Oh you know.  Just the average month.

A meeting with God’s people, which is one of our favorite things about being in the Body of Christ, and

A huge Fourth of July fellowship with games, food, fun, and the ever famous Shepard’s Fireworks Show, and

OCA’s largest performance to date, the musical, Pilgrim!

All that coming up—in the first nine days of July!

I have some amazing young people here today.

The cast of Pilgrim is being featured this weekend on The Bridge as we go one-on-one with each actor and singer about what this production has meant to them and how they see the importance of true friends, teamwork, and trust.  They discuss the impact from a spiritual side and give their unique insight into who they are playing and what to keep your eye on in some of the scenes.

They’re opening up about what’s inspiring them, how they’ve grown from this experience, and the truths that will follow them through the rest of their lives . . . long past July 9th, 2016.

By now you probably know.

Pilgrim brings a message from the Bible.  It is a journey to find the straight gate, walk on the narrow path, and make it to the Celestial City—all while on the obstacle course of life.  Christian encounters the most colorful characters you can imagine as he has mishaps, gets saved, follows the wrong people off the path, finds his way back to the path, gets himself into a pickle (or three), meets the best friends you could ever have, fights his flesh, wins battles, and finally realizes the King was with him through ALL THAT.

Some characters help Christian and give him strength–while others betray him in the harshest way and rattle his cage.  He even meets a cunning, silver-tongued con-artist on the path who will cause your lip to curl in a sneer as you give him the look.

You know.  (You and me, we’ve talked about this before.)

On the path, Christian meets every personality from entertaining, impressive, good-hearted, disgusting, delightful, fun, and even some right down scary individuals.  Don’t be surprised that they look familiar—as if you’ve met them before.  We are all in this production!

Oh no you don’t.

The performers even have something to say about people who try to pull them away from their journey with the King.

Anyone who tries to tell you another path is fine?  Okay, well no.  Goodbye.


Commitment, hard work, accountability, and using conflict to get better doesn’t happen by accident.

I think we’ve collectively agreed, for the most part, that we loved Pilgrim and it taught us a lot, not just because of its powerful lessons, but because we read it and discussed it in depth—at a time we were open to grow.

We are in place that teaches us how to work together.  Thank God and Elder LaFleur for where we are in our journey and our growth in the Lord.  Thank them for allowing us to bring this amazing story to stage.

Younger students are mentored by older students.  OCA alumni collaborate with high school and junior high students.  They all work together–practicing lines and singing songs–for an unforgettable experience.  They’re building lasting friendships in God, and that is a precious thing, wouldn’t you agree?

Youth projects are an investment in the newest generation of warriors in God’s Church and our future pillars and potential leaders. 

What is the cast dying to capture for you?

That there is only one path to the Celestial City.  That there are times Christian had to walk alone to find salvation and determine his own personal journey so he could see that the King was with him, and that the King would ALWAYS provide everything he needed–a guide, the truth, stepping stones, loyal friends, and places of rest, refuge, and celebration.

It’s a powerful story to begin with, but seeing it all happen live and hearing the passion in their voices because they have lived this journey for the past five months, and knowing once they hit the stage, it will all come forward to that moment . . .

(Does anyone have a tissue?)


Don’t miss next week on The Bridge.  We’re inviting you behind the scenes of our rehearsals to see our routine, what the young people are learning, and what practices are like.  It’s just in time for “PRAAY Week” (Prayers, Ready, And Action Youth)—our last week of extra prayers, final runs, and the culmination of so many good memories.

The students have been in a gazillion rehearsals, but the real night getting closer brings equal parts exhilaration and terror—and come the week of the production, we will all have the energy of a small toddler just given two pounds of chocolate.

I won’t keep you any longer.  Now that you’ve heard me go on and on, you go ahead and fall in love, too.  I just know you will.  xo


TAYLOR JAMES (Christian)

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I graduated from OCA this past year.  It’s a privilege to be working in this production.

My character in Pilgrim is Christian.  He happens to be my favorite character because his personality is a lot like mine.  He starts out in the City of Destruction where he is unhappy and constantly depressed for a reason he doesn’t understand.  When Evangelist approaches him with a Book, he begins to understand the emptiness he has been feeling.  The Book disturbs him because he is being convicted by God.  After reading the Book and listening to Evangelist, Christian develops a burden to find salvation.  He wants to start his journey to meet the King.

The Book changes his life and future.  He is immediately led on to the path of righteousness where he bumps into all sorts of different people.  My favorite person he meets is Hopeful, who couldn’t come at a better time for him when he needed someone the most—after Vanity Fair.

