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).

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.51.20 AM.png

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?”

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.51.45 AM.png

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).

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.57.06 AM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.59.49 AM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 9.57.22 AM.png

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!

Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 10.01.45 AM.png

Gospel Centered Life

EB2CA24F-6DEC-4718-A102-BB8A7859A927 (1).png

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)


“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


‘"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


“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


“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


“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


“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!

Cover for OL W4 blog.jpg


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.

DSC02441 (1).JPG

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’).

OneLife Class 6 with Dave Bindewald.jpg

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.

OneLife Class 6 at Sight and Sound for the production of Jesus.jpg

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!


“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


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 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.



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 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.


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.


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)


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


 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


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.


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.  


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." 



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
 Thank you for considering, we are so thankful for your partnership in Christ.           

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 10.38.16 AM.png

Reid Sullivan

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.

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 10.33.22 AM.png

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


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


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.


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.   

OneLife Students Surveyed About Technology Usage

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 10.18.00 AM.png

Here at OneLife Institute, we have a technology policy put in place to help grow and nurture community and relationships that are built here. Students are not allowed to have their phones during the week, but they do get it for a time on Sunday to reconnect with friends and family back home. Another part of our technology practice is our "e-free" days where students are encouraged to do activities that are not connected to technology; so instead of consuming info on-line behind a screen, they are creating, building, or developing growth in themselves or the community. At OneLife, we are pro-community and not anti-technology because we believe that is where real growth happens. 

So, the real question is, does any of this make a difference in the growth of our students?

The two questions we asked students were 1.) How has it been to live your life without your phone? 2.) What are you learning from not always having your phone?

 Christian Lilly - "The technology rule was almost a deal breaker to me before I signed up. Yet, while I've been here its actually shown me how little I actually rely on it. I can count the amount of times I’ve wanted my phone in the middle of the day on one hand; and I know I'm not alone in this either. I normally get my phone back on Sundays and only use it to call my friends and family. This is because I have naturally found other ways to do things I used to rely on my phone to do." 

Jianna Wankel - "Being without my phone has been absolutely incredible. On top of the no phones during the week, my phone has been broken and my parents didn't send it back yet. So I haven't had it for about a month. It has been really good for me and my relationships here and I don't miss it. I feel so free from drama and influences that make me miss the person I used to be. It takes off so much pressure. It takes away the excuse that I would use to not engage in conversation with a complete stranger. I realize the damage it does in our society because it really sucks you in. It is a gateway to an alternate universe that is way too highly valued because it is often used in negative ways. If technology and social media were not abused, they would be great resources but it is a balance and the scale is tipping in a way that people have become dependent on it. I have noticed even the simple things like GPS. Without it, it is hard to really do what you want without being anxious and getting lost. I am not going to lie though, I miss talking to my friends and family on a daily basis, but it makes me appreciate the time I spend talking to them even more. I am more intentional with my conversations."

Riley Hanagan - "I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed not having my phone with me all the time. I actually don’t miss it at all. The connections I have made with other One Lifers has all been face- to-face--no interactions over social media or via texting--and these relationships have reached a depth and authenticity in one month that I haven’t found anywhere else. I have enjoyed the freedom to be all present wherever I am. I have learned to be ok without the instant gratification of Google, Siri, or maps (driving is a whole new adventure); this has taught me patience and pushed me to be more resourceful and creative."

Ryleigh LaRue - "I have been surprised by how much I don't miss my phone. OneLife is correct when saying they are not anti technology but pro community. I find that without a phone I am more engaged in relationships. I am not constantly on a screen looking at random people. Instead of Internet friends and relationships I have made real friends and lasting connections.

Madelynn Barrett - "It has been amazing. I am a millennial and I think not having my phone is amazing... that’s insane!! In all seriousness, I feel alive and focused on what I am doing here at OneLife. I am learning that the pleasures in life aren’t measured by likes or comments, life is so much more than that. I am learning that the mountains are prettier when you aren’t seeing them through a lens and that my community is here at OneLife."

Sarah Harding - "Honestly, the phone rule was difficult at first, because we were all missing our families and friends, but now I don't even notice that I don't have a phone. The tech rules are one of my favorite things about OL, because we are relating on a level that is so foreign in a world filled with screens. We actually talk face to face, and when we are in a group we actually are present and not worried about keeping up with snapchat or instagram. The tech rules are a huge contributor to the depth of our relationships here. We are fully present with each other and it's kind of amazing. If I could give advice to any prospective OneLifers I would say don't be intimidated by the tech rules, because they are more good than bad for sure."

