When Teresa Giesselmann thinks about modern-day mentors, she need look no farther than her own first name for a reminder.
Mother Teresa tops Giesselmann’s list of most inspirational Christian leaders. Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Catholic order of sisters. The order began in Calcutta, India. Today, sisters assist the poor, dying, sick and orphans in many countries.
“I have the utmost respect for Mother Teresa, who chose to live with the poorest of the poor and deny herself life’s luxuries…,” said Giesselmann of Fremont. “Her whole life was one of unselfish service to others, and love. Just love of God’s people.”
Giesselmann isn’t the only area resident to see Mother Teresa as one of this era’s most inspirational Christian leaders. Area residents also cited other Christians – pastors, evangelists and Bible teachers – as their favorites. Their choices, made via Facebook, crossed denominational lines and included both genders.
Like Giesselmann, Brad Wiese put Mother Teresa at the top of the list – saying she devoted her life to the love, service and acceptance of those who were: “forgotten and left to die by everyone else.
“She brought dignity where there was none and allowed people to feel love in their final days,” said the associate pastor and youth director of First Baptist Church in Fremont. “Few others have modeled the Way of Christ as she did … in fact, I can’t think of any others during our time.”
Bible teacher, author and speaker Beth Moore is a favorite, too. Regularly featured on the Life Today television program, Moore has written many Bible studies, including “Breaking Free” and “Believing God.” She has authored books, such as: “Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God’s Deliverance.”
“Her studies have really struck a chord with me (and many other women),” said former Fremonter Megan Rabbass Stromberg. “She brings God’s word to life in ways that no other teacher has been able to. And since she has lived a life in the ‘pit,’ she lives and teaches with such compassion.”
Jody Smith Hintz of Fremont likes Moore as well.
“I wouldn’t be where I am in my walk with Jesus if I hadn’t studied with Beth Moore. She is truly a blessing from heaven,” Smith Hintz said.
Another Bible teacher, author and speaker also gets high marks from area residents. More than one person cited television and radio speaker Joyce Meyer as an influential leader.
“Joyce Meyer has written and spoken in such a way that has touched hundreds of thousands of women – myself included,” said Emily DeMars Kranz of Fremont. “She is perfectly imperfect; and I think it resonates with women who may have thought that being a Christian meant being some sort of a saint.
“All of her books point out the hilarious and sad flaws that we all walk around with, yet point you toward the change that is possible through God’s grace.”
Lou Ann Escritt Bauer of Fremont also likes Meyer, citing perhaps her most popular book.
“‘Battlefield of the Mind’ was such an eye-opener to me, explaining about living in the flesh and the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome it,” she said.
Evangelist and author Billy Graham gets high marks as well. A spiritual adviser to several United States presidents, Graham is best known for his radio and television broadcasts, some of which are still re-broadcast today. At the end of his TV broadcasts, Graham invites people to come forward and ask Christ to come into their hearts.
“Ever since I was a kid, my mom and I used to watch him,” Susan Siebler of Fremont said. “I also read a lot of his books. I found him easy to understand and was so impressed by the hordes of people coming forward during his programs.”
Former Fremonter Carolyn McBreen Gibbs of Bellevue points to another popular Christian author and radio speaker as a source of inspiration.
“When I was a very new Christian, I listened every day to Chuck Swindoll,” she said. “He always touched on something I was struggling with. He was so down to earth that I had no trouble relating to his messages.
“One I still remember was being in a desert…,” she continued. “God will sometimes lead you into a desert experience to teach you, and to train you in his word. No desert is forever, and God will move you back to the mountain top, when you have learned what God needed to teach.”
Area residents also mentioned pastor and author Rick Warren, theologian C.S. Lewis and writer David Wilkerson.
“I was 21 years old when I read Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life' book and that was life changing for me at that age and time in my life,” said Libby Headid of Fremont.
The Rev. Michael Wenig, Fremont campus pastor of Westside Church, likes Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Wenig believes this series of books has “captivated generations up to today with the story of faith and redemption."
Kellie Cowden-Whitsett appreciates Wilkerson, an evangelist best known for his book, “The Cross and the Switchblade,” and for founding the Teen Challenge program.
Wilkerson died in a car crash in 2011.
“He truly loved God and led many to Christ, both here in the U.S. and around the world,” Cowden-Whitsett said.
No matter who area residents see as an inspiration one thing is certain – these prominent leaders have paved the way for generations of future Christians.