I came to LLI this year to gain more practical knowledge on how to be a leader. As a Senior Paramedic, Bible study leader and motivated individual I was very interested in improving my skills and growing in my relationship with Christ. I was constantly serving others, taking courses to learn new skills for serving others and wanting to know where God would lead me next in ministry and life. I knew of DPB and the staff from prior years of volunteering and was so excited to get a full summer of learning, ministry, rest and adventure!
The closer I got to the summer, the more God began to show me how I was burnt out and tired from work, ministry and family. I had been doing too much and I was wearing thin. I pushed through until the summer and then was happy to jump on a plane and spend a summer away from life, up close and personal with Jesus.
I knew the summer would be hard but fulfilling. I expected to be filled and well rested so I could go back to serving others. But God had all kinds of plans, and I can see now how he had those plans prepared for many years! I spent the first few weeks WAY out of my comfort zone. Multiple different cultures surrounding me, many strong leaders like me, a completely different schedule than normal and tasks made to challenge us mentally and spiritually. I knew that was coming but I didn’t expect how that would affect me.
God used the people and tasks to break me down and bring down every wall I had up. Plenty of tears happened as God showed me how I had not rested in a long time and struggled to find things that brought me joy. He used debriefs with Steve and Megan to make me think about every part of my life. I said many times “I came to this summer already broken, and God is breaking me more. I thought if I just kept serving others for God’s glory that my heart would be fine.” But I learned that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you aren’t regularly filling up on Jesus every day, you won’t have anything to give others. So after spending most of the summer learning about what God wanted me to see and practicing new healthy habits like supportive leadership, sabbath rest, prayer and working in a team, I was put to the test! I was CREW leader with Zane and was able to practice everything! God knew that I learn more by teaching and I had many opportunities to teach CREW members lessons that I needed to learn myself. Zane and I watched God take our daily plans for CREW and change them into something much better and more glorifying to him every day! We always ended the day saying “Wow! Did you see what He did? God is amazing!”.
Through it we had the blessing of watching a girl give her life to Christ and develop a love for scripture, all because of GOD choosing to use us as tools in his handiwork. This was by far the hardest but most fulfilling summer. I could write PAGES of stories of things God taught me and stories of hearts he changed. I ended the summer still not feeling full spiritually, but with the realization that God knew that is where I needed to be. If I went home full, I would go back to my old habits and go until I was empty again. Instead, I knew I had to go back to the same old things and people but with new habits and mindset that I needed to practice.
I needed to fill daily and rely on God to serve others. That thought scared me. I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to leave the loving and encouraging community that I had at LLI. Here, I was being challenged, pushed, loved and listened to. Coming home felt like I would be alone and inexperienced. But the thing with LLI is, you build such amazing relationships with your team members.
We were all going through similar struggles and questions. We learned how to be open, honest and loving with each other. Through that, during the summer, we built a community, a circle of people facing inwards, doing ministry. But now we must face outwards and go into the world to share what God has done and his love. Shoulder to shoulder, encouraging each other.
My first couple weeks home were a difficult transition. A few of us LLI students would say to each other “Everything is the same, except me.” Practicing those new habits was not easy, but I knew I had my LLI community behind me, thousands of miles away, but still willing to encourage and pray for each other.
I am currently practicing a weekly day of sabbath rest, spending devotional time regularly and allowing God to work in me. I have learned to step back from so many activities and focus on spending time to listen to God so that I can better serve others. I am still struggling with a lot of things spiritually and God is still teaching me a lot about things that need to change. But He used this summer to remove all the extra things so I could focus on the most important ones.
I’m not worried about all the tough things I’m walking through, because I saw through this summer that He has a much better plan, with an ending that is more than I could ever expect. If we delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. I learned this summer that God knows more about what I want than I do, every truly fulfilling and joyful thing that He gives us in time is much more than what we think we want or need right now. So yes, I’m struggling, and I’m confused sometimes, but God has walked with me this far and blessed me more than I deserve, so I know He is going to continue that good work in me and carry it on to completion. He used LLI to change my life when I didn’t even know it needed to be changed! He is a good, GOOD Father.
I have three great passions in my life – nature, children and being a Christ Follower. I have always loved to be in nature and explore God’s amazing Creation. I’ve always loved working with kids and helping them to discover the world around them. But all these years I had a feeling I was not doing enough. God was calling me somewhere else where I could use my potential more. In the meantime, I volunteered in "Scripture Union" in Latvia.
