I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. When I was 8 years old my entire family moved to West Africa as missionaries through ABWE. This was a life changing experience. Many things happened during those growing up years as a missionary kid. I learned a ton and loved most of it. When I was 16 years old my older sister left for college in the U.S. About a year and half later it was my turn.
Our whole family was coming home with me for a few months, and I was going to stay. I had no clue what God wanted for my life or where He wanted me to go. While searching for colleges and trying to decide what to do with my future, my Mom and I came across OneLife Institute. We decided to look into it. Right away, I was terrified, but somehow I knew God wanted me there. In the midst of this decision something my Dad always said came to mind, “Sometimes the things that scare you the most and that you want to run from, God calls you to.” About two months back from the field and still going through major culture shock I headed off to OneLife…
The first day I was overwhelmed. My family left that same week to go back to the field, and my grandparents took me to move in. I survived it, and after the initial fear and awkwardness of getting to know new people, I started to love it. As I got to know my roommates and the other OneLifers (as we call them), I began to enjoy the new challenges and adventures that OneLife introduced me to. God was growing me in so many ways. It was hard, but God was in it!
OneLife was a growing, relational, and awesome experience for me! It was during OneLife that God taught me how to hand over my worry about the future. Now, I still do not know what the future holds, but I do know that God has it all in His hand. God taught me so many lessons and concepts during OneLife that I am still using today. The leadership and staff invested so much of their time and energy in me and encouraged me to grow in my faith. I still have relationships with many of my fellow OneLifers. In fact, some of them are my closest friends. During that nine months, God taught me more about what being His child looks like. It isn’t being perfect, or having no problems. It is God’s free gift of grace through faith in Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I am grateful to God and to each person who had a huge impact on my spiritual growth during OneLife.
Dear OneLife sponsors, supporters, students and alumni,
As my family and friends back home in Wisconsin ask me what I have learned from my OneLife experience, I am able to reminisce in all the blessings and renew a gratitude of my unique opportunity. Where to begin? How do I explain the profound impact this program has had and continues to have in shaping who I am becoming? I usually start with who I was: prideful and arrogant of the things that really mattered, such as the continual growth and nurturing of my romance with Christ. I then express my newfound joy in learning how Christ is still perfecting who I am into someone more like Himself. Or, I simply state: I learned how much I have left to learn, and I learned to love the realization that the more I know, the more I have left to discover. I came to realize it is equally important to learn the gospel to its increasing fullness as it is to believe this truth. I came to realize that no matter how much I hope to “arrive” at a full understanding of Christ, this “full arrival” may simply not be what was best for me. I came to see that God and His gospel is not so much an idea to master but a gift to receive and trust in, in order to have a greater process of sanctification beyond my meager understanding.
I often find myself wishing OneLife had a four year Bachelor program. Now that it’s over, I find myself wanting to go back. This is a statement coming from a student who disliked high school and had lost faith in a big part of the education system--now wanting to back to a thirty-credit institute. OneLife taught me to appreciate the learning process and gave me the stamina to continue my college experience. Onelife taught me my strengths and weakness through countless personality tests, trips, and its community. OneLife gave me ideas for careers I would excel in--careers I would enjoy and that would be life-giving to me, not just a way to pay the bills. I am so thankful that OneLife met me on a personal, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level and that the staff walked beside me to my sense of wonder for all I have yet to learn.
As I move forward from this year of wonder, I feel a temptation to sink into regret. Regret can take many forms: for me, I tend to experience this as a hope to change the past, or a wrestling with countless thoughts of all I could have done differently. I implore the alumni and all reading with a charge to strive toward forward-facing freedom, a mindset of healthy hindsight in view of a greater blossoming future. I challenge all reading to be free from that shadow of “what if” or the ebbing voice that poisons the fond memories to ones of discontent. My prayer now is to have a mindset of gratitude and a hope for the future--because the best is truly yet to come.
- Maggie Triller
Waking up on Tuesday morning I tried to lay in bed and soak up my last moments in the comfort of sheets and a warm blanket. I knew that as soon as I moved, I would begin the first steps of embarking on a journey that I felt underprepared for. The Appalachian Trail was staring me in the face and there was no way out of it. What made it worse, I’m a fitness committee leader, and it was my job to prepare my team for this trip. In order to prepare, we (as fitness leaders) were instructed to focus on the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. At the beginning of the year I no idea how these four things would matter, but it turns out they encompassed everything we faced.
