Jollyfisher Ekpe ’24: Striving to Bring Glory to God

by Nathan Foster

For Jollyfisher (Jolly) Ekpe ’24, taking a leap of faith was as simple as one word—yes. Originally from Quakertown, Pennsylvania, Ekpe was hesitant to move far away from his family to attend college, so he prayed about it, asking God for guidance. “I got the most resounding yes that I’ve ever felt from the Lord in my life,” Ekpe said. “But it wasn’t just a voice, it was a yearning to go and see what God had for me at Azusa Pacific and He started opening doors with scholarships.”

Although Ekpe had planned on studying biology and pursuing a career in the sciences, he also felt a calling to use the creative talents God gifted him. Right before he started at APU, he switched his major to acting, trusting God’s providence again. “I had a heart posture change. I hadn’t been in a play since seventh grade, but God gave me the confidence to pursue acting,” he said. “I completely put my faith in Him, auditioned for the program, and got in.” Ekpe loves that APU has one of the few acting programs in the country which offers training for both the stage and screen since he aims to land roles in both areas after graduation.

For now, Ekpe is focused on refining his craft. He recently starred in APU’s productions of Trojan Women and Twelfth Night. With feedback from guest directors Kristi Papailler and Kevin Slay, Ekpe sharpened his technique and delivered dynamic performances in his first lead roles since middle school. “I received really helpful advice from my acting professors to make bold decisions and just live. It’s called acting but it’s really just being, just living up on stage,” he said. Ekpe’s instructors Kirsten Lundin Humer, MFA, and Andi Chapman, MFA, have played key roles in his development as an actor.

“They’re so knowledgeable in their craft. They know when I’m not being truthful or not giving 100 percent,” Ekpe said. “They don’t settle for mediocre; they push me to do amazing things. Learning from them has been a blessing."

Ekpe also tries learning from and replicating great actors. Some of his favorites include Natalie Portman, Chadwick Boseman, and Aaron Pierre. “Aaron has such patience on screen and inspires me to take my moments, to not try to do too much, and to be present. I’m still learning how to put that into practice.”

Ekpe also informs his acting through what he learns in his psychology classes. Although he gave up biology, he didn’t abandon his love for the sciences, so he added a psychology minor. “I had to do something science related and understanding the human psyche is the next best thing. I love learning about the intricacies of the human body,” he said. Ekpe is also minoring in screenwriting to give himself another edge when he goes into the cinematic field after graduation.

On top of his studies, Ekpe plays bass for APU’s Kaleo chapel band. “Worship has always been something I’ve felt gifted in, a way I can reach people and share God’s love. I’m happy to continue cultivating that in college,” he said. However, there came a point last year where Ekpe faced the challenges of burnout and feeling inadequate in his worship skills. “I questioned why I was even doing it anymore,” he said. “But I’ve learned that in those moments where the enemy is trying to overtake your mind and your peace, you need to worship 10 times as hard. Spiritual warfare is very real, but the cross is infinitely more powerful.”

Ekpe also serves as a resident advisor (RA) in Engstrom Hall. He decided to apply for the position after a conversation with his sister made him realize it involved a lot of the things he loved: connecting with others, putting on events, and creating a fun environment for students.

“My favorite part of being an RA is interacting with my residents, having these unplanned one-on-one conversations with them, seeing what’s going on in their life and how I can help,” Ekpe said. “They know if they ever need me, my door is right down the hall, and I’m here for them.”

If this sounds like a lot to balance, it is. Ekpe struggled to juggle all of his responsibilities at first, but he found solutions that have made his day-to-day not only manageable, but simple. “Jesus is my savior, but Google Calendar has saved me on so many fronts this year,” he said. Ekpe mapped out his entire semester with rehearsals for plays, Kaleo, RA duties, and classes. He also began observing Sabbath in February. “Sabbath has been huge, just pausing and resting. It’s been very conducive for me to be in silence and at peace.”

Ekpe said practicing Sabbath has taught him patience by literally pausing and letting God’s will be done. While these day-to-day practices are important, it’s the big picture faith that Ekpe’s passionate about. “I love Colossians 3:17, which says whatever you do, whether in word or deed, to do it in the name of God. I want that to be the story of my life, whether I’m on a chapel team, or I’m an RA, or pursuing acting, behind or in front of the camera, I want it to be for God the Father,” he said. “Ultimately, I want to be really good at what I’m doing to bring glory to God.”

Nathan Foster '20 is the public relations manager in the Division of Strategic Communication and Engagement.