If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or you even might think this is too good to be true we would love to talk to you! You can email us at or call us at 717.560.8290

Teddy Thompson
Digital Marketer at OneLife Institute

Community: With whom will you surround yourself?

Alone Together
According to researcher Sherry Turkle, a common flaw or missing characteristic in our society is belonging. Our desire or longing for deep relationship is not being satisfied by our evermore “connected” on-line society.  In our distracted, digital age, she says that we are “all together, yet very alone”[1]. We find ourselves sitting together at the cafeteria table, yet living apart due to our cell phones and constant updates. Why is that? The habits that we’ve formed through our digital lives, seem to keep us from living the abundant life that God intended. 

We need to down grade our digital lives and upgrade our real lives!
Here's what we mean. The time we spend connecting electronically leaves us empty, and actually leads us to disconnect emotionally from each other. We may have gained the ability to stay in touch or connected at the click of a button or swipe of our fingers, but we are slowly or quickly losing the capacity to commune with one another or have relational wisdom – to communicate clearly and stick it out when it gets difficult (endurance), to learn from others and adapt when we are wrong (humility), to be aware of self, others, and God, to resolve everyday conflict, and to empathize through listening. The world needs these qualities, not to mention employers are looking for them and will hire if candidates possess such “soft skills”[2] In order to regain depth of relationship, we need to give up some of our digital privileges. This is why we ask our students to give up their phones for a season of life. Are you willing to counter the numbness you may feel with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by actually experiencing life, traveling the world with a group of committed peers, and developing genuine life-long friendships? Here at OneLife, we are not anti-technology, we are simply pro-community because that is where real growth happens!

Community Grows Character
Growth is not an individual pursuit, it is a community project. When we follow Jesus, we don’t get to be in the driver’s seat of our own growth all the time. We have to receive loving and insightful feedback from others. We have to surround ourselves with people who share a similar vision. The bible reminds us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15). On our own, it’s easy to make foolish decisions that tend to be self-focus and self-motivated leaving behind the calling of Jesus. On top of that, the ages between 18-22 can be very uncertain years as we find ourselves asking formative, life questions like: Who am I? What is my purpose? What makes life meaningful? In fact, 80% of high school seniors do not express a clear reason for going to college or anywhere for that matter[3].
So, why face that uncertainty alone?

C.S Lewis says we need companions for the journey when he explains that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” [4] Who you surround yourself with directly impacts who you become, especially during the formative years of 18-22. Proverbs 13:20, states, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” Choosing your next community is an investment that will impact your future character. Community grows your character and character clarifies your calling, so choose wisely.

Well, we were never intended to navigate life’s most important questions on our own. We are hard-wired for community and we find clarity to what is most true, good, and wise in life by belonging. Think about it, God is community in His being – we are made in the image of a triune God (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit). We can only genuinely come to know ourselves, others, and God through community. Or said another way, to know God is to belong to community; and not just any community, but a group of like-minded people who are intentionally seeking to grow in wisdom and truth.

So why is it so hard to find good community?

It may be because we are afraid from failed relationships in our past, we are just caught following the crowd in a direction we know isn't right, or we are too afraid to jump into a small, tight-knit community.
Community is Risky
Getting to know others can take time, but learning to be known by others can take even longer if we are putting up walls or have a hard time trusting. Living together in community that is under the reign of Christ means that we seek to fully know others, be fully known by them, and love them no matter what, just as Christ does for us. Pastor Tim Keller says, “To be loved without being fully known is nice, but is superficial friendship; to be fully known and rejected is our deepest fear, but to be fully known and loved is the Gospel.” Jesus invites us to love others and be loved by them, even in the midst of our fear. A desire to figure out life on our own is not an option according to Jesus, so we need to stop making excuses to avoid deep relationships with others.
According to research, 80 percent of the “church dropouts” or people that leave the faith never intended to leave the church[5]. It wasn’t part of their plan to not have a vibrant faith, but it happened slowly over time. So why is that? Well, many people fail to realize that being a part of Christian community is hard work. In our digital age, people need to practice the art of friendship once again, and learn how to grow with others – this, by the way, is a leading indicator to whether or not someone keeps a thriving faith throughout their life[6]. Said another way, deep friendships are not found – they are built through intentionally living and learning with others through the ups and downs of navigating life’s most important questions.

