Bible teacher feels called to First Odessa Christian

First Odessa Christian Academy Bible teacher Misty Bernstein points to a student during class recently. This is Bernstein's second year at FOCA and she feels she was called to the job. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Misty Bernstein has all levels of Bible knowledge in her classes at First Odessa Christian Academy.

Some may not know what the first book of the Bible is and others may be more knowledgeable than she is.

“I love that,” Bernstein said.

They will look it up and see where the student found it. She has a variety of Bibles and some use different words than others and sometimes one word can help them understand a scripture.

“Those that have never had any Bibles or don’t even go to church, I’ll pull out my New Beginner’s Bible, even like a child’s Bible, the old Bible stories, and I’ll say read it this way and they’ll say Oh, got it,” Bernstein said.

Then they’re not so afraid when they open a Bible like a New King James Version. She likes the New Living Translation Bible.

“I always try to tell them grab a Bible that you can read. If there’s too many thous and shalts, you won’t understand that because you don’t talk that way. Find the Bible that talks like you,” Bernstein said.

She said it’s fun to teach the class.

“Sometimes, those that don’t have any knowledge are more fun to teach because you see the light bulb when they get it,” Bernstein said.

“I have to really work at making sure that no one gets made fun of, or that no one gets left out or left behind,” she added.

Bernstein tells students not to make it harder than it is.

“Hear the story, and then stop and think where have I heard that?”

Then it will dawn on the students.

Asked how many students go to church, Bernstein estimated it’s 60-40 with 60 not attending. She teaches students in sixth through 10th grade.

“Those numbers might not be right, but that most of them, I feel like, don’t go,” Bernstein said.

She also has a time called Talk it Out where they stop all book work and talk to each other, listen and when they are through they have to make sure they have enough time to look up scripture to back up everything that they talked about.

If they gave advice, they have to find scripture that backs up that advice.

Members of the First Odessa Christian Academy choir sing at Parent Empowerment Night Thursday, March 23, 2023, at First Odessa Christian Academy. (Michael Bauer|Odessa American)

This is Bernstein’s second year at First Odessa Christian Academy.

“I definitely believe that God sent me here. God gave me my job, without a doubt. My husband’s been a youth pastor for 30 years. I’ve been along with him the last 15. We were coming to Odessa for a totally different reason. … Coming to work at a private school and teaching Bible was not really on my radar. I have that degree, but it wasn’t really what we were coming to a desk for, you know, and that’s not what I was looking for. We were coming because we felt that my husband was being called to pastor a church here. We came and we spent a week in here and we fell in love with the area,” Bernstein said.

She is from Knox City outside of Abilene and they were living in Tolar previously. Bernstein had taught previously, but couldn’t get certified because she has a theology degree from Trinity International.

“West Texas is my heart. We have been all around with him being a pastor,” Bernstein said.

When they came here for her husband, Blaine, to interview, she decided she was staying.

“I just felt so called here and I … cried on the way home because I did not want to leave Odessa,” Bernstein said.

She added that she was sure they were going to be called to a church here, so she started liking things on Facebook pertaining to Odessa and so she could start learning the area.

Bernstein was at her job one morning and an advertisement for a Bible teacher at FOCA popped up in her Facebook feed. She didn’t think anything about it and sent it to her husband.

“I said, ‘Look what just popped up’ and he’s like, that’s cool and neither one of us thought you need to apply for that,” she recalled.

She went about her job, but the ad kept popping into her head, so she thought she would email them and see what they wanted and what they were looking for.

She got an email immediately from the head of schools and they started the conversation.

Bernstein sent her resume and got an interview right away.

She had a FaceTime interview where Senior Pastor Byron McWilliams asked her some questions about her belief in the Bible.

She told McWilliams, “I’m going to tell you like my father-in-law has always said, I believe it from the index to the maps, that it’s all true.”

“He said, works for me; good enough for me; and that was it. … The head of schools and I just kept talking” and before they hung up, Bernstein was offered the job.

Bernstein said she’d like to pray about it and talk to her husband. Her husband said he felt God was offering her the job and she needed to take it.

Meanwhile, they didn’t know about the job at another church.

They decided to take a leap of faith and move to Odessa. Her husband did get the job as a youth minister at First Baptist Church in Monahans.

“Teaching was a passion, it was a tugging at my heart, but I didn’t know what that meant. I finally had to just say, Okay, God, use me. When I stopped trying to put pieces together, that’s when God showed me and gave me my job. I wasn’t looking for a job when I found this place, it found me, because I was actually employed with another company (Rock House) that has a base here. So I thought, well, if we get that job, then I’ll just transfer. I can just transfer to Odessa,” Bernstein said.

She and her husband have four children. Her daughter just got the PE and volleyball coach position at FOCA.

Lindsey Lumpkin, FOCA head of schools, said Bernstein is what she says she is: a strong Christian woman who desires for her students to learn about the greatest story ever told — the life of Jesus and how he can save you from your sins.

“She loves her students and works to create a Bible class where they can openly talk about their joys, fears, struggles, questions about God, the application of the Bible to their lives, how the world today actually mirrors the past, and they learn the power of prayer because it’s modeled in every single class period,” Lumpkin said.

“She’s showing them how to live a Christ-centered life and how it’s all about a relationship with their Creator! Although there is fun and laughter, hugs and an occasional tear, Mrs. Bernstein’s ultimate goal is to win souls for Christ. For those who don’t know him yet, she is teaching them how to pursue him because he has already been pursuing them, they just haven’t fully grasped that notion. It’s all about planting seeds. I feel that’s why we connected so quickly because of our passion and burden for the lost. She’s a blessing to our campus,” Lumpkin added.

McWilliams echoed many of Lumpkin’s sentiments.

“First Odessa Christian Academy is thrilled to have Misty Bernstein as our Bible teacher. Ms. Bern, as the students love to refer to her, is a pastor’s wife who loves Jesus and models excellent Christian character in all she does. She creatively teaches our students what it means to love Jesus with all their hearts and to love others. When I interviewed her for this very important position and she shared her beliefs about God’s Word and how it is critical for our students to grow in their knowledge of the Bible to develop a biblical worldview, I knew she would be a good fit for FOCA. Ms. Bern is a Bible teacher, counselor, servant, and encourager to all our students and this makes her a great member of the FOCA team,” McWilliams said.