Last summer, I got to taste a little bit of the Leadership Lab International (LLI) from Croatia. There I met Steve, Michael, Brenda and some students that chose to join the LLI 2018 team, which helped me in making the final decision to participate in the program. I started to see how I can combine my three biggest passions and follow God’s will. Those were very special and important 5 days.
After this LLI Training in Estonia, I felt that it was the right time to make some changes in my life and go full time in Ministry work. I left my job, but I knew that I needed to grow as a leader, discover my strengths and weakness, get more practice in Camp Ministry. So Leadership Lab International was the perfect option for me. I went there having no idea how important this summer would be.
It is not just a program. This summer I discovered new things about God and myself every day, I improved my language skills and expanded my English vocabulary. I learned about my culture’s impact on how I was raised and how I think. I challenged myself to try new things like rock climbing and rappelling, archery, canoeing, orienteering, doing crafts with leather and wood burning.
But most importantly I made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world. I met so many amazing campers and volunteers this year that helped me to clearly see God’s love and care for His people.
My LLI team and staff became my family this summer. We built a team and learned together, we prayed and worshiped our Heavenly Father together. We cooked and traveled. We spent countless hours laughing until bedtime. We helped each other grow and become true God’s disciples. We served together spiritually - working in different Ministries, and practically - cleaning the camp place and doing yard work.
And above all I had an amazing support team who took care of me: I had special debrief times with Steve and our mentor Megan, coffee talks with Jenny and Brenda, and a supportive prayer group back at home.
When I came to Croatia at the beginning of this summer, I had lost my joy in life and had many insecurities. But God had already started His work in me.
One of my prayers during this summer was that God would take me as a useful tool in His hands. There were some special moments in camps when just a simple conversation or one of my actions inspired some campers to make changes in their lives. One special girl, who had been struggling with faith for many years, had many important questions about life. I had the amazing opportunity to be her counselor. She decided to stop being afraid and make some changes in her spiritual life. These moments were my answered prayers. I had to be there this summer because God used me in His work.
And that is so amazing! I grew week by week, I becoming more confident in myself, I discovered new leadership skills, learned that I am a peacemaker, encourager and team player and, most importantly, I renewed my relationship with God and regained joy.
Croatia will always have a special place in my heart because of the people and relationships which I built there. We have continued to communicate, praying together and for each other.
I can surely say that I came home much more equipped and prepared for my new role in Scripture Union Latvia. And also in this new journey, I continue to be mentored by the team during successes and happy moments and also during struggles in life and Ministry work.
Zane Jansone, LLI 2018 Participant
By Carri Clark
Carri is one of our LLI 2018 Transform training alumni. God used this summer to grow her love for Him and do some deep healing in her life. May her story encourage you as you walk with Jesus.
There was a table, beautiful and strong. Everyone loved it and had wonderful memories with it. The maker created it to serve people and they were influenced by it’s qualities. The table was happy to have people use it and was available day and night for anything and anyone.
But the maker knew that many people misused the table. He chased some of them away but knew he could not keep everything away. Over time, the table gathered scrapes, gouges and stains as it was bumped and damaged. It bore everything with a smile, but the maker could see it had no protection for itself and it’s structure was weak. The table continued, not realizing it was becoming worn and ready to fall apart. It hurt, and the scrapes stung, but it didn’t want to leave it’s work.
Finally the wounds took their toll and the table became discouraged. How long could it continue serving people? Some intentionally damaged it. Some didn’t even notice it. And all left their mark. The table forgot all the good it was ding and the people it had helped. It forgot how to love them. It forgot the maker that could help it…But the maker knew what was happening.
One day, the maker came and took the table away from it’s place. The table was tired and went willingly, expecting a new coat of paint or something else to cheer it up for more service. But the maker knew what it needed most. The maker began to sand the table with a rough paper. The table panicked, “This hurts! Why are you doing this?”
But the maker calmly continued his work without speaking. The maker reached every spot of the table with the paper. The table didn’t understand, “Haven’t I been through enough pain? Why are you causing more?”
The maker replied, “I am changing you. I’m going to heal the damage and make you new.”