By joining the OneLife community, you are admitting that you want to grow by taking a different path than most people your age. We are a community that asks “who am I becoming?” before “where am I going?”, so that we can discern together what God is doing in the world and we can participate in it!

Will you join the adventure of developing a deep faith that is built on forming character, clarifying your calling, and growing in community?

Take a risk, by taking a year to walk a different path, and prepare yourself for ways the world NEEDS!


[1] Turkle, Sherry (2012). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books
[2] “The Hard Truth about Soft Skills”.
[3] Kinnaman, David (2011). You Lost Me. Baker Books
[4] Lewis, C.S. (1971). The Four Loves. Harvest Books
[5] LifeWay Research Uncovers Reasons 18-To 22- Year Olds Drop Out Of Church, “ August 7, 2007,
[6] Garber, Steve (1996). The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief And Behavior. IVP 

Zac Northen
Site director of Lancaster Bible College Campus




A Tale as Old as Time

John 3:16.
Instantaneously my mind recited the famous words before I even noticed or had a choice. I know that verse better than my grandparents’ middle names. That’s what ran through my mind when Samuel Chez came in and talked about Gospel Clarity with us this past week. I was born and raised in a Gospel-believing family. How could it become any clearer?
Turns out, it wasn’t so much as clarity on facts as it was conviction over having forgotten its truth. Sam Chez systematically broke down the Gospel, a story as solid as a rock in my mind. That rock was fractured with each session and revealed the overwhelming love pouring out its fragments of a story that I had claimed couldn’t possibly have anything more to tell me.
This really came to life when Sam Chez held up two books. One was my story; the revolting, smeared, chaotic words describing a story better off burned. The other, Christ’s; the bestseller on every top ten list in history. Sam Chez took the book covers and switched them. Christ took my sinful dime-a-dozen tale to the cross, destroying it once and for all - to my relief. But then, I inherited Christ’s flawless, beautiful words as my own. Even more astonishing, God opens that book and sees Christ’s perfection, not my mess. He sees Jesus Christ, not me.
Too often I forget how dearly, how precisely how obsessively (in the best way possible) God loves us. Think about it. He created a beautiful world and crafted each unique individual in His own image, an honor I can barely fathom. When we had the audacity to spit in His face and run after our own desires, He did not destroy us in righteous anger. He ran after us with an overwhelming love, after His creation, His image, His child, in an undying pursuit. When it came down to it, He sent His only son to die so He could adopt and claim me as His child, His daughter, His family. He sacrificed His own son. For me. For you. We gloss over those words so carelessly it’s cruel. God wanted us more than anything and He still wants us today. Jesus Christ is the Gospel and God’s love could never be clearer.
Sam Chez, thank you for reminding me that the Gospel is not a once-and-done schtick. It’s a daily journey of sanctification until Christ returns and we are fully restored. Thank you for reminding me and other students that God’s Gospel, God’s love, can never be fully grasped and stored on a shelf. It’s a pulsing, living, passionate story that seeks a place in our hearts every moment of every day.
Hannah Jones


Loneliness and Longing

These past few weeks have been much more difficult than I had anticipated. OneLife has been over for around three weeks, and for the past two, I’ve been wrestling with a near overwhelming sense of loneliness. I spent much of that time alone, and while that definitely had something to do with the loneliness I had been feeling, there was a sneaking suspicion that something more was going on behind all of it. After some praying, and some reading, I realized what that something more was.

    Since I’ve been home, while I’ve had exceeding amounts of free time, I got started on my slowly growing reading list. I decided that I wanted to reread one of the books that we’d gotten from OneLife that I hadn’t finished: “Reading The Bible with Heart and Mind” by Tremper Longman. I had expected to learn a lot from this book about reading the Bible, but did not expect to be convicted in the way that I was. 

    I was reading the other night in a chapter that discussed the hurriedness of our world, and the need to take time to slow down and contemplate God’s Word. Tremper Used a quote from Henri Nouwen that said;
“The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects and cherishes it as a precious gift. Sometimes it seems as if we do everything possible to avoid the painful confrontation with our basic human loneliness, and allow ourselves to be trapped by false gods promising immediate satisfaction and quick relief. Our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who can tolerate its sweet pain.”

    As I was processing what that meant, it occurred to me that over the past two weeks, I had done nothing but try to fill my schedule with whatever I could. I saw empty space in my day, and I just wanted to fill it. I hadn’t taken the time to recognize my loneliness for what it was, and although I had been in the word every morning, something in me was opposed to the idea of simply being still with the Lord. I resolved to change that.

