Tyler Holley has been attending church since he was born and became a member of Harlem Baptist Church when he was 9. But it wasn't until this summer that Holley learned what it meant to share his faith with others.
"I was more scared than anything to share my faith until recently," said Holley, now a 19-year-old sophomore at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. "We are all called to go and share and plant a seed. We are called as Christians to do that."
Holley's calling to "share and plant a seed" came this summer when he participated in the Campus Outreach Ministries Summer Beach Project in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The two-month program is designed to help participants - all college students - grow spiritually and train evangelically through Bible studies, prayer training and outreach projects.
Participants in the summer program are also required to hold a job, which enables them to learn responsibility while reaching out to those they work with.
"It gives us an opportunity to tell them how we live our lives and why because of Jesus Christ," said Holley, the son of Gary and Kathy Holley of Harlem.
"This summer, Tyler worked at Wendy's in North Myrtle Beach with three other guys from his room," said Dave Baxter, campus director of Presbyterian College's Campus Outreach Ministries. "He and the other men in his group had great attitudes in the workplace and were able to share Christ with their fellow employees, not only through their words but the joy they exuded while on the job.
"Even while flipping burgers or taking orders at the drive-through, these men were able to exemplify the type of life-changing joy Christ alone is able to provide."
On Saturdays, the group would visit to the beaches and share their faith with people they had never met before.
Tyler Holley, 19, of Harlem, spent two months in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the Campus Outreach Ministries Beach Project and other college students sharing their faith with others. Tyler is a sophomore biology major at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C.
Philip Vestal, pastor of Harlem Baptist Church, says Holley lives a Christlike life.
"Tyler exhibits many of the great Christian qualities that Christ taught about," said Vestal, who has been minister at the church for four years. "He has a tender heart for God when it comes to people."
Holley spoke to the church congregation after his return from the Campus Outreach Ministry trip and repeatedly spoke of Englishman William Carey, who worked as a cobbler and Baptist pastor and later served as a missionary to India. Carey wrote of "wanting to know God and make him known."
"Tyler has always lived out his faith," Vestal said. "I think it's very evident that Jesus Christ is first in his life. This summer he just took another step to be more intentional in his faith."
Holley learned that through sharing his faith, he found out why there was a need to do so.
"If I didn't share my faith and Jesus Christ with other people, they may never hear about him," said Holley, a 2002 graduate of Harlem High School. "I personally can't change anybody, but I can rest in the fact that I've planted a seed."
Holley's playfulness helped keep other students in the summer project upbeat, Baxter said.
"From playing in the pool to going to the beach to enjoying project socials, Tyler was often in the middle of the fun," he said. "I personally got to see Tyler grow a lot also in his willingness to share his faith personally with those around him."
An orientation leader at Presbyterian College, where he is a biology major, Holley said he feels that helping others and sharing his faith is what God has called Christians to do.
Several years ago, he participated in a mission trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended a camp in Jacksonville, Fla., where he worked in a homeless shelter and helped conduct backyard Bible schools. This year, he will work as coordinator of Student Volunteer Services at Presbyterian College and will serve as a Big Brother.
"My mom's a first-grade teacher," he said. "When I was in high school, I would go and read to some of her kids. I knew then that I could impact a child's life."
Vestal described Holley as a grounded young man.
"He's rooted in a deep faith for Jesus, and that flows over into all areas of his life - family, school, sports, community," he said. "He's always been a leader, anything that's enabled him to be on a mission with God."
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