Christian reminds me of myself mostly because our walk in life is closely the same.  We both meet constant struggles, but somehow we get through them.  For instance, when Christian falls into the Sewer of Doubt, the Lord sends Help to save him.

The Lord has sent Help to me a lot of times.


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 Hi, I’m Zaine.  I will be a senior next year at OCA.  I have had fun working in this musical and being with all my friends.  We have become closer from all the times we spend together in rehearsals.

I play the King. I am always with Christian and watching out for him—if I could just get him to call on me more, he wouldn’t have as many troubles.  None of the characters in Pilgrim can see me (I am invisible to them), but Christian can hear my voice and feel me when I try to lead him and help him.  I am always with him.  You all in the audience will see me. I’ll be dressed in all white.

There is one time that Christian and Hopeful are being held captive in Giant Despair’s dungeon because they chose another path that they thought was better because the grass looked greener and softer.  They  both get so discouraged that they are ready to give up and end it all right there.  They start arguing about it, and it gets bad for a while.  I touch Hopeful’s shoulder and tell him to “read from the Book”.  He opens the Bible and reads “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me”.  They finally realize I have been there the whole time.  It was a turning point for them.

MARI SMITH (Faithful)

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I will be a junior this year.  When I graduate, I would like to be a scrub nurse.  I am so thankful for the Elder and Sister Jean and what they have done for me this year.  I really appreciate S. Lisa for coming out to the school and for directing this play.  My character is Faithful.  I am a good friend to Christian and I stay true to him.  I stay true to my strong  beliefs and I will not stray off the path—no matter what the consequences.

Faithful is always there lifting up and encouraging Christian.  I walk by his side down the path.  Sometimes I come to his rescue, always with gentle words and comfort.  Christian and I have a friendship that goes much deeper than the world.

Faithful shows Christian God’s goodness.  When the people of Vanity Fair make fun of how I’m dressed, I let them know that my King gave me these clothes.

I tried my very best to help get Christian out of captivity in Vanity Fair.

OLIVIA JAMES (Goodwill, Violinist)

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I am going to be in ninth grade next year.  I am so glad that S. Lisa took the time to come out and do this play with us.  My character’s name is Goodwill.  Goodwill is at the Straight Gate.  That is the entrance to this way of life.

As Christian walks up to knock at my door, I open it and yank him in fast protecting him from the arrows flying at him.  He didn’t even see them.  I explain to Christian that the Prince of Evil lives close by and watches for pilgrims heading to my house so he can shoot them with his arrows before they have a chance to get inside.

At the end of Christian’s visit with Goodwill, she sends him to the Interpreter’s House where he receives the truth about the Word of God.

This play has brought all of us together as a team.

ISSAC STANDRIDGE (Apollyon, The Prince of Evil, Pliable, Demus)

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I graduated from OCA this past May and am glad we had this chance to perform Pilgrim.  It has made us all stronger.

The Prince of Evil is a representation of the carnal mind.  When you are at your weakest, or even at your best, he will put something or someone in your path to distract you.  The Prince of Evil has several demons (ones who share his same desire to not walk on the straight path) to distract Christian and take him off his spiritual path.

In the play, Apollyon uses his servants as pawns along Christian’s path to tempt him and his friends.  Although the Prince of Evil’s plans don’t always work, he is extremely persistent.  There is a point where the prince realizes that Christian is stronger than he expected and decides to take matters into his own hands.

MEGAN SMITH (Obstinate, Miss Liar)

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I’m a student at Onslow Christian Academy and have enjoyed our rehearsals for Pilgrim.  My character, Obstinate, does not want to do anything that isn’t in her comfort zone.  She is very set on doing things her way.

As Christian starts his journey on the narrow path, Obstinate runs after him and tries to convince him that he is delirious for leaving the City of Destruction to find something better.  Christian asks her to join him, but she refuses to go.

Obstinate’s character helps Christian see how blind the world actually is.

KAITLYN SMITH (Baliff, The Flatterer)

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I’m Kaitlyn, and I’m excited to be a part of this musical.  We have all worked very hard to make it good for everyone who comes that night.

I play the Baliff in Vanity Fair and The Flatterer.  The Flatterer likes to trick pilgrims to follow her to the Celestial City, but she really wants them to go off the path.  She likes to trap them using her flattery—acting all sweet and innocent—but she’s really not.

I am not like The Flatterer because I don’t trick people into going off the path.

ELIANNA WATERS (Hypocrisy, Miss Gossip)

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Hi, I’m Elianna and I’m a student at OCA.  I’m thankful for my family and friends.  I’ve learned a lot from this production.

