Nikki DeLoach: We would live in a completely different humanity if everybody was waking up every single day going, Hmm, I wonder how I could be more like Jesus in my life?
We’re humans—we’re not going to get it right, every day we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to say things we don’t mean. We’re going to feel things, jealousy, rage, all of that stuff. We’re humans. And that’s why spiritual practices are important—because you can keep coming back to, How did Jesus live His life?
Trusting God and Your Intuition: Nikki DeLoach and Pat Bradley – Episode #333
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. All of us have experienced what we like to call “gut feelings.” At various times in each of our lives, it’s been that deep intuition that perhaps moved us to make a decision that was good for us—choosing one thing over, or avoiding a situation that didn’t feel quite right. Other times, perhaps we didn’t follow that quiet tug on our hearts, and pursued a different route—maybe ending up in a less than ideal result. However we view those gut feelings, the message is the same: God will always find a way to reach us. He is that “still small voice” that Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:12), and in our lives often presents itself as that deep intuition about who we are and what we should do.
Our guests this week had those “gut feeling” moments that they ended up following that led to some pretty amazing things in their lives. Hallmark actress and producer Nikki DeLoach tells about her singularly-focused dream to become an actress and how she felt the pull to learn how to “tell stories” by learning how to produce projects as well. Pat Bradley worked for Crisis Aid International ministry for years, helping people all over the world. But it wasn’t until he felt the unexplainable tug toward helping people in a place no one else wanted to go that he had to trust where his heart was leading him. These guests both found that the more time they spent in conversation with God, the more they could trust the “still small voice” of their intuition to lead them to the right place.
Let’s start with Nikki’s story.
A Love for Storytelling
I really fell in love with movies. As a very young child, I would spend the weekends with my grandmother, who lived right down the street, and we would go to the local video store every Friday after school. We would rent three VHS tapes, and we would go to her house, and I would watch them over and over and over again. She got me into dance, into singing—she put me into pageants, which I did not love. But I did love the part of pageants where they allowed you to perform if you had a talent, right?
Winning a couple of those took me to New York and took me to L.A., which led me to The Mickey Mouse Club, which was my first big job. And I have just been in the industry since then.
I think for me it was a divine calling. I instantly knew that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories. Like, now as an adult, I can look back in retrospect and be like, Oh, I really just wanted to tell stories.
The people I started in the industry with in my twenties, at a time in my life when their careers were blowing up and they were becoming the most famous people in the world—in my early twenties, I couldn’t buy produce. And I’ve had that career where I’ve been on shows and my career has really taken off, and then the writer’s strike happened [in 2008] and I couldn’t get work for two years.
I spent a lot of time looking up at God and being like, Why not me? I work as hard as everyone else, I’m just as talented as everyone else. Why not me? Did You forget about me? And what I didn’t realize in those moments was I was actually very deeply being taken care of by God, because I just don’t know what that kind of fame would have done to me at such a young age. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it, to be honest.
“I spent a lot of time looking up at God saying, Why not me? Did You forget about me? What I didn’t realize was I was actually being taken care of by God, because I didn’t know what fame would’ve done to me at such a young age.” – Nikki DeLoach
I definitely know for a fact I would not be the person I am today. When I think about that, I go, Wow, actually, maybe I was one of the lucky ones. Right? Because I still get to do what I love to do.
Following Her Gut Instincts
My grandmother, my Nana, she goes, “I just want you to be on one of those nice Hallmark Christmas movies.”
I called my agent and I said, “How do you feel about calling Hallmark and just seeing if I could be a part of one of their Hallmark Christmas movies?” Sure enough, I got an offer for a Hallmark Christmas movie. My grandmother was over the moon.
So I film the movie. It’s the last movie of the holiday season—this was seven years ago. I’m in Blackshear, GA, with my family, and I’m actually in the Christmas church service. And the pastor—you know you’ve made it big in town [when] the pastor tells everybody, “We got to wrap this Christmas service up because everybody’s got to go home and watch Nikki on Hallmark. Her movie is airing tonight.”
