Arts In Action | Testimony Series | Olivia Renkel
For all my life the arts have been a significant part of who I am, even before I got involved with The Salvation Army. However, it wasn’t until later on that I realized how much of a part the arts could play in helping me express my faith. I always believed in God, but it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I learned I could have a deeper, personal relationship with Him; I have my corps officer at the time, Captain Debbie Engel, to thank for that. She helped reveal to me the connection between my passion for the arts and God. She made me realize that the reason I have such a strong love for the arts is because God has instilled that passion inside of me to spread His love. Once I made this discovery, my passion had a whole new meaning and a stronger purpose.
From there I began to get more involved with the arts in The Salvation Army on both a divisional and territorial level. When I was old enough, I auditioned for CAST, and was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the team in the summer of 2014. This was a life-changing experience for me. It was the first time I was a part of a group that shared my two biggest passions: creative arts and spreading God’s love. I continued to be a part of CAST for two more summer’s after that. To say that my faith grew during those three summers would be an understatement. My faith was constantly challenged and pushed, but also encouraged and inspired. Not only did I grow in my faith and artistry, but I also made tenacious bonds with others that have since become life-long friendships.
I still participated in the arts outside of the Army. I was very involved in my theater department while in college and was working with people who had different beliefs than me. I had been in similar environments before, but now that I had a newfound purpose in my artistry, it was much easier for me to express who I was and what I believed in without any fear. Through those situations, God provided opportunities for conversations with others which have resulted in the most unlikely friendships. Even when I doubted, He always showed me there was a purpose.
Now, 6 years after that life-changing discovery, I am in an arts leadership position with The Salvation Army as the Creative Arts Director for New Jersey. Now it’s my turn to take young people’s passion for the arts and help them discover why they have that passion and Who gave it to them. This can feel like an overwhelming task at times, but thankfully I’m part of a very supportive and encouraging Salvation Army community. A community whose mission is to spread the love of God through dance and theater while constantly exploring new ways to convey that message.