For alum Nashon Walker ’05, the journey to Messiah College followed a path of uncertainty, unfamiliarity and overwhelming faith. Now eight years later, the grateful alumnus holds onto a stirring testimony.
A childhood on the streets
As a child, Walker experienced the chaos of Philadelphia’s street scene: he grew up with drug-addicted parents, lived with his grandmother and became a father figure for his four younger siblings. By the time Walker reached high school, he had fully surrendered to a life of crime, lawlessness and irresponsibility, following in the footsteps of those around him.
In late 2001, the police arrested and incarcerated Walker, who joined his biological father in a local prison. The “youngest guy on the prison block” seemed destined for a life of corruption.
“I had to grow up very fast,” Walker said. “I knew I had no hope. My life on the streets drove me down a certain path, one I knew wasn’t right.”
While incarcerated, Walker received mentoring from a prison witness who offered faith-driven encouragement. The concept of a prosperous life never occurred to Walker; his childhood left little room for optimism and open-mindedness. But through these interactions—deeply rooted in the promise of Jesus Christ—Walker saw hope. At age 19, after nearly one year in prison, Walker began a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“In the streets, children see nothing but crime and hopelessness,” Walker continued. “You see, they never see a picture of what else is out there—the streets are all they know.”
A new home at Messiah College
After one-and-a-half years of incarceration, the authorities released Walker from prison, allowing the 21-year-old to continue his studies at Kaplan Career Institute in Harrisburg, Pa. While working toward a degree in computer engineering, Walker built a relationship with Gerald Jarmon, the assistant basketball coach at nearby Messiah College. Walker’s graduation in October—six months after his release from prison—opened the door for further college study. Garmon recommended Messiah College and, without hesitation from Walker, scheduled a visit with the school’s admissions office.
“When I visited Messiah, I almost felt at home—I felt such a peace, such a calmness that came over me,” said Walker. “The presence of God was on that campus.”
After deliberating with the school’s admissions and financial aid offices, Walker enrolled in January 2002. Scholarships, grants and financial aid covered 70 percent of his college expenses.
“Messiah empowered me academically, spiritually and intellectually to reach my full potential and harness talents I never knew I had,” Walker said. “I didn’t know where my mother was, and my father was still incarcerated. Messiah became my home.”
During the spring of 2004, Walker traveled to Cayo, Belize, as a member of the Creation Care Study Program. Two weeks after returning, he took part in the International Business Institute, a 10-week program that provides in-depth international study.
In a three-year span, Walker transitioned from inner-city troublemaker to faith-driven leader. He started a Bible study that gathered over 100 people, began restoring his relationship with his parents and successfully encouraged his mother to attend college. Walker had, by his estimation, experienced a miracle. He graduated from Messiah College with a degree in business administration in May 2005.
“Nashon was a force of nature,” said Associate College Pastor Evie Telfer, who constantly encouraged Walker during his four years at Messiah. “He had an irresistible enthusiasm and a relentless commitment to dreaming big dreams.”
These aspirations, as described by Telfer, stemmed largely from the mentorship of Professor Brian Nejmeh, who became a father figure for Walker.
“Nashon has a desire to succeed that was born out of a grateful heart for what God has done in his life,” Nejmeh added. “He was inquisitive, willing to listen to advice and had a passion for Christ.”
A new purpose
Upon graduating, Walker followed Nejmeh’s guidance into a business career with One Communications, the largest privately held telecommunications corporation in America. Walker’s diligence led to immediate growth; after a year-and-a-half, he accepted a sales executive promotion, the highest position available at One Communications.
“The grace of God let me get there, that was it,” Walker said.
After transitioning from “incarceration to corporate prominence,” and becoming an accomplished businessman, Walker felt empty. His position at One Communications applied his business-focused gifts, though it left little room to incorporate a life transformed by grace. Walker needed a change.
“I was miraculously successful,” continued Walker, “but it got to a point where it didn’t mean anything anymore—I wanted to fulfill a greater call. I wanted to help other people experience the grace of God.”
And so, with his testimony by his side, Walker left corporate America and began a Bible study. He started by inviting one person; the pair met faithfully to discuss their mutual lives of faith. Before long, Walker’s Bible study garnered a strong enough following to develop into a church body. After significant prayer and deliberation, Walker introduced the Empowerment Center Worldwide, a nondenominational church in Harrisburg.
“It’s like running a corporation, except there’s a distinct joy from this,” said Walker. “I’m driven to do whatever Jesus tells me to do.”
The growth of Harrisburg’s Empowerment Center led Walker to establish Nashon Walker Ministries, a venture that allows Walker to spread his testimony across the country. He desires to “cover America with the message of hope, transformation and family restoration in order to help break the social epidemic cycles that have plagued our nation.”
Today, Walker stands with a testimony that inspires and encourages. From the streets of Philadelphia to life in a prison cell, from Messiah College to a year of global exploration, from corporate prominence to a life of faith-driven discernment, Walker experienced a transformation only made possible by the grace of God.
“My whole life is about helping people fulfill their dreams,” continued Walker. “Every day, I live out that dream.”