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Brandon High School Tennis Team: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (Captain)
  • Brandon High School Bowling Team: 2017, 2018
  • Brandon High School Volleyball MVP: 2016, 2017
  • All Region District 6 MHSAA Volleyball: 2015
  • Brandon Volleyball Honorable Mention: 2016
  • Brandon Tennis Team All-Region: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • MHSAA Scholar Athlete Team Member: 2014-2015

COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • Brandon Baptist Church Mission First Mission Trip Jackson, MS: 2015, 2016, 2017
    • Church Restoration
    • Children Ministry
  • Brandon Baptist Church Belize Mission Trip: 2017
    • Church Restoration
    • Children Ministry
    • Community Outreach
  • Brandon Baptist Church San Francisco Mission Trip: 2016
    • Meal Preparation: Bay Area Rescue
    • Recreation with Children: Bay Area Community Center
    • Meal Distribution: Downtown San Francisco
    • Community Outreach
  • Salvation Army Christmas Bell Ringer: 2016
  • The Blake at Flowood Volunteer: 2016,2017
  • Brandon High School Freshman Orientation Volunteer: 2016
  • Brandon Middle School Volleyball Tryout Volunteer: 2016, 2017
  • Brandon High School Joy Prom Volunteer: 2017
  • Buddy Walk 5K Volunteer: 2015
  • Special Olympic Volunteer: 2016
  • Toys for Tots Volunteer: 2015, 2016
  • Miles in the Moonlight 5K Volunteer: 2015, 2016

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite bible passage is Mark 16:15. It states “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every culture.” This particular passage has inspired me to spread the word of Jesus Christ to those who may never hear the word. My first mission trip was to San Francisco where I was able to minister in the inner city. In March 2017, I was blessed to go to Corozal, Belize, a very underserved area of the country, where I had the opportunity to share my faith with those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. I am currently preparing for my third mission trip to Miami, Florida, which I will attend with my Father in March of 2018. I know without a doubt that God has opened these doors for me with a purpose. He is preparing me to serve in the Mission Field and I am ready for this calling. I am grateful for the doors Christ has opened thus far and I look forward to what HE has in store for my future.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

As an active member of my Church Youth Group, I have had the opportunity to be centered on Godly leaders who have greatly impacted my life. One of those leaders is Austin Baham, my Youth Director at Brandon Bandon Church. Austin has mentored me and taught me the importance of living out my faith, not only when at Church but daily. Whether in the classroom, volleyball court or tennis court, I want others to see that Christ is first in my life. Austin encourages me daily and has always been there to listen and provide support and direction. He understands the struggles that come along with being a teenager and has been a constant role model in my life. Austin has taught me that in order to mature in my faith, I must be accountable for my actions. He has expanded my leadership role in our youth to be able to minister to others who may not know Christ. I have matured in my walk with Christ, which has enabled me to lead others to grow in their faith. I am grateful for Austin’s presence in my life and I know that because of his leadership and belief in me, I will be able to continue to walk the walk and talk the talk as I prepare to go to college.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I believe the best way to live out my faith intentionally in the world today is to stay focused on the word and making decisions that are based on my values and beliefs. The challenge of living a God-centered life is hard and the true struggles come when faced with difficult situations. I consider myself a leader and I know that others are watching to see how I react and respond to different situations. For example, while I consider myself a very “social” person, I do my best to center myself among Godly friends who build me up and help me be a better person. Now, that doesn’t mean that I exclude those who don’t agree with my beliefs. The Bible says that in order to reach those that don’t know HIM, we must be willing to share our faith and salvation to those who need it most. Letting others know about Christ through my words and actions may be the only way some will ever hear about Jesus Christ. I try very hard to learn verses and scripture that will allow me to be knowledgeable when opportunities arise to share the gospel to others who are lost. I know as a Christian and believer that God has and will continue to allow me to share my faith in certain situations. I continue to be aware of these opportunities that God has put in front of me so that I don’t miss any opportunities to lead someone to Christ.

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

At a very young age, I felt the Lord was calling me into the Medical Field. I grew up in a family of Medical Professionals including my Grandfather, a physician, my Mom a Nurse and my sister who is completing her last semester of nursing school. I know there is a reason that I am suppose to be in the Nursing field, however, I am not sure exactly sure where that may be. I am being obedient to His will for my life and wherever HE leads me, I will go.

 

Maddy Mazzaferro

Jackson Preparatory School
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Parents: Gregory and Betsy Mazzaferro

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

As captain for my school dance team, I have the opportunity to lead a group of 36 girls through practice, training, and weekly performances. Recently, there were several girls on the team that were starting to cause problems because of their comments and attitude. Since the team is led entirely by students, teamwork, commitment, and attitude are important to our success. I talked with my parents and sponsor and I prayed for guidance on how to handle the situation. As a result, I first talked with the girls individually and learned there was more going on than I realized. This did not excuse their behavior but helped me to understand why they were acting divisively. Then, I had a talk with the seniors after practice and discussed how we, as leaders, needed to encourage these girls and show more kindness in what we say and how we act toward them. Knowing the entire team was watching, I challenged them to love her and treat her the way that God loves us. Deliberately loving these girls and encouraging them made it a positive experience for everyone. It allowed me, as a leader, to better understand what others are going through. It also gave me an opportunity, as a Christian, to challenge my peers to live out their faith by how they treat others. As a result, the dance team came together stronger and finished the season with positive attitudes and some of our best performances.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I have always grown up in a Christian home and family. The Bible and Jesus have always been talked about and a part of my life – through my family and church. However, I did not really begin to know who God is and have an actual relationship with him until I was older and could actually start to understand how awesome our God really is. It was then that I began to have a personal relationship with Christ, spending time in his Word, praying, and trying to live out my faith through actions. Recently, I had the opportunity to go on a Missions trip to minister to a children’s home in Mexico. I saw and interacted with many children who were needy and had so little. Yet, they were so happy and content about life and everything they had because they realized that all they needed was Jesus. The faith of children reaffirmed my own faith. It was so simple and yet profound. I fell in love with these children and was refreshed by what I had seen and learned. It made me realize that I needed to stop moaning and griping about my own life and problems. It helped me and challenged me to live my life out with joy and purpose for the Lord because I had already been blessed with so much.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At school, I am involved in my school’s dance team (the Pacers) and I serve as the dance team’s captain of 36 high school girls who perform at pep rallies, football, and basketball games. I am also a member of the student council, having previously served as Sophomore/Junior Class president and Senior representative. I am part of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. Through my work with the National Honor Society, I volunteer tutoring elementary children for community service. I have worked at River Hills the past two summers as a lifeguard, babysit for local families and work weekends at a Popfizz boutique, a clothing store for tweens and adults. I attend Redeemer Presbyterian Church and have served the community through a house-restoring project with our church. I am also involved with Young Life and attend weekly Bible studies at my Young Life leader’s house. I also attend Fondren Church’s youth events through their mission’s trips and youth retreats.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite verse is 1 John 4:16, 18-19 and it serves as a strong reminder of God’s love for me and how it impacts my love for him and others. The first part reminds me who God really is and that I love because He first loved me. His love reminds me that my love for God and others is the way to grow in the Lord. It showcases how the love of God is the motivation, not fear. This verse also speaks to me about the fears we all can have and how God’s love is perfect, driving away fear. The more I remind myself of this verse, the less fear I experience. This verse also continuously reminds me why and how God loves me; it is through Christ on the cross, that He fully expressed His love for me and provides rescue and forgiveness for all my sins. When doubt creeps in or anxiety knock on my door, this verse is special to me because it reminds me of the unconditional love of my God and the tangible benefits that His love provides me on a daily basis.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My parents have been the two people that have most impacted my life. Through every situation or trial I face, they try to set an example and always point and redirect my thought process or decision back to how Christians are supposed to live their lives. Another leader who has impacted my life would be my Young Life leader, Carter Hood. Carter has taught me how to deal with the typical situations and problems a teenage girl might face. She has taught me a lot about who God is and what all He is capable of. She has also taught me through relationship an example of what it is like to live a life of service to the Lord. Carter takes time out of her own busy life to spend time with teenagers and walk alongside them and their faith journey.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I am striving to live a life of loving others through school, work, and friendships. Although at times this is a struggle for me, I am working hard to love people for who they are and where they are in life. In a world that is dismissive of Christians and faith, love is the language everyone understands. The love of Christ expressed through his followers is unlike the love of the world. One of the best ways to share our faith intentionally is by showing others His light and love through our actions, both word and deed. By God’s grace, I will strive intentionally to have meaningful conversations with the people I interact with and to show through actions the love of Christ. Whether in times of need or with those going through difficult situations, I will strive to be intentional with my love for them and for Christ. Our world often attacks people of faith and is quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians. I want to provide a genuine and authentic example of what God’s love really looks like to an opposing world. If I intentionally make an effort with every person I come across and love him or her the way God has loved me, then this world will see more of the light of Christ.

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

Although I do not know yet what career the Lord is calling me to pursue, I am still praying about the direction to follow. I do know I want a career where I will have a personal impact on others. One career that I am considering is education, particularly teaching younger children. I have always learned from and respected my teachers and the way they have impacted my life. In college, I would like to explore education and possibly shadow others that are currently in elementary education that are of interest to me.

 

Alice McCraney

Jackson Preparatory School
Christ United Methodist Church
Parents: Dr. Will and Kathryn McCraney

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

For a couple years now, Jackson Prep has had this program called the Pursuit, which is a student-led in-school retreat. Now that I am in high school, I have been a small group leader for several years. It has been such a wonderful experience, having a small group of junior high girls to mentor to and praise Jesus with. Being able to lead by example and grow your faith by their influence as well as been very meaningful in my life.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I consider myself blessed with parents with strong personal faiths who have strived to instill in me my own love of Christ. I grew up going to church every Sunday, and I went to a Christian preschool and elementary school. Because of this, I grew up learning scripture and bible stories among my other studies. This gave me such a strong foundation in what Christianity is. I gave my life to Christ, at the age of seven, listening to the Sunday sermon. During the sixth grade at First Presbyterian Day School, my teacher Mrs. White asked me if I had given my life to Christ. I told her that I thought I had but I was young and was worried that it didn’t or I did it wrong. She sat me down and explained to me that I couldn’t do it wrong, but that I could do it again and then I would feel affirmed that I had officially asked Christ to be in my life. With Mrs. White as my witness, I asked Christ into my life for the second and last time and I have been confident in his presence ever since.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am a Pursuit small group leader. I am a member of Young Life and a small group bible study through that. I am a Capernaum buddy, which means once a week I hang out with special needs kids during their version of YoungLife. I am a volunteer tutor in the junior high of the school. I am on the Patriot League, which focuses on welcoming new students to Prep. I am a part of a Discipleship Group at Christ United Methodist Church. I help with a seventh grade girl’s bible study on Wednesday mornings before school. I am a part of the Cum Laude Society, National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta. Through these, I serve in the school and the community.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite bible passage is 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. It states, “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.” I discovered this verse during a time I really needed to turn to my faith for some solace. It reminds me that our God is one of compassion and love. There is no problem that God can’t offer a solution. I also love how it also calls us to have a servant’s heart, to appreciate the comfort we receive from the Lord and strive to help others in their struggles.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

Carter Hood is my YoungLife small group leader. Her strong Christian faith is evident, as she has opened her home and her heart to a group of us throughout high school. I met Danielle Guy, who runs the Jackson Capernaum, on a summer trip and have become closer to her as I have gotten more involved with this special needs program. She has such a servant’s heart and has answered God’s calling to minister to the special needs members of our community. Lee Waits, who is a math teacher at Prep, ran a girl’s bible study when I was in the 7th grade. She ended up following us all the way through junior high. Her fun bubbly love for Jesus is one I have always wanted to emulate in my life. When she approached me and asked if I would come back and help with her 7th grade bible study this year, I was honored. That bible study had such an impact on my junior high experience and was such a great Godly start to the day. I have enjoyed being a part of that same experience for younger girls just like me.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

The biggest way I have stayed connected to Christ is finding and appreciating the Godly examples in my life. My parents both have such a strong faith and I have grown up in my Church. My future college roommate and one of my dearest friends has such a great walk with Christ. Seeing her go through life is a constant reminder to seek God in everything I do and to be the same example to others. Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” I truly believe our faith is strengthened by those we surround ourselves with. My friends and family have been the biggest influences in my faith as I have grown up. As I move into my adult life, I hope to continue to find more people in my life to walk in Christ with-to find those people who continue inspire me to live my life intentionally for Him and to be that person for others in their walk as well.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me to pursue a career in medicine. I have been blessed with a talent and passion for science. I also have a heart for serving others. I hope to combine these qualities in the medical field. I believe that there is something spiritual about healing people. Jesus, during his life, performed so many miracles that helped the lame to walk and the blind to see. I have always loved the thought of God being the “Great Physician”. There is no affliction whether physical or mental that is above Him.

