Into the Wilderness

Lancaster and Three Springs OneLife before heading out onto the trail

Lancaster and Three Springs OneLife before heading out onto the trail

If you had asked me last August to make a list of what I was excited for about OneLife, the trek would not have been close to the top. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have been on the list at all. I came into this year absolutely dreading the backpacking trip. I was intrigued by the trip to the Navajo Nations, pumped for the Philly Project, ecstatic for Israel, and entirely NOT any of those things for the trek. I didn’t even want to think about it. I put a mental block up and focused all of my excitement on Israel-which worked until the trip was over. Then my plan failed. The next big trip was exactly what I was avoiding. The trek.

I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma right before we left on our trip to the Navajo Nation, and learning how to manage it well has been a frustrating battle all year for me. With the new diagnosis came new fears. I already live with dyspraxia. Slipping, tripping, and running into random things are just a part of life for me. Because of that, I’ve always struggled in gym class and I’ve always hated doing anything physical activity-related with people my own age because of the way I was treated. I’ve been bullied at school for years, and although that hasn’t happened since coming to OneLife, the self esteem issue still remains. I knew going into the trek that I was taking my physical challenges with me. The last thing I wanted to be was a burden...and that’s what I felt I was going to be. With the trek approaching, anxiety set in. Questions arose inside of me. Why am I doing this? Can I do this? God, what am I doing?

Two days before we left, I, the graceful person that I am, walked out of my apartment, tripped over air, and twisted my ankle. I envisioned all the possible ways this trip could go wrong. The dyspraxic asthmatic with the twisted ankle...would she slip and fall down the side of a mountain or have an asthma attack first?

When we got to Three Springs and met our guides, I reluctantly gave mine, Paul, the rundown on medication and medical issues. He picked up on my anxiety and assured me things would be fine. He’d give me trekking poles and set me up in front of the group to set the pace so I wouldn’t fall behind. The little sarcastic voice in my head must have been thrilled. “Oh joy! You get to be up in the front so everyone can watch you struggle!” I hated the idea of stopping the group every time I needed to take a break to catch my breath. I hated telling everyone I really didn’t know what to expect with my asthma. I prayed to God to get me out of backpacking-multiple times.

Fast forward to the trek. Two hours in, and I was already struggling as we climbed up what I thought was a mountain. (I later came to realize it was a hill compared to some other mountains we climbed). I got to camp at the end of the day and, while journaling by headlamp, repeated the question I’d been asking myself all week. What in the world am I doing?

The next day, we climbed our first mountain. Honestly, I hated it the entire time. Every time I stopped (and had the rest of the group stop) I felt like I’d only gotten ten steps further from our last break. But we made it. As we reached the top of the hill and all collapsed dramatically on top of our packs, Paul came over to me. We talked briefly about the view at the top, then he looked over at me. “Amara, you did that well.”

I laughed and tried to shrug it off, but he made me repeat his words. I did that well.

I didn’t really believe those words until we climbed another mountain two days later. Once again, we got to the top and while we were taking a break, Paul made his way to the front to check in on me. “How’s the asthma, Amara?”

“It’s okay. Definitely better now that we’ve stopped.”

“What did you just do?”

“Climb a hill.”

“No, that was more than a hill. What did you just climb?”

“A mountain.”

“Uh huh. And what did I tell you the last time you climbed a mountain?”

“That I did it well.”

“Exactly. Amara, you can do this. Every time you needed to stop, you weren’t the only one that needed to. You’re not the weakest link in this group. Stop believing you are. You just climbed another mountain. You can do this. You need to be okay with taking more meaningful risks.”

That was the moment where something clicked in my brain. For all the fears I had going into the trek, I was doing exactly what I was scared about. I was scaling mountains-well. I could do it. And Paul wasn’t the only one saying that I was doing well. For the first time in my life, I had people my own age encouraging me and supporting me as I pushed myself big-time physically. There was no laughing. No snide comments. No eyerolls. No exclusion. There was just constant encouragement and the occasional, “If you need to take a break, just let me know.”

Later that day, at the top of our third and final mountain, I was able to look back and see how far we’d come. The realization that we’d crossed that distance together as a team hit me hard. I’d done it. I’d come farther than I ever thought I would. But it wasn’t just me. It was us, the entire orange team. We’d encouraged and supported each other, and we got through it by relying on God’s strength. Yes, we still had a ways to go, but it was through leaning into His strength that we-that I-found my own.

It’s funny, Zac loves to tell us in class that your body can teach your heart things your mind can’t. The trek was a perfect example of that. I took a meaningful risk and I found my own strength. I tapped into the authority God has given me in ways I never had before. I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and strength. He is trustworthy. He’s the God of the mountaintops and the valleys. He is the air I breathe. He’s given me a community that reflects his character in so many different ways, it’s extremely hard to not feel loved.

And as I processed this experienced, I realized something. I surprised myself. I said something (aloud) that I never would have ever imagined myself saying: While it’s hard to pick a favorite trip from OneLife, this is mine. God used something I was absolutely dreading to teach me lessons I needed to learn and remind me of things I needed to be reminded of. Isn’t it amazing that we have a God who chooses what’s best for us instead of leaving the choice up to us? He is so good! Our God is SO GOOD!

-Amara Sherman


TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY!

(Pictures from Trek 2019)

Orange team halfway up our first mountain.

Orange team halfway up our first mountain.

Blue team (A.K.A. Trail Mix) heading out.

Blue team (A.K.A. Trail Mix) heading out.

Yellow team on the trail.

Yellow team on the trail.

Orange team at the top of our third and final mountain.

Orange team at the top of our third and final mountain.

Blue team: A return to (semi) civilization.

Blue team: A return to (semi) civilization.

Yellow team members enjoying a ‘packs off’ break.

Yellow team members enjoying a ‘packs off’ break.

Celebrating the unexpected gift of fresh fruit of the trail.

Celebrating the unexpected gift of fresh fruit of the trail.

Israel 2019

Lancaster OneLife on top of Mt. Precipice, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.

Lancaster OneLife on top of Mt. Precipice, overlooking the Jezreel Valley.

Hey everyone! If you haven’t heard yet, we just got back from Israel! Take a look below to read some student takeaways.


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Nazareth

Sitting in the synagogue here in Nazareth was very sobering, as here Jesus would have been rejected by friends and family. These friends and family that were willing to chase him up to a cliff to throw him off. These people grew up and knew Jesus, it wasn’t like he was some random guy. He was friend, a relative. This sobering reality highlights the humanity of Jesus. He was willing to be rejected by his friends and family and still start his ministry! He knew rejection was what he was going to encounter yet he still decided that making the Father known was more important. This was an encouragement to me seeing Jesus’ steadfastness through trial and rejection from his own hometown.

-Brandon Bechtold

First century synagogue in Magdala.

First century synagogue in Magdala.


Wow! Magdala was one of my favorite sites we went to on the Israel Trip! I loved seeing the 1st century synagogue that Jesus most likely taught. It was so amazing seeing the Bible come to life and being able to picture Mary Magdalene there following Jesus. You hear about Mary in the Bible, but being able to see where she lived was such a unique experience.

Being able to sing “How Great Thou Art” in Magdala is one of my favorite memories because it was so beautiful seeing and hearing everyone in OneLife come together and worship our Lord. Through learning more about Mary Magdalene and Magdala, I was shown the faith that she had to have in following Jesus and telling others about Him. In my time in Israel, the Lord was teaching me about faith, and Magdala was where I saw it come to life.

-Anna McEvoy

Pan’s Cave in Caesarea Philippi.

Pan’s Cave in Caesarea Philippi.

Caesarea Philippi... the place where people threw sacrifices into a cave dedicated to Pan, the Greek god of fertility. His name is from which the word panic is derived. Next to Pan’s cave, people could revere the gods Echo and Hermes at shrines chiseled in the rock. About a six-hour walk away stands Mount Hermon, the highest point in Israel. For Baal-worshippers, who believed the higher the place the holier, Mount Hermon provided a perfect place of worship.

Caesarea Philippi... a place renowned for its worship of practically every god but Yahweh, whose legacy of idol worship still remains today for visitors to clearly see. Why do we find Jesus and His disciples here on one memorable occasion? Removed from the cities of Israel, the synagogues, the Jewish culture and beliefs, Jesus asks His disciples this question: “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter replies: “the Christ.”

As I look up at the cliff in front of me, Jesus naming Peter “the rock” echoes in my mind. The idea of an unshakable foundation for the church now takes a new shape in my mind. The Gate of Hades - the other name associated with Pan’s cave - stands right in front of me. The power that cave held - that caused so many sacrifices to be offered to a pagan god of fear - would never be able to overcome Christ’s church. But then, why is it that I can only see the shrines and Pan’s cave today? Why is my God invisible, when the sins of the past are still very present?

I realized that my God is very alive, in the parts of His beautiful creation that seem overcome by sin, in the people all around me, everywhere. I thank God that He is superior to  the sin and the pain and the mess, too, not only over the beautiful and the good. When seeing brokenness, I can rejoice in knowing that God will redeem and renew the goodness. I can know that ultimately, no matter who seems to be winning, God has the ultimate authority and the final say.

-Sarah Ziegler

A forth century synagogue built on the ruins of a first century synagogue Jesus would’ve taught in.

A forth century synagogue built on the ruins of a first century synagogue Jesus would’ve taught in.

As I look around Capernaum, I can see why Jesus chose this as his “home base.” Capernaum sits right on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, overlooking the whole area of Jesus’ main ministry. The ruins of Capernaum encompass a synagogue, the house of Peter’s mother-in-law, and most of the ancient village.

Although there are only ruins left, it is not hard to picture Jesus walking around here and teaching in the synagogue or under the trees by the water. It’s crazy to think that it was right where we stood that Jesus healed the paralytic that came through a roof (Mark 2:1-12) as well as demonstrated his authority over all things in expelling demons (Luke 4:31-37).

Capernaum was another reminder of Jesus’ perfect example of authority and vulnerability. Although beautiful, Capernaum was just another small town on Galilee. It was occupied by fishermen and the average working members of Jewish society. Jesus didn’t come and live in Jerusalem or in some palace. He came and dwelt among the vulnerable and sick, the demon-possessed and working class.

