Growing up Casey Nickel said she lived by the merit system, which meant trying to be good enough in God’s eyes.
“It was very surface level,” Casey said of her spiritual life and attending church. “It was more things I felt I had to do rather than wanting to do.”
It wasn’t until four years ago that Casey said she developed a true relationship with God through Jesus, and it was sparked while she was attending a non-denominational service in Fond du Lac.
“One of my good friends was playing in the band and they started singing ‘Cornerstone,’” Casey recalled. “Songs are a way to my heart. Music is a very emotional thing for me. God used that moment to speak a message for me. That is what led to a change of my heart.”
Casey said her spiritual growth has been impacted in a big way by her fiancé, Curtis, who gave his life to Christ in 2005.
“He really just started talking more about the Bible to me, making it more clear about what the words meant,” Casey said. “Instead of knowing facts about the Bible, this is meant to show you love and what He did for you.”
Casey’s perspective about God has changed from a place of getting to giving.
“In the past I would pray when I was in deep need of something, or when I was at a low point,” she said. “I never came to a point when I surrendered. It was more of what I could get out of God as opposed to what I can give Him.”
Casey took another step in her spiritual journey when she got baptized at Community Church last August.
“I always knew there was a pull on my heart,” Casey said. “Every time I knew I should go up there, there was always something holding me back. In August I said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to stop this time. Today is the day.’ It was the greatest feeling ever.”
Casey said she was nervous but a calmness came over her when she made eye contact with Pastor Troy Murphy.
"I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort, almost as if God was saying, ‘You’re going to be OK,’” she said. "When I went under the water and came back up I felt relieved. It was the washing of my old self and callous heart and coming up a completely new person in Christ. You really do feel that. I was extremely emotional, different than any feeling I ever had. It will be the best feeling I ever have.”
Casey said she has experienced spiritual growth since then.
“It has changed me,” she said. “I'm moving toward strengthening relationships with other Christians, wanting to grow more and learning.”
Casey said what she experienced growing up was more about religious textbook learning, not relationship learning.
“Ever since my baptism, I try to find other Christians that can guide me and help me on my my path,” she said. "I can just tell God is working in my life to help me learn more and more about him and about the Bible. That’s the biggest change I felt."
Casey started attending GBCC in 2018 when she moved to the Green Bay area. She is a student at UW-Green Bay and is working toward a communications degree with a business administration minor.
Casey and Curtis plan to get married in the summer of 2020. Casey isn’t sure where they will land but knows their future is in God’s hands. The same goes for her career path.
In the short term, Casey wants to grow by developing relationships with other women in the church. “I want to find women that I can connect with, that I can talk to every day,” she said. "I have a lot of questions.”
One of the things Casey has already learned is the reality of spiritual warfare and how to deal with it.
"For me in my specific situation, it’s allowing God to fight my battles, allowing God to step in when you are having spiritual warfare,” Casey said. “If you feel something is holding you back, pray for strength through him. I feel that God really does answer that prayer.”