If you’re Hannah Wehlage ’14, you embrace a little uncertainty, open up to unexpected opportunities and trust your gut when the time comes to heed a new calling.
Wehlage, a theatre art and English literature double major, knew exactly what she wanted to do after graduating in 2014. Her education and her involvement in numerous campus organizations and activities – stage theatre, choir, orientation, and the co-founding of an improv troupe, just to name a few – had prepared her to achieve her goal of working in professional theatre. And that’s exactly what happened.
“Everything I thought I wanted to happen happened, thanks to a great education and wonderful professors that pushed me,” Wehlage said. “I went to work at Actors Theatre of Louisville in communications and marketing for a year apprenticeship. It was a wonderful opportunity.”
However, over the course of that yearlong commitment, Wehlage came to realize that working in professional theatre wasn’t her calling after all. After spending enough time in the career she’d been working toward, she could tell the fit just wasn’t right.
“Walking away from that dream with no idea what was next was terrifying,” Wehlage said. “After leaving professional theatre, I had no idea where to go or what to do next.”
Still, that’s exactly what she did. Wehlage took a leap of faith, moved back home and took a few part-time jobs to pay the bills in the meantime. It was a step back but one that Wehlage knew she needed to take.
“It was a process and journey that took place over a couple of years,” Wehlage said.
In that time, Wehlage made the most of her opportunities. As a manager at Caribou Coffee, she developed professional experience while feeding her continued passion for theatre and performance by directing productions at her former high school. But it wasn’t until she began connecting with her faith in a new way that a meaningful path forward started to take shape.
I went on a mission trip to Asia with my church, Berean Baptist Church,” Wehlage said. “While there, I felt the call to worship ministry, with no idea how that would happen. I had no experience and no connections, but the day after I returned from Asia, a position opened at Berean and I got a phone call asking me to come in for an interview.”
After two years of feeling stuck, things were suddenly moving very fast for Wehlage. When the dust settled, Wehlage had made the decision to join Berean Baptist Church’s worship ministry team where she now manages many of the creative and production elements of the church’s weekend services at all of its campuses.
“It’s the position I never knew existed or that I wanted but was always being led to,” Wehlage said. “It uses a combination of all my past experiences in theatre, directing, management, design, communications, and more!”
For Wehlage, the opportunity to pair her faith with her career has led to a vocation that feels more complete than she had ever hoped for.
“Working in an environment where I am surrounded by others who feel the same, are on that same mission, and where my daily tasks have a greater, eternal purpose, is beyond fulfilling,” Wehlage said.
While her path was anything but straightforward, Wehlage has found herself filling a role that was both completely unexpected and perfectly suited for her skills and her faith.
It’s a story that may sound familiar to many graduates and Wehlage points out that her time at Concordia prepared her to adapt to her changing goals in ways she didn’t anticipate.
“Even though I never intended to end up where I am today, that well-rounded education prepared me for every step along the journey to where I am and I’m sure will continue to do so in the future,” Wehlage said.
For those who find themselves relating to her experience, Wehlage offers this advice:
“Follow your heart and your gut. Take risks. If something doesn’t feel right, change it! But also don’t run away at the first sign of hardship. Everything has a lesson to teach you if you let it. Enjoy the journey … up, down, and in between. You never know how that low moment is going to prepare you and launch you into the next high."