Although Jesus lived in a humble place, he exerted perfect authority over all things. In Mark 1:21-22, it says that His listeners in Capernaum were “amazed at his teaching” and even the demon in the possessed man recognized Jesus as the “Holy one of God.”

Jesus came as a humble man, but also as the almighty bearer of life changing news. He may have lived in Capernaum 2000 years ago, but his message is just as relevant now as it was then. What an amazing opportunity to stand where Jesus healed people and began to make all things new, knowing that he has healed me and is making me new.

-Elwyn Shea

Morning on the Sea of Galilee.

Morning on the Sea of Galilee.

One of the symptoms of being a teenager is oversleeping. Believe me, I am one. And I learned that if you struggle with it, it follows you wherever you go, even to Israel. So the morning I found myself down on the shore of the Sea of Galilee a half an hour later than planned, I was just a little frustrated with myself. Surprisingly though, the unplanned ‘inconvenience’ turned into a pretty great gift. Isn’t it funny how God does things like that?

I found myself sitting alone on some rocks by the waters edge, enjoying the peace of the quiet morning. At some point, God and I started talking. I’ve been processing what it means to trust Him recently. What it means to truly trust. And it hit me that this was one place Peter’s faith was tested. It was on these very waters where Peter trusted Jesus enough to step out of a boat into stormy waters. He kept his eyes on Jesus and walked on water...until his faith wavered. Until a seed of doubt creeped in and he started to sink. How often do I, in the face of a storm in my life, take the risk of stepping out in faith? Do I move towards the One who calms the wind and waters, or do I hide my face in fear in the back of the boat? And very clearly, I heard Him say, “Amara, lay it down. Trust me. I love you far too much to want you to live in your worry.”

The realization that surrendering to Him is something I need to choose daily hit me pretty hard. I need to be okay with giving what plagues my mind up to Him. The sovereign, almighty God of the universe loves me with an outrageous love of another kind. And if I do falter and start to sink, He loves me enough to reach out and rescue me. Every. Single. Time.

-Amara Sherman

The ruins of Beit Shean.

The ruins of Beit Shean.

Beit Shean was essentially a giant historical playground. The vastness of the ruins to be explored was thrillingly overwhelming. The beautifully preserved city was lined with mustard flowers and topped with grey storm clouds. The goodness of God was on full display. I didn’t come to a poignant and insightful revelation about God while exploring this site: I simply rejoiced in the loveliness around me. And in doing so, I learned more about the character of the God I serve. He creates beauty so we can delight in it, beauty in itself is a purpose. He loved to watch us, his children, run around shrieking in the rain, marveling in the colors of the mosaics and climbing under the ruins to discover ancient homes. I was struck by the kindness of God to lead archaeologists to discover these ruins so we could learn from them and enjoy them. He delights to give us good gifts, and we should delight in them.

-Claudia Heitland

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Bethany Beyond Jordan

The Wilderness is a place to which we should run.

Jesus starts his ministry in his hometown Nazareth, but he gets threatened to be thrown off the cliff on Mount precipice, which is in Nazareth. He flees to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which is in the Judean Wilderness. The interesting thing is that the leaders throughout Israel’s history were put into the wilderness by God at some point in time, BUT Jesus, on the other hand, flees to the wilderness in a time of desperation. The very place that hurts him -- this dry, rocky, uninhabited desert -- is the place he flees.

The place that hurts us also shapes us. We should flee to the wilderness knowing we have a guide (the Shepherd), and that the very essence of comfort, peace, love, and strength is from feeling hopeless in the midst of yourself. When we lose ourselves, we have really gained ourselves in our true identity. Jesus did this knowing it would make Him stronger to carry out his mission of salvation.

This is also the place Jesus was baptized, and although Bethany Beyond the Jordan wasn’t the prettiest site, there were tons of people there when we visited. Why? Simply for that very reason that Jesus fled there. Life begins where we give ourselves to Christ. Yes, we lose ourselves, but we really have gained the whole world.

-Matt Harling

Inside Hezekiah’s tunnel.

Inside Hezekiah’s tunnel.

My sites were the City of David, the Temple Mount Steps, and Hezekiah's Tunnel, but I'll be focusing more on the last one, for that's the one I did the research for. Hezekiah's Tunnel is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:2-4 and 2 Kings 20:20. I am learning so much about the Bible, Jesus, and all the history behind things. Israel taught me that there's solid proof that events in the Bible happened, and that people who doubt these things should seriously check this out. I, myself, am a huge critic, but this trip to Israel really helped me enhance my relationship with God, because there was solid proof, yes, but also because it was evident in the people all around me. All I had to do was let loose a little bit and a whole world of opportunities sprang out at me. Going to Israel gave me a newfound respect of the ancient people who took time to make records of things happening, just for us to discover. That stuff is not an accident. I love all that God revealed to me there, good or bad.

I learned a lot from our tour guide and what he taught was amazing, so I'll try to narrow it down. He really taught us about the Hebrew/Arabic culture in those days and in modern times, which was very fascinating. He also told us a TON about Jesus, and the context in which he was talking. For example, when he tells the Pharisees about the Good Samaritan, we all know it took place in the wilderness, right? But our tour guide literally took us to that same wilderness desert Jesus was talking about, and really put into perspective on just how much "in the wilderness" it was, and how dangerous it was; because of robbers and thirst alike. That was an awesome experience.

God is revealing himself to me through other people and my relationships with them. I previously did not realize how much I affect people's attitudes when I'm feeling down, and these experiences God has shown me in One Life help me to talk about things in a better, healthier way. I no longer hold onto my bitterness as long as I normally did and have thus had better relationships with my peers.

-Sarah Stille

Part of the Fortress of Masada.

Part of the Fortress of Masada.

Masada, a palace and stronghold built by Herod in the Judean wilderness. A palace built to provide refuge, protection, and comfort to those inside. As our group gazed out at the desert from the top of the ruins left behind and listened to stories from the past I began to think about the lyrics “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing”-Martin Luther. In preparation for and during the trip our class was assigned to read The Bible and The Land written by Gary M. Burge. Gary helped me see how God’s characteristics can be found in the land. Just like Masada provided rest and refuge for those who hid inside, Christ is the Rock unchanging, providing me constant refuge (Psalm 18:2).

-Elise Epp

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Ein Gedi

Ein Gedi is one of two fresh water springs located in the desert along the Dead Sea. This is significant because it is also the place where David and his men took refuge when running from Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 23.

Just think, David needed a place of refuge in the wilderness, and fresh water to drink from. In the desert, this is not a common thing… but God knew what David needed, and so He placed a fresh water spring in the middle of the desert to provide for David and his men.

As I was reflecting on my experience, here I was thinking, So this is all really cool information, but how does this all apply to my life? Does it apply to my life in any way? Or is just a really cool location with a really cool story about God providing for His children?

The answer to my question was in the question. It has everything to do with me because itʼs a reminder of God and his faithfulness. When I am running from the world, God provides refuge for me in Him. God is my refuge, and my shelter when things are hard. He does not leave you to walk the desert alone. Instead, He has promised to always be there, to walk in the desert with you and to provide for you in times of need.

-Mackenzie Edman

One of many caves at Qumran.

One of many caves at Qumran.

Qumran has the oldest written record of the Old Testament in the world, but archaeologists have found more than just the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are now finding other things belonging to the Essenes. The buildings we saw being excavated were all for public use. Because the Essenes were all male, they adopted orphans so the group could continue to grow. Some believe that John the Baptist was adopted by them. I’m amazed that the Dead Sea Scrolls weren’t found until 1946.

God is revealing himself to me through the beauty of this area. Even though it is in the wilderness, it is still beautiful.

-Isaiah Stoner

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St. Peter in Gallicantu

When we arrive at St. Peter in Gallicantu the morning is pretty much perfect. Sunny, 70s, and a slight breeze. A serene Jerusalem sits before us at the base of Mt. Zion. The church itself is surrounded by gardens full of flowers, shrubbery, and cacti. The scene before me is the complete opposite of what it was thousands of years ago. You might not know what happened here. You may have no idea what St. Peter in Gallicantu even is.

Let me first explain the events that took place here. In the Bible Jesus predicts Peter will deny knowing him and being associated with him. Peter (as any of us would) denies his future denial. But Jesus has a knack for knowing the future (he is God after all) and Peter does in fact, deny Him. Not long after this prediction Jesus prays in the garden, is betrayed by Judas, and is arrested.

Luke 22:54-60

“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about”.”

The scene closes with the iconic rooster crowing and Peter running away in tears. It’s absolutely awful. St. Peter in Gallicantu is where they think it all went down. St. Peter in Gallicantu is a church built to commemorate the denial. Below the church is an ancient jail thought to be where Jesus was held the night of his arrest. On the property is a statue showing Peter, a Roman soldier, a servant girl, and a rooster. The name Gallicantu is Latin for cockcrow (which is basically a rooster).

Despite these awful events I was amazed at how much hope was depicted around me. The church had an amazing amount of mosaics inside and outside of the building. They not only depicted the rejection but the reconciliation that happens later in John 21.15-19.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Overall the the church and surrounding gardens encourage contemplation, lament, and then hope. For repentance, for forgiveness, for redemption, for Shalom.

-Laura Dellosso

The Garden Tomb.

The Garden Tomb.

There are two possible places that the crucifixion and burial of Jesus could’ve happened. The  Garden tomb and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I was responsible for presenting on both possible sites and I have to admit that I was pretty set on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher until our tour guide reminded me that in the Bible (Matthew 27:39) it says that “Those who passed by hurled insults at him”. I had always thought that Golgotha was on a hill, but that statement made me rethink. If Jesus was crucified on a hill then that would most likely mean that he would not of been able to hear them, so it would’ve had to be passing on the road or something. At the garden tomb there’s a place where they think Jesus was crucified at, and it wasn’t on a hill.

-Destiny Kauffman

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a building that spans across a proposed location for two of the most significant events in the Biblical narrative of ancient Israel: Jesus' execution on the cross, and his tomb for burial.  