 

Gracie Meck

Jackson Academy
First Baptist Church of Jackson
Parents: Jackie and Dr. Shani Meck

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Being a Christian is to be set apart. Once you commit your life to Christ, you are held to a different standard. Our culture pushes young people toward things that truly do not matter to God, like perceived popularity or a fleeting frenzy with social media.

I have been blessed this year to help plan and lead worship in the weekly Chapel services that are held at Jackson Academy. It’s humbling to stand before my peers, knowing I am not perfect, but I’m thankful that I can use my God-given talents to lead and share the Gospel with my friends. I truly desire to show my friends that God loves them and so do I.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

My parents have always instilled in me a passion to worship the Lord at our church and learn more about Him through Bible study. When I was 6, I felt the Lord telling me to open up my heart to Him. I accepted Christ at the age of 6, but in the 7th grade, I gained an even greater understanding of the Lord’s love for me and my duty to Him through our student ministry at church. I have continued to grow in my faith through fellowship with other Christians.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At school, I am on the state champion dance team, “Accents”, and the nationally ranked show choir, “Encore”. I’ve participated in the school musicals for the last 4 years as well. At my church, I am deeply involved in the Youth group and in the Student choir. I have participated in mission trips to St. Louis and Grand Cayman and am looking forward to upcoming mission trips to New York City and Haiti. I have also volunteered at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and Gateway Rescue Mission.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Psalms 19 is my favorite passage. It talks about nature around us and the glory of God. We are constantly reminded by the beauty of nature that God is with us. Every time the sun rises, it is a new day and a chance to show others the love of Christ. “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” Nature is a promise that God is our Rock and Redeemer.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My mom is my greatest example as she is a Christian leader in her work as an Ob/Gyn physician. For my entire life, I have watched her use her faith to impact the lives of her patients, whether comforting them through trials or giving glory to God for the miracle of life. She is not afraid to speak God’s truth in declaring the best that He wants for us. Her example has impacted me to want to become a caring physician as well.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Kindness is a trait that is quickly leaving our society. Everyone wants to focus on “Me, Me, Me” because that is what the world is telling us to do. People can see a difference in people who are kind and compassionate, and who genuinely want to get to know you as a friend. A simple kind act can go a long way. Christ told us to “love one another”, and in this way “they will know you are My disciples.” These profound concepts from God’s Word are timeless instructions that differentiate Christians from the rest of the world, and have a cross-cultural impact. I want to live my faith by loving other people.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me to be a physician. Helping others is my passion and gift, and I want to be able to share and demonstrate my faith to others. Doctors get to spend important time with their patients during momentous occasions in their lives. As a physician, I would have a wonderful opportunity to build relationships and impart a Christian impact through my daily life with my patients.

 

Mary Ranie Miller

Madison Central High School
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
Parents: Jody and Laura Miller

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

My high school softball team was not a faith-friendly activity for the most part. The majority of the players engaged in unwholesome activities and typically disregarded those who didn’t follow these pursuits. Thus, as one who abstained from any and all detrimental habits, I was an outcast on the team, typically ignored and on my own. I often talked to the coaches more than I did other players, which led to the development of a close relationship with my head coach who was also strong in her faith. As a result, one day, she asked me to lead a devotional for the team before an upcoming game. I was at first apprehensive about how this action might be perceived by my teammates. However, upon further consideration, I realized that this scrutiny should not be of any concern. The possibility of positively impacting even one teammate’s life far outweighed any negative responses that I might receive from my teammates. Thus, I prayerfully considered what topic I should address and carefully constructed my devotional. I then nervously, yet excitedly, presented this message to my team before our next game. Although I did not receive much positive feedback from teammates, I feel that this devotional time was a great opportunity for me to live out my faith. I shared the message God laid on my heart and stood firm in my faith. And, who knows? Perhaps this time of testimony had a lasting impact on a teammate.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized in the first grade. I memorized my Christian ABC’s and could recite John 3:16. However, at that time, I did not understand the true implications of a relationship with Christ. Therefore, for many years, I mostly wandered on my own and played the “church game” while continuing to live my life my way. This attitude changed during my freshman year of high school. At the beginning of this year, a long-time friend of mine revealed to me that he was battling depression and suicidal thoughts. He came to me for help, asking what motivated me to live and the reasons behind my religious beliefs. I was confounded upon realizing that I possessed no certain, convincing answers to these interrogations. This lack of foundational faith completely rocked my world, as I scrambled to find the answers he so desperately needed. At this point, I realized the only way I could respond was to seek the answers for myself. Thus, I began fervently reading my Bible to discover who God was and how He fit into my life. I desperately called out to Jesus to give my life the meaning I previously lacked. God was faithful to answer and revealed Himself to me in a manner far beyond what I had even hoped. Thus, this experience is where my personal relationship with Christ began, and I was blessed with the opportunity to share this discovery and these answers with someone who desperately needed.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At school, I am a representative in our Student Government Association and member of the Beta Club. I am also the publicity chair for the National Honor Society and the president of the Mu Alpha Theta math organization. I am a runner on the school cross-country team and am a team leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I am also a member of the government club, ACT 30+ club, and poetry club. I am a mentor to a fourth-grade elementary student during the school day. I also serve the community as a Junior Ambassador for Madison the City’s Chamber of Commerce. I am a greeter at my church, Ridgecrest Baptist Church, where I am also a member of the youth choir and serve on the leadership team for my youth group.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Joshua 6, where the Israelites conquer Jericho. I love this passage because it emphasizes how God can perform seemingly impossible tasks if His people are willing to obey His commands. The Israelites’ march around the city likely seemed ridiculous and pointless to witnesses, but the Israelites paid no care to this fact and followed God’s precise instructions. I believe that God made the Israelites circle the city 13 times in order to make the them understand that they could not perform this task on their own. The wall clearly did not fall as a result of their marching because there was no result after their first 12 circles. Divine intervention was clearly necessary, and the Lord used the Israelites’ efforts to demonstrate humanity’s need for His power. Verse 20 explicitly states that the wall “fell down flat,” which shows that God not only fulfills all His promises but also exceeds all expectations in a way that only He can do. I also see the Israelites’ silence during this time, as commanded in verse 10, as a reminder that it is often necessary for us to step back, listen to God, and await His guidance.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how? 

My youth minister’s wife has greatly impacted my life as my Sunday school teacher by being very involved in my life and making sure I am doing well while also challenging me to do better. She often presents me with verses and challenges for the week that help me intentionally live out my faith. She always has a contagious positive attitude that shows me the joy of walking daily with Jesus and encourages me to view my troubles in a different light. My choir director has also greatly impacted my life by encouraging me to serve in various capacities, from participating in the Christmas program to sharing my devotional insights with the choir to leading Bible studies on trips. In doing so, he has greatly increased my leadership abilities and challenged me to grow in my faith and encourage others to do the same. Lastly, His wife has also greatly impacted my life as a mentor and Biblical instructor. She holds a weekly Bible study for young women where we study each book of the Bible in-depth, and she motivates me to increase my Biblical knowledge and asks me deep questions regarding the foundations of my faith.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Christians are often disparaged for not adhering to the ways of the world and its idolized fame, fortune, looks, etc. However, these things die with death, and the only worthwhile earthly endeavor is the sharing of one’s faith that possesses the power to change others’ eternities. Therefore, I will continue to intentionally live out my faith and shape eternities by sharing with others what God is doing in my life and attributing these providences to my Savior, not myself. In a world of growing discontent and unhappiness, I will demonstrate the profound joy from my relationship with Christ to onlookers so that others might clearly see that He is the only true source of happiness and contentment. In this fast-paced world of packed schedules, I will continue to dedicate time to spending time with the Lord and ministering to others. Unlike many college students, I will be devoted to attending church every week next year, as well as engaging in the Baptist Student Union. I will put love above all else, from loving God to loving my neighbors, and will strive to see people as God sees them. This priority will lead me to love the lowly and serve people in a selfless way that contradicts human nature and points to the Father. When I put my focus on God and embody an eternal perspective, I will find it easy to counter the world’s attacks with a gentle, loving demonstration of faith.

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

When I was a child, I saw a video at church of a children’s doctor with a kind face providing medical care to underprivileged children in desperate conditions, and, at that moment, I decided that I wanted to make this kind of positive impact with my life. Therefore, I plan to become a pediatrician. I believe that this career will equip me to meet not only the physical needs of others but also their emotional and spiritual needs. My goal is to open my own practice in order to have the freedom to use my abilities on global missions.

Alexia Nicks

Hartfield Academy
Pinelake Church, Reservoir Campus
Parents: Larry and Carla Nicks

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

I live out my faith through the sport of playing basketball, particularly as apart of Hartfield Academy Varsity Basketball Team. It’s a very aggressive game, and as a result, I chew gum as a means to help calm my nerves, especially when my opponents play rough and tough. Though the game can get really physical and “dirty” at times, I don’t react nor respond negatively, because I know that being a good sportsman in akin to being a good Christian. Playing defense is my strong suit, in that I have the capacity to frustrate my opponents with one on one play, which gets in their head, and as a result, most times account for me “stealing” the ball for turnovers. However, when I am double teamed, knocked down and roughed up, I get up and try as best as I can to stay compose and remain focused. I could use that as an analogy with life, in that when you get pushed, roughed up, kicked, etc., you don’t stay down, but rather you get up, recompose yourself and get back in the game. I’ve learned as well, when you practice hard with control, you play hard with control. In many ways, the game of basketball mimics life, to include: 1) Don’t put yourself (values) in a compromising position; and 2) If you do, learn how to readjust, have self control, and overcome the chaos.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I came to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and was baptized at an early age, yet not really fully understating the significance as I do today of my decision. However, I knew one thing, and that was, I didn’t want to die and go to hell. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more “on fire” for the Lord. I’ve realized that being a Christian is not a bore, but actually fulfilling and adventurous. Yet, it wasn’t until I started becoming vocal about my faith, that others noticed the difference within me. Well, to every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Satan turned up the heat, and life became more challenging. Unfortunately I started deviating from my walk. But, thank God for His amazing grace. Everyday is a new day, which I am blessed to have. Even though at times I slip and believe to have failed God. My ultimate goal is to finish strong in what I call the “Golden Goals for 2017-2018”. Instead of having a to do list in my head, I’ve committed to writing them down so that I can monitor my level of achievement. I’ve been taught, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” First, my goal is to complete my 365 Daily Devotionals in 365 days, and second, to develop my relationship with the Lord, by walking by faith, and not out of my emotions, feeling or sight.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I’m a member of the Hartfield Academy Lady Hawks’ 2017-2018 Basketball Team. I took a “pass” on being mascot, even though I’d been the original “Hugo the Hawk” ever since its inception. Other sports that I participate in are Volleyball and Track and Field. However as was with last year, I hope to assume my part-time physical therapy job at 360 Total Rehab, as an Assistant Therapist and Office Manager. My community involvement includes serving as a princess; “Princess Tiana” for two years at “Once upon a Princess” charity event. The proceeds of this fundraiser go towards helping children who live at the orphanage in Guatemala. I have been apart of a group that goes to Smith Park in Downtown Jackson, where we distribute food, and other hygiene supplies for the indigent population. Also, relative to my work in the Jackson Community, I help sort food supplies, clothing and then distribute more than 300 boxes once a month to the needy, from the Family Life Center of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

I’ve written over 100 Bible verses and placed them on a bulletin board, which hangs in my room. Many of these scriptures are from my daily devotional, i.e., James 4:10, which says, “Humble yourself before the Lord and He shall uplift you.” This scripture reminds me that I shouldn’t have a prideful spirit, because: 1) God doesn’t like a prideful spirit; 2) It’s annoying; 3) Eventually, it gets old and boring. Additionally, James reminds me that even if people tell me that I’m “All of that, plus a bag of chips”, relative to basketball and other sports, I have to be graceful for the compliment, yet humble in spirit. 1st Samuel 2:4-5 says, “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more.” This scripture speaks volume, in that those who have stumbled will be armed with strength; that alone gives me so much hope, knowing that Satan doesn’t have the last word. Jesus Christ has armed me with the strength that I need to flight the good fight of faith.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I’m blessed to have numerous Christian leaders in my life. To name a few would be my parents. Though they’re not “Helicopter Parents” as some, they have been closely involved in my life, every step of the way, and in every aspect. They remain relentless in helping me reestablish my barrens. Secondly, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Miskelly. “Ms. Joyce” and Mr. Oscar, better known as, “Big O” constantly challenge and encourage me. I’m involved in Ms. Joyce’s small group on Sundays. Mr. O, repeatedly provides opportunity for me to sharpen my public speaking skills. For the past two years he’s invited me to recite the, “I Have a Dream” speech, at Mississippi College, before thousands of people, during the annual, “Rumble in the South” basketball tournament. Mrs. Dawn Martin is another. She serves as the Lower School Principle at Hartfield. Not only is she a positive role model, but she’s a wonderful female Christian mentor. She sends me morning devotionals and reminds me that she prays for me daily. The list could go on, but since I only have a maximum of 200 words to express my thoughts, I’ll just say, this is a great start.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I continue to live out my faith, only to please God, and not others. As I get older, I better understand that my identity or destiny doesn’t lie, is not found, nor should be controlled within or by someone else’s hand or authority, but rather my own, trusting God for forward direction. I’ve learned that seeking the approval of humanity can never be an option for me, because it’s in direct opposition to pleasing God. “Heaven is the destination that I want to be at in the end, instead of a corrupt place where there’s no peace in the end.”

