My name is Josh Prenot. I’ve been attending Lompoc Foursquare Church (LFC) in Lompoc, Calif., for the past nine years, and I’ve really grown to love my church family. I recently moved to Berkeley, Calif., for college.

My mom, Tammy, plays piano for the worship team on Sundays, and I have served on the usher team with my dad, Bill. The usher team is a great group to be a part of. We are typically the first “church people” that first-time attendees come in contact with, so we have the opportunity to make a good first impression by extending a warm, friendly greeting, offering a bulletin with information about the morning’s services and upcoming events, and providing answers to any questions guests have about the church.

When I first started serving, ushering was described to me as the “ministry of helps.” In addition to making a first impression, that’s what we do: direct people to our children’s ministry rooms, give cough drops to people who may need them during a service, help locate available seats, and just help our congregation with whatever they need.

Serving in the church has been very rewarding for me; it feels good to not just consume church services every Sunday, but to give back and help out. I think learning to enjoy giving back and having qualities of a servant is a life lesson that will benefit me in the future.

In June of this year, I had the opportunity to compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for swimming. The fastest 1,800 American athletes were invited to compete for eight days in Omaha, Neb., for spots on our nation’s Olympic team.

I came down with strep throat early in the competition, but through tons of prayer and tons of vitamin C, I was able to rebound from the illness and break the record in the 17-18 American age group for the 200-meter breaststroke, finishing 10th overall. During the course of the eight-day meet, I swam five events. In two of them, I made it out of the preliminary heats and into the top 16 semifinal races.

Throughout the meet, I kept looking around at the 15,000-plus seats in the arena surrounding the pool and the huge video board in the middle of the arena, which, during my semifinal races, displayed my name beside names like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. I thanked God for blessing me with the opportunity to be there, chasing what I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid in a swimming pool.

Every time I was behind the starting blocks, I prayed for God’s help, and also just thanked Him for blessing me so much thus far. Even though I didn’t make the 2012 Olympic team, I greatly enjoyed the experience, and I believe I can be an Olympian in 2016.

When I returned from my 12-day-long experience, I was greeted by congratulatory tweets from @LFCfoursquare as well as countless hugs, handshakes and congratulations from members of the LFC congregation. On the Sunday immediately following my return, dozens of people I didn’t know came up to me and told me that I had done a good job, and that they had prayed for me all week. I had no idea so many people were praying for me, watching my races, and following the trials, but when I saw that, it really gave me a great sense of pride in my church.

Since I was a little kid attending Sunday school classes, LFC has shown me an incredible amount of love. I’m really thankful to LFC for the difference it has made in my upbringing, and I’m so glad that I’m part of a godly organization that supports its members and makes a difference in the community.