While archaeologists and theologians today differ in their opinions on the whereabouts of the authentic site, there are enough correlations to scripture that would qualify the Church as a plausible candidate. One distinguishing feature of the site that, having learned, has enhanced my experience in Israel, is the execution place and tomb's distance from the gates of the city of Jerusalem.  This is in accord with Hebrews 13:11-12, which reveals not only such a positioning clue, but also a symbolic meaning behind the positioning. The text reads,

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.

The Jews of ancient Israel would have recognized the spiritual parallel the Hebrew writer was trying to make. No longer would the people have to continually sacrifice animals to the pay the debt for sin against God, but instead, by God, through the power and love of Jesus, the debt was paid once and for all; a relationship not only offered to the Jews, but to the whole of mankind.

It is this kind of revelation that makes the sites within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre worth a visit---not because of any claims there may be to prove it is the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, but because its likelihood allows for the viewer to reflect on the hope passed down in the scriptures for us today, those in the past, and for generations to come.

-Debbi Celeste


3...2...1...Sabbath

The first time I started noticing how busy I was, I was in middle school. The guidance counselor called me down to her office and told me that my teachers had noticed that I seemed to be pulled every which way during the school day. We had about a half an hour chat, in which I assured her I wasn’t overwhelmed by the seven or so extracurricular activities that I was a part of, and I went on my way. I waited a few weeks to tell my mom about the discussion because she and my dad had pointed out that I was involved in quite a bit and seemed to be exhausting myself.

Fast forward to high school, specifically my tenth grade year, when I had a teacher look at me and remark that my stress level was way too high. My response was “that’s just life”. After all, I was taking honors courses with plenty of homework, still had extracurricular activities (although not as many as three years before), and life outside of high school to deal with. My life had become a cycle of wake up, go to school, homework, dinner, extracurricular, more homework, sleep, repeat. (And the sleep part wasn’t as long as it should have been.)

A year later, I was still stuck in the same cycle, only this time it was worse. I’d dug myself into a ditch I couldn’t get back out of. I needed a break. Rest. But if I took a break, even a single day off of school and homework, I’d have makeup work on top of stuff I already had to do. My chemistry teacher noticed. My AP Lit teacher noticed. My parents noticed. My lifegroup leader at church noticed. I struggled balancing schoolwork with the rest of life. There was conversation between the adults. I was stuck in the one track mind of ‘just get this done, then you can rest’. One of my teachers pulled me one day and told me I NEEDED to take a break, even if it was only five minutes a day. They offered both help with chemistry, the class I was currently having trouble in, and their classroom as a place to sit. It was during one of these ‘help, chemistry is going to kill me’ sessions that they brought up sabbath.

I LOVED the idea. Honestly, I did. A day of rest to show God that I trusted he was in control. But could I really take the time to rest? I had four hours of chemistry work alone in addition to essays and reading due for AP Lit. That was only two of four classes. And then there was personal stuff going on. I barely had time for youth group on Wednesday nights...there was no way I could afford to take an entire day off of schoolwork. I’d fall behind. My grades would tank...and it wasn’t that I obsessed over my grades, but I had to keep them up to stay in NHS and for college. I’d get so backlogged on work that I’d never catch up. In my mind, sabbath was an awesome idea. Once summer rolled around, it would be amazing!

I never did a sabbath day. I always pulled the excuse that life was too busy. That maybe, once it slowed down a little, taking a sabbath day would be great. But what I learned is that there will always be an excuse. There will always be something in life that just begs for our attention. That thing that is SO pressing that the world will explode if it doesn’t get done...or will it?

God has been putting sabbath on my mind again recently. OneLife staff have encouraged me take a sabbath day multiple times over the past few months. For a while, my thought process was “yeah, that’s a great idea. Any week but this week would be great.” But then, just this past week, I finally took an intentional day of rest. And yes, it was hard. There was a lot I wanted to do homework wise. (Like this blog.) But I went into it going “okay Abba, I know I’m not always that great at trusting you. I like to be in control, but today I’m going rest. Slow down and take a deep breath. Trust you. Prepare myself for the once in a lifetime Israel experience you’re giving me this week. I’m going to soak in your goodness and your love for me.” And so that’s what I did. I spent the day hanging out with friends, folding laundry, packing, writing letters to people at home, and watching The Fellowship of the Rings with a bunch of (probably overly caffeinated) OneLifers.

It was beyond amazing-what just twenty four hours can do. And every moment of the day I felt God beside me asking, “isn’t this great? This is what I want for you. This is what taking a deep breath feels like.” For the first time in months, I feel refreshed. I’ve dug into what sabbath means and why it’s so important. In Even Better Than Eden, Guthrie puts it this way: “God has given us the gift of a day-one day different from all the other days in our week-to push away from the table of the world that fills us up with its expectations and commitments. This gift invites us, instead, to pull up a chair at the table where God himself wants to fill us up with himself and take on himself all the things that are weighing on us.” This explanation of sabbath echos the invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28 “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”.” Justin McRoberts (one of our speakers) defined sabbath as: “one whole day of rest from work, without obligation, every week, committed to God.” Sabbath is God’s day. His invitation to us to experience the peace and rest only He can give. It looks different for everyone, but the intent is the same no matter who you are.

We see the idea of sabbath repeated over and over again in scripture, from the very beginning of Genesis to the end in Revelation. God rested, not because he was tired, but because he wanted us to follow His example. He declares the day holy. The third commandment is to observe the sabbath day. Over and over again we see Him both instruct the Israelites on what resting looks like and also mourn the fact that they misuse the day He’s set aside for them. In our Even Better Than Eden bible study, we dove into the idea that one day, in a place even better than Eden, we’ll be able to participate in a day of rest that will never ever end. And if that’s the case, we should take the time, once a week, to anticipate the rest that is awaiting us.

And that, at least in my opinion, is definitely worth celebrating!

-Amara Sherman


TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY

(as we get ready for Israel)

Reenacting the temptation of Jesus in the Judaean wilderness. (Matthew 4)

Reenacting the temptation of Jesus in the Judaean wilderness. (Matthew 4)

An overview from the actors after their skit reproducing the construction of Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

An overview from the actors after their skit reproducing the construction of Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

A creative take on exploring critical events of the Old Testament through the lens of Mary Pope Osborn’s  Magic Treehouse  series.

A creative take on exploring critical events of the Old Testament through the lens of Mary Pope Osborn’s Magic Treehouse series.

Sharing homemade, authentic Israeli treats with the class.

Sharing homemade, authentic Israeli treats with the class.

An angel narrator participating in the reenactment of Matthew 4.

An angel narrator participating in the reenactment of Matthew 4.

OneLife Announces New Lancaster, PA Location

OneLife Announces New Lancaster, PA Location

We are excited to announce our partnership with Immerse International starting Fall 2019. Immerse is located just 2 miles from the center of Lancaster City, and will be the home of our incoming class. When we started conversations with Immerse, we were excited about the opportunity we have to get even more involved with Lancaster City.

For more information on Immerse International you can see their website here.

Getting Lost

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The first time I ever got seriously lost, I was on a mission trip in New York City the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. We were broken up into teams by the mission organization we’d partnered with for the week, and told that we had to get back to the church we were staying at from Union Station. Even with an adult, navigating the metro in an unfamiliar city during rush hour was a terrifying experience, especially since the three people we asked for help pointed us in all different directions. If nothing else, I learned that I don’t want to be caught on the metro during rush hour again unless I know exactly where I’m going.

So when I heard that OneLife was going to be dropping us off at various locations around Lancaster City and give us an hour to make it to Central Market, I wasn’t quite as scared as I was in NYC. After all, I’m more familiar with Lancaster, it’s significantly smaller, and no train was involved in the exercise. My group spent the hour talking with each other, wandering around the city, and enjoying the snowfall...at least I enjoyed the snow.

I wouldn't say I was super uncomfortable with getting lost in Lancaster, but as I processed through the experience, memories of four years ago bubbled up in my memory. That awful feeling in the pit of my stomach when our group realized that we’d gotten on (and off) the wrong train and had no clue where we were. Walking around in circles as we tried to figure out where we were. The fear of wondering if we’d make it back to the church in time for dinner...or before dark. Not having our cell phones on us only made the situation even more scary. When we finally did make it back to the church, I flopped onto my air mattress and firmly decided that I hated getting lost.

And yet I think one of the most surprising things I’ve discovered since OneLife has started is that it’s okay to be lost. In the book Even Better Than Eden, the author, Nancy Guthrie begins the book by talking about an empty place inside every single one of us. An empty place created by the loss of something, something that never was, or perhaps caused by something that try as you might, you can’t exactly pinpoint. A sort of emptiness that, as Nancy Guthrie puts it, “haunts you as a nagging ache” or “overwhelms you as a relentless agony” depending on the day.

I sat in my apartment reading chapter one, and felt like the book was speaking right to me. Yes, I feel a sort of emptiness inside myself that frustrates me some days and practically drives me up a wall others. An emptiness that I can’t explain. An emptiness that makes me feel like all I’m doing is walking in circles. That makes me feel like I’m lost. Like I’m wandering in an unknown city without any sense of direction or a cell phone. This sense of lostness feels like my biggest problem some days. If I could just get rid of it, everything would be perfect.

But what I’m learning is that this feeling I hate so much is actually a HUGE blessing. It’s a constant reminder of just how much I need God. Because if it wasn’t there and everything was perfect, I wouldn’t need Him. God fills the emptiness with Himself and in doing so, He shows me that He’s always there, even in the darkest, hardest times. He’s shown me that He’s faithful, both in my own past and in the lives of others. He loves me with an outrageous love of another kind that I just begin to catch a glimpse of when I allow myself to acknowledge the emptiness that I feel. He is walking me through the wilderness, which, although scary at times is also beautiful. I can hold onto the hope that He’s not going to leave me there. He’s leading me to something better. Something so unbelievably better. And so for as foreign as it is to me, I’m learning to let myself be okay with being lost. Being empty. Being in the wilderness. Because only then do I truly begin to understand how much of a good good Father He is.

-Amara Sherman


TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY!

The OneLife Lancaster Media Committee has been hard at work creating videos to show our appreciation and love for fellow community members. Check out our recent ones down below!