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

I believe the Lord is calling me into the field of Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine. I call this a, “Two for one-err”, in that I get to stay in the athletic arena, while helping people move from injury to productivity, either through pain elimination or pain management. And by the way, if I had to add someone that has a positive influence in my life; it would be my former employer at Total 360; Mr. Burrnet. He’s the epitome of displaying servant-leadership, while having fun, all at the same time.

 

 

Julienne Pilcher

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
First Baptist Church Jackson
Parents: David and Julie Pilcher

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

I have been a part of the MRA dance team for four years now. As a senior captain, I have been presented with new responsibilities and opportunities for leadership. I have made it a point to live out my faith on my team by being a godly example to my teammates, especially the younger girls. I realized going into this season how much influence I would have on the sophomore and junior girls. I try my best to lead by serving. I want these girls to see my heart for the Lord through conversation with my peers, interacting with other leaders and our coach, and how I accept success and defeat. This has been a time for me to create a legacy for myself. I want these younger girls to see Jesus in my leadership, and when they take my place, I want them to lead with the same humility and grace that I have striven to lead with.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. – Colossians 2:6-7

I have a very simple salvation story because I have grown up in a Christ-centered home, attending church and being involved in many ministries as a child and in the youth group and I accepted Jesus as a young age is that I have had many years of wonderful people pouring in to me, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, mentors, and Bible Study leaders. I have been encouraged to memorize scripture and apply God’s word to my life every day and to be salt and light in a sometimes-dark world. Although I am secure in my salvation, I know that I am a sinner saved by grace and God calls me to seek Him everyday and to share Him with others. 

What activities are you involved in as school, in the community and church?

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:16

I am a member of First Baptist Church of Jackson and have been involved in the youth ministry, student choir, and VBS. I have earned the opportunity to attend MS Baptist Super Summer for the past four years, which requires scripture memorization from thirty verses, to a chapter to an entire book, essays, recommendations and sharing my testimony. I also serve at a west Jackson church plant, City Church, where I keep toddlers on Sunday mornings so that their parents may attend worship. I have also been an instructor at the CC Arts Camp for children, helped at CC Family Day and the Octobermajig Fall Festival.

I am a student at Madison-Ridgeland Academy where I am a member of the Student Leadership Institute, a service/discipleship organization designed to grow Christian leaders. I am a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the varsity dance team, and serve as the Vice-President of the National Art Honor Society. I have been recognized on the Headmaster’s List and the Principal’s list for my grades.

I am active in my community by serving my second year as a Ridgeland Junior Diplomat. This organization has given me the opportunity to meet other students and leaders in my area and to serve in ways to improve my community. I was chosen to attend the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference where I committed to performing 100+ hours of service during one calendar year. Through these service hours, I designed and constructed twenty pillowcase dresses for Little Dresses for Africa, an organization that provides new dresses for vulnerable girls in undeveloped nations. Through SLI, I helped develop a project to provide children who due to family circumstances would not have a birthday party, a package for his/her birthday celebration. We collected over 75 celebration boxes. I have volunteered at Camp Down Range on the site and at fundraisers, We Will Go, Mission First, Stewpot, Webster Animal Shelter and the Chimneyville Crafts Festival.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2a

This is the passage I try to live by. I live in a difficult generation and feel like every angle of society is constantly trying to deter me from my walk with Christ. It is not always easy to resist the world and its stripping off comparison, insecurity, worry, an anxious heart, etc., and truly living in the freedom that is offered when we give our hearts fully to Christ. Something else interesting about this passage is the word “perfect.” One may see the word “perfect” meaning “without flaw.” I found that the Greek translation of “perfect” is teleiotes, which means “complete or whole.” With Jesus in my heart, and my Heavenly Father directing my steps, I am brought to completion.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and why?

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus. – Phi1lipians 2:3-5

When I think of leaders who have impacted my life, there are many that have blessed me through their love and encouragement as I am growing in my faith and walk with Jesus. One does stand out to me as someone who I feel has impacted me the most. I have had the opportunity to know Libbo Crosswhite from my first day at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. She has been my classroom teacher, dance team coach, SLI leader, small group Bible study leader and my guidance counselor. Libbo pours her heart into everyone she meets and is intentional about building relationships. She shares her walk with Jesus with us in her words, written and spoken, and her actions. She is honest and genuine, and she is solidly rooted in God’s word. She is the example of the Godly woman I would like to be.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

I will live out my faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity by living out what I truly believe about the Lord. This world is hostile because not enough Christians are boldly living out the word of God. I believe that God melts the heart of stone by transforming lives and providing hope and purpose when it seems all is lost. I have seen this transformation myself and want others to experience it as well. My heart is open and my feet are ready for the Lord to send and direct me to those who need to see His light in me.

What career do you feel God is calling you to pursue and why?

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. – I Timothy 3:1

When I think of people who have had the most influence on my life other than my parents, I think of my teachers. Experiences and interactions in childhood have a profound effect on who that child becomes. I would love to combine my love of art, dance, and writing into a career as a teacher. I chose the arts because as the child of a teacher, I know that many children have academic challenges that hinder their success in school. In the arts classroom, a child has the freedom to express themselves in many ways without the fear of failure.

 

Perry Powell

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Pinelake Church
Parents: Terry and Lee Powell

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity. 

As Matthew 5:16 states, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” I believe that the best way to live out your faith is through actions. I was selected to participate in the Student Leadership Institute program at MRA. As members of SLI, we are encouraged to plan a Student Initiative project. The past two years I helped organize a schoolwide donation of school supplies for underprivileged school children in Malawi, Africa. We gathered enough supplies to fill over 300 backpacks. We did not merely send the school supplies my classmates and I gathered, a group of us went on a mission trip to Malawi and personally distributed the supplies to village school children that have never received anything new in their lives. We also hosted a sports camp and distributed maize to Malawians. By loving our sweet brothers and sisters in Christ with the love of our Lord and Savior I am confident that I lived out my faith.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian home with parents who loved the Lord, each other, and me. However, the older I became, I realized I could not depend on my parent’s faith for salvation. I began to understand exactly what I needed salvation from; therefore, my need for a Holy Savior became paramount. With a head full of questions and a heart filled with wonder, curiosity and inquisitiveness flourished within me. I grew aware of the fact that I was sinful and was separate from God. I was desperate for a Savior to bridge the chasm between myself and my Creator. I accepted Jesus Christ into my life and Lord and Savior and was baptized on September 12th, 2010 at Pinelake Church. Throughout my spiritual walk with the Lord, Jesus has filled me with more joy and hope than I could ever dare to fathom. The Lord has surrounded me with God-fearing people to love and encourage me along my walk with Christ. I am so thankful for my school and the opportunities it has given me to grow in my faith and learn more about my Creator.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

Clubs and Organizations:

  • Student Leadership Institute 9th-12th
  • Class Officer 9th-11th
  • Cheerleader 9th-11th
  • Cheerleader Captain 9th, 12th
  • Cross Country Team 9th-12th
  • Cross Country Captain 11th, 12th
  • Track Team 9th-12th
  • Mayor’s Youth Council 12th
  • Yearbook Staff 10th
  • Bible Club 9th-12th
  • Spanish Club 10th, 11th
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes Member 9th-12th
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Team 10th-12th
  • Yearbook Editing Team 10th
  • Pre-Med Club 11th, 12th
  • Pre-Med Meeting Coordinator 12th
  • Mu Alpha Theta 10th-12th
  • Hands and Feet Club 12th
  • Hands and feet Club Social Media Informant 12th
  • Young Life Member 9th-12th
  • Young Life Leader 12th
  • Diamond Girl 9th-12th
  • Soccer Sweetheart 11th, 12th
  • Symphony League of Jackson Sub Debutante 10th
  • Zacharias Leadership Conference 11th
  • MAIS Student Council Convention 9th, 10th, 11th

Volunteer Activities:

  • Coordinator for Project Juembo for MRA 10th, 11th
  • The Blake Assisted Living Facility 9th-12th
  • Mission Trips to Los Angeles, Boston, and San Francisco 9th, 10th, 11th
  • We Will Go Ministries 10th 12th
  • In His Steps Ministries 10th
  • MAADCAP 10th
  • Servants in Faith Technology 10th
  • Night to Shine 11th
  • Webster Animal Shelter 9th-12th
  • Page at Mississippi Capitol 9th
  • Mission Trip to Malawi, Africa- 12th
    • African Bible College Sports Camp
    • Project Juembo- Distribution of 300+ School supplies filled book bags to village school children
    • Vacation Bible School for village kids
    • Maize distribution
    • African Bible College medical clinic volunteer
    • Playing with orphaned Babies

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Hebrews 12:1-2 states the following: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”. As an avid runner throughout high school, this Bible verse carries significant meaning. There is a deeper meaning within my beloved passage that surpasses the physical activity of running. I believe that God is telling us to persevere through this life, ultimately disregarding our worldly distractions while maintaining focus on God. I think the inclusivity of “the sin that so easily entangles us” is very reassuring in that God is fully aware of the sin we are tempted with in this life and he sympathizes with us. However, He encouraged us to run our race (this life), and to run it in a way that ultimately glorifies Him.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I am grateful to my school, MRA, for surrounding me with excellent faculty members who not only care about my educational and personal growth, but my spiritual well being as well. I was selected as one of six in the inaugural class of Student Leadership Institute at Madison Ridgeland Academy. Our faculty sponsors, Libbo Crosswhite and Nathan Stamper, have most impacted my spiritual life in that they have taught me what it means to truly serve with a servant’s heart and to love others well. During my four years in SLi, I have been on mission trips to Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and we will be going to Houston and Canada this upcoming Spring Break. Throughout the years on these trips, I have observed firsthand how my sponsors love people and truly have a heart to serve. I gained confidence sharing my faith by watching them share the gospel with homeless people or people who had never heard the good news. The confidence my mentors have instilled in me over the years has inspired me to talk to atheists, agnostics, and Harvard Intellects alike about our God without fear. I will forever be grateful to Libbo and Nathan for encouraging, teaching, and loving me throughout high school.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

In this season of my life, everything seems to be changing. In a few short months, I will be on a brand-new campus, free from the familiarity of home. Our increasingly antagonistic world and my ever-changing season of life have something in common, the absence of consistency. Consistency is defined as “the way in which something holds together”. I believe we are no exception to the definition. Consistency is the means by which we are held together as well. In the midst of all of the changing, I believe I can intentionally live my faith my being consistent. Next year I have no doubt that I will encounter people who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I believe that my actions of consistently living my faith by reading my Bible, going to church, or going to Bible studies can be a great way to minister to these people who may not have accepted Jesus yet. Actions have the potential to speak louder than words, especially consistent ones. I believe that being consistent with my actions next year, or any new season of life for that matter, have the potential to radically change people’s lives forever.

