Every member of Resonate’s summer discipleship project, called Elevate, had their own ideas of what they would experience in sunny San Diego. Chelsie Prentice came into the summer with the preconceived notion that it was just going to be a fun little trip where she’d learn a bit about Jesus and maybe share the gospel with people. She didn't think she had much left to learn, since she had spent a lot of time exploring Christianity and going to bible studies in the past. Having been raised in a family of faith, Chelsie really started sorting out her beliefs while she was in high school.
“It was a battle to figure out what I believed. There were times when I doubted everything, but after a lot of theological study and comparing what I believed to Scripture, I began to understand that I will never have all the answers. What I do know is that in the end, it’s all about Jesus.”
When Chelsie first heard about the opportunity to spend a summer in San Diego, she looked forward to enjoying California, surfing, and walking on the beach often. She also wanted to grow in her faith.
“I had never shared the gospel before, so I wanted to go to gain that experience.”
She had planned to work at the Gap, because she had three years of retail experience and had basically been hired over the phone. She also had plans about what her roommates would be like. But it wasn’t long after she arrived in California that Chelsie found God had different plans for her.
Her second night in San Diego, everything changed.
Chelsie was involved in a bad car accident where she received most of the force of the impact. She doesn’t remember any of the event itself because she blacked out, but what she does remember is waking up in the hospital so incredibly thankful that she was alive.
The accident could have been fatal for her, especially since the impact of the oncoming vehicle was concentrated on her passenger side door. Chelsie was lucky to have only broken her pelvis and gotten a bone bruise on her elbow, in addition to other minor cuts and bruises. When her mother flew out soon after, she gave Chelsie the option to go home, but Chelsie had a strong feeling that she was supposed to be in San Diego.
Looking back now, Chelsie is glad she stayed. Since she was injured, a job at the Gap was pretty much out of the question because she couldn’t be on her feet for eight-hour shifts. The day she was able to leave the hospital, she received a call from Staples saying they wanted to interview her. Chelsie was honest, telling them about her accident and what her injuries were, and that they probably wouldn’t want to hire her. Then the manager said, “Well, we could get you a stool or something… we need a cashier. Just come in anyway.”
“I straight up told them, don’t hire me,” Chelsie remembers. “That was a God thing. And once I started working there, it was so evident why God had me there. None of my coworkers were believers.”
All of the people she worked with have very different views on God. Some were incredibly angry, which Chelsie had never experienced before.
”One guy, Ben, was so mad at God, but instead of getting offended I was heartbroken for him. I hope that what I did and said when I was with him planted a seed. I don’t think anyone had ever asked him why he was so angry. He never used to smile, but by the end of the summer he would smile at me.”
Chelsie feels blessed by the conversations she was able to have with her coworkers about God, who used these interactions to do a great work inside Chelsie as well. Since her pelvis was broken, any plans of being active were put on hold indefinitely. But instead of getting upset like she was tempted to, Chelsie understood that she needs to be grateful to be alive.
“Just because I’m young and healthy doesn’t mean I’m invincible, I’ve realized. It really puts your life into perspective when you get hurt.”
Having her injury has cultivated patience and has considerably broken down Chelsie’s pride. Before the accident, Chelsie would have considered herself an independent, self-sufficient person, but her injury has taught her humility and has forced her to rely on others.
As Chelsie looks back on her experience through the Elevate project - what she thought it was going to be, and what has happened – she knows that God is in control and that her life has always been in His hands.
”It was an amazing growing experience. It’s not a vacation, it’s not easy, but it’s the most rewarding and fulfilling kind of work. I was more impacted than the people I met. I really learned how to grow closer to God.”
Chelsie knows the summer has also impacted how she lives now that she is home.
“I don’t have blinders on anymore; I don’t have tunnel vision. I know how to build relationships more deeply. My summer at Elevate made me see people as people and want to connect with them.”