Relieved to hear the maker’s voice at last, the table became calm. It felt peace as the maker filled every gouge, hole and scrape. Slowly, the table changed form. It became smooth and clean. But the table began to notice, it did not look the same. All it’s edges were round! All the characteristics it had were covered! New ones were being made! “This is not me! Why did you change me so much? How can I go back like this? I don’t know how to do it! I don’t want to help those people! They will just ruin all the work you’ve done! I don’t want to be marked again!”
But the maker knew his plan. He allowed the table to rest in it’s new form. People came by and touched it, admiring the maker’s work. They talked about how they could not wait to spend quiet time and meals there. They talked about how much they missed the table. But the table was not sure, it was afraid, it did not feel comfortable in it’s new form and going back to it’s old purpose. The master began applying pain, paint that protected the table from insects and small wounds. He spoke softly to the table and it began to learn many things.
It was still a table. It was still the same wood. But it had been made better, stronger and more beautiful. It had not been changed because there was something wrong with it. It had been made for a purpose and the maker would protect it. There would certainly be more scrapes and bumps, but the maker would never be far. He might not be speaking, but he will protect from the worst injuries and repair the small.
“In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”- Ephesians 2:22
by Amy Kellogg
Amy is one of LLI's first alumni. She and her husband live in California where she is completing her mental health internship. She writes, "There are so many lessons that I still use from LLI. Two of the biggest are how to continue to use my gifts as an encourager on a team. Even when encouragement seems forced, it can still change the dynamic of a team or group of people! Thank you LLI for encouraging me in that gift. I also view multicultural teams as so beneficial now as well. I would not have learned how to work with people from other cultures if it wasn't for LLI. Such a gift!"
As believers in Jesus Christ, it can feel as if we are constantly being squeezed dry by the pressures of the world. Take a second to think about the people you felt pressure from today, people that may have made you feel less than or ashamed. Did you disappoint someone? How did you feel about yourself afterwards?
The lie we often tell ourselves is, “I disappointed someone, therefore I am a disappointing person”.
This cycle becomes a search to make others happy through our behaviors so that we become a “good” person. It’s easy to fall into a dangerous cycle of people pleasing in order to make others happy. We can often justify this harmful behavior by calling it humility, or self-sacrifice, when in reality we are searching for our identity apart from Christ. This pattern will always lead to exhaustion and a desire to quit.
We can also put negative pressure on ourselves, and easily get wrapped up in a continuous cycle of trying to work hard, and please God through our actions. God calls us to a life of holiness (1st Peter 1:16), but we cannot live that life without Him. He has promised His Spirit to guide us. He tells us that He will use our trials in order to build perseverance in us.
We will make mistakes, and we will face trials from the world. However, we can trust that God is using these things to build us together. If our identity and self-worth is based on our circumstances, we will always be disappointed. Pressure will come, and we persevere when we believe that our identity is built into Jesus Christ and not our circumstances.
Pressures from this life will come, Jesus promises that in this world we will face trouble, but then He tells us how to persevere when he says, “Take heart for I have overcome the world” (1st John 16:33).
How do you take heart? We have to know what God says about us. Take some time to go through your Bible, look at verses that talk about who you are in Jesus. Romans 5:10 says we were enemies with God, but through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been reconciled to Him.
We also have to take time away from our busyness to spend time with God. We must allow God to care for our souls in order to stand up against the pressures we face. We saw Jesus do this throughout the Gospels.
Find the ways you connect with the one whose burden is light, whether through prayer, music, worship, nature, art, studying theology, journaling, or another form. Try different activities that are relaxing for you and connect you to your heavenly Father. Daily, make time to study the Word and learn more about your identity as a child of God.
“My life mirrored the confusion, the chaos and the loneliness that so many of my generation lives with as they finish up college and have no idea what to do with their lives. This was the in-between spot I was in after graduation and I didn’t know what was next.
What I needed was a place where others would step alongside me and not tell me what to do, but to encourage me to meet with God and discover His plans for my life.
Then God took me to this place called Leadership Lab International (LLI) in Croatia and there I found I was not alone as so many of us came to LLI in this same chaos. But there was something so special about this place as God met us there in His word, through our mentors, and throughout the summer.
Honestly, this was the best summer of my whole life. Because LLI is so intentional in providing an atmosphere where you meet with God. It helps you discover who you are in Christ and what kind of a leader God has made you to be.
