Alumnus Justin Shetler (Class of 2017) is currently serving in the School of Ministry and Missions at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Throughout this yearlong program, he will be reading various books on leadership in ministry, emotional health in faith and spirituality, and pastoral roles in ministry. In addition to this, he is also working with Bobby Smith in the Worship and Arts ministry at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.

Justin has received a lot of different opinions from both teachers and students about Christian schools, and not all of them have been positive. In response, Justin said, “I am grateful to have gone to a Christian school. Throughout the entirety of both middle school and high school, I struggled continuously with depression. I grew up going to church, so I knew a lot about God and the Bible, but all I had was knowledge. I lacked the wisdom to apply that knowledge to my life. However, I was lucky to have a number of teachers that helped guide in my walk with Christ.”

Justin also commented on his teachers: “One of my science teachers, David Cain, opened every class with a short devotional from Proverbs. Although some of my classmates thought this time was a waste and just something that was boring to get through, (I’ll admit, sometimes I didn’t have the best attitude about it either), looking back I am grateful for that time because it allowed me to listen to and learn from someone older and wiser than myself. Another teacher that I am grateful for is Brian Hunt, my Apologetics teacher senior year. His testimony was truly inspiring to me, and I was able to relate to a lot of what he struggled with in his own life. He showed me by his own example just how amazing and wonderful the redeeming power and love of Christ is in our lives. Finally, I have to mention Dr. Judy Romanchuk. As I have mentioned, I struggled with depression very heavily in high school. I was overly critical of myself in all areas of my life, and I saw myself as a burden to my teachers, but that changed because of a single conversation with Dr. Romanchuk. I can still clearly remember the conversation. Although she was frustrated with me for repeatedly not turning in my assignments, she was more frustrated with me because she knew that I was more than capable to complete the writing with excellence. She told me that the papers I wrote were wonderfully written, and if I would just turn them in I would get good grades. That was the first time a teacher took the time to specifically say to me that they believed in me personally, and it has stuck with me ever since. Her class was one of my favorites.”

Regarding the extra-curricular program for the praise band, Justin says, “Through the student worship band at JFCA, I met Bobby Smith, the mentor for the band as well as the Worship and Arts Pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Throughout my time in the band, I learned from Bobby not only what it means to lead worship with an instrument, but also what it means to be a man of God. That mentorship has continued beyond high school, and he remains the man I look up to the most. What is truly amazing and special to me is that now, five years later, I have the opportunity to work alongside him in mentoring the same band that God used to begin a major change in my life, and ultimately lead to me realizing what it means to have a relationship with the God of the universe.”

One thing Justin wants to communicate to the students of JFCA is, “More than anything else, love each other and encourage each other. Matthew 22:37-39 instructs us to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ I spent too much time and energy in high school harboring hatred and anger in my heart. I let it affect my friendships and relationships, but the truth is you never know what people are going through or struggling with, and the smallest kind word or action could be the difference between life and death for someone. Be there for people. Even if you aren’t a Christian, love people. Be there for people, especially the ones you care about. Be honest about what you’re struggling with, and don’t hide the painful and uncomfortable emotions from those who are close to you and care about you. If you are a Christian, show the incredible love of Christ to everyone you interact with.”

In addition, Justin shared, “In my sophomore year, I reached a low point with my depression, and I wanted to end my own life. But it was the reaching out of another student that helped change my mind. They showed the love of Christ to me when I thought I was worth absolutely nothing at all. I want to encourage all of you to be brave, be bold, and don’t shy away from real and painful emotions. Whether they are yours or someone else’s, don’t look away. Jesus loves every single one of you more than His own life, and He is always thinking of you. If He loves us all that much, we can love each other enough to support one another through difficult times.”

Justin’s message to JFCA parents is, “To any parents that may be reading this, I can tell you that going to JFCA significantly changed the trajectory of my life. Much of what I have learned about the importance of being a man of God and showing the love of Christ to others, I learned because of my experience at JFCA. The administration works hard to provide teachers that believe in the students and invest in their futures. I truly would not be anywhere close to who I am today had it not been for my experiences at JFCA. I am forever grateful.”