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July 2023

Science grad helps clients with holistic health

Alissa Hodgson has long had a love for science and for helping people, and she once thought she would become a doctor. But in the past few years, those passions have converged in a different way to help others take control of their health and truly understand the grand design of the body the way God intended it.

Alissa earned her certification as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner through FDN as well as her board certification as a Holistic Health Practitioner and is enjoying being able to help others uncover healthy lifestyles using these tools, even from a distance.

Married to former WBU baseball player Cory Hodgson, Alissa spent nearly 10 years in the laboratory

Alissa in the kitchen
Alissa works with healthy foods in her kitchen.

sciences field, enjoying putting her molecular biology degree from Wayland’s Plainview campus into practice as the family moved around with Cory’s work in the pipeline industry. The family now lives in Florida, but her work allows her to help people regardless of where they live.

On the FDN trail

Alissa chose to pursue her certification through FDN because of the basis in science that was a familiar world to her.

“FDN was the only one that provides the clinical aspect of things with functional lab testing, including that type of training and access to do that kind of testing. I am not a licensed medical provider, I’m not writing prescriptions or making a diagnosis, but I still have the clinical lab experience with functional tests. In FDN we say we test, don’t guess,” she noted. “It’s pretty neat to operate somewhere between a health coach, where you walk with people over time as they are making health changes and needing guidance and accountability and a functional medicine doctor that is looking at these tests and giving holistic recommendations that consider the whole person and their history.”

Though limited in her role, Alissa pointed out that she also has some advantages over being a physician in the field. She can practice virtually and across state lines because she is seen more as a coach who is sharing information that helps people take ownership of their health and make the best choices.

“A lot of my clients have established relationships with physicians and a diagnosis already, and I am not interfering with that or interrupting that but hopefully improving that with the client so they feel heard, understood and validated,” she noted. “There are times the laboratory tests might indicate the need for a doctor’s referral, so I have letters they can take to their physicians, and I always recommend a really open communication there.”

Alissa said her work begins with a full panel of lab tests to measure the key indicators that can be causing the body to produce symptoms. Specifically, she’s looking for HIDDEN stressors, an acronym that stands for indicators from the hormone, immune, digestive, detoxification, energy-producing and nervous systems. Once those have been analyzed, she creates a DRESS protocol, short for a plan that includes diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction and supplementation.

“Your symptoms are your body’s way of communicating with you, and the lab testing helps decode that message and understand what your body is telling you. That’s God’s design,” she said. “If you have a fever,…. Nothing is wrong with the way your body is responding; that’s an appropriate response and a sign your body is working as God designed it to and fighting an infection. As a first line of defense, we should be honoring God’s design and supporting the body’s natural mode of operating.”

Making healthy simpler

Alissa said her work involves a nonspecific approach meant to benefit the entire body holistically, helping clients “opt-in to a self-care model of health and wellness where you are taking ownership of your health and acknowledging that we have far more influence and control over our health and wellbeing and diagnoses and the prevention or reversal of them.”

She loves that FDN simplifies the concepts, explaining the basis of Metabolic Chaos® as stress in the body that leads to dysfunction in one area or another that, if not resolved, will cascade into dysfunction in other parts of the body. And since we know our body systems are all connected and interdependent, it only makes sense to address the whole body.

Seeing clients understand how their bodies work is one thing; seeing them make changes that really begin to change their health is another thing altogether for Alissa, who operates her business as Find Empowered Health (www.findempoweredhealth.com).

“I’m intentional about the wording of my mission statement because I believe God’s design encompasses all these things: our mental, spiritual and emotional health as well as our physical health. And all those things are also interconnected and influence each other. It is really a reward to see it work and that I’m actually helping people and they are finding healing and hope for healing,” she says. “It feels weighty in a good way, when you feel like God’s giving you a calling. You feel the weight of responsibility to do it well, and you feel the excitement of it lining up with your passions, interests and skills and talents. You have this hope and belief in the system and what it should look like… but to see it come to fruition and see people’s lives be transformed is amazing.”

Seeds of change

Alissa’s new path really came through experiencing much of the same things herself. First, she watched her mother successfully fight acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and go into remission, but she was limited in visiting her since her daughter McKinley had been vaccinated as a baby. That caused her to pause, but when her mother died of the flu two months after getting the vaccine in her immune-compromised state, Alissa felt the need to ask more questions and dig deeper.

