by Nate Marshall, Director of the 4.12 Leadership Training Program
I connected with several recent 4.12 Leadership Training Program graduates one summer evening. All these young adults had been in the 4.12 program and are serving on summer staff.
As the graduates reminisced, their faces showed contemplation, excitement, and emotion as they recalled how God had worked in their lives through the 4.12 program.
“It’s hard to step away,” Ashlyn, a 2020 graduate, explained when asked about why she returned to serve on summer staff. “It’s been such a big part of my life the past five years.”
There were hearty agreements from the others in the circle. For Elijah, a 2020 graduate, it wasn’t quite that simple. “Originally this wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he admitted, “but this is a place of growth. It’s a place that I know.”
I hear regularly that one of the biggest highlights of the program is serving during summer camp. There is a unique community developed among staff at Christian camps.
Many of the things these graduates learned and experienced while in the 4.12 program are the things that brought them back to serve: development of leadership skills and a good work ethic, deepening of their faith, involvement of a godly mentor, and more. Elijah emphasized, “You get to take what you have learned and help others.”
When I asked who had been the most impactful person in their life while serving, the graduates excitedly shared about mentors, friends, and parents who had a big influence on their experiences.
There was one overarching theme for why they wanted to return, though, which was the intentional, Christ-centered community.
“I originally wasn’t planning on [returning this summer],” 2018 graduate Kierstyn said. “I say I trust God, but rarely do I act that way. [Serving here] is an opportunity to trust that God will provide everything I need. Even though some of the people have changed here, the mission hasn’t. This is like coming back to a safe place.”
Abigail, a 2017 graduate, recalled, “I wanted a chance to come back. The intentional community is something I missed. I wanted to create it at my school and made progress, but this is hard to recreate.”
There is something powerful about living out the author of Hebrews’ exhortation in 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Authentic community is something we all desire – it’s at the core of who God created us to be. These graduates have found it at Joy El, and it motivates them to serve others.
God uses this authentic, Christ-centered community to shape and mold us to be more like Jesus. From the 4.12 program and Joy El’s Christian retreats and summer camps, these graduates became more spiritually and emotionally self-aware, learned self-control and how to invest in and equip others, developed a vision and passion for their lives, and shared the Gospel with hundreds of children.
Upcoming Joy El Retreats