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Jessica McDougald is a third-year master of divinity student at Campbell University Divinity School and youth minister at Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is currently serving as an Ernest C. Hynds intern at Good Faith Media.

  1. What story, verse or passage from your faith tradition’s sacred texts has significantly influenced / shaped your life?

The story of Esther is one that has always resonated with me.

It is the story of a girl who is called to do a hard, scary thing and, despite doubt and fear, faithfully carries out that calling, saving her people in the process. It’s the story of a girl who is able to be used by God not in spite of her womanhood, but because of it.

Whenever I face a new and scary opportunity, I remind myself of the words that Mordecai spoke to Esther – “and who knows but that you have come into this royal position for such a time as this.”

  1. Who are three people (other than your family) who have shaped your life and worldview? And why?

First, my youth minister Andy – not only did he see in me a potential for leadership and offer me leadership roles within the youth group, but he also encouraged me to be my authentic self, rather than a carbon copy of someone else. He has helped me work through struggles and doubt in my faith journey. Even to this day, 13 years after having graduated from the youth group, he is someone I know I can call on.

Second, I was going through a period in my life after a failed college experience and was feeling rather aimless, so I began to see a Buddhist meditation guide once a week. She’s the first person to really ask what it was that I was feeling called to do with my life, and she was the first person to encourage me to follow the tug I was feeling towards ministry.

Third, years ago I worked at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic. It was not a glamorous job – there was a lot of grunt work involved, originally just something that would pay my bills and provide grocery money. Quickly, however, this job became something much more influential. I was able to spend a lot of time with our patients, and the experience of meeting them and learning from them was absolutely one of the most important experiences I’ve had. These patients, as well as the 12-step communities that worked alongside our clinic, turned my previous worldview on its own head and opened my eyes to the way God works in and through broken situations – how there’s no such thing as a person being too far gone, there’s no such thing as “too late,” and there’s no such thing as a person who is not a dearly loved, important, valued, child of God.

  1. List three of your “desert island” books, movies or TV shows.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, easily my favorite fiction series.

The Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda, my very first poetry love.

Anything that Nadia Bolz-Weber has written. I am both delighted and challenged by everything I read by her.

  1. What is one of the most critical issues people are facing today?

I think Christian nationalism is a huge issue – one that doesn’t just affect the church but the entire country. We have made an idol of our politics and political leaders and, in doing so, have threatened the foundation on which our country was built and perverted the true mission of the church.

  1. What are a few of your hobbies?

Reading (fiction, science-fiction, mystery, horror) and writing (spiritual blogs, poems and grocery lists, writing about weird dreams that I had the previous night, about what happened to me any given day, about what I wished had happened to me any given day, etc. Writing, all the time, everywhere, about everything).

  1. If you could freeze your life into an already-lived 10 seconds, what would they be?

Last summer, my family spent a long weekend at the coast. One day we were on the beach, the sunshine warm on our shoulders and there were hundreds of starfish washed up on the sand. My husband picked one up and put it in my five-year-old daughter’s open palm, and she held it really gently, amazed at what was in her hand. That moment was easily one of the most memorable of the whole year.

  1. Our tagline at Good Faith Media is, “There’s more to tell.” What’s your “more to tell”?

There is power in vulnerability and authenticity – the gifts that you were given and the stories you have to tell are not accidental. Someone needs to hear your voice, your experience, your most hard and honest answers – so speak up!

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