Then in 2018, the Hodgsons welcomed a new baby boy to the family, quickly learning there was

Hodgson family
Cory, Alissa and family

much cause for concern. The family doctor believed there was a heart defect, but the hospital was slow to check, sure that the issues were caused by their home birth. A week after learning there was a large hole in Hunter’s heart, they learned he also had Down Syndrome.

“We had to fire a cardiologist, learn how to use our voice, to look deeper, to ask questions, to gather information, to use our discernment and apply it and act boldly and without fear and truly in a way that honors God’s design,” she recalled of those hard days. “I walked away from my career in the laboratory to take care of my kids, and I was pouring myself into learning as much as I could about Hunter, and Down Syndrome and his heart.”

Along the way, Alissa poured her science knowledge into the process, joining the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Trisomy 21 Research Foundation, where she mentors parents as a volunteer. She learned about Targeted Nutritional Intervention, a protocol specifically for those with Down Syndrome and began studying more. That led her to Functional Diagnostic Nutrition’s door, and it dovetailed beautifully with what she was already learning and sharing with friends and family via social media.

“I knew FDN would be a way I could help people in a more individualized and meaningful way and connect with them one on one,” she said, noting she dove into the certification course almost immediately. “I remember thinking, ‘OK, God, I see how that desire that I had in my heart ten years ago was not wasted.’ It’s not the path I would have chosen but I’m so thankful I did not go to medical school and that I had the time to go through the FDN certification course and really learn.”

Varied experiences

It only makes sense that Alissa would end up in a profession where everything is interconnected and creates a holistic life. After all, her college experience looked much the same. Growing up in various places, she spent her first year of college at the University of Central Oklahoma, then knew she needed a change of scenery. Her older sister Marla Mitchell (Childers) Abney had attended Wayland in the 1990s and had great memories, so she investigated that option.

After auditioning for the International Choir and earning a scholarship, Alissa transferred and set up her science major, intending to minor in music. Though she played volleyball in high school, she never imagined playing at a higher level, but seeing the Wayland team practice awakened that longing. She introduced herself to head coach Jim Giacomazzi and asked for a tryout. She got one at a scrimmage with Lubbock Christian and walked-on to the Pioneers team, playing several years while juggling her academics.

“That’s one of my special memories about Wayland was to be able to have a whole-person experience and not have to choose just one thing. I could learn and grow and have fun in all those parts of who I am,” she said, noting she nearly picked up a minor in chemistry and Spanish as well. “Wayland is a great place to not put boundaries on what you can learn or which department or groups you can fit in. You can do all the groups.”


Walston sharing experiences in small-town pastorates

Having served in and studied about rural church work, Jarod Walston made a discovery that materials regarding this unique service arena are not as plentiful as other ministry aids. So when the 2005 Wayland graduate was faced with a publishing assignment as part of his Doctor of Ministry coursework, he figured he could kill two birds with one stone.

This spring, Jarod released Pastoring the Small Rural Church, self-published and available through

Walston with book
Jarod Walston with his new book

Amazon. The book includes research from other pastors as well as Jarod’s own experience in ministry since he earned his Wayland degree in religion. He completed a seminary degree in Dallas while wife Cassandra, whom he met at WBU and a 2005 graduate in biology, taught school in the area.

But since then, the Walstons have served in smaller churches, primarily through their affiliation with the Rural Home Missionary Association that specializes in strengthening and planting these rural congregations. Currently, Jarod is pastor in Chesterfield, Ill., a rural village of around 200, but he has accumulated years of experience in the unique work.

“I wanted to provide a book that would offer encouragement to small-town pastors or those that are going to be in small-town churches, and be a cheerleader for guys like me, because it’s not easy,” he said. “I want them to be able to connect with someone who knows what they’re going through, or it might help them also to have a new perspective.”

He begins with a study on small theology, which for him involved the study of Nehemiah and “how God has a vision for the smaller places.” Along that journey, he learned that there was a plan for God’s work in the rural areas and it was rewarding.

But while churches may visually look pretty similar, Jarod argues that rural churches are quite a different experience, one that necessitates some additional training.

“You wear a lot of different hats, and some things they do not train you for in seminary. There is a different culture, and every rural area or small town is not the same either. What we did in rural Nebraska is different than what we do here in Illinois; these are two totally different areas and lifestyles we’ve had to learn,” he says. “The demographics are way different, and the people think differently. There is a lot of tradition built into their mindset or way or life, and you get to know just about everybody in the church fairly well.”

That aspect is one selling point for rural churches, Jarod notes, since some pastors are more bent to the relational side of ministry.

