Dannie's Story of Struggle

Did you grow up in a Christian home growing up?

As a child, I didn't grow up with Christian mindset. I was agnostic. I thought, “If there is a God, but he gave me this disability, why should I trust him?” For a while I even hated God. Why should I have faith? I was dealing with depression. I had to grow up fast because of having a disability and having to see doctors. My major source for interaction was adults. One day every just clicked. I began to understand that Jesus is this right way for me to go.

How did things begin to change in your life?

I was dealing with depression and isolation, because of all the therapy. My parents started noticing I was alone too much. They signed me up for wheel chair sports, and I got socially active. My coach invited me to the wheel chair basketball team. That became my identity. I went to church because my mom was going, so I went. It was there I met a youth pastor. I didn't come back until a year later, and people remembered me.

A student in the youth group wanted to get to know me. He invited other people to meet me and see who I was. From there they invited me to bonfires, and hangouts, and got to know me as a person. And that is when it clicked. These people cared about me. It wasn’t about how well I perform, or how many wins I got. They just cared about me, not my background. That is what reached me, that relationship, going to people, hearing them out. That was a foundation. This helped form the way I do youth ministry now.

I felt the call to get baptized. However, I was still very entrenched in being a para Olympian, going to school, and going overseas to play basketball. But I felt God calling me to something. I asked God to tell me which way to go. I heard the audible voice of God tell me to serve people. I gave my family mini-heart attack because my dad expecting me to continue down the track for this basketball career. But instead, I was going to do youth ministry. Dad was concerned how much I would get paid as youth minister. My dad said, "If you do this, you can cannot go back." The coach tried to dissuade me, "You can do both…" But I knew if I played at that high of a level it’s all consuming.

Why did attend Lincoln Christian University and decide to prepare for the ministry?

My home church is Clarendon Christian Church. Matthew Rogers & J.K. Stevenson, and whole staff were Lincoln Christian University alumni. These men took time to invest in me when I first became a Christian. Kyle Alt, the student minister, mentored me for the rest of high school into college. I wanted to leave the nest, and step out. Mom, and my family, were catholic. My family barely went to mass. She started attending various non-denominational churches.  For years, I did everything I could in youth ministry and catch up to those who grew up in the church.

Mom wanted me to go to Moody Bible College, but I wanted to go to Lincoln. The summer heading into my junior year I felt the call to go into Youth Ministry. I was being scouted and the next year was going to be my break year of wheel chair basketball. But I felt God nudge me to serve his people.

What do you love about student ministry at Lakeside?

I love coming into work, it doesn't even feel like work. I love the people, the student ministry, the challenges I get to face every week. The biggest challenge for me is I've been learning about myself. In college you think you know who you are. But then there is ‘welcome back to the real world.’ In college, you theorize how you might run youth ministry if you get opportunity. This internship puts you in charge and helps you determine what you’re actually going to do. It’s taught me about my personality type, how I lead, and how I handle issues.

What do you think about students today?

At Lakeside, I’m impressed because the students are going after their friends. We've had about 16 kids enter the program and return through the recent ‘Life on Mission’ sermon series. The students want to wrestle with how the gospel pertains to their life. They are always willing to discuss lessons. I am impressed how they want to know Jesus in our 21st century context, and apply the Bible to their lives. They hunger for relationship, authenticity. They want to use in the Word in their lives and in their school. They want to know how their faith can help their life, help a friend who is struggling, or when their family is fighting. They want to know how their faith speaks to their identity or can help them in times of depression. They want to know how to reconcile their faith with science.