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 Steve Meeker
Steve has the privilege of serving as the director of Leadership Lab International. His passion is to step alongside young leaders in order to help them grow in their love for God, their skills to lead and serve together on teams, and in their commitment to fulfill Jesus' Great Commission.
Stepping off the plane in Estonia was a dream come true. We had envisioned this day when relational discipleship and team building training could be offered outside of Croatia through LLI. As we emerged through customs, our team was greeted by an Estonian delegation including Mari Vahermagi, the SU Estonian National Director, who had an even bigger dream to bring together young leaders from other Baltic nations for training in their beautiful nation.
God dovetailed these two visions and transformed them into reality.
Members of teams of volunteers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia learned together about each other and what they each contribute to the body of Christ. They began to understand more about Jesus’ model for discipleship and how they are to be involved with the Great Commission. It was a time of discovery, fellowship and empowerment as each reflected on abiding in Christ.
Vision needed empowerment and that is where so many of you played an important role. This training event could not have taken place without your partnership. Our team took a step of faith and opened up the 2017 LLI Virtual Run event and in May participants started the race.
Whether you were in a group or pressing on alone, pushing a baby stroller, tackling another hill on a dirt bike or cycling through the streets of your city, every ounce of exertion mattered. One team of three even raced back from a river beginning to spill over its banks to complete the event. Why? So young leaders could be trained to serve like Jesus and fulfill His command to go and make disciples.
Your efforts made life changing impact possible! Thank you for being a part of the team. As Zane from Latvia said, “Thanks to LLI I really understood what discipleship means and I was encouraged to change my life completely. Now I know I want to follow God’s will in my life.”
Zane was one of three who attended this training in Estonia that decided to apply for our summer Transformation Training. She is also seen as one of the future leaders in outdoor camp ministry in Latvia.
Today, as I look back at what God did in the hearts of those who came to this ABIDE training, I am grateful for everyone who walked, ran and biked in order to step alongside this dream and to make it possible.
May this encourage your day as you remember the race you joined last year to help others follow Jesus’ command to abide in Him and to “Go and make disciples.”
Gratitude: What is one thing you are thankful for today?
“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
Discipling must begin with an incarnational relationship with a person. It is essential that it be in an alongside style (not distant coaching thru phone, or in a large group setting). Only then in an authentic, loving relationship, does a person recognize the power of life-on-life modeling as it moves into transforming the heart.
This kind of discipleship, in the context of relationship, is more easily transferred in a cross-culture situation; it fosters and opens greater understanding of the person since we can observe the person up close, and listen to their emotional language in real life situations, and provides credibility to effectively speak at crucial times into their life.
Distant coaching should only be done when the people know each other and when you are focusing on ministry skills and competence. It is very hard to move into the heart of a person without the trust and love of relationship and the physical power and presence of relating and sharing life mutually together.
Although proclaiming God’s truth in a large group context is vital whether it be evangelistic or teaching messages, nothing can replace our Lord’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
So what are some of the marks of relational discipleship?
Discipleship is designed to facilitate learning rather than telling others what to do. In this framework, relationship is fostered and those being discipled actively and personally get involved in the learning process. As a mentor, it’s not my role to be heard, but to develop skills to listen and draw others out with thought provoking questions as I walk alongside them.
In this context, those who you disciple take ownership and integrate biblical truth that changes their character and not just fills their head with knowledge. It equips them to adapt and apply principles and skills as they step forward in life and provides them with a safe environment to process what they are learning.
To be clear, relational discipleship is not just listening, but it involves reflection and loving confrontation when needed as permission is asked to share insights God provides. Because relationship is fostered, the mentor gains discernment on how to tailor learning opportunities to the learning styles of those they are discipling.
Here in relationship, that spans longer seasons of life, we taste the joy of watching God develop His people with the vision and direction of the call He has on their lives. As we join with them in the process of becoming followers of Christ, ours is not the role of being seen, but in moving to the background in order to support, encourage and resource disciples as they step forward in faith to become and participate in all God has prepared them to be involved with before the foundation of the world.
by Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
Jim stepped alongside many young leaders including myself and lived out these truths. As he wrote, often this model was difficult for others to understand and measure, but those who experienced it not only value it, but their lives were changed forever.