And let me tell you, the reaction after that night when that movie aired, the reaction that I received from my hometown people, I had never received a reaction like this. The joy and happiness and warmth and love and hope, it just poured out of them. And I thought, Whoa. There’s something happening with these movies that is making people feel a certain way. And I want to be a part of making people feel that way.
You know, I taught acting for many years as a way to supplement my income, which taught me how to break down character scripts. I realized, Oh, I want to be a part of the actual storytelling, creating the stories. So I went and interned at a friend’s production company. He gave me an opportunity there to intern, and after about a month or so, he made me a creative executive at his production company, and I was able to learn so much about producing. I got the bug, right? Oh, this is what it feels like to be able to really be involved in storytelling.
So I called Hallmark Channel and asked if I could get a meeting. I went in and pitched them ideas. They loved them. We moved forward with developing. In the process, they kept hiring me. And you know what? It’s a great thing that I had that instinct and I followed that. It’s like that divine, kind of like when you really listen to yourself—it’s like Jesus Calling, right? It’s like that part inside of you that’s saying, Wake up and pay attention. I’m whispering to you about the direction that I want you to go in.
And thank God I did, because I ended up getting pregnant with Bennett, who is my youngest. And at five months pregnant, I found out that he had four congenital heart defects, and there was a good chance that if he did make it past his first surgery when he was born, that—let’s put it this way, it was a very scary time. And that first surgery coming out of the gate, there was a giant chance that he wouldn’t make it out of that surgery. And if he did make it out, what condition would he be in? I knew that even if it was successful, it would need and require all hands on deck for me.
You know, you would think that something like that would break your faith. But for me, it only deepened my faith because I had no other choice but to lean on God and Jesus. I had no choice but to pray and call on all my prayer warriors and everyone I knew out there. Because I knew if there was a miracle to be had, that miracle was the pairing and the partnership of finding the best pediatric heart surgeon and best team, and then letting God take over.
So I took off from work completely and devoted myself completely to Bennett. And at the time, I was learning how to be a writer. Because I thought, Well, if I can’t leave him and go act, then I’ll create my own stories and I’ll learn how to write. And it was such a gift and such a blessing. It got me through the hardest years of my life. And then I started writing for Hallmark, producing more for Hallmark, starring more in Hallmark movies. And that takes us up to where we are today. And so, that little whisper inside of me seven years ago that said, Pay attention to this. This matters, the way that you’re making people feel. That has ended up becoming such a giant part of my life today.
Living Every Season as Jesus Would Have
I love Jesus so much. I love how Jesus walked through this world. When you really know Jesus—and if you’re walking in a way where you were meeting every person in every situation like this—you are coming to them with love, with empathy, with compassion. You’re removing judgment, condemnation, excommunication. You’re removing hate. And you’re literally saying, “Hi, I’ve come to just be in community with you. I don’t care about the color of your skin. I don’t care about your gender. I don’t care about your socioeconomic level. I don’t care about what religious faith you’re in. I don’t care about anything. What I care about is, are you in need? Can I help you? Can I pray for you? Let’s be in community together.” That’s how Jesus lived His life.
“This is how Jesus lived his life: I don’t care about the color of your skin. I don’t care about your gender. I don’t care about your socioeconomic level. I don’t care about what religious faith you’re in. What I care about is, are you in need? Can I help you? Can I pray for you? Let’s be in community together.” – Nikki DeLoach
The thing that Christmas has come to mean to me, especially as I’ve gotten older, is that Christmas really is about giving back. It’s again going back to Jesus and going back to walking in the way and going to where the need is.
So going into this holiday season, I’m really in a different place. And we do this beautiful thing at Children’s Hospital where anybody can be a part of this. You can essentially be Santa for a family at the holidays and these families that have to spend their Christmas in the hospital.
