Nathan Reynerson's story begins when he picked up a guitar while a student at Scotlandville Magnet High School.
He taught himself to play, but his real focus was using his newfound talent to lead people to God.
"I didn't know any worship songs when I started out," says Reynerson. “I mean, I sang songs in church, but the only thing I could play on the guitar that was anywhere close was ‘Knockin' on Heaven's Door.’ ”
Reynerson's repertoire quickly expanded, as did his ministry opportunities throughout the world.
"But these ministries didn't always start out with sharing the gospel," he says. "First, you have to meet people's needs, and that opens opportunities to share with them."
Reynerson calls it planting seeds, which he does these days through his music ministry as praise worship leader and youth pastor at Cornerstone Fellowship in Baker. And, he continues to hit the road with his music.
But music is not the only way Reynerson spread the word. He's also the owner and operator of African Custom Knives, a Baton Rouge-based business that connects African knifemakers to American customers.
Reynerson's dad, David Reynerson, is former general manager at Bowie Outfitters, which sold the custom knives. The older Reynerson befriended one of the knifemakers.
"He came here to fish, and my dad shared the gospel with him, baptized him and that was what led to us wanting to help him after that and him needing help," Reynerson says.
At his dad's request, Reynerson traveled to a Dallas gun and knife show to meet the knifemaker, who asked if Reynerson could sell 1,000 knives in a year.
Reynerson was stumped. He had never sold one knife. But he'd also bypassed LSU's offer of a music scholarship to earn a business degree in marketing at the university.
He agreed to try.
"We sold 1,500 knives in the first year," says Reynerson, who sells the knives from his Old Hammond Highway office and through his website, africancustomeknives.com.
By word of mouth, he connected with more knifemakers.
"I've traveled to Africa to meet them, and I remember one of the trips we made over there, one of the makers said, ‘You're the first American who's ever visited me here.’ I've met 80 to 90 percent of them," Reynerson says. "We just find ways to help them build websites and do the things that help provide for their families. They're really artists. They just happened to make their art on metal and other materials."
While doing business, Reynerson also finds ways to share God's message, although it doesn't always happen outright.
"I would say there are some seeds that are planted that we will see fruit from," he says. "I personally haven't seen this great outpouring, but I do know that we could just be the example of Christ — Jesus met needs. That's the type of thing I feel like we're doing right now, planting seeds."
Reynerson also applies Jesus' example in his music ministry, which kicked off in college when he started playing at services in LSU's Baptist Student Union, now called the Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
Attendance skyrocketed from 50 people at a single Sunday morning service to 500 people.
He landed an internship after graduation as Istrouma Baptist Church's praise worship leader, and though he never attended seminary, he was ordained.
"I started touring," Reynerson says. "I started playing music. I started playing at camps, youth retreats and college retreats, and I made connections all over the country that opened doors for me to go to Mexico to do mission work."
In high school, Reynerson earned a spot in the All-State Choir, where he was named the top tenor. That earned him a spot in a national choir, which toured Europe, where he made connections which would later play into his music ministry.
"I started going back to Europe," he says. "That was unique. I would go to England, Scotland, Poland and the Czech Republic, and it was a lot different than some of the stuff I do now in Africa and Mexico. The needs are very physical in Africa and Mexico because of the poverty there."
In Europe, he says, the need is more spiritual.
"We developed an opportunity in Europe, where I would go into a school, and they would give me the whole music program," Reynerson says. "I would go in and teach all of the classes during the course of a week."
Reynerson drew from his repertoire of praise songs. Some schools had recording studios, where he would gather the students to record what they learned.
"By the end of the week, they'd be singing these songs," he says. "And we'd go back years later, and they would be singing these same songs because we would give them CDs of what they recorded, and that would be a great opener for us to share God with them."
Though Reynerson was teaching praise songs, but he didn't minister to the students during the school week.
"We'd have an event after school let out at the end of the week, and that would give us a chance to talk to them," he says. "In Europe, a lot of it is very intellectual and spiritually dark. They are taught about what different religions believe, but they have no real application of 'How do I apply the Bible to my life.' So you have to know what you believe, and you have to discuss it in a way that the kids can understand it."
Reynerson eventually landed a job as a praise worship leader at a church in Texas before settling in at Cornerstone. He and his wife Layni are parents to daughters Miriam, 11, Addiella, 7, and Selah, 3.
"It's come full circle for me in Baton Rouge," he says. "But I go and plant seeds where I'm needed. It's about spreading God's word."