Thirty miles with a fifty pound backpack through the mountains—being from Illinois, I just didn’t understand why we would walk down a mountain only to go right back up another one. I convinced myself early on that I wouldn’t make it. While there were some trying climbs, my body held up better than I expected. Our team created an expectation from the start of no complaining, and we stuck to that. Which leads into the intellectual experience. This was probably the toughest part. You know the saying “mind over matter”. Well in this case, I needed to lean on my body to keep my going. Everything between my ears screamed “please just give up”. That wasn’t an option. Through encouragement circles and story-telling by my group, we were able to shake off the creeping thoughts of not being able to persevere.
The emotional aspect was in a close second to being the toughest. This year we have been learning how to not let our feelings dictate our reality. Sometimes leaning on your feelings can get you caught in a rut. We would be in a very different world if Jesus didn’t go to the cross just because he did not feel like it. So my group took on that attitude and kept negative thoughts to a minimum. I was blessed by some comical team members that could always keep the moral up. Lastly, the spiritual. This part of PIES was one of my favorites on this journey simply because I had no other option outside of leaning on my faith and having truth spoken over me everyday. In addition, I was blessed with times of silence and solitude for reflecting and devotions. Every crevice that I lacked strength in was filled by God’s grace. I would consider my time on the Appalachian Trail a “spiritual peak”. In spite of how I felt, in any given moment, God’s truth, love, beauty, and grace completely surrounded me.
All in all, this was one of my favorite trips of the year. It was amazing to realize how little we actually need, yet are blessed with consistently. Through a posture of humility, patience, and flexibility, this journey, and how those four aspects of life affected it really made an impact; I wouldn’t trade it for the comfiest bed in the world.
- Alexander Walker
I think it’s more than fair to say that God used this reflection to teach me a lot this week. Waking up on Monday morning, I said to Mary, “I wish I was excited for this week.” I had gotten sick that Sunday, and I was prepared to just make it through the week. Although I have learned all year that I need to be present, that was not my first thought that morning. A few hours later, God gave me this seemingly inconvenient opportunity of writing a reflection to pay attention to what was going on this week and what He was doing in the community and in my own heart.
The week began with group presentations. Hearing everyone reflect on their time in Israel, including takeaway, highlights, and what God has shown them through their trip, was an unexpected blessing for everyone. That night we watched the movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. This began our week of learning and discussing Native American history and culture. The week continued on Tuesday with learning about Cultural Awareness and discussing the logistics of our upcoming trip.
On Wednesday, we spent the morning exploring how we are to engage environmental ethics. This discussion deepened our understanding of ethics as a whole and how we effect our environment. We asked ourselves what sort of effect are we going to have in Arizona and New Mexico as well as our upcoming backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail.
Wednesday night we were introduced to the one and only Dr. John Johnson. This man has lived an incredible life serving God. Through his many different experiences, he has been led to serve the Navajo Nation. He has such a heart for the Navajo people and helped us understand more about who they are and what their life is like.
Thursday, as a class, we read The Loss of the Creature by Walker Percy and discussed beauty and the theme in scripture of seeing things but not understanding them. We were challenged with questions like, “What does it mean to actually see?” and “Do our preconceived ideas defeat our sense of wonder?” We learned that beauty has the power of baptizing our imagination and discussed what it means to recover our sight. Today, Friday, we are exploring what we can learn from Native Americans about history and the gospel.
I am continuing to learn how when I do really pay attention, not only to what we are doing in OneLife, but what God is doing in me, I see things. While I am learning how to pay attention and open my eyes, God is showing me what he wants me to see. My prayer for our trip to Arizona and New Mexico next week is that God would help us pay attention to what we are doing and more importantly, what He is doing, and that He would open our eyes and our hearts to what he wants us to see. I pray that next week, we would experience his beauty and see Him in ways that we never have before. May we see His beauty in ourselves, in the brokenness of life, and in His creation.
- Amanda Hamm