    I realized over the next few days that the loneliness I was feeling pointed out that my heart was calling out for something. That something was a satisfaction that does not come from spending time with people, or spending time alone, but from the Lord. That feeling was an indicator to a deeper longing for Jesus, and it was a call to be still and face true reality. 

    In the practice of being still, we come up against our desire to control our lives. In our stillness, in the practice of slowing down, we realize that despite our lack of input, the world around us continues on. God doesn’t need us to be busy all the time, and there are times in our lives when He will have us in lonely seasons. I think of all the different Biblical characters that God led into the wilderness alone; Jesus himself, Elijah, Moses, and several others. Most of them were alone for much more than two weeks, and the Lord used those times to shape them into the people that He intended to use to accomplish His plan. God can and does sustain us even in these times. He uses them to draw us into Himself, and make us aware of our need for Him.

    To be lonely is to be human. It is to recognize that there is an emptiness in us that only the Lord can fill. No amount of good things in this world would ever be enough to fulfill our longing for Jesus. 

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and may you recognize your longings for what they are as He continues to draw you to Himself.   
In Christ,
Adam Timmins

An MK's Journey Through OneLife

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 10.06.29 AM.png

The day I graduated from a small international school in Niamey, Niger was potentially one of the saddest days of my life. But after that, I fully embraced just living in Niger, a country I care about immensely. However, four short months later, I had to leave West Africa, the place of my childhood since the age of two and the closest thing to a home I had ever had.  I felt like I was being ripped away from a place I deeply loved, not knowing when I would ever return. I had to go to a country I vaguely knew—seemingly filled with only difficult memories and no real place or thing to go to. I had to fight hard against the threatening bitterness and hold tight to God. After all, he knew what he was doing, and I knew what I really needed was him. Nearly a year after arriving in the US, I somehow ended up at OneLife.

Being at OneLife was hard sometimes, but it was also so good. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It was tough at first, trying to find my place there. I didn’t want to be defined by where I’d been, but it’s not like I could hide it – Niger is such a part of who I am, so sometimes it would just come spilling out of me. My classmates quickly got used to my nervously confused responses when speakers would ask where we were from! I struggled to know how much to talk about life in Niger. I hesitated to open up because I was afraid of setting myself apart as being different, of intimidating or overwhelming people, or of being too self-focused. I didn’t want to just be the cool “African kid” that everyone was kind to. I wanted so badly to just be one of them. 

But, I did notice fairly quickly how my classmates seemed to sincerely love Jesus and take very seriously their desire to grow as we followed him together. That was something I could share with them.  And they truly gave me the love of Jesus. I remember once, later on, looking around the room at breakfast and realizing how each and every one of these special people had been there for me at some point when I needed it.  I think you inevitably become close in the OneLife program, with the amount of time you spend together, and all the things you go through together. (This coming from someone who knows the tight bond of a missionary community and an international school!) After doing emotionally exhausting heart-idol presentations in December, it felt like we went from being friends to being family.  As I became comfortable with the other OneLifers and we gained more shared experiences, the question of how to be known by them got easier. By the end, I was confident of the steady love they had shown me, but found I needed it less, being more firmly rooted in my acceptance and identity in Jesus. Hence, I became more free to be myself.

Part of that was learning to share my thoughts more, for the benefit of other people. I tend to be pretty timid when it comes to speaking up, but people kept encouraging me, telling me I had unique perspective to give, especially having grown up in another place. The first time I let loose a piece of West Africa (and some thoughts on the broader world ) to the whole group was in a planned worship night. I was terrified but then blown away by the showers of encouragement and love and genuine appreciation my friends showed in response. OneLife became a place where everyone knew me so well that when I was unfamiliar with some aspect of American life, they automatically understood why, and it was perfectly okay. They were always beside me to explain things and help! I belonged with the 43, and I can say that it is possible to find a place here in America.

That’s not to say there weren’t insanely rough times. The littlest things would send me back to a world I’d lost—a gagging feeling would hit my stomach and there would be no one to share it with. Other times I would get ridiculously excited over some insignificant experience that reminded me Niger and my friends would patiently try to be happy with me. When we returned from Israel and they longed for familiar things (American things, in their case), I felt like screaming that that was how I felt all the time, except for me, the familiar never came.  Sometimes I would just cry, and although my friends couldn’t quite understand why, they would just hug me.