My character in this play is Miss Gossip.  Miss Gossip is a conceited, worldly person who is concerned only about herself.  All she cares about is getting the best clothes and the most information (and latest scoop) on others.  She is very popular with all her friends in the physical world.

Miss Gossip could help me spiritually because she shows us all that what you say can really hurt someone, and God doesn’t want that.

DOMINIC ALEXANDER (Worldly Wiseman, Vain Confidence)

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I am fifteen years old.  I am so thankful to be in this play and have a chance in something big.  I’m glad for the teachers to be with us and help us practice as much as they can.  They have spent so much time, effort, and money into this musical.  I can definitely  tell that I have grown with my friends and I can tell we have grown together as a team.  I am thankful for my family encouraging me.

My character’s name is Worldly Wiseman.  Worldly Wiseman is a very intelligent demon who is working for the Prince of Evil (Apollyon).  Using his knowledge as a weapon, Worldly Wiseman tries to trick Christian, who is a pilgrim, to go off the straight path.  He eventually uses Christian’s loved ones against him and says they all have been lying to him.

When Evangelist catches up with Christian later, he can tell Christian has been talking to the very cunning and intelligent Worldly Wiseman.  When Christian asks how Evangelist knows about his conversation with Worldly Wiseman, Evangelist tells him, “Because you sound exactly like him!”


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I am going to be in the ninth grade this year.  I’m graduating in 2020.  After I graduate, I am going to be a mechanic.  On October seventeenth, I will be fourteen years old.

In this musical, I play the part of Hopeful.  He is a pilgrim who accompanies Christian on the last half of his journey.  Hopeful is a person who loves to fellowship with other people and is always happy.  I have been my character multiple times, and I have met a lot of people who act like Hopeful.

I have learned that is not fun to travel on the road without a friend.  With this production, all of my friends have become greater friends.

EVERETT GAVIN (Evangelist)

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Hi, I’m Everett and a former graduate of OCA.  As an alumnus, I’m glad to come back in and work in this production and mentor students to prepare confidently for their roles.  Our most important responsibility is to put God first and believe He will help us.

I am taking on the role of Evangelist.  Evangelist is one of the very first people that the main character, Christian, comes into contact with.  Much like his name explains, he is an evangelist in the sense that he can lead and also warn people.  That is the responsibility that Evangelist takes on in this production.  When Evangelist speaks to the other characters, they sometimes question, dislike, or even get angry at the words that he has, but they always end up remembering his wise words and using them to fight the battle called life.  Evangelist is a key character and I feel that if we apply his words and teachings then we can all really learn something from them.

I relate to this character but probably not as much as I should.  I have always been taught to strive to help others and that is what Evangelist strives to do in this production.  He is always looking out for others and not for himself.  He warns others of what is to come so that they do not have to make the same mistake.  Although it is not said, I believe that Evangelist has been through some of the things that Christian is going through and that helps him do what he was called to do.

I believe I have been like Evangelist at times before.  The definition of evangelist:  A
person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching.  Although we do not do public preaching, the ministry has always taught us to invite
people and share the truth with them when we have an opportunity.  My character
Evangelist most definitely shares the truth every chance he gets.  So yes, I have been like my character in a way.

I was born in the Body of Christ, so I was never invited the way that we are taught to
invite people, but I can say I have witnessed my brothers and sisters and the ministry do what Evangelist does.  The ministry preaches the truth which draws people to the straight path.  Evangelist is always there to show Christian God’s mercy and help him get back on the path.

Evangelist sees Christian at a party, but knows he’s not happy there.  He gives Christian a Book and shows him–there’s a better life.  How did this affect me?  It was an example for me to follow, so that I know how to witness to people the right way.

This character has taught me not to give up on sharing the truth and witnessing to people because it may save someone’s life.

I have grown closer to everyone participating in this play, whether it be people behind the
scenes or on the stage.  We have spent many hours working together trying to put this production on for whoever will come see.  I look forward to performing for you all!

BAILEY MORGAN (The Narrator)

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I am one of Onslow Christian Academy’s many alumni.  I graduated in 2015 and since then I have been going to college and taking all of my prerequisites for the Radiography Program that I will be attending in the fall.

In the production, Pilgrim, I play the role of the Narrator.  She is responsible for explaining scenes of the story to the audience and helping guide Christian and the other pilgrims in the right direction.  It has been such an honor to work on this production and it has certainly brought all of the students and alumni together.

It is an amazing feeling to be a part of something that unites the people of God and provides us with a means of fellowship along the way.

KELSEY PATE (Lady Formality, Atheist)

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I graduated from OCA in 2015 and am attending Coastal Carolina Community College.  I’m am thankful to be back working with OCA on a production.