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

I believe the Lord has blessed me with a strong stomach and a good heart. I am being called to pursue a career in medical missions. I want to incorporate my love for people and medicine in a way that honors God. This summer I had the opportunity to go to Malawi, Africa on a mission trip. While in Africa, I volunteered at a medical clinic. This amazing opportunity the Lord blessed me with further solidified my future plans. I plan to major in Biological Science at MSU and minor in Religion. After college, I plan to attend Medical School and become a plastic surgeon. I am looking forward to my challenging, but rewarding career path and I pray that the Lord would use me to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

 

Charles “Chip” Pratt

Clinton High School
First Baptist Church Clinton
Parents: Eric and Penny Pratt

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

After a hard morning rehearsal in band, I noticed one of my friends just shutting everyone out and pushing people aside. Seeing this, I went up to her and asked her what was going on. Naturally, she said she didn’t want to talk about it but I asked again what was wrong. She told me that she found out she has a tumor and the tumor is in her bones. She is a very strong Christian but the majority of people in band are not. I asked her if I could pray for her, knowing other people would be watching, but mainly knowing that my friend needed God’s guidance. I stood with her, holding her hands, and I prayed out loud for her, just for her. After I had finished praying for my friend, some of my other Christian band friends told me that they would never feel comfortable praying for someone so publically when they aren’t surrounded by other Christians. I asked them then if I could pray for them to rely on God’s strength to be different and stand out for Christ and they let me.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I grew up in a strong Christian household. Both my parents went to New Orleans Seminary and my dad is a pastor and is the Vice President of Christian Development at Mississippi College. I grew up hearing the bible stories and going to church. As a young kid, these stories were cool and they were fun to listen to but I never understood what they meant until I was around 8 or 9. I was at VBS and that was when I accepted Christ into my heart. It was then that I decided that I was going to live a life for Christ and to live it as fully as I can.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

As a student and leader, I make sure that I am as involved in my community as much as possible, whether that is in my school, church, or town. Some of the activities and clubs that I am a part of in school include marching and concert band, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Academic Team, Thespian National Honor Society, chess club, chemistry club, STEM Advisory Board, Science Olympiad, First Priority, and Latin club. For several of these clubs I hold officer positions; I am on the leadership team for band and First Priority; I am the president of the Thespian Trope; and I am the corresponding secretary for National Honor Society. Outside of school, I participate in community service clubs such as the Clinton Chamber Youth Leadership and Boy Scouts, in which I have reached the rank of Eagle Scout. In the church, I am very involved in my youth group and I run media for our Praise Team and I am also involved in Bible Drill, in which I am on my ninth year of drilling. I make it a point to be involved in activities where I can grow as a leader and where I can serve as a Christian. Even though being involved in so many things takes up most of my time, I know that with these activities, I can easily to spread the love of Christ.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

The passage of scripture that I consider my favorite is The Rich Young Ruler through Possessions and the Kingdom (Luke 18:18-30). This passage isn’t preached on much nor is it taught often in Sunday school but when I was reading through these verses, a very specific verse stuck out to me: Luke 18:27. This verse, which reads, “He replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God,’” reminds me that God is omnipotent and that there isn’t anything that the Lord can’t do. This passage also reminds me that I don’t need material things to seem wealthy. All I need is Christ and I will have the full wealth of God’s kingdom. This passage speaks volumes to me and it is also one of the passages I use to try and lead people to Christ. Knowing God is in control makes life so much more peaceful.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

There have been several Christian leaders that have had major impacts on my life and throughout my journey with the Lord. One of the biggest leaders that has just constantly poured Christ into me is my father. My father is a pastor and my mentor. Each day I know I can count on him to be one of my accountability partners as I grow in my relationship with Christ. Another one of the leaders that has had a major impact on my life is my youth minister. I know that if I ever have a personal issue that I do not want to involve my parents with, I can always go to him for guidance and spiritual guidance. My past/present Growth Group leaders have also had a major impact on my life, leading me and teaching me the Word and helping me interpret things I have trouble comprehending. These leaders have made sure that I stay on track with Christ and I couldn’t have asked for any better influences on my life.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Each day I pray that the Lord will keep the fire of Christ burning in me so I can be a beacon for Him. It is incredibly difficult to be a strong and passionate Christian. People no longer seem to respect Christians and their beliefs but I know that as long as I trust the Lord, I can keep living out my faith. Through small acts of faith, showing the fruits of the Spirit, as well as large acts of faith, hosting bible studies and inviting people to join me at my church, I can live out my faith publicly even though it is being frowned upon and shunned. Small acts of faith do wonders and I’ve noticed that they really impact others. I’ve seen it affect people’s entire days, going from a rough day to a more positive and optimistic day. The smallest gesture, from opening a door and greeting someone with a smile to saying, “I’m sorry” as someone accidentally bumps into someone else, can do wonders with God’s love in place.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me to pursue a career in architecture. I hope to use my abilities to design and model buildings to help families who don’t have homes or a place to stay. With this career in mind, I also would love to help with orphanages and design more suitable places for orphans and those in foster systems. I aim to decrease the amount of people living in poor conditions when there is a way for them to be thriving with a roof over their head.

 

Jake Reeves

Madison-Ridgeland Academy
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
Parents: Ken and Reeves

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

A Hindu student at my school suffers from a form of Tourette’s, and this illness has caused him to often be an outcast in our class. Last year, I had a group of friends that I loved to sit with every day at lunch. On one particular day, I came into the lunchroom and my Hindu classmate was sitting alone at a table as he did most days. As I stood there, I could tell God was calling me to go sit with him. I walked over, sat my food down and tried to talk to him. He wouldn’t talk to me much, but I continued the one-sided conversation. His eyes never left his computer screen, but I spent the time asking questions, investing in his life and learning about him. As the time went by, I finally got the nerve to bring up religion. He was willing to talk, so I spent the majority of the conversation learning about his religion. However, it gave me the opportunity to discuss Christianity, and why I believe in Jesus. I invited him to FCA, and surprisingly he showed up that Friday morning. I continued to invest in him the following weeks, and he continued to come to FCA. He eventually began to have meaningful conversation with me and now I would consider him a friend. Although he is still Hindu, I believe my friendship and time that I have invested in him will have a huge impact on his life.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ. 

Although I was raised in a Christian household, went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, and asked Christ to come into my heart at the age of eight, I did not truly know Christ until my freshman year. If you looked at me from the outside, you would have thought I was a perfect Christian, but that was not reality. The reality was that I did not have love. I showed hatred and anger more often than I showed love and happiness. One night before the state championship soccer game, God led me to the scripture in 1 John 4:7-8. As I read the passage, God spoke to me clearer than He ever had before. I could feel God telling me that I was not living my life as He was calling me to. I read, “For whoever does not love, does not know God,” and I realized that I did not show love because I frankly did not have a relationship with God. From that night on, I lived my life with a different goal in mind. I wanted to know God. I began to work on my own personal relationship with God, and with that relationship I learned to love others. Even though I continue to fail day to day, I now live my life doing my best to be an example of Christ. I live to love others as Christ loved me.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am coordinator of the Madison-Ridgeland Academy (MRA) Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Leadership team, which is a team of twenty-two people. As leader of the team, I coordinated and directed MRA’s third annual Prayer Walk, organized the MRA Fields of Faith, and organized the annual See You At the Pole event. I am a 4th year member of the Student Leadership Institute at MRA which has given me opportunities to serve on mission trips to Boston and San Francisco as well as conduct an anti-bullying campaign and take part in ongoing Bible studies. I am part of the senior leadership team of MRA Young Life, and I was also selected by the school administration to be a member of the yearlong Madison County Youth Leadership team. I helped organize school supplies for Project Juembo and was able to be part of the mission team that delivered them to Malawi, Africa this summer.

I have been a part of the football, track and soccer teams since Middle School. I help with the Hands and Feet club and have served through ministries like In His Steps Ministry in Canton, Word of Christ ministry in Jackson, and the We Will Go homeless ministry in downtown Jackson. I am a member of Ridgecrest Baptist youth group in Madison, MS.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible verse is Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This is my favorite verse because it details how we, as Christians, are meant to live our lives. There are so many instructions squeezed into such few words. We are called to be Disciples of Christ, which is the ultimate goal of a Christian. We are called to deny oneself, which means to turn against all worldly temptations and the evils the devil throws into our lives. We are called to take up our cross, which means to accept the goal God has given. This verse reminds me that I have a calling that God has given me, and I must accept that calling and willingly do what God has planned for my life. His message is simple when He says I am to follow in His footsteps. Although the list of verses I could have written, and wanted to write, is enormous, Matthew 16:24 is my favorite because every day it means something different, and every time God is telling me how to be a better follower of Christ.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My older sister and I have always had a very close relationship, and I have always looked to her for advice. She was an active leader at MRA and was put into situations where she could have gone down the wrong path, but she never strayed away from the path God designed for her. As she finished her high school career, I was just beginning. My sister was my role model and the Christian leader that I could follow. She showed me how to live a Christian life while still enjoying high school, and proved it was possible to enjoy life as a high school student without ever falling into the temptation of alcohol, drugs, and sex. She continued to advise me while she was in college, and she never once failed to hold me accountable when I made the wrong decision.

I have also been blessed with a great male mentor with my SLI and small group leader, Nathan Stamper. He advises me and pushes me to get out of my comfort zone to be a stronger Christian leader. He and the other Christian leaders that I am surrounded with have made me who I am today.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Even though I attend a Christian school, the people who attend my school are not all Christians. As the coordinator of FCA, I have personally seen the number of people who attend steadily decline. Even in a school where it is the “norm” to go to chapel and FCA, students seem to be losing their desire to follow God. As their commitment fails, I see mine grow. I have always held my friends accountable when I see them making decisions that are not pleasing to God. I have a joy from God growing inside of me, and I want nothing more than to share that joy with the people around me. As I see the world becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity, I see myself trying harder to spread the word of God. In the past two years, I have been on mission trips to Boston and San Francisco where I would talk to people all day and never meet a Christian. These trips increased my desire to share the love of God to all people and realize that there is so much work to be done. My experiences have encouraged me, and as I go on to another chapter of life, I know I will continue to share the love of God. I have a desire to share the great things God has done for me, and that desire only becomes stronger when the world around me becomes weaker.

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

I have always been fascinated with designing and manipulating tools and observing the environment, but this past summer God opened my eyes to how He could use me if I had a degree in engineering. While on a mission trip to Malawi, Africa, I observed crops that had withered away due to lack of water with a river less than thirty yards away, simply because the people did not know how to irrigate properly. I felt the urge to help the people of Malawi, and I knew engineering would be the way I could use my career to improve the areas around me.

 

Kiyah Riley

Murrah High School
New Hope Baptist Church Membership
Parent: Tempa’ Temera Clark

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you lived out your faith in the classroom or at school activity.

