Christian Leaders Institute Degree
To Minister to More People
Jennifer Zelop’s Life Story and Connection to Christian Leaders Institute and College
I remember vividly as a child being mesmerized by nuns and priests. It was so unimaginable to me that people got to “work” for God. That’s how I saw it. God was their employer. My understanding was that it was more of a vocation than a call to serve. I was mesmerized because I couldn’t believe that they got to fulfill what I considered the best job on Earth! I didn’t grow up wanting to be a nun. In fact, I can clearly remember as a child longing to be a mom. I knew I wanted to be a mom. However, I knew I wanted to grow up and work for God. He would be my boss.
Not having a formal religious upbringing, I didn’t really understand who God is or what it really meant to “work” for Him. I did, however, have a very strong draw to Him. My mom would always share a specific story about me. She said how were in a store and someone asked my mom, “Is this your daughter?” and, of course, she replied, “Yes.” And then I screamed out, “I’m not your child, I’m God’s.” She was so embarrassed. She thought someone would think she kidnapped me!
I just loved God. I would always talk to Him. At times, I would even think about what He looked like. My maternal grandmother had a picture of Jesus sitting on her dresser. I would just sit and stare at it. More like a gaze! I also thought my grandmother knew Him personally. That’s how I viewed the picture. Like He gave it to her! My grandmother would read the Bible to me. She would also let me listen to Billy Graham on the radio on Sunday’s when I would visit. This was all the exposure I received. I never had any formal education about God. We didn’t attend church as a family and my parents didn’t instill any religious education upon us. Yet still, I had this longing to know Him.
My upbringing was tumultuous. Both my parents were alcoholics. But I knew God had a bigger plan for me. I just felt it. Talking to Him made me feel different. I felt Him there with me through all the horrible times. Even as it happened, I never asked, “Why me?” and I never felt abandoned by God. Quite the opposite. I always felt Him with me. Things were so bad that I knew it was Him protecting me, guiding me, and literally saving me.
When it was time for me to go to college, by God’s grace, I ended up getting into a Jesuit college, which meant I finally received unlimited formal religious education. It was during this time that I gained a better understanding of church and being around others who are Christian. I flourished during this time. It felt like my parent’s problems were no longer my problems. I felt free. Finally, I could be the person who was hiding inside. Then it all came crashing down. My father committed suicide.
It was a shock to our entire family. This was a big turning point for me. I was just about to graduate from college and was interviewing at all these high-powered accounting firms. And then my world changed. I did not get mad at God. I didn’t. There wasn’t a why pity party, there wasn’t a woe is me pity party, I was just overburdened. Overburdened with finishing school, my mom, my siblings, finding a job, fully financially supporting myself and everything else thrown in there. My commitment through study and prayer and really discovery of God and who He is, came to a screeching halt. I turned to being of this world. Soon, I landed a fast-paced high paying job where alcohol was plenty at corporate parties, and everyone was cheating on their spouses. I fell right into it. My heart never felt alright though.
Through all those years working and partying and committing sexual impurity, I always felt Him. I always knew and felt the wrong I was doing. It’s like a nudge in your gut. I still can bring myself back to those moments and feel the uneasiness. Fast forward five years, and I couldn’t do it anymore, so I left the fast-paced lifestyle for a more serene corporate job. A 9-5 job, so to speak. This was a much better environment for me. It was during this season in my life when I would explain myself as “spiritual.” It’s not that I didn’t believe in God. Quite the opposite, I believed God is in charge of everything so I thought it was okay to have Buddhas in my house or quote other “gods” and “goddesses” as spiritual authority figures. Not fully understanding the sins I was committing. I’m just so grateful for His mercy!
I also explored tarot cards, psychics, and crystals. Again, mentally to me all falling under the “spiritual” umbrella. At this time, I got pregnant with my first child. The next 10 years would be about growing and getting closer to God putting away all the other “spiritual” nonsense. As a family we attended church. I prayed and talked to God all the time.
Fast forward ten years, my husband committed adultery and ended our marriage. It was such a dark time for me. The next two years would lead me to surrender on my knees to Jesus, in a dark room of the house. Literally, I thought everything was hopeless. I’d like to say that my circumstances turned around, however, something even better happened. They got worse. This time though, I knew it was Jesus changing everything in my life so that I could become the person He created me to be, the person who wanted to devote their life to Him.
That’s what led me to Christian Leaders Institute. Since a child, it was on my heart to serve the Lord. In a big way. So, I prayed to Him about going back to school for ministry. And I knew going back to school was only a problem God could solve. I had no money and no time for traveling to classes. I would take a couple of hours every day scattered throughout the day to look for an online program that supported a financial scholarship. The interesting thing, CLI never popped up.
After a couple of weeks, I got so discouraged. I was new to Christianity and praying to God, so little roadblocks for me meant big roadblocks for me. I didn’t know who God is and therefore I limited Him and what He’s capable of. Not finding a school meant that this wasn’t meant for me.
One day, I was sitting in the house and something inside of me stirred up and said to go do another search. I listened. This time Christian Leaders Institute popped right up. I knew the Lord had sent you! I was elated. So happy! I enrolled immediately. Through the courses and daily worship and praise to the Lord, He began big changes in me. Changes in my thoughts, my behavior, my friends, and He even had me leave my town and move away! I remember sometimes having to watch videos and take quizzes at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning, but I didn’t care! I was so happy to be in the word and pursuing a degree that would allow me to “work for God!”
The entire experience at CLI/CLI has been a gift. From the simple basics of administrative all the way to the quality of the professors and classes. You’re all so professional, knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. Your desire for our success radiates through all of you. I am forever indebted to CLI/CLI for your existence. Just like I have this calling, this was your calling, and following what the Lord puts on our heart is not always an easy road. However, it’s so important to listen, and you did! And because you did, you’ve changed countless lives including mine. It will not be wasted!
I am fully committed to serving the Lord and expanding the Kingdom. I’ve recently changed my entire coaching practice from Health and Wellness to Christian Coaching. I’m taking all that I’ve learned and sharing with the world how to put the Bible in action! I’ve also partnered with a fellow Christian and we’ve created EverydayGODLiving. EGL as we like to call it, is about sharing with the world what it means to live a Christian lifestyle. It’s about living with God in your life every day. He’s not just for Sundays.
Because of the training I’ve received at CLI/CLI, I truly feel I have no limits. I know we serve a God of the impossible, and I wasn’t concerned at all about big dreams and big mountains to climb. I did feel though that I needed a knowledge of Him and who He is, and you gave me that. That’s what you do! CLI/CLI will forever be in my heart, and I hope to one day help so many because of what you gave me!
If you are interested in joining Christian Leaders Institute, start taking classes at Christian Leaders Insitute. See where God leads you!