Everyday Justice

How messy is too messy?

This is the question I’ve been meditating on for the past few days. At what point in time do I let my fear of failure or my inadequacies hold me back from allowing God to use me to play a part in restoring this broken but beautiful world?

If I were to stand in front of an audience and ask people to honestly raise a hand if they’d ever backed down from reaching out to the hurting and broken, the vast majority would join me in lifting our hands. But here’s the good thing; although we’re not always good at this, our God is. The very first time sin enters this world, the first thing God does is step towards the sinners. In Genesis 3:8-literally the next verse following Adam and Eve directly disobeying His ONE rule-God comes walking through the garden, calling out to those He loves.

Here’s what Jonathan Parker said that smacked me across the face: You are the biggest limitation to what God wants to do in your life. I am the biggest limitation. I become scared. Looking at the brokenness in front of me, I oftentimes become so fixated on the sin of the situation that I sometimes forget the people trapped in it are image bearers just like me. But with His strength, I can live in my true identity as a child of God and reach out to those around me. And that’s the beautiful thing. It’s not about me at all. It’s about the other people around me and it’s about my God. It’s all about His glory and His plan for ultimate restoration. If my perfect God was willing to come to earth as a baby boy and live among messy, broken, hurting, sinful people for 30+ years and then die on a cross for the exact people who sentenced Him to death, He’s answered my question for me already. Nothing is too messy for Him. And when we live in the identity He’s given us, nothing is too messy for us either. So my next question is this: What part of the messiness am I going to move toward? How am I going to get messy?

How are you going to get messy?

-Amara Sherman (OneLife Lancaster student)


TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY!

Fun with watercolors!

Fun with watercolors!

For one of our worship nights, we watched Planet Earth to appreciate God’s creation as a community.

For one of our worship nights, we watched Planet Earth to appreciate God’s creation as a community.



Enjoying the snow with friends and a Jedi umbrella.

Enjoying the snow with friends and a Jedi umbrella.

COFFEEHOUSE NIGHT!

Graduation as a Springboard Towards Life-Long Learning

Throughout my high school experience I could regrettably feel the reverberating ‘you need to figure out what you should do with your life’ mantra breathing down my neck from every guidance counselor within the nearest galaxy. This may sound a bit dramatic, but the truth of the matter is that there was an immense pressure to figure out myself, my future, and my life itself at 18 years old.

In fact, not just from guidance counselors was this the universal language, but from the overwhelming majority of adults too. Although with good intentions and in an attempt to be helpful, harm was done. Harm left in the hands of 17 to 18 year old boys and girls left to figure out their futures, while trying to make sense of themselves. I certainly don’t want to downplay the middle school induced post-traumatic stress that comes from those awkward years- to what some deem an eternity long. Navigating the once and a lifetime feelings of early teenagedom where so much is happening in, through, and around you is a circus act in itself. This is a grandiose process that spills into the high school years and beyond- ultimately affecting us as adults and the trajectory of our lives.

Instead of pigeon-holing teenagers into a pressure-based decision with a shot clock that is progressively winding down- with a proverbial echo of:

“FIGURE OUT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE- NOW!” ...(crickets)...

Why not set them up for an alley oop dunk instead of a emphatic block back in their faces. This pressure and unnecessary expectation has not helped in allowing young adults to find themselves nor focus on the future trajectory of their lives. There has to be a better way. The high school experience is meant to develop educational and vocational interests that lead to further investigation at the university/college or work/trade season of life. As one studies at the university level they hopefully come to a place of greater discernment in what specific vocation they want to pursue in life. As a mentor of mine says:

“Graduation is the commencement to a life of learning.”

My mentor and friend turned out to not only be a college professor but also a leading expert and internationally known speaker on the life and writing of C.S. Lewis. All that to say- he turned out pretty well. Notice his words: “Graduation is the commencement to a life of learning.” If only this mantra would echo down the halls of our high schools, instead of the bad breath of pressure-based expectations that scream stress, falsified expectations, and fear. I’m not insinuating to not care about your future or not plan for what lies ahead, but rather to take the time and invest in yourself by experiencing the process of yourself- as a young adult, exactly where you’re at in the present moment. I think we could do this best by adopting the philosophy of life-long learning, and seeing graduation as a springboard towards a life of knowledge, growth, and transformation.

So maybe the Western/American educational system has set young people up for career and vocational failure?

What if we have been doing it wrong this entire time?

You don’t have to agree with this interrogation of a societal and cultural normality, and you might not even personally relate with this experience. Maybe your high school experience was one in which you were fully supported in the ambiguity of the process of questioning the next phase of your life, or maybe you just knew all along what was ahead for you. Whatever your journey has been, the ideal and ultimate reality would be a unified front of support and confidence between students and the many influential voices speaking and giving direction to them. What if we turned towards reimagining a landscape of holistic growth and development of students? A landscape that promoted self-investment and encouraged a mentality of relishing in the process of oneself- of knowing God, knowing oneself, knowing others, and knowing our deepest desires. I wonder how things would change if more and more high schools (and influential adult voices) across the world took a collective breath and encouraged students in the struggle of making futuristic decisions within their lives. Practically, this can take shape and form in a myriad of ways, but I wonder how much investment in self- could go a long, long way. We believe that at the OneLife Institute students are encouraged in the process and adventure of discovering who they are- as a Christian, a unique individual, a leader, and the trajectory of their futures. OneLife is one of the best ‘next level’ options for a young person to consider in his/her future plans towards taking the next steps ahead in their journey of following God.

If you would like to know more about the unique facets of OneLife- College Credit, Travel & Adventure, Discipleship & Mentorship, Future & Calling, Community fill out the form below. Choosing OneLife could not only change your life, but also provide clear direction for your future in following Jesus Christ.

Benjamin Case - Resident Leader

Name *
Name

Future and Calling

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

J.R.R Tolkien

We often think of wandering as inerrantly wrong or bad as if a ‘wanderer’ does not know where they are going but they also are void of purpose. Yet Mr. Tolkien and myself disagree with this notion- on the contrary we believe that they are not lost, but looking, seeking. If you view wandering from the lens of a great search and rescue party, seeking to find, and wandering until found- it flips the script entirely. Jesus speaks plainly throughout the gospels about ‘seeking and finding’ and knocking closed doors to find the open ones. If Jesus encourages ‘seeking’ than sometimes and I argue- often we need to be willing to get lost. At OneLife, many students who enter our program are looking for something- often times it’s clarity, wisdom, discernment- to know their specific calling, to know God and who He created them to be. All of these reasons are valid and permissible convictions for enrolling in OneLife, yet the blaring commonality that not just students have (but all of humanity) is that we are all looking for someone or something.

Searching.

Seeking.

Wandering.

At OneLife, we have a professional staff of leaders that will guide, mentor, disciple, and help students discern who God is leading them to be. That’s why we believe it’s okay to wander and even get lost. It’s not only okay to wander, we might even encourage it. We encourage students to wander because we see what wandering with God results in. When you know with whom you are wandering and with whom- it makes all the difference. The difference at OneLife is that many students don’t know their future endeavors- college, university, work, calling, family, etc. but they seek and wander in a God-fearing, God-honoring community that is following Jesus in their wandering. So we will continue to wander, learning to be lost in a world that we were never meant to make home, and seek first the kingdom that never dies. Fill out the form below to get more information on clarifying your calling.

Benjamin Case - Resident Leader

Name *
Name

Discipleship and Mentoring

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill


Giving is no small task. In a world that takes, consumes, and uses- giving is scarce. Churchill’s words ring true that we spend our lives working to ‘get’ and obtain, achieve, progress- yet do our lives speak of generosity? This is a gut-wrenching reality check. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to give and live generously with our lives as we have been given the ultimate gift of Jesus and life in Him. At OneLife there is no difference- we are called to give and steward ourselves as leaders in mentoring and discipling students from all points in their faith journey. We believe that one can only give as much as they themselves have received- generosity bares its own gifts. In a world of pretending, we aspire to be true in who we are and what we give. OneLife’s leaders aim to commit themselves in leading, mentoring students, and facilitating a lifestyle of discipleship that encompasses all aspects of their lives. We encourage discipleship in a myriad of ways at OneLife- through life on life living, TRIADS (intentional weekly meetings for students with OneLife staff processing students experiences), events, outings, travel, fellowship, meals, and a host of other ways. We believe that discipleship is a responsibility of all Christians to partake in and encourage students to disciple one another through friendships within our community. At the heart of true discipleship is Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul we want to say with conviction- “imitate us, as we imitate Christ.” Fill out the form below to get more information on discipleship & mentoring at OneLife.

Benjamin Case - Resident Leader

Name *
Name

‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’

‘No man is a failure that has friends.’

Clarence the Guardian Angel

Friendship, like trust is not given- it is earned. What if I were to tell you that a group of Christ following, like-minded, passionate group of young adults were placed in the same community seeking to learn, grow, and follow Jesus with all that they are.

Well, that would be OneLife.

Community.

Communities can be great and communities can be terrible. Community is what YOU, yes YOU reading this- make of it.

The unsung hero and really the greatest discovery that many OneLife students have in the program is the gift of community. This is the secret ingredient that makes OneLife set apart from other gap year programs. Students will still have all of the fun exciting experiences of the average university student, yet be able to cultivate some of the closest, greatest friendships and Christ-centered relationships they might ever have. Every single day OneLife students will eat, study, work, play, travel, and be- together. Life together- this is a true community. A community that grows together, loves together, lives together. Nothing is certain in life, but true friendship withstands the test of time. ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’ Fill out the form below to get more information on the community at OneLife.

Benjamin Case - Resident Leader

Name *
Name

OneLife as Your Next Adventure?