“For my wife and I, when we felt confirmed to be in small-church ministry, it was all about depth in relationships. If you want to go deep in relationships, these small churches are where you can dig deep and invest in people’s lives that way,” he said. “It’s a slower process, and there are a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, but it’s like gaining an extension to your family.

“Getting to see how God transforms people over time through our discipleship has been pretty rewarding. Seeing how God is lighting a fire under people and growing their passion for their relationship with Him is really rewarding.”

On the flip side, Jarod said pastors of small, rural churches can often face isolation and feel less support than in bigger communities. To combat that, he said ministers have to be intentional to get

Walston family
Jarod, Cassandra and family

the encouragement they need from peers and assistance to overcome the limitations. That’s another reason he felt the need to pen his first book.

While each rural church is unique, Jarod said pastors will find applicability in his book since the overarching differences from bigger congregations are typically shared. So readers can personalize their experience, Jarod added reflection questions at the end of each chapter to prompt deeper thought about their ministry and how the information can be applied to their situation.

Jarod is a DMin student at Dallas Theological Seminary, studying specifically about small and rural church work and in the dissertation phase of the degree. Wife Cassandra home schools their eight children. A native of Mertzon in the Texas Hill Country, Jarod started his college work at Angelo State but grappled with a career path in full-time ministry or one in the health and fitness industry. When he leaned more to ministry, friends, family and his home church pastor, Wayland alumnus Jeffrey Lee, encouraged him to attend a Bible college and focus on that call. He came to Big Weekend at WBU and ultimately felt at home.

“They had a close family feel, a community within the community. It wasn’t too far from home but I grew up in the Hill Country with trees and brush, so it was a bit of culture shock,” he laughs. “I thought I’d get a good education at Wayland, and it would give me a good start before seminary. And it did.”


Devotional: Who is the greatest? 

Many consider star athletes to be the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) — and that may indeed be true. Desiring to be the best in your sport is an admirable endeavor, but be careful not to let your pride get in the way.

As Jesus’ disciples were eagerly awaiting the Messianic Kingdom that He was

Woman in Sunset

about to bring into existence, they were also anxious about their role in the Kingdom and asked Jesus which of them would be the greatest (Luke 9:46). The disciples were concerned because some were selected over others for specific tasks, causing contention among them. They were more concerned with having prominence in the Kingdom than what Jesus had assigned for them. Each of the disciples wanted to ensure a favorable position — one that would meet their expectations — but they had it all wrong.

This became a teachable moment for the disciples, and for us today. Jesus had a little child stand beside Him and said to His disciples, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).

The Kingdom of God is not about position or status. Jesus taught that humility is at the forefront, and entrance into the Kingdom is not of our own achievements, but by the lowly position of simple faith in Him (which also constitutes the greatest in the Kingdom).

Let us not be prideful of our accomplishments while here on earth, but give the glory to God. And let us take the lowly position of childlike faith in accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and living for Him. Because it is the one who is least that becomes the greatest in His Kingdom.


In the mix

Wayland has recently established a Virtual Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success (V-CEVSS) that was made possible by receiving a three-year Department of Education grant. This program is brining multiple resources to WBU veteran and military-connected students. Among the first projects is the development of a mentor program to create a sense of community among all of Wayland’s veteran and military-connected students located world-wide. And as Wayland Alumni, you’re our first choice of possible mentors!

If you’re interested in supporting Wayland’s veteran and military-connected students, please complete this short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PM7QK5D

Wayland is already established as a Military Friendly university as well as a Yellow Ribbon school, and V-CEVSS plans to build on these accomplishments through programs and opportunities that provide exceptional 

Solider Saluting Flag

support for veteran and military-connected students.

V-CEVSS is working on multiple projects and programs to support veteran and military-connected students.

Alongside the mentor program, veterans and military-connected students will have a counselor designated to their health and well-being. Other projects include developing a webpage within WBU.edu that will advertise to potential students, provide information on military benefits, and display resources to currently enrolled students.

V-CEVSS is also creating a virtual toolbox for enrolled veteran and military-connected students by creating an extensive Blackboard Assist feature. More so, veteran students will receive extra support through an entry class specifically designed to create a smooth transition into college and academic culture. These support programs are partnered with tutors dedicated to veteran students and trained to assist them with their learning and assignment needs, such as converting a military resume into a civilian resume, transitioning from military writing to academic writing, or developing learning habits that cope with disabilities.

And this is just the start! If you’d like to encourage veteran/military-connected students through their academic journey, please consider this opportunity to become a mentor!