By Madison Farrar, Staff Writer
Junior Ellie Nesselroade, French major and 4th generation Asburian, has lived in five countries on three continents, and is only 20 years old.
Nesselroade and her family left the United States when Ellie was six to do missionary work around the world. For 10 years, the family went without living in any one place for over a year. The constant uncertainty was difficult for a self-proclaimed nervous child, but with security found in strong family ties, the moves were never that bad. However, when Nesselroade’s older sister went away to boarding school, leaving Ellie back at home, her anxiety and insecurity heightened.
Nesselroade was homeschooled until 8th grade and, because of her generalized and separation anxiety, she never believed she would be able to leave her family to attend boarding school. In her village in Mali, West Africa, she struggled to have friends because of her major differences with those around her. Faced with a decision, Nesselroade had to choose between attending boarding school, where she would have a chance at social interaction or to stay home where she would have family but virtually nothing else.
Ultimately, Nesselroade decided to give boarding school a try, thus moving away from her family to Senegal, West Africa. This was one of the hardest things that she has ever done, she said. Nesselroade attended Dakar Academy for four years, away from her family for all that time. “Despite what people say, goodbyes never get easier, they only get worse,” said Nesselroade.
The summer before her junior year of high school, she faced more uncertainties that made it difficult to trust that boarding school was the best decision: all the girls in her dorm had graduated and she was forced to move into a new dorm with all new people. At the same time, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, causing her to remain in the United States. Nesselroade sat on a plane back to Africa for the school year, angry with God. “It was like I was stiff-arming Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with Him, but he was determined to send every single person I encountered to remind me how much He loves me.”
Arriving back in Senegal after a reluctant and emotional journey, Nesselroade was terrified to go to sleep the first night in a new place. Her mom sent her back with a string of Christmas lights to assure that she would not be completely in the dark. Just as Nesselroade felt comfort with the lights, her roommates asked her to turn them off.
“It felt like Jesus took everything from me except those lights and now He was taking those away too,” said Nesselroade. Despite the discomfort, Nesselroade put her trust in God and went straight to sleep without the Christmas lights. That entire school year she did not experience one panic attack.
Through all the uncertainty in Nesselroade’s life, she learned a lot about faith and the perseverance of God’s love. “Again and again, Jesus asked me to trust him. Even when I said no, he still came through,” Nesselroade said.
At the end of her junior year of high school, Nesselroade received a call from her family. They told her that they were finished with their time serving in Africa. In one summer, Nesselroade transferred families (from her dorm family to her biological family), transferred schools and transferred continents. Through all the transition, Nesselroade affectionately calls her senior year her “gift year.”
“Everything that Jesus ever asked me to give away, he gave back to me that year,” said Nesselroade. Choosing to attend boarding school was forfeiting the chance to live with her family, to have a normal American education and to be an average teenager but she was given the opportunity to do all of that in her final year of high school. To top it all off, during her second week of school, she met her now-fiancé.
Since coming to Asbury, Nesselroade has abandoned the ten-year plan she made, changing her major 3 times and her life aspirations many more. “I’m a bit of a disaster but I’m so happy. I know Jesus has a plan.”
During a chapel service last year, Nesselroade heard Jesus asking her to continue trusting Him no matter what He asked her to do, something that she has struggled with throughout her life. “I don’t have the capability to promise everything, but I will say yes to whatever Jesus has for me right now because through his faithfulness he will enable me to do it,” said Nesselroade. “As He asks me to do those harder and bigger things, whatever they are, he will give me the strength to say yes.”
Photo by Eliza Tan