At the beginning of my high school year, I informed my mother that I wanted to become Miss Murrah. The entire summer before entering my senior year, my mother and I brainstormed about what we needed to do and of course purchase to start campaigning before school year. Most importantly we prayed faithfully in advance that the Lord would blessed me with the opportunity of being Miss Murrah and serve as a respected Christian leader. The statement was never stated o I hope or I wish, but thanking the Lord in advance out loud for the title. The time was here to claim my title but I knew that there would be challenges ahead. God doesn’t always make things easy for us but sometimes he tests our faith and makes us work for what we want to achieve. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. There were days I worried about the outcome, but my mother would always say, once we prayed about it, we need to let it go and leave it in God’s hands otherwise he was going to let it go. Although there were rumors of what others were saying and their thoughts of who would win, I remained respectful of everyone and trusted God. Through the talent, question and answer session, campaign video, and pray the time was here. On September 22, 2017, I Kiyah Riley was announced winner of Miss Murrah High School 2017-2018.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I came to know Christ very early on in my childhood. My mother always took me to church and Sunday school. She stated that Sunday school would help me develop more as a Christian and apply life lessons to the word of God. She taught me how to pray which we did each night before bed. Most importantly, she showed me through her life how good Christ is and what I could achieve as a Christian through obedience. Everything that we have would not have been if Christ would not have died for us and in my life. I am blessed to have many things but most importantly, I am blessed to have what I need all because of Christ. I realized the goodness of Christ and wanted to devote my life to him. At the age of 13, I was baptized at New Hope Baptist Church and continue my life’s journey with him.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

The activities that I am involved in at school include; Miss Mural High School, Vice President of the Student Council, Capitan of the Lady Mustang Volleyball team, and member of the National Honor Society. In my community I volunteer for many organizations. I volunteer at the Salvation Army as a reader to the after school students, bell ringer for the Salvation Army through school, collect items for the homeless and needy in the community. At church, I am member of the choir, praise dance team, AWANA (Approved Workman Are Not Ashamed of the gospel of Christ), and hostess committee of events.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is of Joseph. Joseph being favored by his father brought on jealousy from his brothers. The brothers were furious that he received a coat from his father. Later Joseph dreamed that one day his brothers would bow down to him. The brothers came up with a plan to kill him but instead sold him to the caravan. Having been sold and imprisoned, Joseph knew that he did nothing wrong. After determining the meaning of the king’s dream, the king in return blessed him and placed him in charge. Later the king’s wife tried to seduce Joseph but he stayed strong and didn’t give into temptation. The wife lied on him and he again was sent to prison. God still allowed Joseph to rise against his enemies. Later, he was put in charge over all the land. In life we too will get knocked down but if we keep the faith and stay prayed up the enemy cannot win. It is easy to give up but our God is a deliverer of all who obey. Temptation will come but know whose child you are and who we serve, this too shall pass.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My grandfather, which I call my Papa, has been an influence in my life as a Christian leader. There is never a time that when we get together they we are not talking about Christ in what he can do in our lives if we obey and follow in his word. As a pastor and prophet, my Papa not only encourages me to succeed in the future but remain devoted to Christ. He also sends me weekly messages of the word in the mail that he writes himself to keep Christ in my heart and mind. If there is a concern or question I have about the life, my Papa will always find the right verse or passage in the Bible that will help me. With the influence of my Papa and other Christian leaders I will stay focused on the path he has before me.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I will continue to live faithfully in this world that continues to become increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity by continuing to attend church. By continuing to attend church, I will be surrounded by positive Christian people of the same faith. Joshua 1:8 states: “This book (Bible) of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” As we continue to live in this world we should not only pray for ourselves but our world leaders.

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

I believe that the Lord is calling me in service with dentistry. Having teeth in good health and a great smile makes people feel good. I would like to bless others with a service to proper dental care. I was blessed as a child to have dental checkups and preventative services. Many people don’t have the opportunity to have proper dental care so in return I am majoring in the field of dentistry. As I visit the dentist twice a year and encounter the services, I too want to be able to offer others the same opportunity.

 

Will Stanard

Madison Central Class
Madison United Methodist Church
Parents: James David and Lisa Stanard

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Through my membership in my school’s Wednesday morning bible study, Shine, I have the incredible opportunity to live my faith out at school very often. As a small group leader, it’s my duty to counsel and guide my group of about eight or nine guys and consistently relate to them the love that the Lord has for them and encourage them to seek Him out in their lives. But one, more specific, instance of living out my faith at school would be when I had the opportunity to speak in front of Shine and teach the group a valuable lesson on grace. To me, grace is the most powerful and moving element in my life. Upon reflection, I am able to see it’s beautiful mark very plainly throughout my time on earth. I have to say it was pure joy to share a personal story with the group and see that they were able to comprehend my message and relate to what I had to say. Through the use of honesty, insight, and a good bit of humor, I was able to effectively reach out and grab my audience’s full attention and teach them about the love their Father has for them. Relating to other, diverse, individuals is something that I hold very dear and something that gives me immense purpose. I revel in any chance I have to share in a common experience with another person and further reveal just how closely God crafted us.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

My first time tangibly experiencing God’s love through the Holy Spirit was when I went to my church’s youth group in the seventh grade. We were gathered in our chapel and were praying over one another and experiencing what it was like to worship our God together. That moment was very intimate to me and the memory will always live tenderly in my mid. I remember leaving that night with a sense of a very positive catharsis and the thought of, “Wow, I’ve really never experienced something like that before.” This was the beginning of how I came to know Jesus Christ as a personal savior and the Shepard of my life. I had been introduced to Christ and He had become very tangible to me, but at that time I lacked any real sense of the power of His sacrifice or what it meant for my life. As I continued my walk I would attain a much more developed sense of who exactly Jesus was, what His teachings mean, and what He calls on us to do each and every day. For the past three summers, I have been privileged with the opportunity to go to Belize, Chicago, and the Bahamas on mission trips. These trips have offered bountiful divine insight into what I am personally called to in life by God, and just how powerful the sacrifice of Christ really is. On my walk, I try to embrace what God plans for me and approach every plan He presents with love.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am social chairman for my school’s Government Club, which I really adore. I love politics and learning about or nations governmental institutions. Government Club attends Mississippi Youth Legislature and Model United Nations Security Council. Attending these events has been my favorite thing I have done at Madison Central. My bill was passed both years I went to Youth Legislature and my senior year I was awarded Outstanding Representative. I am a small group leader and the speaker coordinator for Shine Bible Study. This is incredibly fulfilling to me as it presents a terrific opportunity to council and relate to many of my peers who are not fully aware of the power of their God and His extensive love for them. I am co-president of Madison Central Poetry Club, which I really enjoy because I love reading, writing, and reciting poetry. I find creating poetry and reading great poets, like William Blake (my favorite); can be a very therapeutic and beneficial experience to every person. In my community, I love to serve with my church’s youth group. I have been numerous times to terrific organizations such as We Will Go, Mustard Seed, and The Stew Pot. I find purpose in the betterment of my community and reaching out to the less fortunate or physically or mentally disabled. I see Christ work whenever I share time with those who have not had the privileges I’ve enjoyed in my life or who seldom see love. I am also an Eagle Scout and collected in excess of $15,000 worth of food donations for Our Daily Bread Ministries in Canton.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite passage is contained within Matthew (5:3-12). These verses detail the Beatitudes as Jesus delivered them during the Sermon on the Mount. This passage is my favorite because Jesus is taking the essence of Old Testament commands and giving them new life and purpose. Christ came to fulfill the Law, and He did, because of His fulfillment we should pay careful attention to what He’s trying to show us here. In these words, Christ turns the ancient world on its head. In those times, it was popular to believe that strength, wealth, or power would determine how holy and in God’s favor someone was. Christ claims the opposite, He states that it’s people like the humble, the loving, the weak, and the merciful that are closest to the Father and therefore we should all strive to be our best selves and work to be like those he mentions. What I take away from this lesson is that at all times I must work ceaselessly towards loving and serving the people God places in my life. I must remain selfless and without pride and constantly seek His truth in all things. Christ loves and so must we.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

One of the most impactful Christian leaders in my life would have to be my youth pastor, Cory Phillips. He has guided me and taught me in the ways of God essentially since I first began a serious walk in faith. Cory has been an immensely impactful role model in my life; watching him grow and lead our group has made me recognize my own calling to pursue ministry and share in God’s love with people for the rest of my days. Other very powerful leaders to me have been some of my very own peers. People that I am surrounded by that are strong in faith have been hugely impactful to me as they can share their insight and allow me a chance to become a better believer myself. Two peers that stand out would have to be Caroline Cobb and Rachel Martin. I find that I am incredibly inspired by these two’s immense love and care towards others and their incredible faithfulness. I lean upon the example they, and many others like them, set so that I might be all that God calls me to be each and every day.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

To live my faith out intentionally, even facing attacks from society at large, I must remain completely authentic, loving, and honest with every person I come into contact with. I believe people take issue with what they perceive as hypocrisy in the modern church. I think the average person has a false image of a Christian as someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else and thinks that God’s grace is only for those with a past that is unblemished. It’s our responsibility, as the faithful, to do all within our power to correct this damaging conception. We must wake up every morning knowing that God has put us here for the sole purpose of worshiping Him, one of the essential ways in which we do that is through the service and endless love of our fellow human. We are all children of the same Father and must approach everyone with intentional patience and understanding. If a person who hasn’t been introduced to the gospel, or is even a person actively hostile to our faith and its teachings, sees us living our best lives as we are called to, then their views will change by the grace of God. It’s my opinion that the best way to combat the current antagonism we face as Christians is not through our own reviling of others and unconstructive reprimands of them, but rather to simply live as we are called and find comfort in knowing that God’s Will shall triumph in the end.

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

I plan on pursuing a career in ministry and missions. I am happiest when I am reveling in the grace of God and serving others. I believe God’s calling me to raise the spirits of all those around me and share in my own experiences so that others might feel the same love as I do for our Father. All my life I choose to serve those who are downtrodden and persecuted, I choose to aid those with mental or physical handicaps, I choose to assist those who’ve been born in desperate circumstances different from my own.

Elizabeth Taylor

Kirk Academy
First Baptist Church Grenada
Parents: Carolyn Taylor and Mike Taylor

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity. 

I am a firm believer that Christ should be visible in my life regardless of whether I’m at church, school, or with my friends. Living out my faith should not be something that I intentionally have to think about doing. With all of this being said, my school’s FCA chapter is something very important to me. We meet every Friday at 7:15 a.m. I am honored to have been a member of the FCA leadership team since Junior High, and I am currently serving as Treasurer of the organization. Being in a leadership position such as this gives me the opportunity to set an example for others. Younger kids in my school and community look up to me as an example. I firmly believe, as stated in Corinthians 8:9, that “my actions should not be a stumbling block for the weak.” During Homecoming Week, my FCA sponsor approached me about sharing my testimony at the Fields of Faith Rally. Knowing that there would be a large crowd made me nervous, but it also inspired me even more to speak. I hoped that by sharing my childhood struggles such as being raised by a single Mom, and how my faith and dependency on Jesus Christ helps me daily in my life, I might help others in similar situations. I have been amazed at how many people could relate. If nothing else, they know that they are not alone. Jesus has not failed me, and I know that he never will.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ. 

I was exposed to the harsh reality of this world at a young age. My life seemed to be falling apart when my childhood best friend called me and told me that he was moving away, and soon after that the nanny that had taken care of me all of my life was fired. To top off all of this, I learned that my parents were divorcing, and my dad was leaving. My life as I knew it was over, and I did not understand it at the time. I had grown up in church and always heard that Jesus loves me, but never understood why. When my parents were married they attended different churches, so my parents were never together with me at church. In third grade, I understood what Jesus did for me on the cross, and I accepted Him into my heart. Although I was a Christian from that point, my life has still had struggles. The difference is that I have Jesus by my side directing my path. I am confident in who I am with my identity in Christ. There is no possible way I can be a perfect person, but I am so thankful for what Jesus has done for me.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

Honors and Activities

  • National Honor Society (2015-present), Mu Alpha Theta (2015-present),
  • Most Dependable (2017) Selected by School Faculty
  • Kirk Scholar (2014-present), ABC Test participant (2012-2015)
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FCA Leadership Team (2014-2017), Treasurer (2017)
  • Annual Staff (2017), Sub Deb Cotillion (2014-present),
  • Junior Auxiliary Crown Club (2014-2016), Journalism Club (2014-2016),
  • Spanish Club President (2016-2017),
  • Student Council Class Representative (2013-present),
  • Show Choir (2017-present), Charity Ball Princess (2017)
  • First Baptist Church, Grenada—Bible Drill State Superior Winner (2010-2017),
  • Wholehearted Ensemble (2012-present), Youth Choir (2012-present), Adult Choir (2017)
  • Super Summer Christian Leadership School (2014-2017)

Athletic Achievements

  • Cross Country (2012-2017)—All State (2012-2017); State Champs (2015-2107)
  • Basketball (2012-present)—Best Offensive (2014), Raider Award (2017),
  • Hustle Award (2016-2017), Co-Captain (2017), State AAA Champs (2017)
  • Cheerleading (2012-present)—All American Cheerleader (2017)
  • Tennis—(2012-present)—Multiple Year District Winner
  • Track (2012-2016) —Multiple State and District Medals

Community Involvement

  • Assisted local church with their annual VBS
  • Backyard Bible Clubs during Youth Mission Trips
  • Supervised and assisted children in learning the fundamentals of basketball
  • Tutored underclassmen in math
  • Helped with the Angel Tree Project for the underprivileged families
  • Distributed bracelets to help spread awareness of sex trafficking
  • Christmas in April—aided in remodeling a local house
  • St Nick’s Toy Chest—Contributed to and helped deliver toys
  • Operation Christmas Child—Participated in and helped collect and package shoeboxes
  • Visit elderly widows in community