INTERCESSION — The Indispensable Priority of Relational Disciplers
“There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.” – Chuck Swindoll
Relational discipleship begins with intercession for those we have the privilege to step alongside. To understand prayer’s importance in discipleship, let’s look at examples from the prayer lives of Moses and Jesus.
Moses believed in intercession and modeled it for Joshua – Exodus 17:8-15
In the face of battle with the Amalekites, Moses appointed Joshua as the military commander to lead Israel in a counterattack. This was Joshua’s first act in battle as a leader and was foundational in preparing him for his future leadership role. Israel also lacked experience and now was the time for Joshua and the newly delivered nation to learn first-hand to trust God in the face of opposition.
After choosing a select band of warriors and discerning the best plan of attack, Joshua was assured by Moses all the resources he needed would be provided and Joshua would be victorious in battle. How would Moses support this young leader? He knew the most effective way to back his successor was to engage in intercession.
Moses experience with God gave him confidence that victory in battle was not achieved by numbers, past accomplishments, knowledge about God or even giftedness and skills in battle. He knew Joshua needed to learn victory in battle is God’s responsibility and it is won through intercession. Moses, Hur and Aaron journeyed to the top of a hill overlooking the battleground and focused their energies on intercession. It was a joint partnership in conflict, with each member playing an important role. However, the ultimate battle was not won on the field; it was won on the hill in prayer. God enabled them to triumph over their enemies!
Jesus believed in intercession and modeled it to Peter (Luke 22:31), and to the Twelve
Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail,” (Luke 22:32).
Another battle had ensued, this time in Peter’s life. Jesus knowing His follower completely was keenly aware Satan wanted Peter’s faith to fail. Young potential leaders are always high on Satan’s radar to knock them out of the race and in this conflict Jesus knew the coming assault would lead to Peter’s failure; yet, His intercession protected the faith of His follower. Peter denied knowing His Lord marking his life with brokenness and failure, but the experience was tailored by God in His love to reshape Peter’s heart and prepare Him to be a humble leader.
Prayer was not only a part of Jesus’ life and what He modeled, it was His life! Victory for Peter was won because Jesus knows how heaven works and He engaged in what was most important – intercession for the faith of His beloved disciple.
When entering into a discipleship relationship it is paramount for us to remember to pray. Teach us to pray Jesus so we may step alongside those you bring into our spheres of influence as we obey your commands to love others as you have loved us.
By Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker
Jim, one of my mentors, lived out interceding for those he mentored. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "Intercession the Indispensable Priority in Coaching"
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.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_tomwang'>tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Behind the scenes is where relational discipleship essentially takes place. As a mentor, the ministry of investing your life into others is out of the public eye and needs no recognition. Your desire is to push others forward into deeper significant relationship with God and those in their spheres of influence. Mentors are not shining the spotlight on themselves, rather we delight in seeing others develop beyond us and becoming what God intended them to be. In this relationship, the focus is not receiving but joy in giving, believing and enabling others to accomplish their vision and dreams.
Do you know what characterizes the relational discipler?
You need to have a heart that nurtures and steps alongside others to resource them as they pursue their dreams. Mentoring is about making others successful and not prioritizing our ministry and reputation.
Barnabas was this kind of a person. As you know, God used him to play a significant part in Paul’s life. Although, he led a ministry team with Paul in Antioch and was sent out on the first missionary journey to the Gentiles, Barnabas ends up taking the backseat.
After Paul moves into missionary leadership as the apostle to the Gentiles, Barnabas moves into the background as a discipler in the church in Antioch. Outside of Acts, only one reference is made to Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6 regarding their travels. Barnabas still traveled to the Gentile world, but he remained in the background, out of the focus of the Christian culture. Perhaps there is no greater joy for the mentor than to see those you have invested in, walking with God, and in the limelight functioning effectively for Jesus Christ.
Another mentor I want to remind you about is Nathan. As a priest, Nathan had a major impact and role in David’s life. Relational disciplers are given divine moments to encounter the lives of others at critical times in their life just as we see in Scripture. David would have never moved on in his leadership, if God had not sent Nathan to speak into his life. But again, he is whisked off by God from those visible encounters with David, and hidden behind the chapters and scenes of history and Scripture.