‘To live is the Rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist…’

Oscar Wilde

One of the most thrilling ways to experience life, and truly know that you are alive is through traveling. Experiencing the ‘great unknown’, or ‘not your own reality’- can be one of the most life-changing experiences human beings take part in. Students at OneLife have this opportunity to see their lives changed through travel- engaging cultures and communities by going straight to them! We believe that God goes with us, guides us, and was already there long before we ever arrived. Every OneLife site has different trips planned across the United States, with the headliner trip culminating in Israel where all the OneLife sites meet together. The rare privilege of traveling to Israel allows for students to experience the Bible coming alive through visiting the very places where the biblical narrative took place. So much can be said about traveling to Israel, yet this is only one of a handful of very intentional, exciting, and purposeful trips that are taken to learn, grow, and experience Christ in various communities, cultures, and places. Choosing OneLife could be the next great adventure for you, but it also could be one of the most life-changing decisions you will ever make. Does your heart skip a beat when you think of the opportunity to travel to places you’ve never been, with fellow adventurers and friends looking to learn, grow, and become more of the people that God designed you to be? Fill out the form below to speak with a OneLife representative or to get more information about traveling at One Life.

-Benjamin Case - OneLife Resident Leader

Name *
Name

Nashville: Music and Mission

On Monday, we started out with a brief meditation on Luke 12:22-34 (“seek first His kingdom…”) and then met up with former Jars of Clay lead guitarist Steve Mason to talk about Christian vocation. Steve now runs a sort of old-fashioned one-chair barbershop and fills in as a studio-musician on the side. Some great themes that came out in this time with him were:

  • the sacredness of everything (Zechariah 14:20)

  • people don’t change until they have to

  • success doesn’t always work out the way you expect, and everyone needs people to speak into their lives and help them “course-correct”.

For lunch we went to Nashville-famous Hattie B’s for some “hot chicken” and then over to Centennial Park to see Nashville’s Parthenon replica. We read part of Acts 17 there and talked a bit about “American idols.” In Paul’s day, the Greek gods appeared to be supreme (I mean, they had all these great big temples and devotees!) but 2,000 years later, their temples are in ruins and no one worships them (strange that American Christians thought it was a good idea to rebuild a temple to a pagan deity, but that’s a longer story).

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After that we went to the Civil Rights room at the Nashville Public Library. This was a great history lesson for us as most of us didn’t associate Civil Rights with Nashville, but the history runs pretty deep there actually. This was a challenging time as it was so obvious how the Civil Rights heroes connected their beliefs to (risky and costly) behavior. It raised questions for us like, “what are the struggles facing us that God is calling us to engage with in society?”

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After this we hopped on a free city bus and took an informal “tour” of Nashville. I tend to think you haven’t “really” experienced a city unless you’ve taken public transportation. Taking a full loop on a city bus gets you off the tourist circuit and allows you to see places and meet people for whom Nashville is an everyday thing.

After dinner we ended up splitting up and roughly 1/3 of students went with to the city square to hand out Panera leftovers (they gave us all the pastries they were going to throw away) to the homeless folks who hung out there. They ended up meeting Michael Tait (of DC Talk/Newsboys fame) who is involved in ministry there as well. The rest of us went down to Broadway to check out that scene (and most of the students ended up spending time with homeless people there as well).

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On Tuesday we met up with Matt at the offices of Blood Water Mission (a non-profit founded by the Jars of Clay guys and Jena Lee Nardella) to talk with Jars’ vocalist Dan Haseltine. This was a really rich time of learning more about Christian non-profit work and how serving the poor/foreign missions often requires more than compassion and sometimes less than re-locating. BWM staffers need skills in writing, working with spreadsheets, marketing, logistics and communication.

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Tuesday night we headed over to the recording studio that Matt and Charlie Lovell (Jars’ keyboardist) run together for an amazing concert by 4-5 of the artists they are currently working with. This was a huge privilege and students were blessed in a lot of different ways during that time.

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On Wednesday, Matt introduced us to his pastor, who shared about how he’d gone from being a successful youth minister to a crashed-and-burned pig farmer living in a trailer with no phone or television for 2-3 years and how being in that place allowed God to get a hold of him in a new way. We also had more time to hear some of Matt’s story.

Some more adventures and take-aways:

Plaza Mariachi tacos – visiting Franklin, TN – “you don’t have to do the same thing for the next 20 years” – trying on hats in a big Nashville hat-shop – fancy hipster coffee-shops – keys being locked in a van at Chipotle – recognizing the image of God and the dignity of people we seek to serve

On the way home on Thursday we stopped off at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian trail, which has a 360 degree view of the hills and valleys on both sides.

Huge shoutout to Jon Stegenga for all the photos!

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Gospel Centered Life

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This weeks addition on the OneLife Blog, the Lancaster Media Committee will be sharing some of the conversations and things they have been learning around their small group discussions called Gospel Centered Life. Enjoy!

-Lauren Collins (Media Committee Coach)


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“Hey y’all! One of the studies we are making our way through is a study called Gospel Centered Life! One of the things we are learning through GCL is the importance of heart repentance. I am learning that my perception of repentance was dolefully distorted: when I wronged someone, I would apologize for my words or actions, but my pride reduced repentance to a mere practice instead of a lifestyle. This aroused from an inflated view of my own “righteousness” apart from Jesus. The idols of control and success, for example, cause me to pursue action, results, and projects over people and relationships, leaving in their wake reverberating waves of hurt hearts. I would apologize for the fruit of the idol (impatience, lack of listening, etc.), but I failed to make it a lifestyle of recognizing and repenting of the root (the idol). I am learning that mere apology for the fruit of a sin excuses, dismisses, and ignores the root of the sin.

True repentance, however, recognizes the depth of our brokenness, the height of God’s holiness, and the grandeur of the cross of Jesus that bridges the gap between the two. When we truly repent, we confess not only our broken behavior, but the sin that caused us to respond the way we did; we recognize that righteousness lies in Jesus alone and this makes us turn from shame and turn to Jesus for healthy vulnerability and humility.”

- Chantal Peterson


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‘"Not very teachable"... "Is defensive when accused of error or weakness"... The things I thought I was---like being teachable or completely open to the input I receive---I'm realizing I'm not.  The pride I have in my intellectual growth fooled me into thinking I had the flexibility to exercise this intellect as well; If I have the capacity to learn, then it follows in my mind that I must also have the willingness.  If I am able to grasp the meaning behind the cultural mandate or the doctrine of man's stewardship within creation, then it must be that, by default, these thing will be taken to heart and magically renew my relationships with God, myself, and others.  Right knowledge leads to right action---right? Not necessarily. The GCL lesson 3 that my group explored a couple weeks ago exposed this irrationality in my thoughts and took it a step further through an exercise in personal identity:  As an "orphan" (perceiving and behaving separately from the grace of God), my tendencies to not be very teachable and to become defensive when accused of error or weakness reveal a dependence on my own finite abilities and a rejection of the infiniteness of the knowledge, grace, and Fatherhood of God.  Along with seeing that sad self-dependence, what really got me was having my eyes opened to the resulting loneliness and homelessness of the orphan---my orphan status---and the deep longing the orphan feels for the relationship with, and acceptance of, God, "The Father."  Although I do not feel that I have accepted God's Fatherhood to the fullest up to this moment, it is my earnest hope and desire, as I am here at OneLife, that I become more willing to translate head knowledge into heart knowledge and to enter into deeper communion with God not as an orphan, but as an adopted daughter through Christ.”

-Debbi Celeste


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“One lesson that really resonated with me from The Gospel-Centered Life was Lesson 3: Believing the Gospel. It talked about passive righteousness, which basically means we do not labor for our righteousness, but rather we receive righteousness by faith in Christ. I thought this was a great reminder that we must cling to the gospel promise that God is pleased with us because he is pleased with Jesus. What freedom is there! The good news of the gospel is not that God makes much of us, but that God frees us to make much of Jesus! So we no longer have to live as orphans but as sons and daughters of the one true King!”

-Brandon Bechtold


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“We are unable to do what the law commands us to do, but Jesus did it for us. And because He lives in us by his spirit, we are enabled to do it, not from obligation, but from delight.”-The Gospel-Centered Life. In our GCL article four we talked about The Law & The Gospel. The chapter reminded us that far too often Christians get caught up in legalism or a license mentality. Jesus does not need us to obey the law, we as Christians need to realize that “the point of the gospel is to drive us to Jesus” not for us to find our righteousness in obedience to rules or to use Jesus’s sacrifice to do whatever we please. We are able to walk into freedom because Christ has fulfilled the law and invites us into life with Him.”

-Elise Epp


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“Are you pretending to make yourself seem better than you are?  Are you trying and please God in the things you do by performing?  The first time I read these questions, I answered “no” to them; justifying my answer in telling myself that, “Of course I am a human, I’m not God, I’m not a perfect human being, so then, why would I even be trying to make myself seem better than I am?”  I had dismissed the questions and moved on.

As the days passed by, I became more and more frustrated by the people around me.  For a while, I only felt anger for the people that were closest to me. At the peak of my annoyance, I asked myself, “Why am I feeling this way?”  I took a deep breath as I began to reflect and review the recent events. I realized that I was seeking acceptance and approval by making myself better than I am and by making a big deal out of the acts I was doing to receive a positive reaction from people.

The gospel tells us there is something called passive righteousness.  We must adopt it and it needs to become core to our lives. It is called such because we do not need to work for it, it something that is given to us through faith.  Passive righteousness means that God has credited Jesus’ perfect righteousness to us and forgiven our sin. Thinking this way has begun to change the way I think, and while it is not easy, it is beginning to change my life.”

-Caleb Rivera


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“We must cling to the gospel promise that God is pleased with us because he is pleased with Jesus.”

This sentence hit me hard during our GCL a few weeks ago, and the more I think about it, the more it stirs up a bunch of emotions inside of me. So often I beat myself up over my past sin. It’s like part of me thinks that past me messed up so badly that God couldn’t ever love me as much as the Bible says. In my head, I have to be the best person out there so that God thinks I’m redeemable. I should be as perfect as possible so that my good acts and ‘perfectness’ cancel out my past actions that I don’t think God should be able to forgive me from. In reality though, it’s the exact opposite. Yes I’ve sinned, yes I’ve fallen short, but that’s why Jesus died. He suffered on the cross so that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see the marred, sin infected Amara, He sees His Son. Perfect, pure, holy Jesus. And when I step back and really let that sink in, I’m filled with joy. Adoration. Some days I want to go shout it from the rooftops-I’m a child of The King! Other days I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, feel the breeze blow around me, and laugh because I know-I believe-I’m loved. My Abba loves me! When we believe the gospel, we can rest in the idea that we have received righteousness through faith-passive righteousness because it’s given to us freely-and we can worship. We are sons and daughters of the most high God. The creator of the universe. He loves us not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is. And so we can celebrate!”

