“Everything was so new…”
with Gabriella De Jesus
Tell me about your family life growing up?
Growing up, my dad was Catholic and my mom was AG Pentecostal. It was a little confusing in my early years because they were working it out with themselves. One week we would go to Catholic mass and the next week we were at an Assemblies of God Church. The AG church was weird to me because I didn’t know what speaking in tongues was at the time, but I knew I really liked the music. I think I was in sixth or seventh grade when my dad got saved. My dad really had a heart for the pastor at my mom’s church. He just really connected with him. After that point, our financial, spiritual, and family life got a whole lot better. My dad came from a Mexican background, so heavy drinking and partying was all I knew. Growing up and getting into the church was interesting, but really cool at the same time. It was a whole learning experience. I have a great family. My parents love each other very much. They live in San Antonio and are doing their thing there. I have a sister who graduated from Baylor. She’s insanely smart. My family was great. It wasn’t perfect by any means but I wouldn’t change it.
Were there any major impactful moments that affected your life at that time?
I grew up playing basketball. It was a big thing my dad wanted for me, but it was not necessarily what I wanted. In high school, I really took to music and the whole basketball thing started fading away. I remember finally having a talk with my dad. It got to the point where I was told him, “This isn’t what I want to do. This is your dream. I want to pursue music.” Since then, he’s been my biggest supporter in that. When that happened, I got really serious about music. That then led to looking at colleges with music, going through a few different options, but ended up landing on OSL. It was like a defining moment because I felt like his support helped me get to where I was at.
Who was your role model/mentor in that season of your life, and how did they help you?
When I was getting started into the church, I fell in love with the worship side. That’s all I knew at the beginning. I had a mentor, who pretty much took me under his wing and helped me understand that worship is more than just playing on a platform. It’s walking that out every day and serving. He was the first to teach me how to read the Bible correctly and apply it to my life daily.
How did you come to Christ?
In the summer going into my eighth-grade year, my mom forced me to go to summer camp. The first few nights, I did not want to be there. I forget the details of the message but I remember there was a message that it really hit me. I felt a heaviness that, looking back on it, was the Holy Spirit working on my heart. I decided that I wanted to stop doing the things that I was doing and make a choice to live out a healthy life and spiritual walk with the Lord. That was like a big defining moment.
Was there a specific moment that you can remember where you realized the call God has on your life?
I actually had someone give me a word of the things I was going to do in the future, which was kind of crazy. I had a dream. It was a weird dream. I don’t remember anything about it. All I knew was it freaked me out. I went to someone that could interpret my dream for me and they told me what it meant and what it meant for my future. Long story short, there was a big decision that was going to come in my life. I was told I was going to make the right decision but I was going to be very conflicted. I was told to trust my heart and trust the Lord. I really leaned into Him at that time. That was very defining and kind of crazy. Never before that moment, had the Lord spoken to me so vividly.
Can you tell me about any struggles you had with your calling during that period?
Since I guess I didn’t grow up with it from an early age, everything was so new. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the spiritual side of things. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that the Lord could speak to me through people. Going to Catholic Mass and seeing how they did things and then going to my mom’s church and seeing how they did church was night and day. My mind was in flux with the confusion of my not knowing what to think of it all. It was a little confusing. If anything, that’s where I had my doubts. If there was any kind of struggle, it was not really understanding the spiritual side and how God uses the Holy Spirit to speak to us. That was hard for me to grasp for a while.
How did your story bring you to OSL?
I went to SAGU first. During my first year, two of my best friends decided to join OSL, Brandon Dale and Tylor Ritz. At the time, I was serving at another church and I had my own thing there. I was roommates with Tyler and really close to Brandon. So every night, they would tell me all the things they were learning and being able to do. They were both in the worship internship and I was doing worship at the other church I was at. I remember thinking it was so awesome but I was still at the other church. The more I heard about the stories, the opportunities, and the experiences that they were having there, I decided to have a meeting with Pastor Bryan to check it out. I knew they had scholarships, so that was kind of enticing. I went into the meeting and when I walked out, I was signed up.
