Mike Nawrocki, co-founder of VeggieTales and the voice of Larry the Cucumber, spoke words of encouragement during his recent visit to Trevecca Nazarene University on January 23. Nawrocki offered advice for students’ futures and encouraged them to trust in God’s plan.
“When I began my undergraduate journey, 35 or so years ago, I had absolutely no idea that I would grow up to be an animated cucumber, a movie director, a children’s book author or, now, a college professor,” Nawrocki said. “I started off with a completely different plan.”
Trevecca students gave Nawrocki a warm welcome, which included a VeggieTales-style introduction from Erik Gernand, university chaplain, as well as a lively and fun medley of popular VeggieTales songs from the chapel band. Students enjoyed being able to take photographs, get autographs and talk with Nawrocki before and after the chapel service.
For Trevecca sophomore Carolyn Johnson, getting to interact with Nawrocki, was memorable.
“It was really iconic,” she said. “I was way more excited [for the chapel service] than I thought I would be. I got a hug and a picture from [Mike].”
Nawrocki’s message centered on his life and how God had directed him along the way, from a desire to pursue medical missions to creating VeggieTales, a book series and becoming a university professor.
“The Scripture verse that has been key to my understanding the answer to the question, ‘God, what do you want me to do with my life’?” Nawrocki said. “Proverbs 16:9 tells us, ‘We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.’’
Nawrocki used clips from the beloved VeggieTales series, including “Silly Songs with Larry,” to narrate his life journey. A creative teen, Nawrocki became a Christian around age 13 and jumped at the chance to perform and sing in everything from choirs and plays to his church’s puppet ministry.
“During my junior year of high school … I dedicated my future vocation to ministry,” Nawrocki recounted. “I didn’t know what that would look like at the time, and I didn’t sense that God was calling me to become a pastor, but I really sensed that He was calling me to do something for Him with my life.”
Coming from a mission-minded church and with many family members in the medical field, Nawrocki first thought that calling was to medical missions. He recounted how he initially set off to college to pursue a medical degree, but how God began to reveal his true calling. Nawrocki’s friendship with Phil Vischer, the co-creator of VeggieTales, job experiences and talents all culminated in an idea for an animated series.
“I was getting close to graduating and moving on to med school, so I figured I’d work on this project for as long as I could, but then it would be time for me to get on to what God really wanted me to do,” Nawrocki said.
Through prayer and with input from wise counsel, Nawrocki realized that his calling wasn’t to medical missions, but rather to be open to following where God was leading.
“Despite my own plans, I realized I had to be open to the possibility that God had other plans for me,” Nawrocki said. “I had a real passion for writing, for storytelling and performing, and people around me told me I had a gift for it.”
Ending his message with a clip from the VeggieTales: Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen (2000) episode, Nawrocki challenged students to look for their Esther moments, times when God puts them in just the right place, at just the right time, with just the right talents.
“My encouragement to you is to make your plans, work hard and study hard, but always be open to ways that God can use you at such a time as this,” he said.