-Amara Sherman




Shalom Y'all!

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¡Hola!

We’re three weeks into the craziness of OneLife now and if you can’t tell from the pictures, we’re LOVING it.

This week in class we discussed A LOT. I can only speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure my mind exploded at least five or six times. We started off looking at the big picture of the Bible on Tuesday with Chris White and we talked about how everything in the Bible is connected through God’s idea of shalom-wholeness and prosperity-that was broken when sin entered the world.

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This can be seen in the creation story in Genesis 1 in four different relationships:

  • Humans and God

  • Humans and other humans

  • Humans and creation

  • Humans and self

The Fall broke each of these in different ways, and it’s through redemption and restoration that God will purify each relationship again.

One of the areas that we dove a bit deeper into with another speaker we had later in the week (Dave Bindewald) was the creation story itself. We took the ‘big picture’ and zoomed in on a few different aspects. (Creation, The Fall, Redemption, Restoration) Dave started off his time with us by having us read Genesis 1 and observe different pieces of the story. He told us that when it comes to what we believe, if we get the beginning right, we get a whole lot else right. In Genesis 1:28, we receive the cultural mandate. God tells mankind to rule over the earth, and part of that means it’s our job to explore and play in the world God has given up. He wants us to go out into His creation and experience it-stand in awe of everything around us and see His goodness-because everything He’s created is good. That can be seen in the first chapter of Genesis when He says not once, not twice, but six times that what He created was good, and then after looking over everything He’d created, followed it up by saying that it was very good (or as we here in Onelife are saying now, ‘good good’).

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So we took it upon ourselves to go out and explore the good good creation. Wednesday we went to see Sight and Sound’s production of Jesus. We looked at how shalom was expressed in the play and talked about different aspects of the show afterwards as a group.

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A group of us went to a packing event at GAiN over the weekend and helped pack irrigation kits for people in third world countries so that they have an opportunity to not only farm their own food, but learn the good news of the gospel as well. And in the coming weeks we’ll have the chance to go and see more of God’s workmanship as we begin our experiential learning. But for right now we’re soaking in His goodness in the time spent with each other. The jokes, the laughter, the encouragement, the community that we’re all a part of-it’s all good good creation too!

Anna & Anna before Sight & Sound!

Anna & Anna before Sight & Sound!

Below, you’ll see the ways that we see GOOD GOOD in our community! Stay tuned for our experiential learning adventures and have a week as awesome as ours!

- Amara Sherman


Digging Deeper into the Good Good Creation

Brandon Bechtold with Jonathan Dukeman and Logan Griffey

How does reading the Bible properly affect your relationship with God personally?

“Reading the bible properly allows me to actually know and have healthy comprehensions of verses and stories that I wouldn’t have other ways. If I didn’t have a proper understanding of the bible, it would just be used as a self-help aid to take off the shelf when I need to fix something in my life and put it back on when I don’t.” -Jonathan Dukeman (Current Student)

”I think reading the Bible in the SOIA method helps remind me that the Bible is a story about a God who has been faithful to His people and it is a story that is bigger than myself.” -Logan Griffey (Resident Leader)

How have you seen God’s goodness in your own life?

“I don’t deserve anything, because I am a sinner I was sentenced to die, having complete separation from God. But because God has an immeasurable love for us all, God’s goodness is present in my everyday life. I am so very blessed with a Savior who loves me, great family, great health, food, shelter, security, great relationships and taking care of my needs and wants.” - Jonathan Dukeman

“I think that God has been really good to me and he has brought specific people into my life at specific times whose faith have challenged me and whose lives have reflected Jesus.” -Logan Griffey

What has changed your perspective in relation to the Fall?

“The biggest perspective of mine that has changed in relationship to the fall, is how big the redemption process will be. Before the Fall everything God made was good, the world was as God designed it to be. But the second sin entered the world all of creation was infected, changing its designed purpose for something it’s not. Although God promises when he comes back he will make everything back to the way He designed it, with no sin.” - Jonathan

Just realizing that the fall has affected not only humanity but also the created order apart from humanity. Scripture talks about how creation is groaning in anticipation to be restored. (Romans 8:18-25)” - Logan

What has Jesus redeemed in your life?

“Jesus has redeemed countless relationships in my life relating not just to him, but also to other people, his creation, and my relationship with myself.”- Jonathan

“He’s redeemed the way that I see and relate with others. I am beginning to see others the way that God sees them, rather than seeing others for what they can give me. With that, I’m beginning to grow in love for people in a more Christ-like way.” -Logan

Caleb Rivera’s parents surprised him with Lancaster Cupcakes for his birthday!

Caleb Rivera’s parents surprised him with Lancaster Cupcakes for his birthday!


PRO TIP

“When you can’t see the chords to follow your music in the dark setting of a worship session, just lift up your hands in praise”
— wise words from the Worship Committee
“20 push ups a day will keep the doctor away”
— Jon D., Fitco Committee

The Gospel & Biblical Flourishing

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to our blog!

We started out this past week diving into a book called Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch, and we looked at what it means to flourish.

Group picture with Chris Mathewson!

Group picture with Chris Mathewson!

To sum multiple days into just a few words, we looked at the 2X2 diagram. Our speaker, Chris Mathewson, and the book pointed out that Jesus is the the perfect example of flourishing-the perfect balance of both authority and vulnerability. As humans, we struggle to find that perfect balance of being strong (authoritative) and weak (vulnerable). In fact, we fear both, and that’s why it’s so hard for us. When one or both are missing, we find distortions-suffering, withdrawing, and exploiting. Here’s a short explanation of each of the four quadrants:

Flourishing:

Flourishing is not growth or affluence or gentrification. It’s learning what we are saved for, not just what we’re saved from. It’s acting with both authority (the capacity for meaningful action) and vulnerability (exposure to meaningful risk). As Christians, we have the authority to reflect God which involves being vulnerable when interacting with other people. Flourishing is what we ultimately strive to do.

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Suffering:

Suffering happens when there’s high vulnerability and low authority. As humans, we often impose vulnerability on others to protect ourselves, and in class, we learned that suffering is the product of self-protectiveness. Because of sin, we’re hardwired to participate in the suffering of others-and for that reason, I’m sure we can all think of a time where we’ve both been the cause of another person’s suffering but also been the one suffering. Here’s the good news though: Jesus defeats suffering and replaces it with victory! And spoiler alert, God wins! When we, in the midst of our suffering, run to God and trust him, we find joy.

Withdraw:

Withdraw is one of the easiest things to do in American society. It’s what happens when we have both low authority and vulnerability. It’s the farthest we can be from flourishing-and the farthest we can be from reflecting who Jesus is. In fact, we learned that we can’t bear the image of God fully in isolation because God created us to be in community with others. Pastor Chris said that withdrawing is an assault on the image of God. It pulls us away from the reason God put us in a specific situation.

Exploiting:

Strong and Weak tells us that exploiting is found anywhere people seek to maximize power while eliminating risk. In other words, it’s where authority is high, but vulnerability is low. When it comes to exploiting, we try to hide ourselves and save ourselves  but ultimately end up killing ourselves. And we end up pushing those around us into suffering. We discussed how one of the best early warning signs that we’re drifting towards exploitation is that our closest relationships begin to decay.

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We spent quite a bit of time reflecting on how each of these four things show up in our lives and how it affects the world around us. Check out the videos and interviews to hear some students’ takes on what we learned, and have a great rest of your week!




Investigative Journalism

Brandon Bechtold with Emelina Menzies & Alaina Wheeler


How has the idea of Biblical Flourishing changed your worldview of the Gospel?

“The definition of flourishing is equal parts of authority and vulnerability and that’s exactly what we see at the cross. Vulnerability in that Jesus knew the pain he was going to experience and did it anyway. Authority in that Jesus exercised his power in using it in the betterment of others as he redeemed the lost..” - Emelina Menzies (Current Student)

“Biblical flourishing is high authority and vulnerability. I think it’s important for us as Christians to understand the example Jesus set as the ultimate authority displaying the ultimate vulnerability. It’s easy for us to think that God is powerful, but to understand that Jesus was willing to make himself vulnerable while having all of the authority of God. Since Jesus is the ultimate example of what humanity is supposed to look like, so flourishing for us then becomes living in to the authority that we have in our identity in Christ as well as being vulnerable within the creation God has made.” - Alaina Wheeler (Resident Leader)

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How have you seen withdrawal impact your relationships with others and with God?

“Society looks at vulnerability as weak so people don’t want to be vulnerable, but there is only so far you can go in a relationship without vulnerability. Because of this, many of my relationships have stayed shallow instead of growing deeper.” - Emelina Wheeler

“People tend towards the withdrawal category because they don’t want be suffering. In addition, they don’t understand the authority that comes with their identity in Christ, so they tend to want to withdrawal because of their lack of understanding of that authority. In relationships, people who tend towards withdrawal are the ones who are afraid of getting hurt by being vulnerable and are afraid of hurting others by exploiting. So ultimately, fear pushes them away from biblical flourishing.” -Alaina Wheeler

How has society distorted the true meaning of Flourishing?

“To society flourishing means having the perfect family, many relationships, money, publicity, success, and the list goes on. Jesus flourished more than anyone else, yet he had none of these.” - Emelina Menzies

“In society, there are very few people who think suffering is a vision of flourishing. As well as there are only a few of people who think withdrawing is flourishing because of safety, ease, and comfortability of withdrawal. I think most people think that exploiting is flourishing because they equate power with success. Success for a lot of people means being the best even at the expense of others, which is very different from the Christian life.” - Alaina Wheeler


TAKE A LOOK INTO THE COMMUNITY!

Lunch together in the ODC!

Lunch together in the ODC!

Monday night worship

Monday night worship

Grocery shopping for breakfast!

Grocery shopping for breakfast!

