Senior Spotlight: From Circus Act to Speech Therapy

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Caren Pratt

When Caren Pratt’s fellow young adult ministry leader suggested that they spend a month focusing on resources for those who might want to switch careers, she questioned his decision. “At this point, I’m 25. I’m like, ‘We’re adults. Anyone that didn’t go to college is not going,’” she said. He shared his experience of going back to school at the age of 25 and told Pratt there might be someone there who needed to hear this message. Pratt said she thought, “That’s good for you. That’s not my story.” Little did she know what God had in store for her.

Joining the Circus

After graduating from high school in 2009, Pratt joined Emanji Circus Arts in her hometown of Nassau, Bahamas. Her sister, a trapeze artist, had helped found the troupe out of her dance school and invited Pratt to practices. As a result, the owner invited Pratt to join in 2010. “I was like, ‘And do what? I’m not coming off the ground, sir,’” she said.

Instead, Pratt became the troupe’s manager. “I did social media stuff, and I did all the behind-the-scenes stuff,” she said. She was also a backup fire dancer. “We learned how to blow fire and swing fire.” But if Pratt could avoid performing herself, she did. “I trained with them, so I had all the training. I just didn’t want to do it.”

Receiving Salvation

After Pratt had been with the circus for a year, she left to attend Landmark Baptist College in Haines City, Florida. “I found my way to a Bible college which is also an interesting story because I wasn’t saved, and my family is nominally Christian,” Pratt said.

Her mother had met some people from the college in an airport while waiting for a delayed flight. They made such an impact on her that she decided Pratt should attend their college. Said Pratt: “She came home and said, ‘Caren, I met some nice people. You’re going to their college.’ … Thank God because I got saved there.”

When Pratt arrived, she knew little about the Gospel. “I knew about Jesus because the Bahamas is a Christian nation, but I didn’t know who Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were. I didn’t know any of these things,” she said.

The small Bible school was a culture shock for Pratt. “The first time I had to go to church Sunday night, I was like, ‘Why?’” she said. Not only did the college require attendance at Sunday morning and Sunday evening services but also at Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday night soulwinning and Saturday bus visitation.

Because these events were required, Pratt was showing others their need for Christ before acknowledging her own. “I think because I grew up in a Christian nation, I convinced myself I’m saved. We’re all saved,” Pratt said. “And so I learned the Gospel. I learned all the verses. I learned the Romans Road. … And then I’d watch people get saved, and (I’d think,) ‘I don’t remember experiencing that.’”

One day in the fall of 2011, Pratt was reading required Bible reading for class and realized she did not know the Lord as her personal Savior. Though at first uncertain of what to do, she recalled what she had told those she had led to salvation. “So I sat there, and I prayed, ‘Jesus, I know I’m not saved, and I need you to save me, and so that’s when I got saved.’”

Reordering Priorities

Pratt stayed at Landmark for another semester after coming to Christ. However, she realized that full-time ministry, the mission of the college, was not the path God was leading her down. She returned to the Bahamas and Emanji Circus Arts in May 2012.

Soon after, her mom once again enrolled Pratt in a college, this time a local night school. “That’s how I was introduced to accounting,” she said. One of the school’s core classes was an accounting class, and the instructor advised Pratt to go into the field since she showed talent for it.

As a new Christian, though, God was working in Pratt’s heart. At the end of 2013, she realized that she was using the circus and its nightly practices — which she wasn’t required to attend as manager — as an excuse to skip church on Sundays.

Just as she was ready to leave the circus, an acquaintance of Pratt’s offered her a job as an accounting administrator in his home security company. She took the job and filled the time she used to fill with the circus with church ministries.

“I was in the finance ministry, the choir, the counseling ministry, the youth ministry, the young adults ministry. I had an unofficial bus route in my car,” she said.

Finding Her Niche

Pratt worked for the security company for four years, realizing that she hated it after three. It was during this time that the young adults ministry held its vocational event. The group took a personality career test one night. “At the end of it I’m almost sure that it said I should be in the healthcare field,” Pratt said. She disagreed. “I cannot imagine myself as a doctor. No. I don’t like blood. I don’t like people that much. That just sounds gross. This thing is flawed.”

Then the teacher who administered the test spoke to the group, telling them that there is a shortage of workers in some areas in the Bahamas. The wife of the leader who had planned the vocational event also spoke. “I didn’t think about it, but they have a son who has autism,” Pratt said. “So she got up, and she (said,) ‘Yeah, she’s right. We really need speech therapists because I’ve been trying to get one for my son, and I haven’t been able to.’”

That night wasn’t the “lightbulb moment” for Pratt, but it planted a seed that would germinate about six months later. Dissatisfied with her current work at the home security office, she was lying in bed, “and the thought came to me, what about speech therapy?” After searching which degree she would need to become a speech therapist — communication disorders — she searched for Christian colleges that offer the program.

“That was a very narrow list. It was like four or five,” she said. “Bob Jones was either the least expensive or one of the least expensive, and one of the only ones I knew about.”

Though she knew little about speech-language pathology and communication disorders when she arrived — “at the time all I knew about it was we fix people’s R’s” — Pratt is eager to graduate and return to the Bahamas, bringing her new degree with her.

“Ultimately, I want to go into medical missions. Whether it’s full time, part time, I don’t know,” she said. “I also want to travel and do it. … I’ve talked to Dr. Kadio, who’s from the Ivory Coast, and he was telling me that in his country, they kind of disregard communication disorders because there’s nobody there to help them. And I realized that that’s what we do in the Bahamas. … So I definitely want to be able to help whoever I can, however I can.”