So these families write down a wish list, and you get to go and fulfill the wish list. Sometimes there’s three people in a family. Sometimes there’s seven people in a family. But you get to essentially sponsor a family, fulfill their Christmas wish list. You wrap all the presents, and you deliver them to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. And then they deliver them to the family on Christmas morning. It has become an annual tradition for our family. It’s what I think Christmas is really about: remembering what’s most important. Are we alive? Are we breathing? Are we here? Are we honoring the ones that we’ve lost? Are we being good to other people? Are we giving back? That’s Christmas.
“Christmas is really about remembering what’s most important. Are we alive? Are we being good to other people? Are we giving back? That’s Christmas.” – Nikki DeLoach
That is what it looks like to walk in faith. It is to go where the need is. It is to go toward the suffering and say, “You are not alone. I am here.” And hold your hand out and take somebody else’s hand and walk with them. That’s what changes your life.
Narrator: To learn more about Nikki and her work, follow her on social media, and be sure to watch The Gift of Peace on the Hallmark Channel this holiday season.
Stay tuned to Pat Bradley’s story after a brief message.
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Narrator: Our next guest is Pat Bradley, founder of Crisis Aid International, one of the first organizations to show up in “no-go zones” where starvation, disease, and danger are part of everyday life. Pat shares how he found himself moved to go to places where no one had been willing to go, and how that changed his life and his ministry.
Pat Bradley: My name is Pat Bradley, and I am the co-founder of Crisis Aid International with my wife Susan. Susan is my best friend. She’s the love of my life, and we have two grown kids and six grandchildren. Prior to going full time in ministry with Crisis Aid, I was in the advertising business, and I was a partner in an agency for about thirty-five years.
Early Instincts to Help Others
Pat: So in my growing up years, I was born and raised in St, Louis. And you know, I can’t say dreamed that this is what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, and I remember all throughout grade school that twice a year, these Catholic missionary priests would come, especially from Africa, and they would have a service where they shared their stories. And I remember as a child being so fascinated with all of that. It really touched my heart and I’d [be] like, “Okay, I’m leaving here, Mom, what can we do to help them? They need money, and maybe we can do a fundraising thing.” [I was] just always being touched by the stories of the missionaries and what they were able to do to help people.
The other thing was as a child, I always believed life was a great adventure. So it was like if we can’t have fun doing something, why are we going to even think of doing it? And so I’ve kind of just carried that attitude throughout my childhood into high school. And, you know, it kind of got me into trouble, led me down some bad paths that I shouldn’t have really gone down. However, looking back on that now, I see that God used all of those times to get me to one of the things that I really wanted to do: to be able to help people in a way that was significant.
For about probably ten or fifteen years, I would use my vacation times to do mission trips. And those consisted of really working, like a volunteer with Open Doors, a couple of other ministries. And I really loved what I did. I loved my work, my company, my employees. I loved God. And just life was really good.
How Can We Help When the Need is So Great?
I was on this board of an organization called International Christian Concern based in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s a great organization. We were getting these reports from South Sudan, and so the founder and I had a conversation and decided, “Let’s go on a fact finding trip to South Sudan and see if what we’re hearing is really true.” And we really knew nothing beyond that.
So we went, and I found myself in South Sudan. We spent two weeks on the ground seeing things that were just atrocities, just seeing things that were beyond anything I could comprehend on my own. And so on the last day in the country, we came upon a group of people and there was about seventy men, women, and children. These were the survivors. A village had been attacked the night before, and we were in the middle of nowhere, just on the edge of the desert. It was like 120 degrees. We kind of stumbled upon these people. We had nothing to give to them. They had nothing either. And they were literally hundreds of miles from food, water, and shelter.
I felt utterly hopeless, like, What am I going to be able to do in the midst of needs beyond anything that human beings can describe? At the time, Colin Powell said the worst atrocities in mankind were going on in South Sudan. And here I find myself in the middle of all of this, a single individual. What am I going to do? What could I possibly do?