Just Dance for FITCO

Just Dance for FITCO

Caleb Rivera & Nate Otey at their service site GAIN

Caleb Rivera & Nate Otey at their service site GAIN

This is what true Biblical Flourishing looks like!

This is what true Biblical Flourishing looks like!

The Mystery of Maine

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Hey everyone! Welcome to the OneLife Class 6 blog!

The past two weeks have been filled with tons of laughter, and crazy memories have already been made-truly an amazing start to this new adventure in all of our lives!

For those of you who don’t know, Saturday we re-packed our bags and headed to Acadia National Park in Maine. (Yes, 13 hours in a van wouldn’t be complete without jamming along to some favorite tunes and analyzing Taylor Swift.) 😀

We stopped late Saturday night and spent the night at The Root Cellar in Portland Maine; a nonprofit organization with a heart for the less fortunate and bringing their community together.

Sunday we got up and headed to a small park a few minutes from The Root Cellar. There, we worshiped together and the staff and RLs shared their testimonies. We did an activity called ‘Across the Line’ to get to know each other better and spent some time discussing it with our apartments afterwards. After a healthy, well balanced lunch of pizza and salad, we boarded the vans and completed the last few hours of our journey, arriving in Acadia late afternoon. We worked together in teams of four to pitch tents and after a good dose of laughter, perseverance, and just a hint of frustration, we succeeded. (Don’t worry. The only casualties were a few bent-beyond-repair tent stakes.) The rest of the evening was spent in fellowship and after debriefing our day, we headed to bed.

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Monday morning we enjoyed a breakfast of instant oatmeal before heading into the town of Bar Harbor. The morning was spent in a small church called The Message as Zac and Kelly explained how all of us Onelifers will be challenged in our character and calling this year. We had a delicious lunch with Pastor Jody and then headed out into the national park on a scavenger hunt with our apartment-mates. Showers hanging within grasp for the winning apartment, the competition was intense, but apartment 5 (a.k.a. the fab 5) narrowly snatched the victory by “embodying the values of OneLife the best”. If God taught us anything while showering, it was that he’s got everything under control, even when the timer on your pay shower isn’t working correctly...😶

Tuesday was our longest and earliest day, starting at 4:30am so we could see the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. We worshiped together as it rose and spent some quiet time with him in the early morning, reflecting on his goodness and everything we’d experienced the past few days. By 10:00 am we were geared up and ready to head out sea kayaking. We spent a few hours out on the water gaining a new perspective of the place we’d been for the past day and a half before heading to Sand Beach and chilling there for a while. Some of us spent some time enjoying the sun and taking a nap while others cooled off in the 55℉ water and others hiked up Beehive Mountain. Dinner was provided by the guys-tacos of course for Taco Tuesday-(ladies prepared some pretty sweet shish kabobs on Monday) and afterwards we walked to cliffs by the ocean. Kelly led a debrief session of the day as the stars came out and we discussed what we’d learned about ourselves, others, and God. We met with our RLs briefly and then headed back to camp. Before we fell asleep, a few jokes about being slow-roasted in the muggy tents were shared, (at least in my tent) ending the night in laughter.  

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Going into OneLife, I was somewhat concerned that the other students wouldn’t have much in common with me, but as I got to know other people while camping I learned that we have more in common than I originally thought. It was nice spending some free time ‘introverting’ with some other classmates. And it was while listening to some students analyze Taylor Swift songs with Zac that I was reminded that God has placed truth in everything.

Wednesday we got up, worked together to pack everything and rolled out of Acadia by 9:00 am. We spent the entire day driving back to LBC, the van ride complete with everything from serious conversations with each other and some just-as-serious (but not really) car karaoke.

Reflecting back on those first few days, I couldn’t imagine any better way to start off my time at OneLife or any other amazing people to spend the next nine months with. Being an introvert, meeting new people-especially 31 all at the same time isn't something I’ve done before. Getting to know everyone while camping and making memories brought us together super fast and has made me excited to get to know everyone better this year. It’s also shown me that initiating conversation isn’t quite as terrifying as I used to think. Here’s to many more adventures as a OneLife family! Cheers!   - Amara Sherman

 

Big Light Light House 

Big Light Light House 

Students at Bug Light Park after they did "Walk Across the Line". 

Students at Bug Light Park after they did "Walk Across the Line". 

The sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.  

The sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.  

Before the adventure of Sea Kayaking! 

Before the adventure of Sea Kayaking! 

Investigative Journalism

by Brandon Bechtold

Matt Harling - Current Student

1. How do you feel apartment cleanliness benefits the community?

"Onelife has many lessons we can learn that will help us later on in life, and cleanliness is one of them. Everything that we own was given to us by the grace of God, and we should be good stewards of what has been given to us. Not only that but as an apartment, we are able to build community skills by dividing the work among our fellow apartment mates so that we may learn how to work together to get things done."

2. Which rule or policy at OneLife do you feel is most beneficial?

"I think the most beneficial policy at Onelife is the electronic device policy. We all came to Onelife to grow in Christ, and to meet life friends, but in order to do those things we need to limit distractions. Everything that Onelife wants to accomplish won’t and can’t be accomplished if the distractions in our life are not taken away. God wants us to be still and listen without anything to come between us."

3. Why do you think Committees are super important for Onelife?

"The committees are super important for Onelife, because they strive to bring community back into our lives. When Adam and Eve fell, their community with God and each other was broken; therefore, we need to be focusing on rebuilding that community with God and each other. Which leads me to believe, that the committees do a great job on building that part of our character."

Maria- Resident Leader

  1. "Roommates are given the opportunity to work together which not only helps them to form deeper relationships but also helps them grow in skills that will be applicable to their future lives and homes."

  2. "I think the no dating policy is the most beneficial for students because when they are able to eliminate potential distractions in the relationships they are forming with one another, then they are able to focus more intently on developing their character, clarifying their calling, and understanding relational wisdom."

  3. "Committees allow students to take on leadership responsibilities, step out of their comfort zones, and use their God given gifts to create opportunities for fellowship in the areas God has placed them." 

 

PRO-TIP! 

by Debbi Celeste

Pro-tip #1 - Slow roast your marshmallows over the embers of a campfire instead of the flame for an even toast (or eat them totally charred, like Isaiah).

Pro-tip #2 - Don’t miss the bus so you have to run a mile in wet clothes when competing in a scavenger hunt (we’re looking at you, apartment 2).

 

 

Blacksmithing with the PA Craftsman Guild

Who would have thought that at the age of 17 I could feel like a toddler learning to walk? The past week we went through the whole bible and started to hone in on creation and how God made us skillfully and wonderfully.  On Wednesday we were told that we were going to be learning a new skill at the Pennsylvania Craftsman Guild.  I was really pumped at first.  I couldn’t wait to learn something new or try something out that would challenge me in some sort of way. Blacksmithing immediately caught my eye. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into at first but I knew that with God I could handle it. 

    Through my time shaping and working with the metal I learned that the activity itself was often more demanding mentally rather than physically.  When I started I thought I would have trouble shaping and molding the metal the way I wanted to. But that was not the case. I felt like a child trying to ride a bike as I told myself repeatedly that I could do it. What was most challenging was coming to terms that it wouldn’t be perfect because I was still a beginner. I had to mentally concentrate on every step I was taking. Every hit I made had to be concise because when the metal was hot it shaped like clay. One key point the instructors told us was that if we mess up we can always stick it back in the forge and start again. I am someone who is somewhat of a perfectionist and can get very discouraged if things don’t turn out perfectly the first time. I struggled to keep a positive attitude even if mine turned out funky.  It isn’t perfect but it took a ton of patience to get it the way it was. Blacksmithing reminded me of my relationship with God. I tend to become quickly impatient with Him. I want things to work perfectly and smoothly and when that doesn’t happen I get upset and discouraged. I really had to focus on the process and not the result, and to take my time instead of rushing. In this way God showed me that if I focus on Him in my life, I’ll be able to work on being more Christ like. 

     I really enjoyed this process and have learned something totally new and exciting. In the future I hope to utilize what God taught me about patience and focus. I hope to take more time to examine my goals, the process, and how to get there; even if it isn’t right away. I am very thankful that we were able to spend time at the Pennsylvania Craftsman Guild to learn transferable skills.

Alianna Ovalle

Is The American Dream Worth Pursuing?

It was the year 2013 and I was graduating high-school in just a few months. My plan: go to college, study business, start a business, make a ton of money, and live the American dream. This was my legitimate plan. After all, this plan was praised by this world and made sense logically. My motives were seemingly pure – I wanted to get married, raise a strong family, and I wanted to one day "deny my wife nothing that her heart desired”. Well, fast forward just 6 months and suddenly everything begins to change.
 
Through a series of events, I decided to participate in a Gap Year program called OneLife. OneLife really only attracted me because of the travel, adventure, and hands-on learning style. The other thing about OneLife that attracted me was that I received 30 college credits for the year. As I was processing my next steps, I thought, “I can do this program, have a ton of adventures, and transfer into business school without a delay to my aspirations." This was true, however little did I know my entire way of living would be altered.
 
Three months into OneLife I quickly realized my heart was full of vanity. It was evident through the strong community and the hands-on learning that the Proverb, “the heart of a man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps” is in fact true. “Who am I to think I can plan every detail of my life and think I have the correct plan?” This is a question I was faced with in my time at OneLife and it was questions like these that changed the way I live my life today. The small, tight knit community, and the focused biblical training are what God used to alter my heart and my mind. For someone who does not particularly like sitting in a classroom, the travel and experience helped keep me engaged and focused on learning and growing. As my time in OneLife continued I developed the strongest friendships I have ever had – one of those lifelong friendships became my beautiful wife.
 
Fast forward 5 years; I still struggle with wanting what this world has to offer. However, the key word to this statement is that I struggle. I see that the desires of my heart are not what will bring fulfillment and it is evident that God has called us to pursue character, surround ourselves with a positive and Christ-centered community, and connect our calling to God’s purpose of “going and making disciples”.
 
I now work full-time for OneLife Institute in a development position and it is so fulfilling to have a vocation that helps raise money for students with financial barriers. I first handedly see that so many students would not have an experience similar to mine without the support of generous partners is something that makes my job extremely motivating.
 
