Confessions of faith: Presley

A man rediscovers the truths he learned years ago at a WELS Lutheran elementary school.

Ann M. Ponath

God tells us that his Word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). As Christians we want to see results, but God reminds us that we are simply to proclaim the gospel. We do not always see the results of that work, and we may wonder if the Word had any impact at all. But sometimes it just takes time to see the fruit of the sowing.

Planting the seed

Quinton Presley was born and raised in Milwaukee, the third of four children. When he was ten, Presley and his siblings were enrolled at Mount Lebanon Lutheran School and soon afterward became members of the church. Presley says that this was “a beneficial opportunity for me. It helped my faith become stronger.” He recalls participating in Bible study every morning and in prayers throughout the school day. “I really enjoyed the stories from the Bible when I was younger. It helped me gain a great moral understanding of how I should lead my life,” he says. “During those times, learning about Christ and showing appreciation for what he had done for us was the norm.” Extracurricular activities like basketball and track taught Presley “to be a team player and develop good sportsmanship,” and “Christmas and Easter plays and events brought great excitement, as we would prepare for weeks to present in front of all of our families and friends.”

Although things were going well at school, when Presley was 12, “things at home, unfortunately, began to fall apart with my parents.” After just two years at Mt. Lebanon, the Presley children were transferred to Young Leaders Academy, a local YMCA school. The school environment changed significantly. The biggest setback was the division of church and religion from academics. “Though the learning environment was not the same, my background from Mt. Lebanon allowed me to adapt to the changes,” says Presley.

At Young Leaders Academy, Presley learned “more about his heritage and ancestral background, which was also priceless to me.” He says, looking back, “I was blessed to learn and get mentoring from teachers who influenced me positively. There was limitless guidance it seemed to me in the world, and I have always loved to learn.”

Presley graduated from high school and continued his education in the field of electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Harvesting the fruit

But Presley’s story is not over yet. In his junior year of college—“due to stress from a combination of working full time, third shift at a local casino, family issues, and school work overload”—Presley developed alopecia, a type of hair loss. “One day I woke up with just one patch in my hair, the next with another, until eventually ninety percent of my hair had fallen out. This was very tough,” he says.

At the age of 22, Presley completely lost all of his hair. Multiple doctors could find no cure, which caused Presley more stress. But it was a blessing in disguise: “During my early period of losing my hair I realized my approach to handling my problems was completely flawed,” he says. “I had succumbed to the ways of the world and not the ways of God.”

Through all of this, Presley was dating a woman who was at the time Muslim. “Though my girlfriend and I were of different religions, we shared all the same moral values . . . the only separation was my love for Christ. So, with our shared passion for learning and myself mentally fighting alopecia, we were directed to Siloah Lutheran Church through a mutual acquaintance.” It was Presley’s girlfriend who added his name to the prayer list. “This was something I was deeply embarrassed about, but at the same time, I knew through my religious background that prayer is the way to overcome my mental struggles,” he says.

He continues, “I had the opportunity to present myself to Pastor Tulberg within the first couple of months, and I gained a great appreciation for his structure of prayers, service, and loving support. My girlfriend and I had visited churches prior to coming to Siloah, but immediately she and I were attracted to Siloah and felt a bond.” Eventually, Presley and his girlfriend became members.

Enjoying the harvest

But another chapter soon unfolded. Presley moved to Phoenix to find a job and within a month “was blessed to receive a position as an electrical design engineer.” He has begun to attend two WELS churches in the Phoenix area regularly, although he “still has yet to decide which one I will set as my church home.” Presley says, “What I enjoy most is that the WELS churches are consistent. The churches have been extremely warm and friendly, providing the same structure.”

Presley says he appreciates what he learned at a WELS school. “Mount Lebanon had a significant impact on my early years of life because I was introduced to Christ at an early age and, therefore, was taught how to live according to the Bible. I always stressed that my morals and ethics were a direct reflection from learning the stories of the Bible and what God commanded of us. I have received many blessings such as being able to complete college as a first-generation member in my family, having multiple job opportunities, and meeting my best friend who became my girlfriend.”

He continues, “I would like readers to know that I have learned that we are all part of God’s family and no matter what your background is, you can find the foundation and the path of your life through Christ.”

Presley still has alopecia. “It’s something I continue to pray about, but I am very healthy physically and I appreciate what I do have more than what I don’t have,” he says. Perhaps this continuing trial fits under Presley’s favorite Bible theme: perseverance. “I believe in the darkest days of my life that through my trust in God and following his ways, I have been able to persevere through many obstacles and achieve my goals,” he says.

Back in Milwaukee, Presley’s former teacher, Roger Kramp, was excited to hear about his past student. “Hearing Quinton’s story brings me great joy. As Lutheran educators, often the faith we see growing in young people becomes routine. We don’t always get to see the fruits of faith produced from the seed that has been sown in the hearts of those children who don’t sit beside us in the church pews every Sunday. Mostly, though, it is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word. From simple childhood truths, Bible passages, and hymn verses to faith in an adult—what a miracle of God!” Yes, God’s miracle comes through the Word. It is the means through which God keeps us faithful to Jesus.

God’s Word will not return empty. He has promised. May he continue to bless Presley and all in whom his Word has been sown.

Ann Ponath is a member at Christ, North Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

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Author: Ann M. Ponath
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

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