I am playing the role of Lady Formality.  Formality means “strict attention to outward forms and customs; stiffness of manner.”   Lady Formality is too formal to do what it takes to get to the Celestial City.  She only wants to do the typical, formal steps to get there, and get it over with.  She is one of many who try to get Christian to go off his path with the King.

Although this may be an exaggeration, there are real people with the same attitude as Lady Formality who want to do the least they can and take the shortcut to the Celestial City.  You’ve probably met them, too.  The world is full of people like that.

I cannot relate to this character because I grew up in a place where we work and strive to do all that it takes to make it to the Celestial City.  I live for the Lord and strive to stay on this path with Him until the end.

I have encountered many people who prefer to do the formal things of the world and are too lazy and selfish—just like Lady Formality and her daughter, Hypocrisy–to please God.  I have learned to not let them push me off my path.

I have grown closer to my brothers and sisters while working on this outstanding production.  Pilgrim has made us all spiritually stronger.


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My Journey

Hello readers, my name is Hannah Cowen and I am a 2013 graduate of OCA.  I am two years away from earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from UNCW and am still considering what future career paths I may pursue.

Within this play, I portray the character known as Prudence, one of the servants in the King’s Palace.  Through her conversation, Prudence proves to be true to the nature of her name.  She is wise in sharing her knowledge with Christian who is quite zealous but also naïve.  Having heard him mention how easy his journey would now be with Faithful now by his side, Prudence informs Christian that despite who’s traveling with him, his journey will never be easy.  This is a truth stated by my character that I have personally experienced the hard way.  I realized that my spiritual sense of security could never rely solely on who may be striving with me but only in the Lord and His truths.

Prudence then reveals the most crucial truth:  you are your most dangerous enemy; your own mind is the greatest threat to your spiritual life and can only be conquered using God’s Word.  This is where I feel I relate closest to Prudence.  Through all my struggles, I know I am only battling myself, and there are times I am burdened with the same feelings of the young man who sorrowfully turned from Jesus because he couldn’t part with his own great possessions.  I remind myself that my “great possessions” are my own desires and ways.  When I’m convicted by this reminder I turn to God’s Word for guidance and look to the example of Moses who chose to suffer with God’s people in righteousness rather than enjoy his own life of pleasure in sin.  This account of Moses, found in Hebrews, is the sword that saves me from any thoughts of straying from the straight and narrow way.  This is only one of many beacons of hope provided for us in the Bible to lead us farther on to the Celestial City.

LAUREN LAFLEUR (Palace Beautiful, Deception in Vanity Fair)

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My name is Lauren LaFleur and I am an alumni of OCA.  I am also a full-time college student with a part time job.  I really enjoy being a part of this play, Pilgrim.  It has been a privilege to not only help out, but to also be around my family and friends while doing it.  It has been a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it.  I can say I have formed stronger bonds with my brothers and sisters in this production.  For that alone, all the long hours and all the irritating moments were worth my time.  I love my friends at this wonderful school and I miss my production days in high school.  It is a blessing that I was asked to be a part of such a wonderful team.

This story line is entertaining but more importantly you can learn a thing or two from it. During practices it was all about finding your characters personality, and in order to do that we had to understand the role of our character in this play.  I am Deception in the seen Vanity Fair.  Vanity Fair is a deadly snare for Christians and a place where the glare of sin is strong and worldly desires are running rampant.  The name speaks for itself but to give you a better insight, I would like to refer to a time when temptation had you on the edge of your seat.  Remember when something very bad looked so good like maybe a time when someone tried to convince you to take part in an unrighteous act?  Sound familiar?  I can definitely relate this to Adam and Eve in the garden.

Well, my character is that person convincing you to just take a bite of the fruit.  It looks amazing but is it worth losing your soul?  Deception has made me tap into my inner deceptive ways, but don’t think for a second that I think it is right.  It is very easy to be convinced to do wrong, but Deception has opened my eyes to the fact that I have to stay on the narrow path and get in the habit of convincing myself to do right and say no to worldly possessions.

Vanity Fair is a scene all about how we look and feel carnally.  It will consume your average Christian who is not on the narrow path.  That is why it is important to stay away from places or people that will take you away from what God is doing.

TAUREAN GAVIN (Watchful, Vanity Fair)

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My name is Taurean Gavin.  I am an alumni of Onslow Christian Academy, class of 2013.  I recently graduated the Surgical Technology Program at Coastal Carolina Community College and I am now employed at Carolina East Medical Center.