OneLife talks a lot about putting your own story into God’s grander story. It certainly helped me understand more clearly my experiences in light of Jesus’.  Jesus was lonely, with no one who understood, before I was ever misunderstood. Christmastime made me painfully homesick for West Africa – more than usual. But I realized how Christmas is actually the commemoration of Jesus leaving his home so we could have one. I’m able to see on an even deeper level how the endless, restless ache for something like home points to being created for a better world. I think OneLife gave me better tools for processing grief and loss, belonging and acceptance – all the standard TCK stuff. I also have a firmer grasp on the permanent goodness of the God who never ever leaves.

My OneLife Experience as an MK

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 9.58.30 AM.png

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. When I was 8 years old my entire family moved to West Africa as missionaries through ABWE. This was a life changing experience. Many things happened during those growing up years as a missionary kid. I learned a ton and loved most of it. When I was 16 years old my older sister left for college in the U.S.  About a year and half later it was my turn. 

Our whole family was coming home with me for a few months, and I was going to stay. I had no clue what God wanted for my life or where He wanted me to go. While searching for colleges and trying to decide what to do with my future, my Mom and I came across OneLife Institute. We decided to look into it. Right away, I was terrified, but somehow I knew God wanted me there. In the midst of this decision something my Dad always said came to mind, “Sometimes the things that scare you the most and that you want to run from, God calls you to.” About two months back from the field and still going through major culture shock I headed off to OneLife…

The first day I was overwhelmed. My family left that same week to go back to the field, and my grandparents took me to move in. I survived it, and after the initial fear and awkwardness of getting to know new people, I started to love it. As I got to know my roommates and the other OneLifers (as we call them), I began to enjoy the new challenges and adventures that OneLife introduced me to. God was growing me in so many ways. It was hard, but God was in it! 

OneLife was a growing, relational, and awesome experience for me! It was during OneLife that God taught me how to hand over my worry about the future. Now, I still do not know what the future holds, but I do know that God has it all in His hand. God taught me so many lessons and concepts during OneLife that I am still using today. The leadership and staff invested so much of their time and energy in me and encouraged me to grow in my faith. I still have relationships with many of my fellow OneLifers. In fact, some of them are my closest friends. During that nine months, God taught me more about what being His child looks like. It isn’t being perfect, or having no problems. It is God’s free gift of grace through faith in Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I am grateful to God and to each person who had a huge impact on my spiritual growth during OneLife. 
Thank you,


A Beautiful Gift

Dear OneLife sponsors, supporters, students and alumni,   

s my family and friends back home in Wisconsin ask me what I have learned from my OneLife  experience, I am able to reminisce in all the blessings and renew a gratitude of my unique opportunity. Where to begin? How do I explain the profound impact this program has had and continues to have in shaping who I am becoming? I usually start with who I was: prideful and arrogant of the things that really mattered, such as the continual growth and nurturing of my romance with Christ. I then express my newfound joy in learning how Christ is still perfecting who I am into someone more like Himself. Or, I simply state: I learned how much I have left to learn, and I learned to love the realization that the more I know, the more I have left to discover. I came to realize it is equally important to learn the gospel to its increasing fullness as it is to believe this truth. I came to realize that no matter how much I hope to “arrive” at a full understanding of Christ, this “full arrival” may simply not be what was best for me. I came to see that God and His gospel is not so much an idea to master but a gift to receive and trust in, in order to have a greater process of sanctification beyond my meager understanding. 

I often find myself wishing OneLife had a four year Bachelor program. Now that it’s over, I find myself wanting to go back. This is a statement coming from a student who disliked high school and had lost faith in a big part of the education system--now wanting to back to a thirty-credit institute. OneLife taught me to appreciate the learning process and gave me the stamina to continue my college experience. Onelife taught me my strengths and weakness through countless personality tests, trips, and its community. OneLife gave me ideas for careers I would excel in--careers I would enjoy and that would be life-giving to me, not just a way to pay the bills. I am so thankful that OneLife met me on a personal, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level and that the staff walked beside me to my sense of wonder for all I have yet to learn.

 As I move forward from this year of wonder, I feel a temptation to sink into regret. Regret can take many forms: for me, I tend to experience this as a hope to change the past, or a wrestling with countless thoughts of all I could have done differently. I implore the alumni and all reading with a charge to strive toward forward-facing freedom, a mindset of healthy hindsight in view of a greater blossoming future. I challenge all reading to be free from that shadow of “what if” or the ebbing voice that poisons the fond memories to ones of discontent. My prayer now is to have a mindset of gratitude and a hope for the future--because the best is truly yet to come.

