Lisa Whelchel is one of a handful of performers who wears her belief in God on her sleeve and isn't afraid to talk about it.
Whelchel, who starred on the long-running TV series "The Facts of Life" and who recently resurfaced on the reality show "Survivor," will be in town Sunday, Feb. 9, when she will speak to the congregation of The Church of the Nazarene on Bayshore Drive during its service at 10:45 a.m.
Whelchel will talk about how she has lived her Christianity in the entertainment world from her days as a child star, even how her beliefs dictated the work she took and how she wanted to be portrayed.
"I'm going to be talking about my time spanning in Hollywood to leaving show business to raise a family, and now to this second half of my life," Whelchel said. "Some of the things I learned in church are making their way from my head to down in my heart."
Whelchel, who hadn't been on camera in years, made a comeback in 2012 by appearing on the hit reality show "Survivor." She also appeared last year in the Tyler Perry movie "A Madea Christmas."
"As my kids grew up and left the nest, I still had years ahead of me and I asked myself 'What do I want to be when I grow up,'" Whelchel said. "I still wanted to do acting, So, I moved back to California."
Whelchel said she began her relationship with God at age 10 when she and a friend had a sleep-over, even though she wasn't raised in a church-going home.
"We thought it would be great to get dressed up and go somewhere, so we got on our bicycles and went to church," Whelchel said. "I felt like this was what my life was about. I found a home. It felt safe and I felt loved and accepted."
Her beliefs have been non-negotiable. She did not take part in a "Facts of Life" episode where she would lose her virginity, and turned down an audition for a role in "Friends" that went to Jennifer Aniston.
"It's tough to have a show called 'The Facts of Life' about teenage girls and not have that issue. I understood," Whelchel said. "I also understood teen girls were watching and I didn't feel like that was an issue that can be dealt with in 17 minutes with a bunch of commercials."
While prospects for her comeback has remained positive, Whelchel still makes a bulk of her living speaking to religious groups, a living she enjoys tremendously.
"I enjoy it. I had to use whatever platform I had to share the love of God because I think that's the most important thing, to know we are completely loved and accepted as we are," Whelchel said. "It's a privilege and a pleasure."
Van Garner, pastor of the church said he went through Outreach Speakers, a Christian organization that books speakers in the Christian community.
"She was going to be in Tampa the day before, so they made arrangements for her to come the next day," Garner said. "The people we've talked to remember her from the Facts of Life, but there are also a lot of Survivor fans who know her."
Garner said the appearance is for outreach as a way to get people in the church and hopefully bring in new members.
"Some people think some weird things about church these days, and this is a good family-oriented safe place to be," Garner said.