As I have moved on through life’s journeys, part of me will forever remain at our school, Onslow Christian Academy, and that is reason why I chose to be a part of this amazing production.

I will be playing the character, Watchful.  He is one who is watches out for others and most importantly, Watchful stands guard at the Place Beautiful making sure travelers who are not walking on the narrow path, don’t come inside.  Because of Watchful, the palace is a safe place for pilgrims to stop, rest, and get nourishment to take them farther on their journey.

In many instances, Watchful is there to give words of wisdom to Christian and his peers in the time of need.  You’ll get to see in “Stand Firm” how Watchful helps Christian and Faithful put on the armor of the King.

JAQUEL GAVIN (Vanity Fair)

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I am an alumni from Onslow Christian Academy.  I consider myself truly blessed to have attended this special school.  If it had not been for this school, I don’t believe I would be where I am today spiritually and naturally in my life.  I recently graduated from Surgical Technology school and I am now employed at Carolina East Health in New Bern.  Onslow Christian Academy taught me all of the morals and educational discipline that gave me endurance to complete my degree.

It has been a wonderful experience preparing for the play and being around the students again.  I am in the scene “Vanity Fair” and play a character who pushes worldly possessions on Christian and Faithful.  I try to force them to change from the ways of their King and dress like the world.  I try to force them to buy something from Vanity Fair.

Being part of this musical not only makes me feel like a student again, but brings back so many wonderful memories.  This school will forever have a special place in my heart.

AARON SUGGS (Interpreter, Prosecutor, Drill Instructor)

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My name is Aaron Suggs.  I am an Onslow Christian Academy Alumni (class of 2013).  I currently am in my third year of college Campbell University.  I work at a local credit union in Jacksonville, and I play the part of The Interpreter,  The Prosecution, and The Shining One’s Drill Instructor.

This play has been an unforgettable experience for me!  It has shown me a lot about how easy it is to stray off the path that we have chosen to follow and where the King is with us.  So many parts touch home for me, whether it’s the first scene in the City of Destruction when Christian felt out of place, or the Vanity Fair scene where the mannequins flaunted their worldly possessions and fleshly desires, making Christian and Faithful feel as if the King and the Celestial City were not good enough.

Pilgrim sends a powerful message and truly shows that if we stay on the path and forget the distractions life throws our way, we will make it to the Celestial City!


No one is absolved of this process, overcoming.  Even the tiniest Christians are on a journey.

They have struggles, too, and learn there’s a right path.  Like us, they make mistakes and need forgiveness.  They may call their friend a name, not obey their parents, refuse to clean their room, and occasionally pick a fight just because.  They’re learning right from wrong and how to overcome.

Wait until you see all the GOOD things they do that show God they want to walk on the straight path.  Some even tell us about things they shouldn’t have done.  A couple in this group are not ones to hold back, just warning!

They melt me every time with their bashful but want to tell you something they did that day in their child’s the-world-is-full-of-wonder voice that forces you to get down to eye level with them (and they’re so stinkin’ cute), you can’t help but smile.

Here’s what they do to stay on the right path . . . and even a few things they shouldn’t do.
BRAELYNN PARKER WHALEY (Little Angel, Singers)
VIVIANNA RODRIQUEZ (Little Angel, Singers)
GABRIELLE LAFLEUR (Little Angel, Piano Player for Interpreter, Singers)
EMMA KINSEY (Little Angel, Singers)
JACOB SMITH (Lion, Singers)
AUSTIN THOMAS (Lion, Singers)
LEAH SHEPHERD (Help, Shining One)
ARIANA RODRIQUEZ (Shining One, Shepherd’s Jam Leader)
 AARON KINSEY (Shining One, Shepherd’s Jam)
JEREMY THOMAS (Lion, Shining One)
SABRINA ALEXANDER (Little Angel, Singers)
ROBERT HALTER (The cast will miss him this year–We love you, Robert!)
MICHAEL KINSEY (Lion, Singers, Shepherd’s Jam Leader)
ISABELLA JAMES (Shining One, Singers)
NATALIE SMITH (Shining One, “Nobody’s Perfect!”)


  1. These children have all been ‘Trained up in the way they should go’! I am so proud, and honored to be able to read all of these responses from them. S Lisa has done an outstanding job in assisting the young people in learning how to overcome. Also, it is evident that the youth have put in some long hours, and a lot of hard work into this. These truly are a great group of young people. I love everyone of them!!
    I have not yet seen Pilgrim, but I simply cannot hardly wait until I get to!! I am already so emotional from just the scenes that I have seen herein. Awesome Job Everyone!!! Sis Mary Ann Poe, The Church At Connersville

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