- Maggie Triller

P.I.E.S and the Appalachian Trail

Waking up on Tuesday morning I tried to lay in bed and soak up my last moments in the comfort of sheets and a warm blanket. I knew that as soon as I moved, I would begin the first steps of embarking on a journey that I felt underprepared for. The Appalachian Trail was staring me in the face and there was no way out of it. What made it worse, I’m a fitness committee leader, and it was my job to prepare my team for this trip. In order to prepare, we (as fitness leaders) were instructed to focus on the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. At the beginning of the year I no idea how these four things would matter, but it turns out they encompassed everything we faced.

Thirty miles with a fifty pound backpack through the mountains—being from Illinois, I just didn’t understand why we would walk down a mountain only to go right back up another one. I convinced myself early on that I wouldn’t make it. While there were some trying climbs, my body held up better than I expected. Our team created an expectation from the start of no complaining, and we stuck to that. Which leads into the intellectual experience. This was probably the toughest part. You know the saying “mind over matter”. Well in this case, I needed to lean on my body to keep my going. Everything between my ears screamed “please just give up”. That wasn’t an option. Through encouragement circles and story-telling by my group, we were able to shake off the creeping thoughts of not being able to persevere. 
The emotional aspect was in a close second to being the toughest. This year we have been learning how to not let our feelings dictate our reality. Sometimes leaning on your feelings can get you caught in a rut. We would be in a very different world if Jesus didn’t go to the cross just because he did not feel like it. So my group took on that attitude and kept negative thoughts to a minimum. I was blessed by some comical team members that could always keep the moral up. Lastly, the spiritual. This part of PIES was one of my favorites on this journey simply because I had no other option outside of leaning on my faith and having truth spoken over me everyday. In addition, I was blessed with times of silence and solitude for reflecting and devotions. Every crevice that I lacked strength in was filled by God’s grace. I would consider my time on the Appalachian Trail a “spiritual peak”. In spite of how I felt, in any given moment, God’s truth, love, beauty, and grace completely surrounded me.

All in all, this was one of my favorite trips of the year. It was amazing to realize how little we actually need, yet are blessed with consistently. Through a posture of humility, patience, and flexibility, this journey, and how those four aspects of life affected it really made an impact; I wouldn’t trade it for the comfiest bed in the world.

- Alexander Walker

Learning to See

I think it’s more than fair to say that God used this reflection to teach me a lot this week. Waking up on Monday morning, I said to Mary, “I wish I was excited for this week.” I had gotten sick that Sunday, and I was prepared to just make it through the week. Although I have learned all year that I need to be present, that was not my first thought that morning. A few hours later, God gave me this seemingly inconvenient opportunity of writing a reflection to pay attention to what was going on this week and what He was doing in the community and in my own heart.

The week began with group presentations. Hearing everyone reflect on their time in Israel, including takeaway, highlights, and what God has shown them through their trip, was an unexpected blessing for everyone. That night we watched the movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. This began our week of learning and discussing Native American history and culture. The week continued on Tuesday with learning about Cultural Awareness and discussing the logistics of our upcoming trip. 

On Wednesday, we spent the morning exploring how we are to engage environmental ethics. This discussion deepened our understanding of ethics as a whole and how we effect our environment. We asked ourselves what sort of effect are we going to have in Arizona and New Mexico as well as our upcoming backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday night we were introduced to the one and only Dr. John Johnson. This man has lived an incredible life serving God. Through his many different experiences, he has been led to serve the Navajo Nation. He has such a heart for the Navajo people and helped us understand more about who they are and what their life is like. 

Thursday, as a class, we read The Loss of the Creature by Walker Percy and discussed beauty and the theme in scripture of seeing things but not understanding them. We were challenged with questions like, “What does it mean to actually see?” and “Do our preconceived ideas defeat our sense of wonder?” We learned that beauty has the power of baptizing our imagination and discussed what it means to recover our sight. Today, Friday, we are exploring what we can learn from Native Americans about history and the gospel.

I am continuing to learn how when I do really pay attention, not only to what we are doing in OneLife, but what God is doing in me, I see things. While I am learning how to pay attention and open my eyes, God is showing me what he wants me to see. My prayer for our trip to Arizona and New Mexico next week is that God would help us pay attention to what we are doing and more importantly, what He is doing, and that He would open our eyes and our hearts to what he wants us to see. I pray that next week, we would experience his beauty and see Him in ways that we never have before. May we see His beauty in ourselves, in the brokenness of life, and in His creation.

- Amanda Hamm