Westmont Magazine Bringing Jesus Into the 21st Century
Jamie McEwen Lisea ’88 often talked to teenagers at Young Life meetings and camps and wondered how to make Jesus less distant and more real. Would it help to put him in a contemporary setting? She began to write years ago, taking fictional liberties and adapting biblical accounts to the 21st century.
“It was more fun and life-giving than I expected to create these stories,” Jamie says. “I learned a lot about God thinking about the possibilities. How would Jesus engage with the rich young ruler in our society? What would the woman at the well be like? It felt a little risky, and I wanted to be true to God and to the Scriptures. But Jesus told stories, and they are a powerful way to engage people. So I felt I had permission to use fiction to point to truth.”
She shared her stories with friends and partners in ministry, making copies when requested. She thought about putting them in a book but found the publishing world closed to new authors. So she produced a volume herself, “Rich Thirsty Hungry and the Freedom That Finds Us There,” which is available through Amazon. “It would be beautiful if these stories help us learn how to communicate Jesus to a new generation and a very different culture,” Jamie says.
The book retells and expands three biblical stories: the parable of the prodigal son and Jesus’ encounters with the rich young ruler and the woman at the well. The prodigal son demands the money saved for his college education and spends it on drugs and other indulgences, ending up broke in South America. The rich young ruler is a successful New York executive caught up in his workaholic life. He asks Jesus how he can be financially—and morally—secure, and reacts indignantly when Jesus tells him to give all he has to the poor. But the story doesn’t end there. The woman at the well works in a beauty salon after growing up in an abusive home, being raped at a young age and later having an abortion and giving birth to several children with different fathers.
Jamie attended public schools growing up and found it challenging to share her faith in a secular environment. She came to Westmont to live with people excited about their lives in Christ, and she majored in communication studies. “Westmont cultivated a hunger for the authentic and taught me to recognize the difference between what is genuine and what is not,” she says. “I had space to learn, to hunger and thirst, and to grow as my faith connected with the world. It’s important to know your true north because the world is crazy and always changing. Westmont gave me that.”
Jamie married alumnus Scott Lisea ’88, and the oldest of their three sons is a senior at Westmont. After a long career with Young Life, Scott serves as acting head of school and associate head for spiritual life at Oaks Christian in Westlake, Calif. Jamie joined him at Young Life over the years, mostly as a volunteer, but she now works part time for the ministry, developing leaders in the coastal and central California regions. And she continues to seek compelling ways to tell people about Jesus.