Faith in Action: Lakeland pastor lifts her voice while lifting up others

<div>Photo courtesy: Access Church</div>
Photo courtesy: Access Church

LAKELAND, Fla. - Music is one of the most powerful spiritual tools there is.

When a Lakeland pastor found, at a young age, that she was blessed with a beautiful, powerful voice, she hoped to someday use it to make a difference.

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Whether singing in church or performing for millions on national TV, Pastor Lis Burns is truly living her dream job, using her voice to help others find theirs. Words can mean one thing when you speak them. But when you sing them, it's a whole different message.

"I think music is sort of the universal language in that way," Burns said. "It really and truly brings people together."

Burns was born in New York City, surrounded by song.

"My dad is one of nine children [in] the Munizzi family," Burns said. "They are all musical. Everybody sings. Everybody plays instruments. Growing up, music was really just part of everything we did."

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Her family moved to Florida when she was six. Even as a child, Lis Burns knew she was destined for ministry. She studied music at Southeastern University, sang professionally in theme parks, and even through a battle with cancer, she found high notes on her lowest days.

"I remember thinking, I'm going to do this. And I would pump myself up with music," Burns said.

In 2007, she and her husband, Dr. Jason Burns founded Access Church in Lakeland, growing it from a Bible study in their living room to a place that thousands now call home.

"We try to say that the church fully comes alive for you when you are serving," Burns said.

Though members are used to seeing her with a mic in hand, she recently got the chance to share her gifts and story on a whole different stage, competing on FOX's Don't Forget the Lyrics.

Between songs, she spoke about the church, her journey with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and her father who continues his fight against cancer.

"My dad is currently going through cancer," Burns said on the show, "and I would love to be able to help him financially, so he doesn't have to worry about medical bills."

Afterward, she said, "It wound up being such a cool, positive thing because I was hoping maybe somebody watching is going through cancer right now or maybe somebody needs to hear, you can do this, you can make it."

When all was sung and done, she walked away with $150,000.

"It was such a dream come true," Burns said.

The first thing she did with the prize was share with the church and give back to her parents. She's also looking forward to some time away with her husband and three kids.

"I haven't bought the car yet," Burns laughed. "I said I was going to get rid of my mom van, but I think I'm having a harder time letting her go. 'Van-essa' is her name."

Whether at church, the coffee shop, or rocking out on TV, Pastor Lis looks for any opportunity to strike a chord with people in need of a little harmony.

"There's some people that will never necessarily open their Bible and read scripture, and yet even they know, oh wow, this music did something to me. It made me feel good," Burns said.

She spends her days lifting her voice while lifting those around her.

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"The world is hard and sad, and we hear so many bad things," Burns said, but when we go outside of ourselves, when we serve others, I really feel like life begins to come alive. And if you're looking for that joy, I feel like that's the secret."

Access Church is located in South Lakeland on Florida Avenue South, and they have some exciting news. They'll soon be opening a second location in north Lakeland with construction hopefully finished by February.

Do you know someone who's living out their faith and using it to make a positive impact? We are looking for Faith in Action stories all around the Tampa Bay area. Just reach out to