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

As a Christian, I am called to read God’s word and share it with others. Psalms 119:9-11 emphasizes why the Bible is such an important asset to the Christian walk: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all of my heart; do not let me stray from our commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”. Throughout my life, there have been moments when I have been closer to God than others. During those seasons when I am backing away from Christ, I notice that the time I spend in the word diminishes. I’m so thankful that God never steps away from my life in those times. The more I read God’s word and stay in prayer, the closer I grow to Him and the stronger my relationship with Him becomes. God uses His word as a tool to speak to us and to give us direction in life. He also uses His Word as a guide for us to live by. If we as Christians are walking with God daily, worldly possessions will not be as important to us.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I have been blessed with two major Christian influences in my life. Growing up without a father figure in my life has been difficult. My mother is constantly playing both parent roles in my life, and it is hard for both of us. I’m so thankful that there have been adults in my life that set Godly examples. In the eighth grade, the church I attend hired a new youth minister, Jeremy. We went on a mission trip that summer, and after worship one night, Jeremy asked us as a youth group to be real with each other and share anything on our hearts. I told my youth group about the struggle I had been going through without a father in my life. Lovingly, my youth group comforted me. Jeremy let me know later that he was willing to become the father figure in my life, and he truly has been ever since that night. Mrs. Mindy, my accountability group leader, also has been a Godly influence in my life. I meet with Mrs. Mindy once or twice a week to discuss the challenges I face as a Christian teenage girl. She always gives me Godly advice and encouragement, but she is also real with me. God has truly blessed me with people to look up to.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I have been blessed in my life to attend both a Christian school and a Bible-believing Church. As I move into the next phase of my life, I recognize that I will be living in a culture much different from where I am today. Both traditional media and social media are continually attempting to desensitize my generation to many moral and ethical issues in society. Christians are regularly ridiculed and labeled as judgmental, uneducated, and uncompassionate. A daily walk with my Savior keeps me focused on striving to be the Christian example for my friends and peers. Reading God’s word also gives me direction and prepares me for the opportunity to evangelize. The thought of me, as one person, trying to solve the world’s problems is very overwhelming, but I trust that God will direct my path to make a difference one person at a time. Next year, when I attend college, I plan to join the Baptist Student Union and a weekly Bible Study group. The BSU is active in helping to meet some of the local community’s and college campus’s physical and spiritual needs as well as sharing with fellow Christians. After graduation, I plan to model my ministry after my accountability leader. She has invested many hours in ministering to me and other teenage girls. I want to make a difference in other teenage girl’s lives in the way she has made a difference in mine.

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

As a little girl, I remember going to the pharmacy. My local pharmacist gave both me and my sister M&Ms every time we entered his store. I did not realize the impact he made on the lives of my community through his Christian ministry until I grew older, but I always will remember his smiling face and kind heart. What a blessing it will be to study and become a pharmacist. I am so thankful that I am able to pursue a career that I love and at the same time able to impact others, even if it’s through something as simple as a smile or a pack of M&Ms.

 

Hayden Tucker

Hartfield Academy 2018
Crossgates Baptist Church
Parent: Christy Sheppard

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity. 

I believe that I daily live out my faith by the way that I treat my peers, respect my teachers, and the effort I put into my school work, but a specific situation that I know I have lived out my faith in the classroom was on a day we had a debate in class with nonbelievers about what it truly looks like to be a Christian, not just someone who claims to be one, but doesn’t live out the lifestyle. That day I stood up in front of many of my peers and spoke of what I believe God calls us to be as Christ followers. Along with that I began to share my testimony in detail of how God can give hope and love to the broken and that just because you experience difficult things doesn’t justify wrong behavior and actions. Just because you can get away with something now does not mean there are no consequences. I shared of how today I face the consequences of my dad being an alcoholic because he’s no longer living and it drove my family apart. Opening up about my personal experiences to touch my peers life was difficult, but I knew God was calling me to do it.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I received Christ as my Savior when I was seven years old. I grew up in a Christian household, my parents took me to church every week, and went to a Christ centered daycare, but I didn’t receive Christ just because I thought I was supposed to or my friends were doing it. When I decided to accept Christ into my life, even though I was only seven, I was in a broken state and knew I needed the gift of Jesus. The summer before I accepted Christ, one of my favorite people, my daddy, past away. Less than a month later I was diagnosed with diabetes, a disease I’m still battling today. I was going through a lot of hard things and was extremely curious about the joy and hope I knew Jesus could bring into my life. I questioned my teachers and church leaders about how I could get these things that I desperately needed. One morning in KIDS church at Crossgates, a puppet skit answered all my questions and I prayed the prayer and instantly felt overwhelmed with all the joy and love that I was searching for. Because of these events and my accepting Christ at a young age, I feel as if God has blessed me with maturity that many of my peers around me don’t yet have and given me the strength to be my own person and follow Him instead of doing what the crowds are doing.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am involved in many leadership positions in my school. I am the Student Body Secretary, President of the Interact Rotary Club, Cheerleading Captain, in the Chick-fil-a Leader Academy, a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta, and in the art club. I will be going on a mission trip with my school in the spring to Haiti and The Dominican Republic. I volunteer at the Stew Pot and a ministry called Why Not Now Ministries that clothes and feeds the homeless regularly along with other miscellaneous opportunities. I attend small group at my church regularly and have preformed in many Christmas programs and helped with VBS. I have done many local missions such as packing sack lunches and cleaning and organizing a church in South Jackson to host a pop up VBS.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Philippians 4:6-8 because life is not easy and everyone faces trials and everyday pressures and these verses are a sweet reminder that the Lord has everything under control in my life if I just surrender it all to him with thanksgiving. God’s peace is the only true peace and knowing that I am to be guarded by this peace makes the surrendering of anxiety and stress so much easier. Paul talks about how we should think of whatever is true, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent. It’s easy in life to get caught up with everyone who does not do the right thing and pick up negative thoughts, but this reminds me to be positive and keep my thoughts pleasing to God no matter what my peers are doing and saying. In middle school, one of my mentors told me that when I want to say or think “whatever” with a bad attitude to remember these verses and evaluate my thoughts and that has stuck with me all throughout my school years and will continue to stick with me throughout my life.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I have been heavily impacted by one of my old mentors named Teresa. She had a very strong faith and taught a Bible study out of her home one summer and taught me how to really sit and listen to what God was teaching me and how to fill my role as a prayer warrior. My second influence is one of my close friends Brielle. Brielle has been my friend since the third grade and in seventh grade she felt called to ministry. Brielle has always been trustworthy and an amazing example of what a young person living for Christ looks like. She inspires me to be who I am and anytime I am struggling or need prayer I know I can give her a call. 

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

 As ironic as it sounds, I go to a Christian school and still get out casted for my faith. I don’t indulge in the worldly teenage experience that my peers do. I plan to continue to stand out in a good way and not care what the world says is cool and what ungodly people think. I will continue to share why I do and say what I do and encourage the people around me, even if they try to tear me down. Jesus came into the world to love sinners and we should do the same. I will openly share my faith on social media and in public and set an example to those around me. I know that if I do what God is calling me to do then he will protect me from any danger that will come my way.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me into a field of science. I plan on majoring in Biomedical Engineering and using that to either go to medical school or work with medical devices. I believe God has placed me here because of my experience with medicine as a Type 1 diabetic and my compassion and love for people. I would be helping and inspiring my community by research and creating or healing, like my physicians and medical companies have inspired me.

 

Bailey Tullos

East Rankin Academy
Pelahatchie Baptist Church
Parents: Doug and Sara Tullos

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

During high school, a person faces challenges and different types of peer pressure and temptation. Although these are unpleasant, they help to build a person’s Christian character. I experienced a certain situation at the end of my junior year. I had a very kind and caring friend that year; however, something in her changed. The sweet generous friend I once knew quickly became a bitter person I did not recognize. She expected people to do exactly as she said. She began to gossip horribly and laugh at and belittle others, including myself. No one knew her reasoning for suddenly becoming so bitter at the world. If someone did not do exactly as she said then she would act in a cruel manner towards that person. One day, she began blatantly saying harsh things and mocking me in front of my face. I knew Satan was tempting me to lash back at her; however, at that moment a certain verse came to mind. Matthew 5: 39 says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to the them the other cheek also.” After remembering that verse, I did exactly that; I turned the other cheek and walked away.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

Growing up, I have lived in a loving Christian home with two parents who love the Lord and my little brother and me. We attend church every Sunday, and I attend a Christian school. So at a very young age I had a very strong Christian foundation. I do not have some amazing revelation like all of the stories we hear at revivals. I was eight years old when I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember sitting in my second grade classroom on the second row when I said my prayer. That whole week at school my teacher, Mrs. Winstead, had been teaching us the Easter story. I remember having this sudden realization that all of the stories I had heard in Bible class were not just stories, but they were real and really happened. I remember feeling a weird tugging on my heart. The day that my teacher talked about the resurrection was the day that I said my prayer in class. I remember being so excited after that. The first person I told was my P.E. coach, Mrs. Sheila, who attends my church. It was the best feeling in the world. From that day on, I am proudly able to say that Jesus Christ is my Lord.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

As a senior in high school, I am the secretary of the student council, which leads all of the major events throughout the school. I am also the secretary of our school’s National Honors Society. When it comes to athletics, I am the captain of the varsity cheer team, which not only cheers but also does a lot of work for the little girls in our community. At church, I am the only junior member of our Hostess Committee. My family also raises several hens, which provide us with an abundance of fresh eggs. To put a smile on all the faces of the sweet ladies at church, we give a dozen or more to some of the widows at church every other Sunday.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Philippians 4: 6-7. These verses say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is my favorite Bible verse because I have a serious problem with worrying and anxiety. I often let my imagination get the best of me and worry about things that most likely will never take place. These verses remind me to slow down and take a deep breath. I often forget that I am not in control. When I slow down and recite those verses I remember that all I need to do is give all of my anxieties and worries to God. Just having quiet time and telling God thoughts and worries can me feel so much better.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

The Christian leaders that have impacted my life the most have been my old pastor, Bro. Steve Mayes, and my current Bible teacher, Ms. Nancy Patrick. Bro. Steve was not only the pastor of my church but also a close family friend. He pastored at my church when I was little girl and was one of the people that helped to build my strong foundation as a Christian. He had a strong love and knowledge of the Word. Bro. Steve not only loved the Lord but also loved his congregation like his own family. Ms. Nancy Patrick is currently teaching me in a class on Revelation. Ms. Patrick is one of the most incredible women I have ever met. She has been studying and digging deep into Revelation and Daniel for eight years. She is very knowledgeable on the subject and can pull Bible verses right off the top of her head involving any subject. Growing up in a Christian home, school, and church, I thought that I knew almost all there was to know in the Scripture. That was, until Ms. Patrick’s class where she opened the door to all new subjects and I continue to learn more and more everyday.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

 As I grow older and begin to pay attention to the news and the world around me, I have begun to notice how tolerant people are becoming to worldly things. I am able to see it on television, social media, in the public, and even in my own friends. These days it is becoming a normality to see people praising things such as gay marriage, drug and alcohol usage, and fornication. The world has strayed so far from the Word it seems almost impossible for it to find its way back. That is why it is so important for us Christians to be the light. I always try to remember that someone is always watching me, whether it is a little girl watching me cheer on the sidelines or an elderly couple I might see in the grocery store. That is why it is important for our actions to be our witness. We always need to let our actions reflect those of Jesus. We Christians need to be the shining light in all the darkness that the world has to offer. I always try to remember that although the wide road to travel may be more popular, more reward will come out of traveling the straight and narrow. We need to always stand up for what we believe in and say “no” to the ways of the world. I will continuously try to always let the way I live be my witness to others.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me to pursue a career in elementary education. Having a mother that is an elementary teacher in our town, I often hear stories from her and other children on how she impacted their lives. I believe teachers not only help shape a child’s mind but also helps shape that child into the adult that they will become. I would love to receive the opportunity to shape a child’s life just as she and so many other teachers have done.

