Hi, my name is Jena. I was born and raised in midwestern Ohio. Ever since I was young, I wanted to start my own business. When I was 17, I had the opportunity to jump into the business realm. I now co-own a billboard company in the Midwest, making that dream become a reality. Business was my passion and still is.
Another one of my dreams was to go to Israel; as a Christian, I understood that being able to walk where Jesus walked would be incredible. I had volunteered with a political organization for a couple of years and they came to me and said, “We have an opportunity to go to Israel…would you like to join?” And of course, I said, “Yes, I’m coming!” So in the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Israel with Passages for the first time.
When I was there, I had the opportunity to not only walk where Jesus walked, but also to learn so much more about the political landscape of the region. I went on my first trip and was amazed by the incredible experience, but I wanted to know more about the Middle East. So I spent the next year learning about the Middle East through Passages programs and on my own by following many different media outlets. I know there is media bias, so I followed various sources to really understand and learn more.
A year came and went and I had the opportunity to go to Israel again as a Passages Fellow. I went back after learning so much about the region and it really broke my heart. It broke my heart because what I realized was that freedom comes at a cost and the people in the Middle East are fighting so hard for the freedom that we in America so often take for granted. This really changed my mindset about how I live here in America. While my first dream was always to start my own business, which I did and still run, my time in the Middle East really showed me that I need to give back to my community. So when someone came to me about a year ago and told me that I should think about running for State Representative in my district, I laughed and just said, “That sounds interesting…let me think about it.” But because God worked so much in my life by going to Israel and allowing me to see the needs and hurts of other people, I couldn’t get that idea out of my head. So I ran, despite the fact that I was scared to death.
In November, I was elected State Representative in the 80th district of Ohio and was also named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 in the Law & Policy category. What I hope to do through my new position is to show people that liberty comes at a cost. If the next generation of Christian leaders is not willing to stand firm and say that truth is truth, then we aren’t willing to do anything. I am excited to be able to stand up for truth in the public square because of what I learned in Israel. I want to thank Passages so much for the opportunity to go to Israel to learn about the Middle East. As I continue to learn and care about the issues in the Middle East, I take what I learned there and apply it by caring for my community here in the United States. Thank you, Passages. I appreciate everyone who gave me this opportunity because it truly did change the course of my life.