I believe to my core that this time at LLI has changed everyone’s perspective. Most of us came in for what we could get out of LLI, but we left with so much more. LLI is a place designed to help you work through confusion and figure out what’s next. It’s a place I met Christ-followers who desire to care, support, love me and help in ways you never thought possible.” — Emma LLI Participant 2017
By Amy Kellogg, LLI Participant
When I returned from my summer in Croatia, trying to process all that had happened felt like swimming through the thick honey I grew accustomed to spreading on fresh bread in the mornings.
The two months and the memories that they carried had blurred themselves together in my mind. They left me feeling disoriented and in need of some time to think, pray, and sit in silence. After processing with many patient friends and mentors, I came to the conclusion that the Leadership Lab International (LLI) program was one of the hardest yet the most rewarding things that I have ever done.
Being part of LLI in Croatia pushed me to put some immaturity to death, and realize that I still have so much left. One of the ways LLI helped me grow was through the mentoring that happened through the program. LLI revolves around equipping the next generation of leaders to be passionate about following Christ and learning to lead others in the same direction.
LLI stands out from other leadership programs in that it is not program focused, but rather leader focused. The LLI mentors don’t only want to equip participants so that they can have a successful summer camp, but they want to develop life-long leaders who can serve in any cross-cultural context.
The truths I learned in LLI would be practical in any ministry. I was not being trained for just one task that would only happen that summer. Instead I was enabled to learn about myself and my team, express what I was learning and understanding from the biblical and team-building material, and at times make mistakes while I was figuring out what I believed. This was all in order that I would take the truths to heart that we were learning in the program.
The LLI mentors created a safe yet challenging atmosphere. We were allowed to make mistakes in the learning process because of the support that was offered. The LLI mentoring was also outstanding because our leaders clearly defined themselves as such, leaders.
Often in Western culture, the church is more comfortable viewing pastors, elders, and church leaders as friends instead of people God has put in authority over them. The mentors, very much took the leadership position over the program. They were of course hospitable, kind, and humble, but they also used every conversation and situation as a time of teaching and corporate learning.
It was refreshing to not only be instructed on how to lead in a practical way, but to also have a clearly defined example before me. We watched our mentors depend fully on God for everything that they needed, while holding unashamedly to convictions and integrity pressed into their hearts by their relationship with Christ. Overall, it is the mentoring that made LLI Croatia stand out from any other leadership or ministry program I have ever been a part of.
I believe that God’s work in this ministry is just beginning, and I envy anyone who has the chance to experience this program in the future. I came home from Croatia challenged, well-equipped, more dependent on my Lord, and excited for a new chapter of life in which I am more equipped to serve Jesus. If students are intentional about going into the program with a mind and heart that is ready to learn, the outcome will be beyond beneficial not only for the summer but for life.
What does mentoring mean to you?
You may have had others in your life who stepped with you through difficult times or helped you refocus and learn the skills you needed to in order to succeed. This is what I was looking for as I came to the Leadership Lab International (LLI) training.
Before coming to my first LLI training I felt discouraged, I had some negative past experiences working as a teacher, but as I was participating in LLI, God was revealing to me that I could be a good leader. God put great people in my life, mentors, who shared their stories and from that it made me think about my life and career and I realized that I wanted to try again and I didn’t want to give up. It inspired in me a desire to think again about working with kids and with youth.
On the one hand, I soaked up everything I could from the teaching sessions, but it was my trainers's lives that caught my attention and as I observed them, they modelled for us how to interact with children and those we would work with. Their examples encouraged me to love others and take care of them from a heart of love for God and others.
Mentoring young leaders has new meaning for me and now I understand to invest your life into someone else’s you need to do it out of an honest and humble heart. Just like those who invested into my life and were willing to open up their lives so we could learn how to develop the heart of a mentor. - Ola from Poland
Thank you for your support of Leadership Lab International through prayer and giving. Together, we are stepping alongside young leaders so they are not thrust into ministry without receiving mentored training. Your partnership with us is such a blessing to the young people who come through LLI as you can read from Ola’s story.
You are part of this growing ministry that God is advancing to prepare young leaders to persevere and succeed in ministry wherever God takes them. Through LLI, we have the privilege of pouring our lives into the next generation as they learn to lead and become relational disciplers committed to God’s kingdom work around the world.
As we draw closer to the end of 2016, would you take a moment to support LLI as we seek to mentor and train more young leaders in 2017. Your gifts will help make it possible for our team to walk alongside 10 young leaders during next summer’s LLI training.
Please consider joining us in mentoring young leaders for life.
Hoping You have a Blessed New Year,