A Mentor Can …March 29, 2017
A Mentor Can Make A Difference … By helping to deepen faith; by helping to cultivate lifelong friends and connections.
My name is Carissa Ressler. I currently serve as the director of NextGen Ministries in the Atlantic Conference of the BIC. What a difference mentors have made in my life! After a dear friend and mentor at the time, Laura Sider, reached out to me, I became an intern with the NextGen after school program in Manheim BIC working with at-risk youth. From that experience, I went to Kenbrook Bible Camp because someone, even though they barely knew me, said they believed I would be an assent to their team. That opening led me to apply at Kenbrook and serve there for three summers. My faith was deepened. I made lifelong friends and connections. And I met my future husband, Nick. In 2009 I was again pursued by NextGen and had an amazing summer as a part of a team of individuals that traveled to various churches to help with Vacation Bible School.
As I look back on aspects of my story, my upbringing and those I grew up with all seemed to be an integral part of shaping my walk with Jesus and what it meant to serve with my whole life. My parents who were youth leaders always seemed to be volunteering, mentoring teenagers, welcoming foster siblings into our home, coaching our sports teams or taking us and our friends into Philadelphia to do homeless ministry. They served in the name of Jesus.
Even with those shining examples of service and love as a kid, my path through my teen years was rocky and conflicted. In my Junior year I lost a dear uncle in a fire. I walked alongside my cousins as they mourned their father. My best friend developed an eating disorder and the addiction brought destruction. Tensions at home were high most days. I still remember friends, adults, and youth leaders reached out to me reminding me that I believed in Jesus and proclaimed that I wanted to follow Him with my life.
Today I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness throughout my life. If I wasn’t a conflicted teen, I wouldn’t understand the importance of young people wanting and needing reconciliation with the church. I wouldn’t understand why they need support and encouragement to make leaps of faith towards Jesus despite what the world says.
If NextGen didn’t reach out to me when I was younger, I don’t know that I would be working in ministry today. If I didn’t do the summer VBS internship I would not have made connections with so many churches, ones that I now get to work with through my NextGen director role. If I didn’t work at Kenbrook I likely would not have met Nick. He and I were married in 2010 and served at Elizabethtown BIC from 2009-2015 where Nick was youth/young adult pastor and eventually associate pastor. If I didn’t have my own massage/skin care business where I can make my own hours, I wouldn’t have been able to apply for the NextGen Director position, one which I never believed would open for me.
This ministry quenches my thirst for kingdom work. I feel empowered. I feel prepared. I believe God has me exactly where He wants me right now largely because of the mentors in my life. Thank you, Jesus. Amen