What internship(s) were you a part of? How did you choose the internship(s)?
When I joined, I went straight into worship. It was a cool experience because it taught me a lot. I think at that time in my life, I felt like all I was called to do was music. My dad comes from a background of doing production for around twenty-five years now. I grew up surrounded by that. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I wanted to do music and make that my thing. It wasn’t my dad’s thing but my thing. My time in the worship internship was actually kind of a struggle for me because I was seeing that it wasn’t what I was wanting to do. It wasn’t making me happy. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled during that internship. I was also friends with Joe Jarvis, which had just started working under the creative arts team. He was telling me about the need they have there. He told me how it was great but there wasn’t a lot of people doing that internship. At that same time, Tylor had just been hired under Kelvin Co for his administrative position, and he was telling me all the cool things he was doing with him. I was in my junior year of college, and I thought I might as well have something else under my belt. If I wanted to do music, I could still do that and so I joined a production team. The whole time with the creative team, I learned the most I’ve ever learned in my entire life.
Were there any difficulties you went through while in OSL?
I think you have an expectation, or a certain idea, in your head of where you think something is going to go. You have a preconceived idea of what you will learn and do. When you get there, sometimes it’s the opposite. You can find yourself doing the things you didn’t want to do but you also have to be faithful through that. I experienced some of those things. I also experienced the battle of not knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I think a lot of college students feel that at some point in their college careers. I had to deal with all those thoughts and at the end of the day, by making that transition, I saw the Lord in it.
How did you get through them?
I had a phenomenal support system with my friends. I think we all leaned on each other throughout our college career and that was a huge help for me. Whenever I would get off focus or get off the line, they’d helped me get back on track and point me towards the Lord. It was really cool. I think it was so vital, having that supportive cast. When I got here, it was so fun doing what we loved and we were all in different departments doing different things. It was cool to be doing life together, learning and growing.
Down the line, during your time in OSL, where did you see yourself after graduation?
I ultimately wanted to do music. Funny enough, I also saw myself serving the church in some way, but not actually working at the church. But ultimately, God had different plans.
Going off the last question, what have you been up to since graduating from OSL?
I came on to work at the Oaks on February 24, 2018. It’s been over a year now. When I came on, I was in my head trying to fill shoes that I was incapable of filling. Our previous lighting guy was insane. He was just one of my best friends and he taught me pretty much everything. So I was intimidated. At the same time, I was taking nineteen hours and finishing my last semester, while starting a new job. It was very hectic but it’s been amazing working here because after going through that season, I feel like I can do anything. I continue to grow and I’ve already seen the changes that we’ve made here for the good. I’ve also seen how we’re continuing to grow as a team and building culture. It’s been awesome.
Was the experience what you had imagined it to be? Did it meet your expectations?
Definitely not what I imagined it to be. I had a whole different idea of how I thought it was going to layout, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was even better than what I thought it could be. I never thought, in a million years, when I was serving at my other church, that I would eventually leave, intern, and eventually work at the Oaks. I know it doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s been a true honor and a real blessing. I have my dream job right now with a great group of very supportive co-workers. I’m also surrounded by leaders in my life that are just amazing. So I’m very blessed to be here.
Lastly, do you have any advice for students currently going through OSL and those looking into it?
I remember experiencing was the grind of OSL, especially when school would get really hard and really busy towards the end of the semester. I would want to tell people it is so worth it and so fulfilling to push through that and not give up. I remember many times of driving home from a long day of school internship here at the Oaks and crying in my car just from stress, tiredness, and weariness. Pushing through those days and having my support, my friends, and my family made it all worth it. It’s amazing to be able to apply what you’re learning at SAGU here, and also take what you’re learning here for accelerated growth. You can’t really find that anywhere else.
The Oaks School of Leadership (OSL) at Oaks Church was founded in 2009 and since then more than 600 students have gone through OSL. Many serve in high-caliber leadership positions throughout our nation and around the world. OSL exists to position students for effective leadership in a variety of capacities, including ministry, non-profit and business leadership, by providing students with hands-on leadership training combined with a degree from an accredited university.