On November 17th, 2017, we have a unique opportunity to raise every dollar needed for our 2018 student scholarships. We have several huge supporters who have agreed to match donations up to $101,000 and our total scholarship need next year is $202,000. Remember this is a 24-hour window that we have. This is a HUGE goal for us. $202,000 in 24 hours! Through our partnership with Extraordinary Give we have access to even more grants on this day. Please consider supporting the life change that I experienced first-hand. I would not be where I am today without the financial support of generous, Kingdom focused individuals. 

The link to give is onelifegive.org
 
 Thank you for considering, we are so thankful for your partnership in Christ.           

 
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Reid Sullivan
Development 

Why Take A Gap Year?

 
 

I wanted to have it all together before coming to OneLife. The shocking truth, however, is that I’m not perfect. I have so much to learn about God, about myself, and about others. OneLife is not so much about realizing the destination as it is about embracing the journey. I am on a journey, and so far in this process I am learning some very important essential life skills that I hope will stick with me throughout life. Here are six of the essential life skills that OneLife has taught (and is still teaching) me so far:

1.  Talking (to strangers) 
Making conversation is an art, and our generation is quickly losing it. Not at OneLife. Here, without phones to distract us, meaningful conversations happen at any time, at any place, with anyone. I’ve talked to random strangers on the street about where they find hope in life. In an artist’s studio in Greenville, a casual chat led me to discover how one man successfully combined his passion with his ministry. While waiting for coffee, a traveling guitarist explained to me the areas in which he finds brokenness in the music industry. Both of these encounters started with a simple question, like “So how was your day?”.  I think everyone has something to say—all it takes is for one brave soul to initiate. I’m finding that bravery here at OneLife.

2. Declaring 
As a personality type that likes to be self-sufficient and people-pleasing, asking for help from others, admitting a need, or being honest about my state of mind is challenging, but it’s essential for One Life to work as a community. “Community Time” and “Hot Seats” facilitate safe places for declaring what I’m feeling about a situation, as well as for calling out the good I see in others. What I have learned is that people are usually ready and willing to hear what I have to say and to respond with grace. Honesty, both in admitting my needs and in encouraging others, is key to thriving.

3. Confronting
I’ve never been comfortable with face-to-face confrontation. At OneLife, however, the only way to live with the same people for nine months is to face conflict head on. Conflict is not always bad; in fact, it strengthens our community when addressed well. We all need to hear and know how we can improve and how we can love each other better.  

4. Living intentionally
Everything we do at OneLife is intentional. Intentionality can play out in every aspect of life. It looks like punctuality (yes, being EARLY to breakfast at 7:30 every morning), prioritizing relationships (as well as sleep and homework), scheduling in rest, and planning ahead of time. It requires evaluating what is truly important and what doesn’t make the cut. It is pursuing something higher, something greater; it means always improving and never giving up. It is embracing all that OneLife offers—being all in.

5. Embracing flexibility 
As much as I want them to, people don’t fit in boxes. They grow and mature and are constantly changing. Trying to prevent that natural movement from happening will drive you mad. People aren’t the only things that change—schedules change too (surprise!). Going with the flow is necessary if any of us are going to have any peace. An open mind and an open heart also go a long way here at OneLife. I am learning to let my previous opinions, beliefs, and assumptions be up for change. This is essential if I want to experience the full effect of the truth in my life.

6. Accepting vulnerability 
The first step to embracing growth is to admit weakness. I won’t lie—I don’t like vulnerability. But here at OneLife, there’s no place to hide…and I am learning that I don’t want to hide. What remains in darkness remains a threat; what is brought into the light finds healing. Vulnerability means speaking up even when you haven’t sorted out all your thoughts yet. It looks like jumping into a new situation, even if it makes you look bad or feel embarrassed or afraid. It is letting go and joking about stupid things and having fun. Vulnerability means exchanging the risk of rejection for depth in a relationship. It is daring greatly. I have so much room to grow in this, and I know I can’t do it alone. That’s why I love this community—by coming together and being honest, our weaknesses makes us stronger. Yes, vulnerability is hard, but I’m discovering that it’s always worth it. One person’s willingness to be vulnerable can spark a chain reaction, creating a place where freedom can thrive.

I’ve been at OneLife for six weeks. Only six weeks—and I’ve already learned so much. “Gap year” is probably the worst description for this experience—every moment is fine-tuned for meaningful growth. I keep finding myself thinking, “This is real living.” I can’t wait to experience the rest of what OneLife will offer.

Riley Hanagan
Riley is a OneLife student at Southern Wesleyan University.

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Why Are You Going to College?

Finding Your Place in God's Story

Why are you going to college? For many students, going to college is simply the assumed next step after high school. That was certainly true for me. Since about the time I could say the word “college,” I knew I was going. I never gave it a second thought. As I look back on my life, however, I wish someone would have asked me why I was going. Being forced to think about reasons for going to college, would have kept me more focused and helped me to make the most of the opportunities that I was given. Early on in my college experience I didn’t realize how much I was allowing our cultural story to answer this question for me. Let me explain.
A famous philosopher once asked a question that helped me to better understand how stories work in our world. He wrote, “I can only answer the question: what am I to do? if I answer the prior question: of what story do I find myself a part?” For our purposes, we can restate the question like this: “I can only answer the question: why am I going to college? if I answer the prior question: of what story do I find myself a part?” On what story is your life based?
All people live their lives based on a grand, overarching story that gives meaning and shape to life. If you’ve grown up in a church or in a Christian family, more than likely, you have been shaped by the story of the Bible. Hopefully you have come to realize that the Bible is not just a rule book, telling us what to do or not to do, but is a coherent story that offers a certain perspective on life. As you know, not everyone lives life based on the biblical story. This probably isn't a surprise to you, but you need to know the difference it makes when it comes to education. We can't let other stories tell us what education is for

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The “World’s story” for college goes something like this: Life is about you. A successful life involves making a lot of money and having a lot of stuff. You are going go to high school, and then to college, where you will get a degree, so that you can get a high paying job, so that you can make a lot of money so that you can retire and move to Florida. This story is often referred to as "The American Dream." People can live by this story without even knowing it or being able to articulate it. It is the approved “meaning-of-life-story” for the majority of society. Education—a smaller part of the story within that bigger story—is seen as a ticket to moving up the social ladder.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that college isn't an important stop on the road to a successful adulthood. College can and should be an important step to getting a job and making a living. I am suggesting, however, that for Christians, finding their place in the American dream story shouldn’t be the primary reason for going college. If it is, you are allowing another story to shape your life, not the Bible.
The Biblical story is about God. It’s not about you. It’s not about how much money you can make and buying a lot of stuff. The biblical story, the true story of the world, is about a loving God who has created you in his image. God has given you a mind to think and gifted you to serve him, all so you can glorify his name and enjoy him forever. You are to live and move and have your being in Him. As you do this, you begin to discover your part in his story. What role will God have you play? What character are you? God’s story—his purposes and plans—is the story you have been called into.

So, where does education and college fit within God’s story? Here is a 3-D vision for students who desire to live-out the biblical story during their college years:
First, your time in college should be about developing your mind. Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Mark 12:30). Loving God with your mind means taking academics seriously, thinking critically, and turning knowledge into wisdom. It’s about being more concerned with learning, and less concerned with grades. Don’t tell your parents I said that.
Second, your time in college should be about discovering your gifts. College presents a remarkable opportunity to think more deeply about how God has gifted you, and how you could use those gifts in service to God and neighbor. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). The beauty of the Biblical story is that when God calls us to participate in his story, he gives us the gifts to play our roles well. Of course, this has huge implications for your choice of classes, your major and your career goals.
Third, your time in college should be about discerning God’s call on your life. Too often we think that the only people who are “called” are pastors or missionaries. The fact is that we are all called to serve God wherever he places us. Where might God be calling you now and after college? Your time in college provides a unique context for reflecting on God’s call on your life. Take advantage of it. You will never have this

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One theologian provides a nice summary of the place of education in the biblical story: “One way to love God is to know and love God’s work. Learning is therefore a spiritual calling: properly done, it attaches us to God. In addition, the learned person has, so to speak, more to be Christian with.” Learning is a calling, if we do it well, we are attached to God, and we have more to serve him with. Here’s the vision you need to take with you: college is about increasing our serviceability for God.
But here’s the kicker: while the Biblical story is much more adventurous and satisfying, it’s not easy to live out. The “me story”—accumulating money and stuff—can be very attractive. A life based on the True Story of the world, following in the footsteps of its hero, Jesus, will require sacrifice and courage. It won’t be easy to go to college to develop your mind, discover your gifts, and discern God’s call, but it will be worth it. Are you up for the challenge?
A few years ago I had the amazing opportunity to spend an afternoon with a famous NFL football coach. The coach was an outspoken Christian and his team had recently won the Super Bowl. At one point in our conversation, he said something that I have never forgotten. “I only have one regret in my life,” he remarked. “I wish I could go back and do college over again. I would have taken advantage of the opportunities to grow spiritually during my college years.” Here was a man who had achieved great athletic and academic success in college but neglected what should have mattered most: growing in his faith.

There can be tremendous pressure around making a decision for college. We all ask the practical questions about life after high school: Should I go to college? What kind of school should I attend? What academic programs are available? How much will it cost? But here are other important questions you might miss and ones that can help to alleviate the stress surrounding the decision: Will I have the opportunity to grow spiritually during my college years? Will the college I attend take seriously my commitment to follow Jesus? Will I be surrounded by friends, teachers and mentors who share my biblical convictions about what a successful life looks like?
If you are able to confidently answer “yes” to the above questions concerning the spiritual health and vitality of the academic institution you are considering, I think you will discover that much of your anxiety will subside. The great thing about choosing a Christian college or university is that the people leading and teaching in those schools are committed to providing opportunities for you to grow spiritually during this next chapter of your life story. They are committed to living out the biblical 3-D vision as well and your spiritual growth is their number one concern.

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Derek Melleby

Derek Melleby is the executive director of OneLife Institute and the site director for OneLife @ Three Springs. He is also the coauthor of Learning for the Love of God: A Student’s Guide to Academic Faithfulness and author of Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning.