“It was almost as if OSL recruited a seventh-grader…”
with Gabriella De Jesus
Tell me about your family life growing up?
I’ve grown up in a pastoral household my entire life. My dad was a youth pastor when I was born. He remained a youth pastor under several different churches until I was about fourteen years old. At that point, he became the campus pastor of a different church. When we moved on from that church, he became the communications pastor and connections pastor at another church down here in Houston. I always kind of grew up in an atmosphere of spirituality. I think that really kind of helped me see how much that can change people and the positivity that it can bring to them. I kind of wanted to bring that my own life.
Were there any major impactful moments that affected your life at that time?
When I was about fifteen years old, I struggled a bit with my faith. I kind of realized that I was going through the motions and not taking in all that the Lord had for me. As I began to see that, I started to question everything, as one does. I remember sitting at a youth camp with some friends of mine. I started talking to them about what their faith means to them and why they believe the way they do even though they didn’t grow up in that atmosphere the way I did. Because I had grown so used to it, it was almost like I was numb to it in a sense. As I began to listen to what it all meant to them, and how the word changed their lives, it gained a new realness to me. It was as if everything I’d ever grown up knowing had been reignited. It was a turnaround moment for me.
Who was your role model/mentor in that season of your life, and how did they help you?
I can only give the basic answer that my mentor was my father. We had always grown up in an almost nomadic atmosphere. With him being a youth pastor we would move from place to place and church to church kind of frequently. Through all of that, I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes of ministry. It made me realize how much of it relied on endurance and the ability to never quit. He never stopped and he was always around people. He showed me what it was to pour into others. It was incredible to see how much he was able to take care of, while also pouring out a relentless amount of love to people. I thought that it was always incredible that he could do that, regardless of everything we had to go through.
How did you come to Christ?
As I was saying earlier, I was fifteen, when I started to see the realness of Christ and how much the Lord has been ever-present in my life. I began to see how blessed I was to have grown up in that atmosphere. Oh, goodness, I can’t even describe how it almost felt like all of the questions I had regarding why I was born in a pastoral home. All of that kind of became clear when He spoke to me and said, “I gave you all of this so you could grow up and know me and then share that kind of thing.” It was that moment at the youth camp that turned me around and helped me pursue God the way I needed to.
Was there a specific moment that you can remember where you realized the call God has on your life?
I was during that same summer I rededicated my life to Christ. My dad was a campus pastor at a church and while we were there, he knew that I was adept with pro-presenter and other little technical things that most churches used for their media. He told me that the church was short-staffed in the kids’ department and asked me to help them with their media. At the time, I was not a fan of kid’s ministry whatsoever. I thought the kids were the most annoying things on the planet. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I honestly just saw it as a favor to my dad. One day while I was helping, I remember this kid coming up to me after the service just bawling and he asked me, “If God really loves me, why did he let my parents split up?” I was shocked because he was only seven years old and already questioning all of this. I didn’t realize that children, even at such a young age, could struggle with those kinds of thoughts. It struck me a little bit and I couldn’t help but sit there and cry as I prayed with him. Afterward, I just sat there and it felt as if God told me directly, “Do you understand what you’re doing now?” At that moment, I just knew I had a calling to minister to kids.
Can you tell me about any struggles you had with your calling during that period?
I have always kind of felt a bit of a struggle with like my value and ability to do what it is that I’m kind of called to do. I feel like that’s kind of common amongst our generation. So things that have kind of helped me with that is to remember that when you’re struggling to find your value, remember that your value isn’t determined by how big your audience is. I had this image in my head that my success as a minister, or as a disciple-maker, was determined by the number of people that I had led to Christ or had been discipling. It’s not about the quantity of those you disciple, but the quality of how you disciple. You can speak to a crowd of thousands, but if your words go in one ear and out the other are lives being changed? What was accomplished?
How did your story bring you to OSL?
I think you have a really funny story when it comes to how I joined OSL. The summer before I entered seventh grade, I went to the National Fine Arts in Orlando because my dad was a youth pastor and several of the students had made it there. I had already heard of SAGU, being in the Assemblies of God. Right next to their booth was OSL’s booth. I’m in the seventh grade, so obviously, I’m not worried about what college, but I’m around to see tables will give me free stuff. I remember putting my name on a little card in exchange for free stuff. I had no idea what the school even was and had no idea that it was partnered with SAGU. Regardless, the summer after I graduated, I got a call from someone at OSL saying, “Hey! I know it’s been a while, but do you remember the Oaks School Leadership booth that you gave your information to? Are you still planning on coming by and doing this whole ministry thing?” I remember thinking that it was awfully vague, but I had remembered them. They continued to tell me about the school and the opportunities with SAGU and everything. I think it’s really funny that they held onto my card and information for so long. It was almost as if OSL recruited a seventh-grader and kept me that long.
What internship(s) are you in, or have you been in? How did you choose that/those internship(s)?
Growing up in ministry and getting the calling to be in kids’ ministry, it felt obvious to join the kids’ internship. I went and began working directly under Brett Rogers. During that time, he and I got close, and after some mentoring from him, I saw that, while my calling was with kids that might have not been the internship I needed to be in. I felt that I had the opportunity to make a valuable impact elsewhere. I prayed about it and I had the feeling that the Lord was pulling me in the direction of Kids’ Evangelism. I decided to switch over and I now serve Powerhouse as the chapel director for the program. Powerhouse, for those who might not know, is a before and after school program that we are a part of at each Life School Charter School campus in the area. Each campus has your typical before and after school tutoring opportunities and regular school curriculum, but on Mondays, we have chapel services. I am the director of those chapel services. I do whatever I can to support the volunteers and make sure that the chapel services don’t only work for the program, but also each campus.
Have there been any difficulties you have gone through while in OSL?
I don’t come from the wealthiest of households. Finances were always a bit of a struggle for me. During my first two years of college, I didn’t have a car. It was a struggle finding a way to get to different places. It was hard trying to find that way to make it financially, while also having faith that God would somehow make it work.
How have you gotten through them?
The people in OSL. The other interns, especially within your internship. You make friends so quickly and everyone is more than willing to give you rides or support you with whatever you need. The school is so generous with helping students, especially because they know that you’re doing what the Lord called you to do. They’re not going to let finances stop you. I’ve been blessed in that.
Down the line, where do you see yourself after graduating from OSL?
After graduating from OSL, I would love to be a church planter. That has been a passion of mine since I was sixteen years old, because of my dad being the campus pastor. That church was working out of a school and I was able to do the whole pipe and drape, church on wheels type deal. Even now with helping out where I can while I’m home at Hope City Church. I’ve always kind of loved helping people get set up and find what they need. I have had a passion for teaching people to teach. I don’t know why I do. I think it’s a cool opportunity to build people up and build their confidence in what they’re doing.
What are your hopes for the time that you will spend in OSL?
I hope for a continued opportunity to build upon myself. Being twenty years old, I’m not 100% equipped to take on the world. I know that if I keep with it and continue my education while working hard, I will ultimately have the tools and means to do all that it is that the Lord is pulling me towards and putting on my heart to do.
Lastly, do you have any advice for your peers currently going through OSL and those looking into it?
Pray about literally everything. I can’t tell you how badly people will get hurt if you just kind of rush into things without praying about it beforehand. I’ve seen it in myself where I’ve pushed myself into things. I ended up not only hurting, you know, myself, but also my friendships and my schooling. It’ll burn you out emotionally and spiritually if you don’t take a step back and analyze what it is you’re supposed to be doing at that moment. Also, don’t be afraid of slow times, either. Oftentimes, a slowness can come just before you’re about to do something pretty big. If you feel that slowness, don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid to rest for a moment and take what is in your hands instead of overfilling your plate.
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.