Heavy metal, tattoos and Jesus
By Doug Dowty
Can heavy metal, tattoos and administrative work bring you to Jesus?
Amanda Ward knows for sure. The 23-year-old dynamo says she’s always seeking Jesus. But that doesn’t mean losing your soul.
Now the administrative assistant and youth intern at the Vineyard in Syracuse, Amanda spent her later teen years in the church’s youth group. She met her longtime ex-boyfriend there.
But she’s also run the fan group for Christian heavy metal group Manic Drive. She took lots of photos – another of her loves – and started the fan group before the band even knew she existed. They later allowed her to continue.
“I like having people’s backs,” she says. “I like watching people succeed and being in the background.”
After a difficult breakup, she reconnected with herself and Jesus by getting an ever-growing number of tattoos: the Holy Spirit and God are referred to as ocean or water on her right arm. And there’s also Batman. She quotes Batman Begins: “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
Even as a young teen in Solvay – when her family was between churches – Amanda never let go of Jesus. She hung out with the pot-smokers and counterculture crowd, but never felt pressured into it herself.
People knew what Amanda believed: “I like Jesus, and that’s it,” she recalls of being a teen. “I prayed every day.”
Those loves – of helping others, breaking the norm and loving Jesus – haven’t left her. “I’m still that kid, but I’m a grown up now,” she says.
But she learned a valuable lesson a few years ago. After meeting her boyfriend at Vineyard youth group, the couple continued being involved in everything from weeknight youth groups to retreats. Eventually, the couple grew further apart, but kept trying to make it work.
Despite finding a boyfriend at church — in the “perfect” way — Amanda knew she was starting to lose touch with God.
When the relationship ended, she reconnected to God by returning to her counterculture roots. And she realized just how easy it was to get wrapped up in something else. She learned it’s OK to break the norm.
Amanda knew that the next step she was supposed to take was a college degree. She’d always loved photography, and so she planned to attend Cazenovia College.
But she was conflicted. So she sought out her longtime mentors, Vineyard pastor Evan Brownell and his wife, Michela. They had another option: Amanda could intern at the church.
Amanda ultimately decided to stay at the Vineyard, a decision she doesn’t regret. “I love administrative work!” she says with an excited smile.
Her internship ends in November. And whatever happens next, she’s confident Jesus will lead her in the right direction.