This was our last day in South Sudan, and we needed to head back. And so I remember as we were pulling away from this group of survivors, looking back over my shoulder, it just began to become obvious that somebody had to do something in these hopeless situations. God really did put it on my heart that doing nothing was no longer an option. So that was the genesis. That was how basically Crisis Aid was born.
“Somebody had to do something in these hopeless situations. God really did put it on my heart that doing nothing was no longer an option.” – Pat Bradley
Work Begins in the “No-Go” Zone
Beginning our work was a no-go—we call it the “no-go zones” in South Sudan. And really what these were these were areas in South Sudan that the government—the northern part of Sudan—forbid any aid, forbid the U.N. to go into these areas because this was literally where they were attacking the people. They didn’t want anybody in the world to see what they were really doing. So the airspace was supposed to be shut off.
The U.N. was very complicit with the government of Sudan and never went into any of the areas they considered were no-go zones. So for us, we were a small organization at the time. It was basically me and a friend of mine who had an organization in South Africa. So being a very small organization, we had the freedom to be able to go in, because we didn’t have a bunch of rules and regulations that said we had to get all kinds of corporate approval and what have you. We had contacts that knew how to get stuff into the no-go zones, and so that’s what we used. And we basically did it ourselves, because that’s where the greatest need was. And God always showed up for us.
But we also knew at the time that God sent us there and God protected us. The other thing is, it becomes almost paralyzing to hear the stories and to experience the needs of people, I mean, literally to sit with people who have nothing. The no-go zones were areas where no one was going to help people. And we found ourselves to be the only ones in there doing something.
“The ‘no-go zones’ were areas where no one was going to help people. And we found ourselves to be the only ones in there doing something.” – Pat Bradley
I’ve now been in eleven countries where we’ve worked in many situations beyond my capacity or my ability to do anything, to understand, and we always see that God never lets us down. It really taught me on a daily basis that it goes back to relationship with Jesus. There’s been seasons in my life where I want to say I didn’t always follow God on a daily basis.
I remember the first time somebody told me about Jesus Calling, was actually here in our office and one of our team had just gotten it. And she said to me, “Oh, this is an incredible devotional. Listen to this.” And she read me one day’s passage, and I was floored. I mean, I was like, “Holy cow, I’ve never heard anything like that.”
And so I grabbed the book from her. I spent the next twenty, thirty minutes just reading different things. And it was just like a conversation that Jesus is having with us at our level, speaking in our language, and bringing His divinity in the context of my everyday life to help me understand and take that vision of Jesus off of the Bible page and put Him into the real world that I live in. And Jesus Calling was really the first book that I’ve ever read to do that.
I have this vision and this passion to see people to get out of the church pew and become all that they can be, what God wants them to be. And many times when I speak, I have people come up to me later and say, “I’m just waiting to hear what God’s will is for my life.” But I think more often than not, we use that as an excuse to just not do anything. God can use you. And there’s a lot more freedom in God’s will than I believe we want to admit.
You brought me out into a spacious place. You rescued me because You delighted in me. I know that Your delight in me wasn’t based on any worthiness that was in me. You freely chose to lavish Your Love on me—bringing me out of slavery to sin into a spacious place of salvation. Since my best efforts were utterly insufficient to save myself, You rescued me and clothed me in Your own perfect righteousness. Help me to wear this clothing of salvation with overflowing Joy—living as a child of Light, secure in Your radiant righteousness.
In Your righteous, royal Name, Jesus,
Narrator: To learn more about the ongoing projects at Crisis Aid International, visit www.crisisaid.org.
If you’d like to hear more stories about following your gut and stepping out in faith, check out our interview with Emily Chang.
Next Week: Kevin Olusola
Kevin Olusola: We have the success formula, which is success equals personal alignment plus self-development times faith. You have to develop yourself. You have to align yourself to Christ. But now the faith portion, that’s your multiplier, because only God can do it. Only God can do what He’s called for you. You’re trying to bring the will of heaven down to earth through your vessel.