CJ Curry has a passion for helping kids. His warm personality and quiet disposition can make anyone feel calm and heard, so it is no surprise that kids love CJ. Also, CJ understands kids. CJ describes his own childhood as pretty “typical.”
“I grew up here in Nebraska, my parents had a strong marriage, and I didn’t do anything too bad as a kid. I had that picture-perfect- I guess you could call it- life, but then my dad died when I was 13. I kind of see my life as before that and after that. School and relationships were a lot more difficult after losing my father. I took on this ‘man of the house’ mentality. When I went to college I shied away from that responsibility. I began to drink and I began to commit sexual sin. I was trying to fill the void of losing my dad.”
CJ’s family attended a church in his hometown regularly, but CJ felt pressured to be a certain type of Christian in this environment; to look a certain way and behave like everyone else. His paradigm of Christianity was based off what other’s thought of him and a fear of being judged.
“In my childhood, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I sang the songs, but I didn’t know Jesus. The dynamic was just checking a box.”
During his lowest moments in college, God had already planted seeds in CJ’s life that would lead him to trusting in Jesus in the form of the Lampman family. Riley Lampman’s older brother was close friends with CJ, and he lovingly describes Riley as “the annoying little brother that eventually, I became friends with.” CJ became roommates with Riley while attending UNO.
“Riley Lampman brought me to my first experience at Citylight through the Salt Company. I’ve known him since middle school and he invited me to come to Salt Co for a year before I said yes. I remember wanting to sit in the very back corner by the sound booth, to not talk to anyone, and just worship and then go home. As time went on, I realized that this was a community I needed. Riley and I were broken, borderline alcoholics when God rescued us. We really walked together through that and Citylight has been instrumental.”
CJ was pleasantly surprised to experience the genuine love from others who are living in the genuine love of Christ. Salt Co. was a place where he was accepted for exactly who he is, and not what others thought he should be.
“My relationship with Christ started at that point. I realized that I needed to clean up my life. I realized that God’s way is better. Even though I’m not perfect, God still loves me through all of that. Even saying it now puts a smile on my face, just thinking about how God has taken me from this broken, evil person to this person who loves Christ and loves people. When I walk into church on a Sunday morning, at least ten people shake my hand or give me a hug, and it’s not because they have to, it’s because people love people at Citylight. My mom specifically wasn’t used to that, so when she came to my baptism it was a culture shock.”
CJ was baptized at Citylight church in February, with his mom and grandparents cheering him on. Since January, God has gently nudged CJ in to becoming more involved at Citylight, particularly in the children’s ministry, including Citylight Students. CJ volunteers every Sunday evening to pick up kids in the church vans and drive them to Students where they learn about Jesus.
“I love the program; I love those kids.”
In his day-to-day life, CJ serves in his position as a director of an after-school program in Millard.
“I went to an after school-program as a kid where I didn’t have the best experience. I felt God was calling me to work with kids, and now I am a Director in Millard! This wasn’t my initial plan, but God has a call on my life. I realized the impact I could make on kid’s lives.”
CJ explains how he uses opportunities he finds at work to share the Gospel with others:
“If I have an opportunity to pray for somebody or with somebody, I will. There’s been several times where parents have approached a hard situation with me and shared how they’ve been struggling. We play worship music in the gym; the kids love to dance. I am not pushing a narrative, but instead representing a lifestyle. My co-workers recently told me, ‘CJ we feel like you’re different. You’re positive and uplifting and you support people. Maybe it’s that Christian thing.’ And I’m like ‘well, that Christian thing is my life.’ We can share the Gospel by how we live.”
God never left CJ, not for a moment. He was there with CJ in his lowest and his best moments. CJ summarizes what he’s learning about living out faith:
“God doesn’t want us to put on this face or this look to please other people, He wants you. It’s shaped my confidence knowing that I am who I am. God allowed me to come from this place of feeling uncomfortable, to being this person that loves God no matter what people think. In three words, my faith is transformative, transparent, and loving.”