Barnabas and Nathan never questioned or felt insignificant to God by walking into obscurity. They knew that success in ministry was not based on their accomplishing great things; it was in developing great people. They were never mentioned in the hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, but they were significant leaders in the lives of others.
By Jim Feiker and edited by Steve Meeker
Jim was my dear mentor and he lived out the truths in this article. The original article was written by Jim and I am blessed with the privilege of adapting these articles for the LLI Blog ministry. Original Article Title "The Invisible Ministry of Personal Spiritual Coaching"
Recently I found myself sitting in my car, feeling very sorry for myself as it was being towed down the highway. Lately, a lot of things had been breaking down, and this particular day seemed to be going from bad to worse. As I thought back over the previous two days, however, I had the sudden realization that there could have been another outcome. There were, in fact, a few warning signs, or at least opportunities for other choices that would have helped me avoid the expensive towing, if not an overpriced Sunday mechanic.
The red battery light had been on for a day before we needed to start our 250 km journey. Shortly after we began, the car died on the side of the highway, only to restart again after 20 minutes. This miraculously allowed us to coast into the next gas station before dying again. There, friendly police officers made some calls to the next town over to find a mechanic, but as the car seemed to be driving again, we felt confident that we could slowly make our way back and so sped right by that exit. However, it died again shortly thereafter, but somehow we made it to the next gas station. It was at this gas station that an empty tow truck just happened to be fueling up, and I finally gave up the plan of making it to our destination.
As I sat perched high up on the tow truck, I realized there were really two different ways of telling this story. In fact, I had been putting the events in the wrong narrative structure. This wasn’t actually a “woe is me” story where everything difficult was happening in one day. Instead, it was a story about me being flippant about warnings, a story of me discarding the offers of help and provision. This was a story about me forging ahead in my own way, ignoring the subtle invitations to make wiser decisions, instead playing on chance to save a few bucks.
In Proverbs, Wisdom personified calls to those who will listen to her, and predicts calamity for those who ignore her counsel and reproof. Solomon urges his son to seek wisdom with intention: “…making your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding, if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures...” (2: 2-4)
These are complicated times in our world. It can often be difficult to make wise decisions that will help us to live, as described by the prophet Micah, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. What does this look like in the day-to-day decisions and uncertainty that we often face? Being attentive to the stories we are telling ourselves is vitally important as we seek to understand God’s ways and will in our world. When I reframed my story from one of me as the hapless victim to one depicting me as ignoring God’s continued invitation into his provision, I gained the wisdom to understand the interaction between God and myself that had been transpiring all day.
Ultimately, Solomon notes, God is the giver of wisdom, and this will ensure that “we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.”
As it turned out, acquiescing to that tow truck mysteriously waiting for us at the gas station was not about a broken down car at all—but a lesson in listening and paying attention, in repentance and acknowledgement of foolishness, and most importantly, accepting God’s extravagant provision and grace.
By Melody J. Wachsmuth
Melody is a writer and researcher, based in Croatia, who is curious about people’s lives, spirituality, and how the two intersect in their present context. Consequently, she loves to collect and write people’s stories.
Jim Feiker was a dear mentor and friend whose life intersected mine in a way only God could have orchestrated. Prior to serving in Croatia, he and his wife, Bev, came to visit us and what caught Jim’s eye was a picture we had on our shelf. He asked, “Who is this man? I know him.”
Perplexed, I responded, “It was my dad, but he had passed away in 1985.”
As we explored the possibilities of the two of them meeting, it turned out they had shared the same room at a Men’s Conference in Colorado prior to my dad’s passing a few years earlier. What I didn’t know then is how much both of these men would be instrumental in teaching me about the heart of relational discipleship.
As we begin our Leadership Lab International blog ministry, I have the privilege of developing entries from articles Jim wrote, which our team hopes will encourage and challenge you as you step alongside others in fulfilling the Great Commission.
May God be glorified as each of us invests our lives into the lives of others. Soli Deo gloria (To God alone be the glory)!
by Steve Meeker