Trading Misery for a Ministry of Praise
Storyteller: Jake Braun
Writer: Sheila Holliday
Jacob Braun, 21, grew up in a Christian home and has attended CrossPoint Church almost his entire life. He remembers exactly when he became a Christ follower.
“Before my freshman year of high school, on a whim and after some peer pressure, I decided to go to summer camp at Hume Lake,” Jake recalls. “I already knew the Bible, but what I’d heard before, I experienced at camp in a new light. God’s word was no longer some fairy tale – stories of faith became pertinent to the issues I was having.”
Jake’s challenges began before he was born. His mother’s doctor told her that if she chose to have Jake, he would be born with a club foot – a deformity that meant he would never be a “normal kid” who could run and play. He would always struggle with back and knee pain.
“My family prayed, and the Lord made a way,” says Jake, who went on to play varsity football, basketball and volleyball as a freshman at Liberty Christian School. “Both of my feet were inverted. One was corrected by stretching, and I eventually had surgery on the other. I still have the scar you can see on my lower leg, which is why I almost always wear shorts. I want people to see me as I am and be able to share my story of blessing.”
In his early childhood, Jake couldn’t run as fast and wasn’t as athletic as a lot of other kids, which was likely a factor in his being bullied. By 10 years of age, he developed a disabling fear of dying. He recalls, “Sometimes I would shut down and hyperventilate. I was unable to eat. I had attachment issues, thinking if I wasn’t with my mom, she might die. My fourth-grade teacher had cancer, which probably contributed to my fears.”
Jake’s parents took him to see a Christian psychologist to overcome his phobia, which he describes as a spiritual attack. “My family and teachers showed me lots of love, and eventually I snapped out of it, say Jake. “Occasionally I still have some anxiety, but my coping skills are much better. One of the best ways I deal with anxiety is to play music.” He plays seven instruments – his favorite being the base guitar. Today, Jake is a musician in CrossPoint’s high school worship band.
After his encounter with Christ in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Hume Lake, Jake says he has gone from “a life of loss to one of gain.” He explains, “I finally understood my own failures and sin and the love Jesus has for me. I begged for His forgiveness. A burden I’d carried my entire life lifted. Everything that had been weighing me down was gone. I remember crying tears of joy as I felt for the first time the sweetness of freedom.”
Jake wanted to return to Hume Lake as lead counselor, so in 2018 he submitted an application. “Instead, they gave me a job as a dishwasher,” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know anybody and thought I would have no impact. Instead, I made really good friends and led worship in the kitchen. Wearing big boots and a giant apron, I was constantly praying with the kids. Those 10 weeks were the best time of my life, and the closest experience to heaven I’ve ever had.”
As Jake’s faith has grown, the trajectory of his life has changed dramatically.
“Even though I had no way to pay for college, God opened the door for me,” he says. In 2019, Jake graduated near the top of his class from Grand Canyon University in Arizona in three years with his bachelor’s degree in economics and finance.
Back in Orange County, he’s serving at CrossPoint, spending time with his girlfriend, Gracie, who he met at camp, and working as an associate banker (he calls himself a gloried teller).
“I planned to go on to law school so I could help immigrants, but in my senior year of college, the only thing that was on my mind was going to seminary. I felt like Jonah must have felt when God told him, ‘You’re going,’” he says.
Working in the bank, Jake has seen the corrupting influence the love of money can have. “I majored in economics because I was good at it and I love solving mathematical problems. But I’ve seen how stressed people can become about money. I’m not against corporations or making money, but I don’t want my heart controlled by anything or anyone except Jesus,” he says.
With good grades and recommendations from Pastor Bruce and Pastor Jim, Jake has been accepted at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, with a scholarship that will pay for half of his tuition. He hopes to start there in the fall on a Masters of Divinity. “I can see myself as a worship pastor, maybe someday a lead pastor, or because I love school, maybe even a college professor,” he says.
Each week, Jake spends an hour so with Associate Pastor John Vo. “We talk about everything – relationships, family, free time. He keeps me accountable,” says Jake. “He’s also given me resources for my pastoral education, and we talk about the Bible as it relates to life.”
Last summer, Jake’s dad took the family out to eat and announced he had taken a job in Austin, TX. He moved there a week later. Jake’s maternal Texan grandfather was recently diagnosed with cancer, and Jake’s mom, Tara, has felt the need to move closer. Tara, who has served as a preschool teacher and subsequently preschool program director at CrossPoint, stayed behind until their house sold in December. In the coming week, she’ll head for Texas, too.
Jakes shares, “I knew my dad had been looking for a new automotive industry job. Still, I was a little scared. I didn’t want to leave behind my church, where I’ve become really plugged in, or Gracie. I was doing a lot of praying. Teri Yates, the principal at Liberty Christian, learned about my situation. Just two weeks ago she told me she has a spare room and invited me to come and stay with her family. I thought I would have to move to Texas but once again, God opened a door and provided. Today I’m moving my things. He adds a little sheepishly, “It’s mostly a closetful of guitars.”
In the meantime, Jake and Gracie are praying about joining the CrossPoint mission trip to Japan this spring. He’s helping out in the high school ministry at CrossPoint, and staying open to sharing Christ, with a heart for ministering to young people.
“In seemingly random encounters you find there are hurting and searching people everywhere. Some have perceived or even genuine injustices they’ve experienced with a church and have labeled that Christianity. I see people who worship power, only to realize they are powerless. People who look like they’re checking all the right boxes can still be unhappy when they find what they’re pursuing is meaningless. The number one cause of suicide is loneliness. I want to make it my mission to be a friend to anybody who needs one, and help them to encounter the love of Christ.”
Jake claims Job 1:21 as his life verse – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
He explains, “Although I wasn’t always aware of God’s providence, He has always been with me, taking and giving even more. I’m not a victim. I am the epitome of the love of God. I want that to flow through me, for my entire life to echo who He is, into eternity.”
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
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