 

Elizabeth Turner

Manchester Academy 2018
Belzoni First United Methodist Church
Parents: Jimmy and Terri Turner

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

Sports have always been a huge part of my life growing up, and God has definitely been evident in them. One particular memory that comes to my mind would be my first year of being on the Manchester Academy Tennis A-Team. I had worked very hard the previous year to get this spot, and I had one of the best tennis partners ever. A game did not go by where we did not use God’s strength or say, “All things are possible with God!” We prayed and worked hard. We had a lot of hard matches, and we would be hot, sweaty, and tired, but we would push through with God’s help. We used our gifts and talents to the best of our ability, and that was the game changer. We encouraged each other and had good attitudes. If we made a mistake, we would pick each other up, shake it off, and get the next point. We came second in state that year, and even though we fell short, I knew God had a plan. He set a firer deeper inside of us and led us to get better. For me, living out your faith in the classroom or during a sports activity is not a one-time thing. It is a daily task that has to take place all the time, and it is a choice.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

Growing up in the Bible Belt, my parents taught me who Jesus was at a very young age. I have always known who Jesus is, but on July 23, 2010, I came to know Him in a different way. I had been at Kanakuk Kamps for a week and everything we did pointed to Christ. We read the Word daily and heard so many amazing speakers. I finally realized how God intended for us to live. I realized God wanted more than religion; He wanted a relationship with me. When I asked God to come into my life, He began to change my heart. I now had a personal relationship with Him, and I began to turn from my desires to His. I was hungry for His word, and I wanted more than anything to live a pleasing life to Him. The Holy Spirit now lives inside of me and is working through my life daily to give me the strength I need. I know God is calling me to more than what this world has to offer. God has given me so much joy since then and has been walking right next to me giving me strength for each journey ahead.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

Church has always been a huge part of my life. Thankfully, I attend First United Methodist Church in Belzoni on Sunday morning, First United Methodist youth group in Yazoo City on Sunday night, and Parkview Church of God youth group in Yazoo City on Wednesday night. I have had lots of opportunities through church to serve the community. We do various projects around the town each year and help raise money and provide goods for people in need. I also have a lot of opportunities to serve through school. I have had the opportunity to serve as Vice President of the student body at Manchester Academy, Vice President of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Students Against Destructive Decisions this year. I am the co-captain of the cheer squad and a member of the tennis team. I am also in the Beta Club and on the Quiz Bowl team. In the spring, I participate in the Drama Club and get to be a Diamond Girl for the baseball team. In the community, I enjoy teaching children tennis and volunteering for different organizations when I can.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

I love all of the verses and stories in the Bible, but one of favorites is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that is in Daniel chapter three. This story is such a great reminder that as long as we remain faithful to God, he will remain faithful to us. We must not be afraid of what other people think about us, and we must live a life sold-out for Christ. The one decision that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made to stand up for Christ, not only put fear in Nebuchadnezzar, but also led him to praise God and tell everyone about God. We cannot be afraid to stand up for God in a world that is constantly searching for something to fill a void. How will anyone ever see Christ if we are too afraid to stand up for what he tells us to do?

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

My youth ministers, family, and friends have definitely had an impact on my life, but Sadie Robertson has been one of the biggest encouragements in my walk with Christ. She uses social media a lot to encourage other believers. I have also read her book, Live Original, and have been to see her speak twice. She encourages everyone to be who God created him or her to be and not worry about what everyone else is doing. I love to keep up with her on social media because she is always posting devotions and scriptures. She is also very hip and stylish, and that is something I love to follow. She is one of the kindest and most genuine persons I have ever seen or read about. Although I have never met her personally, everyone can tell how much she loves her family. One of my favorite things about her is that she is famous for Christ. Famous people become famous for all kinds of reasons, and they choose how they want people to seem them. She wants people not to see her, but Christ, and that is why I look up to her so much.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Remaining in the Word and praying is the key to living faithfully to God. It is not something we can do on our own; it requires God’s strength. The world is constantly telling us we have to live a certain way and do certain things in order to be happy, but that is not true. Nothing is ever going to bring us true, lasting joy if it is not honoring Christ. The Word is our bread of life; it refreshes us and molds us. It is our weapon in the battle of this world. It teaches us and is our example. Talking to God is not any less important. God can take all of our burdens from us if we will only ask Him. He will give us peace, love, and joy and provide wisdom for us when we spend time with Him. Praying is also a time we get to reflect on all God has done and thank Him for all of our blessings. Right and wrong can get very confusing in this world, and that is why we must know God and know His word so we can live a life pleasing to Him. Sometimes it is hard to stand up for the right thing, but as followers of Christ, that is what we are called to do and that is where faith and trust come in.

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

I believe the Lord is calling me into Elementary Education. As I have gone through school, I have realized a teacher can either make or break a subject/class. My goal is to make children love school. It is something we all have to go through, and I know it can be enjoyable if someone makes it. Not only would I want to teach them about a certain subject, I would also want to teach them about Christ. I have always loved children, and I want to let them know that they are loved and special.

 

Gabbi Walters

Pelahatchie High School
Antioch Baptist Church
Parents: Gabe and Lacie Walters

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

I strive to live out my faith every day. One particular instance was when my friend had a seizure at school. She was diagnosed with a disease called Pots Syndrome. This causes her to have seizures and to pass out. She had been seizure free for three months, which was huge. One Friday she had a seizure on the way to our pep rally. I was not there when she had it, but I was trying to find her. I finally found her at the pep rally. She was walking down the gym floor with tears streaming down her face. I ran over to her in the middle of a bunch of teachers, wrapped my arms around her and began to pray over her. This is how I showed my faith at school.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I have been raised in a church and have always been taught about Christ. I came to know Him personally at D-NOW in 2011. I didn’t want to go to D-NOW, but I had some friends encourage me to go. God had been working on me those few days that we were there. The second to last night the preacher told us to all bow our head. I remember God was really talking to me that night. The preacher said “Every eye closed and every head bowed.” He told us if you want a better relationship with God, if you want to accept Jesus into your heart tonight, if you want to be set free from your burdens, raise your hand. My hand went up and tears streamed down my face. The burden I had been feeling was lifted off my shoulders. He asked us to all come up to the front of the room. People gathered around us, prayed over us, and loved on us. I remember the moment I accepted Jesus into my heart. I felt a feeling that I had never felt before. It was like my heart fluttered. That was a feeling that I still cherish today. That next Sunday I was baptized before the church.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I am involved in many things. First I am involved in an abundance of school activities: President of the Pelahatchie FFA Chapter, President of FCA (Fellow Christian Athletes), President of Student Council, Cadet Sergeant in JROTC, and the Beta Club. I also keep stats for the Pelahatchie Chiefs football team and I am on the Rankin County Student Advisory Board Committee. Outside of school, I am in 4-H, I show cows, and barrel race. I also enjoy visiting the elderly at nursing homes: MS Care Center of Morton and Peach Tree Village. I have held a job at Crooked Creek Animal Hospital for 3 years and have been volunteering there since I was 10 years old. At church, I am on the Praise Team. We lead the music every Sunday and sing the special music. I also sing solos at our church.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Romans 12: 1-21. This passage covers so many things that help me get through each and every day. Verses 1-4 talk about how we should not live like the world around us. We must change the way we think and live by our faith. Verses 6-8 talk about the gift that each of us has. We need to use out gift to worship Him. We should take our gift seriously. Verses 9-21 really hit home with me. This is something that I struggle with sometimes. God tells us don’t hate others. He says just because they do something mean to us doesn’t mean we give it back. In return, we should give love. Verse 21, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” God is the one who will judge not me.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

There are three Christian leaders who have really impacted my life: my preacher Dennis Ellingburg, music leader Penny Carter, and my mom Lacie Walters. We have been to several churches, and I have never been to one like Antioch Baptist Church. Brother Dennis and Mrs. Penny were the first ones that I meet. The moment we walked in the door Brother Dennis greeted us. My cousin goes to Antioch, and he told Mrs. Penny that I could sing. Without hesitation, she invited me to come and sing. Brother Dennis has influenced me to dig deep into the Bible and study it. Mrs. Penny has continued to influence me to praise by singing. My mom has influenced me the most. We stopped going to church for a little while because we couldn’t find one that was a fit for us. Every Sunday we would all get up and sit at the kitchen table and have a church lesson. Anytime there is something going on in my life or our family life, she prays. She puts everything in the hands of God. She always encourages me to grow in my faith. Every night she says, “Make sure to say your prayers.”

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I live out my faith by not worrying about the consequences. At the Rankin County School District, we are not supposed to show our faith as a school. We can’t have a prayer at sporting events, we can’t go to a teacher and talk about our faith, and teachers are not allowed to talk to us about their faith. Even though we have these rules I continue to show my faith. At every football game, my stat assistant and I lead the Lord’s Prayer with the crowd. We start it off and anyone who wants to say it with us is welcome too. I lead FCA at our school. Every Friday morning, the auditorium is opened, and we have a devotion. I invite spiritual leaders to come and speak, any student who wants to speak is welcome to as well. I am the speaker some days too. At work, we have to euthanize people’s pets when it is time. I always ask them can I say a prayer for you. Then I will pray over them and their pet. The doctors do the same. I am not ashamed of my faith, and I will continue to live out my faith not matter the consequence that I may endure here on Earth.

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

The Lord is calling me to be a mixed practice veterinarian. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. The Lord has opened so many doors for me so that I can pursue this career. My childhood church had two veterinarians in it. At the age of 10, they gave me the opportunity to start volunteering at their clinic. At 16, they hired me. The Lord has given me the drive, the academics, the love, and the people to help me achieve this career.

 

Dyllon Nelson C. Washington

Madison Central High School
Anderson United Methodist Church
Parents: Curt and Tiffiney Carter-Washington

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

I was attending a school function, when I noticed that a younger kid was being bullied by a group of boys his age. I walked up on the group and placed my arm on the victim’s shoulders. First, I told the group to stop picking on the kid. Then I asked them why did they feel the need to say hateful things to the other. Lastly, I told them that we are all the same. And we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. The next day, I noticed the group of boys had opened their circle to the other little kid. And I also gained a “little” brother. 

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I have been brought up in the church. For the first 12 years of my life, my family lived in various states. The first thing we always looked for whenever we moved somewhere was a church home. Church has been an integral part of life since my conception. And it was imparted in me from my prayer that I learned to speak that Christ is the head of my life. I do not know any differently. I had brain surgery on my two-month birthday. My parents explained to me that I am here and able to do what I do because Christ sent his Angels to let them know that something was wrong with me. I remember as young as three or four my parents exclaiming that GOD has something beyond measure in store for me in this life. It was Christ who gave me a second chance at life.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

I have been a member of my high school’s Lacrosse team and its award-winning Speech and Debate team for three years now. I have been chosen on several occasions to speak at my school’s special functions. For two years, I was an anchor for MC-TV, which airs daily at our school. I was nominated by school administration and faculty for the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and UMMC’s Beyond Horizons, which honors outstanding scholastic achievements.

Through my church’s youth group, I have volunteered at the Food Pantry. The previous two summers, I have participated in the Al Joyner Leadership Institute sponsored by church. One of the community services that we were tasked with was building bookcases for a local retirement facility. After speaking at our closing ceremony, I was recognized by the current mayor of Jackson. I attend Sunday regularly. And for four years, I have participated in church sponsored sports league.

My community service activities include serving food at the Soup Kitchen in Jackson, mentoring to boys in the Canton area, a back to school backpack and supplies drive, and volunteering at the local library.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and [or even] when he is old he will not depart from it.”

It means something to me mostly because it is the first Bible verse I can remember learning. I remember hearing it from my parents, grandparents, great-grandmother, great-aunt, and great-uncles. (It takes a village!) And I remember learning it for myself in Vacation Bible School. I recall my grandparents explaining the verse to me. They told me that life would throw obstacles my way. I will meet people in my life that mean me harm. I will be tempted to try things that can be detrimental to my health and my life. They went on to say that my parents would not always be there to show me the right path to take. But I have been given the tools to have the ability to choose the path the GOD has for me. At that age, I recollect how strong I thought I had to be to be able to do all of that on my own. Now I know, my journey on this path is not of my own doing.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

I have been blessed to have some great pastors in my life. My first recollection of a Christian leader who has impacted life is Pastor Lewis Magee. Pastor Magee was a strong and passionate leader, who welcomed my family and myself into his church family and his home. My younger self thought of preachers above other people. He showed me how real a pastor is in his everyday life. And we when became ill and the trustees in the church began to mistreat him, his smile never wavered. He continued to be a beacon of light, and he prayed for those men. He continued to lift them up to the congregation. I thought that was so strong of him to turn the other check.

