Senior Profile: Julia Jones and the call of Apostle Paul

3 months ago Triangle 0

Written by: Samantha Burgess, campus editor 

Julia Leigh Jones has learned in her 22 years of life about the difference between serving others in the name of Christ and serving yourself.

She learned this lesson from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21-24:“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Julia Leigh Jones was born on November 10, 1995 in Cleveland, Tenn. to Julia Helms and Kevin Jones. Jones has one sister, Abigail, who is 18. During her senior year of high school, the Jones family moved to Meigs County.

Jones recalls her childhood home with its 13 acres of woods. Jones–eight at the time–and her cousins were given walkie-talkies by her grandfather who let them run wild in the woods. They would cross logs to get over creeks and climb trees, radioing back every so often to her grandfather. Jones’s love of nature still holds today as she constantly spends time outside.

Jones’s father dabbled in woodshop, building various pieces of furniture out of his garage. When Jones was seven, her father let her assist him with building and she even made her own birdhouse. “Dad would always go to the hardware store to get us identical tools. My hands were small, so he’d get himself a hammer and then a smaller one for me. I was always thrilled to get my own tool to work with,” said Jones.

Jones plans on spending time with her family and working on a building project with her dad over the summer. “I enjoy any hobby that allows me to use my hands,” said Jones. “Whether that’s woodwork, gardening, drawing, crocheting, playing ukelele or having friends over for a game of dungeons and dragons.”

Jones grew up in a Christian home and at the age of seven she began talking to her parents and prayed for the peace of salvation. Because she was so young, Jones didn’t make any life altering changes until middle school. In eighth grade, Jones struggled heavily with anxiety and depression. “I remember lying on the floor in my room for hours just staring at the ceiling fan and having an existential crisis. I felt like anything I did wouldn’t matter in the long run and I didn’t feel like I had a purpose,” said Jones.

Jones spiraled farther into her depressive state to the point where she was having suicidal thoughts. But then she read the first chapter of Philippians, and that changed her perspective on life. Jones says if you know the context of Philippians and the fact that Paul was in prison, it only makes it more clear the pressures he felt to die and be reunited with Christ, and yet Paul knew it was necessary to continue in the flesh as Christ did in order to reach others. “That was a monumental breakthrough for me. I realized that my life wasn’t my own, but Christ’s. Other people became my motivation because living for yourself is meaningless. That’s why hospitality is so important to me,” said Jones. Jones showed this spirit of hospitality to me, inviting me over for tea and snacks while she told me about her life.

Jones finds that when she opens her life to others and serves them, they are more willing to hear the Gospel. She started looking for ways to serve others when she was a freshman at Cleveland High School. Jones worked in the backstage area of the theatre department, sung in the choir and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. She’d meet friends for lunch at Panera Bread on Wednesdays and would bring her calculus teacher tea afterward.

Toward the end of highschool Jones had to decide which college to attend. Since her dad was a Bryan College alumni, it was the first place she visited. She felt welcomed and realized the people around her cared about hospitality as much as she did. Not only that, but the professors had enough Bible knowledge to answer just about any question she had. Jones knew Bryan was the place for her. She enrolled in 2014 as a biology major with a secondary education option.

During her time at Bryan, Jones joined Worldview Initiative team. “I’m thankful for the memory of all the amazing people I have gotten to know through the program. The Worldview Initiative has taught me the value of true Christian community and what it looks like to come alongside other believers through the hard times and the happy times, so that we can all come out looking more like Christ,” said Jones.

Jones’s favorite professors include chemistry professor Dr. Brian Hill, associate education professor Dr. Kathryn Saynes, English professor Dr. Ray Legg and assistant biology professor Dr. Alice Lawrence. “Dr. Hill is an excellent teacher and he makes amazing jokes. He has the appearance of a mad scientist, but he totally understands pop culture references,” said Jones.

Jones explained that Dr. Lawrence always goes the extra mile to make sure that her students have everything they need to succeed in difficult classes and that Dr. Saynes always goes above and beyond to set students up for success. Dr. Saynes invites students into her home, helps them with tests and always gives clear feedback so students know how to improve. Jones will remember Dr. Legg because he is kind, thoughtful and funny.

With everything Jones has learned, she was most challenged during the spring semester of her junior year. She had three friends who were struggling heavily with mental illness and family issues. “I’m the type of person to try to shoulder my friend’s burdens. When I realized there was nothing I could do to help them I was torn up about it,” said Jones. Not only that, but she had friends who decided to leave her life without explanation and also had to deal with the loss of her grandfather. By the end of the semester, Jones was so emotionally drained she felt she had nothing left to give of herself.

As soon as Jones returned for her senior year she fell into another depression. Because she was living in the townhouses and student teaching, Jones found herself withdrawing from campus life and her friends. But Jones had two friends who continued to stick by her and ask her to hang out. She realized that it was truly possible for others to still love you even when you have nothing left to give. Jones spent her Christmas break recharging and reconnecting with God and her friends and family by reading her Bible more and spending time with loved ones. Jones said, “God has given me the courage and motivation to think outside of myself and not get trapped in my thoughts again.”

Jones will be a graduate assistant for Jack Saunders starting next year. Her time at Bryan has prepared her for a career and given Jones confidence in her teaching abilities. Jones said, “I feel ready to make the transition into adulthood. I also have a great network of amazing people who I love and I wish to continue to know and learn from throughout my life.” She hopes that her time at Bryan will leave a lasting influence on others.Samantha Burgess is a sophomore majoring in communication with an emphasis in digital media and is an assistant editor for the Triangle.