The Gospel is the script he follows nowadays
Coming home to see Friendswood High's musical The Music Man, which runs through Sunday, Feb. 27, Fred R. Nelson recalled that his portrayal of the title character of that play in 1989 wasn't the only con artist role he played that year.
He also portrayed a trickster tramp in The Silver Whistle, which Friendswood High theater students took all the way to state in University Interscholastic League one-act play competition.
Today, Nelson, 39, is the pastor at Antioch Community Church in Waco. But, he said, until he found the Lord, he wasn't much different from the imposters he played on stage.
About the character of Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, he said: "I kind of related to him. Here's this guy who kind of lived for himself.
"I grew up in a Christian home. I was a good kid, involved in church, but through high school and college, I was thinking about myself. I wasn't thinking about others," he said. "I felt like God got ahold of my heart and helped me with temptations that I was struggling with, and that's when I decided, 'I want to live for the Lord.'"
Nelson earned a communications degree from Baylor University before returning to First Baptist Church-Friendswood and serving five years as its youth pastor. In 1997, he moved back to Waco for a three-year program at George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
Nelson has traveled to villages in Nicaragua to teach the Gospel to people who had never heard of Jesus Christ, and he's spent as much as two weeks at a time helping establish new churches or oversee fledgling ones in Germany, Mexico and Turkey.
At Antioch, he's drawn upon his experience from his high school musicals to co-write several shows the church has presented at Christmas and Easter services.
He and his wife, Becca, have five children ranging in age from 7 months to 7 years.
Nelson said he grew up enjoying watching his sisters, Nancy and Nona, perform in the annual musicals at Friendswood High, where his father, Fred W. Nelson, was principal before becoming an assistant superintendent in the Friendswood Independent School District.
He said the show's longtime producer, Myrtle Kennedy, was an assistant principal his freshman year when she took him out of his last-period class and "roped" him into joining the cast of The Sound of Music.
From then on, Nelson was hooked. His sophomore year, he played the character of Stagehand in George M! , and his junior year, he joined the choir, took drama and was Ito in Mame.
It wasn't his voice but his acting ability, he said, that landed him the title role in The Music Man.
"The take-away from it was that I became more confident. Also, (I have) many fond memories," he said.
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