My current pastor and associate pastor, Joe May and Richard Scott, are other Christian leaders who impacted my life. As we have moved around, it has always been imperative that my family finds a church where each of would be able to grow spiritually. Pastor May and Pastor Scott explain the word of GOD in a manner that resonates in my everyday life. I am able to relate and incorporate the WORD into my life.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

I will live my faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity by continuing by Christian journey. As different religions are being developed and varying theories are being concocted, I will be the Christian GOD has for me to be. I do not know any other life, but this Christian life that I have raised in. From the first day my mom found out she was carrying me, she prayed this prayer nightly, “GOD Bless us with a Christian, Healthy, Intelligent, Beautiful, Bouncing Baby…” It was being instilled in me in the womb that I am a Christian. My Great-Grandmother, who turned 100 last month, teaches us to stand strong in our Faith and in our LORD. She goes on to say that this may mean that sometimes you stand by yourself. I look at her Faith and all that she has endured in her life, and try to live by the example she is setting for each of us.

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

I believe the LORD is calling me to pursue a career as a Neurosurgeon. By the grace of GOD, I am here walking, talking, running, and feeding myself. Babies all over the world undergo what I experienced as a baby. Most babies endure multiple surgeries by age six. Many have learning disabilities and cannot walk, run, talk, or feed themselves. I have only had one surgery. And my parents still cry sometimes when they think of what could have been my life. I want to help others as those great Faithful doctors in Dallas helped me seventeen years ago.

Bailey Wilkinson

Kirk Academy
First Baptist Church Grenada
Parents: Chris and Anissa Wilkinson

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

When I was in the eighth grade, I felt God leading me to speak at FCA. Kirk Academy has a fantastic FCA program. We meet every Friday morning at 7:15, and we average between eighty and one hundred people every week. Kirk is a small private school, so eighty people is a large portion of the junior high and high school. Because FCA is so big and I was only in eighth grade, I was terrified to speak. I decided to talk to a few of my friends about it, and as I spoke, their faces lit up. All three of them confessed that they had felt the same calling, but they were as scared as I was. We decided that if we spoke together, we could do this. My friends and I diligently worked on our parts, and we prayed constantly. When the day came, of course we were nervous, but we did it. Although it was not a life-changing speech that caused a school-wide revival, we spoke from our hearts and we spoke for only God’s glory. We loved it so much that we decided to speak again in ninth grade. I am thankful God placed that calling on me to speak, but I am more thankful that He gave me the strength to follow through with His calling, despite how scared I was.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

I was blessed to have grown up in a Christian household. My mother and father have always lived out how to love Christ and each other; therefore, I grew up knowing the facts about who Jesus is. When I was in fourth grade, I moved to a new school. The girl who quickly became my best friend invited me to go on vacation with her that summer. Every night on vacation, she would read her Bible. As an almost-fifth-grader, I had never thought to read my Bible. I thought that was something adults did. Through her encouragement and her example, I started reading my Bible when I got home. I started in John and then read the rest of the Gospels; the stories I grew up hearing in Sunday school started to be more real to me. After a few months, I knew I needed Jesus. I made the decision to walk down the aisle to profess my faith and love for God. I am thankful that I waited to make a public decision until I truly knew what it meant to live for Jesus and only Jesus.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

At school, I try to be as involved as possible. I am the captain of my high school soccer team, president of Kirk Academy’s Interact club, president of Kirk’s National Honor Society, secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and I love to cheer on my basketball girls from the stands. Through my church, I am a regular member of Sunday school, and I take part in accountability groups on Sunday night. I attend Super Summer camp every summer. I also am eager to attend the Passion conference in January for the first time.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

My favorite Bible passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28. In my Bible, the header is labeled “Final Instructions,” and that is exactly what it is. Throughout the book, Paul told the Thessalonians how much he longs to visit them, and encouraged them to, in his absence, live as God has called them to live. In this last passage of the book, Paul wraps the whole message up with clear reminders on how they should live—their final instructions. Specifically, my favorite verse in the passage is verse 23. It says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.” This verse describes the continual sanctification we should experience as Christians. “Getting saved” is not a one-time event, rather living in a way that you daily take up your cross and strive to be closer to Jesus.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how? 

My Mimi and Papa Dan (my grandparents) have been massively influential in my life. My Papa Dan knows the Bible like the back of his hand. He always asks my siblings and I Bible trivia, and he is always excitedly telling us little facts that completely alter the way I view a Bible story. He teaches a Sunday school class at church, and he is a wonderful example how a man of God should truly live. My Mimi is also a fantastic Christian influence. She has the most kind, pure, and loving heart of anyone I know. You will never hear a negative word escape her lips. She supports me in all I do, she prays for me, and she checks on me to make sure I am living a life that glorifies God. I am extremely thankful for grandparents who love God more than they love me!

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Being kind is a completely underrated way to live out our faith. Being kind to the people you love is easy, but being intentionally kind to strangers and to those who are hard to love is what sets you apart. One of my favorite ways to show kindness is to go through a regular line at Walmart. Going through the self-checkout line is so much easier and faster, but it can close off opportunities to interact with those around me. By going through the regular line, I have an opportunity to offer my cashier a smile and a “God bless you!” Because hypocrisy is a major turn-off to Christianity, I believe witnessing first by actions and then by words makes it easier for someone to understand what the life of a Christian should truly look like and to understand the kind of joy they can have through Christ.

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

Because God has blessed me with the ability to connect with people easily, and with great organizational skills, I plan to major in Communications in college, specifically in pubic relations. With these gifts I know I can excel at giving a company a positive image with the public. This job will require me to make important of connections with those in my company, and with those outside of my company. By living a consistently faithful lifestyle, I will be able to set a positive example for a broad spectrum of people.

Karlea Winstead

Germantown High School
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
Parents: Mark and Brande Winstead

Briefly describe a specific situation where you know that you have lived out your faith in the classroom or at a school activity.

This past September, I felt a calling to impact the community by setting a goal that I knew only God could achieve. I wanted to host an event for all Madison County High Schools, and through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an idea was hatched. I wanted a way that would show other high schoolers that loving Jesus is fun, as well as encourage participation in each high school’s individual FCA meetings. After speaking with the Mr. Buddy, the Sports Minister at my church, each high school’s FCA Core Leadership Team, and all the coaches at each of the six high schools, I was finally ready to follow in obedience to the Lord’s calling. Word about the “FCA Kick-Off” was being spread around each campus. The Monday before the Thursday night event, members of Ridgecrest, my church, joined me on a prayer walk around the fields where flag football, volleyball, 9-square, and many other sporting events would be taking place, as well as around the picnic area where we would be serving pizza and drinks to all who came. Before eating, I led everyone in a quick word, using Philippians 1:27 to discuss unity, and blessed the food. Because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, God’s presence was there, allowing over 200 students to hear His Word and experience the innocent, pure joy of being a Christian in a modern society.

Briefly share how you came to know Christ.

As many others raised in the south, I grew up going to church every Sunday, reading Bible stories before bedtime, and hearing Jesus’ name each day. Through my parents’ guidance, I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was six. Although I led a student-led Bible Study in middle school, my relationship with Christ did not begin to deepen until I entered high school. Previously, I had thought of God as “the man upstairs”, or someone who would always love me, but my knowledge of Him was minimal. Sophomore year was the toughest year to date, and I had no one to turn to except Christ. I found myself diving into His Word nightly, learning about His character, and in turn learning about the character that I should strive for myself. I began to realize that God was not like Santa, and I could not go to God with a wish list and expect Him to always say yes. Instead, I began to know God for who He was, is, and will continue to be. During that time and until now, He has become my main source of comfort, tough love, and guidance. The Lord is the only one who has truly been there for me and who never disappoints me. When I learned all of these about my Savior is when I fell in love with knowing Christ and thirsting for more knowledge about the only one who remains constant.

What activities are you involved in at school, in the community, and church?

In school, I serve as the current Captain for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, leading our Core Leadership Team meetings and organizing and leading our monthly large group meetings with the whole school. With the Central Mississippi FCA, I went on a mission trip to New York, serving the homeless and those in drug rehabilitation centers. Through communication with the other Madison County FCA Leadership Teams, I coordinated the community-wide FCA Kick-Off. Cheerleading is the second most important part of my identity, as I have had the honor of being on the Germantown High School’s squad for four years. I enjoy encouraging my teammates and working at new skills with the talent God has gifted me. I have also been involved in Beta Club for four years and am currently serving as the Treasurer. With Beta, I perform many acts of service with toy and canned food drives, youth in the county, and elementary students at fall and spring festivals. Through my three years in various positions on the Student Government Association, I have trained incoming freshmen during orientation and attended a leadership training conference at Mississippi College. As a member of the National Honors Society, I help collect supplies for underprivileged children in Madison County. Within the community, I am the former secretary and current member of the Junior Auxiliary of Madison County’s Crown Club, where I participate in food collections for the needy and supporting Madison County in community-wide events. Within my church, Ridgecrest Baptist Church, I am a leader within our youth group by promoting events at the church. This fall, our Sports Ministry hosted a Sunday morning event for all high school football teams in Madison County, and I was in charge of making signs for the gym, helping decorate, and helping serve breakfast to the teams.

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

In my Bible, Romans 12:9-21 is titled “Marks of the True Christian”. I cling to this passage, because it is a constant reminder of who I am intended to be, even when that is not the person I feel like being. Verse 12 has been my life verse, reminding me that no matter the circumstance, I must always focus on Christ. I can rejoice in the hope that my world is not meant to be made here on Earth. Instead, I can focus on the eternal reward awaiting me in Heaven. Because I have had many trials in high school with fitting in while standing out, the reminder to be patient in the midst of tribulation is often what has kept me from giving in to the all too real temptations of high school. I can look forward to a future where I do not have to struggle with fitting the status quo. Because I cannot face this world on my own, I must be constant in prayer to battle these trials. Verse 21 sums up what I truly love about this passage—stay the path and tame thoughts, tongue, and actions by filling my heart with the truth.

What Christian leaders have most impacted your life and how?

Dani Craft, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes intern that has accepted the full-time position with FCA as the Area Representative and Student Leadership Developer, has been the greatest mentor and role model for me this past year. She has taken me under her wing, as a friend and sister in Christ, to share her life experiences with me. Dani passionately shares hard truths about relationships, dependability, and Christianity, combatting what the world says is normal with the Bible. She stepped into my life as an accountability partner, since I lack community within my own group of friends. This is often over breakfast at our favorite gas station before school, recharge nights at the FCA office, or through almost daily conversations over text. Dani also fulfills the duties of a Christ-centered friend by encouraging me weekly to be a light in the dark world of high school. She leads fearlessly, which motivates me to become even more comfortable with my own faith. Not only do I get to share my life with her and receive advice she finds straight from Jesus’ Word, but I also get to experience her love—a love so selfless and close to Jesus’ own.

How will you live your faith intentionally in a world that is becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity?

Although oppressing Christianity and those who speak out for Christ has become a hot topic in media, this is not a new concept. Even Jesus faced persecution, so I will mirror my fight after His own. I will live each day intentionally seeking God’s will for my life, even when this means being lonely, because I know I am never truly alone. This means humbling myself to raise God higher. Sometimes the world will try to eat at my earthly desires, but just as Jesus faced the devil’s temptations in the desert by guarding Himself with God’s Word, I will guard myself against the lies of the world with the truth of the Word. I will remain in love and love in me, so I am able to respond to the evil from others with mercy, understanding, and compassion. To encourage myself on days when I feel as though nothing else can go wrong, I will remind myself that these are issues of the world, caused by evil in the world, and I can look forward to an eternity of peace. I must be intentional about how I choose my words and actions, as I may be the only Jesus some people see. Even though I will make mistakes, I will repent as an imperfect human, and use these mistakes in my testimony to further His Kingdom. Through it all, I will remind myself that though Satan wages battles, the war has already been won.

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

God began to reveal some of His plans for my life after the New York mission trip, while working at the boutique, Abbye Grey. I plan on majoring in International Business, graduating with majors in Marketing and Spanish and a minor in Entrepreneurship. I hope to own my own business, using the profits to support either people in a third-world, Spanish-speaking country, or people who are homeless within the United States. Using my business as a financial means, I plan on being a hands-on missionary to whomever and wherever God calls me.