“I always thought I’d be a doctor…”
with Gabriella De Jesus
Tell me about your family life growing up?
Growing up, I had an awesome family. We went to church every single Sunday. Before I went to an Assemblies of God church, we went to a small Baptist Church. I grew up there, and my family loved it. Then they started to have some family issues. We eventually moved to the Assemblies of God. My family was able to grow there, my parents especially. I was around sixteen and it was all very new to me. That’s when I felt called the kids’ ministry, I staffed at the camp for three weeks. And then I did that for two summers in a row. And I just really like the Lord was calling me to kids’ ministry.
Were there any major impactful moments that affected your life at that time?
I would say, one of the most impactful moments for me was staffing at a kids’ camp. I loved it so much. I wasn’t one to get out of my comfort zone, so going even three hours away to do a kids’ camp for three weeks was just not common for me. I felt like the Lord was leading me there. The week afterward, our youth group went to youth camp at the same camp. I went to the camp seeking God’s guidance. It was during one of the services, I felt called into kids’ ministry.
Who was your role model/mentor in that season of your life, and how did they help you?
I would say, my parents, we’re mentors to me. My mom’s a family physician, so I always thought I’d be a doctor. When I came back from youth camp, I knew I had to tell my parents that I felt called to kids’ ministry but I wasn’t sure how they would react. They were very open to it and to what the Lord was calling me to. They’ve been making a huge impact. I would say my pastor and his wife were also huge influences. A lot of my church family in the Assemblies of God had a huge impact.
How did you come to Christ?
I committed my life to Christ when I was young. I got saved and was baptized. From then on, I had a relationship with the Lord, but it wasn’t a very deep relationship. I would say when I moved to the Assemblies of God church, that’s when my relationship with God just started to grow. I started to dive into it more and truly started to understand what it meant to serve the church and hear God’s voice.
Can you tell me more about the specific moment you realized the call God placed on your life?
It was during a service, where I had been seeking the Lord more and trying to understand what He was trying to tell me. I felt like throughout the kids’ camp, I didn’t get anything while I had staffed there. I loved working with kids and I knew that, but I had three things that I wanted to move towards. I could go into education, I could be a chef, or I could go be a doctor. I had those three expectations. The Lord shattered those and told me, “No, I want you to go into kids’ ministry.” During that service, the Lord spoke that to me and I was terrified of it because I couldn’t speak in front of people. Then somebody came up to me and confirmed what I had already been praying about.
Can you tell me about any struggles you had with your calling during that period?
I would say one of the biggest struggles was having to move so far away. Also, I had to realize that I would have to rely more on God’s provision. Becoming a doctor would have meant a higher salary. I was in a place of having to trust God with all of it. I was a very big homebody at the time. I didn’t even like spending the night at others’ houses. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would even be able to live in Texas, but I felt a peace about it ultimately. I feel like that peace kept me going and kept me pursuing SAGU and the calling.
How did your story bring you to OSL?
I knew I was called into kids’ ministry. My pastor’s son was a dorm pastor at SAGU at the time. So I knew of SAGU. My family took a trip to Texas to visit during the summer. The campus was dead. As soon as I walked on campus and I saw SAGU, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be at SAGU but then I also heard of OSL and I knew I wanted to be a part of that too. I came to the Oaks to look at the kids’ ministry. I was given a tour and I felt like OSL would be a great opportunity to gain experience while getting my degree.
What internship(s) were you a part of? How did you choose the internship(s)?
I was a part of the kids’ ministry internship and I loved it. I knew that’s where I wanted to go because of my calling to kids’ ministry. I also loved the staff and loved the church. When I started working in kids’ ministry, I loved it so much that I would come up to the church and fold t-shirts, printed things, and cut stuff. I was just able to get more involved and being here showed me that I could get as involved as I wanted to. I loved working with the staff and I loved them pouring into me. I grew so much through that internship.
Were there any difficulties you went through while in OSL?
I would say as far as like family goes, I didn’t have anything. I think probably the hardest thing coming here was not having my family there with me. It was interesting for me, in the beginning, getting acclimated through the OSL host families.
How did you get through them?
I would say having the host families was awesome. I met the Marks’, which was my host family, and they were amazing. I loved them. They would text and call to make sure I was okay. Even the staff here was such a home environment. I love that. I think that’s why I spent so much time at the church. I just knew that I had a community here and I knew I had people that loved me here. It’s great.
Down the line, during your time in OSL, where did you see yourself after graduation?
While in OSL, I majored in Education. I finished my education degree and I didn’t know if I would be teaching. I didn’t know but I was already working full-time with the kids’ ministry. I knew that I would probably be doing that after I graduated but I wasn’t sure.
Going off the last question, what have you been up to since graduating from OSL?
After working full-time with the kids’ ministry, I was offered a position to work for Powerhouse in January. I am now the Lancaster Campus Pastor. I oversee a staff of eight, I get to hire and get to do all that fun process. We minister to about eighty to one hundred kids in the afternoon which is awesome. I get to oversee the staff and pour into them. I’m enjoying it. I also got married on July 19th, of this year, to Ky Heeke. He is actually in OSL and we met through the program. It has all been a lot of major life changes.
Was the experience what you had imagined it to be? Did it meet your expectations?
I would say it far exceeded my expectations. I feel like in OSL, what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. I loved it and loved being here. It fosters an environment where you love doing what you do. I would say far exceeded my expectations, I was able to grow in leadership in ways that I could never have imagined. While working in the kids’ ministry, I oversaw adults who were older than me. Even in my position now, I oversee people who are above my age. It’s taught me a lot of leadership skills, not only in ministering to kids, but also ministering to adults, leading lead even while you’re young.
Lastly, do you have any advice for students currently going through OSL and those looking into it?
I would say always follow the Lord’s peace. Wherever the words leading you, always follow His direction and His peace. Wherever His peace is, is where you’re supposed to be and He will give you grace for that season. Also just enjoy the season. Put in as much time as you can and give it your all while you’re here. If you give it your all, the Lord will bless you exponentially.
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.