Certainly Uncertain

Uncertain. That’s the word that I’ve used to describe my life as the Raleigh Fellows Program is coming to a close. Uncertain of what job I’ll have; uncertain of where I’ll be living; uncertain of who I’ll be after this program is over. For some reason, the uncertainty of life has been pressing harder on me than anything else at this stage.

Mark 4:35-41 tells a cool story about Jesus and his friends. The story is that Jesus is tired after a long time healing the sick and being around a crowd of people so he asks his closest friends to go across a lake with him so that they can get away from the crowd and rest. While Jesus’s friends are sailing across the water, a huge storm comes up. As the friends are trying to keep the boat afloat, they find Jesus sleeping in the stern! They wake him and ask, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Then Jesus tells the waves and the wind, “Quiet! Be still!” And the wind and waves died down and it was completely calm.

Can you imagine? You’re in a boat with your friends and all of a sudden you’re caught in a storm that’s so bad you’re afraid that you’re going to die. It’s all hands on deck to keep the boat from capsizing and you see one of your friends sleeping to the side. “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?” I would have asked the same thing if I had been in the boat. In fact, I have asked Jesus that question, a lot lately. Jesus, don’t you care that my life is so uncertain? That I’m overwhelmed and apprehensive?

And then Jesus said to his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Before Jesus and his friends had gotten on the boat to go across the lake, Jesus had been teaching the people and healing the sick and performing all kinds of miracles. And yet in their time of panic, Jesus’s friends so quickly forget the cool, powerful things he’s done.   Just like me.   If Jesus’s friends could have taken a step out of the panic of the present and looked back at the ways Jesus had come through for them in the past, I don’t think they would’ve asked the question, “Don’t you care if we drown?” I think they would’ve woken him and said, “Jesus, please help us.” I see how I get so caught up in the moment that it’s hard for me to look back at the ways that Jesus has been there for me, which is pretty selfish if you think about it. It’s not all about me! It’s about Jesus and that whether I believe it or not, he’s in control of all things. And if I look back at my life, I can affirm that to be true. Yes, Jesus might be sleeping at times, things might get out of hand and life might feel overwhelming, but even so, nothing is out of his control. Yes, I still wonder, “Why did the storm come? Why was Jesus sleeping in the first place? Why didn’t he stop the storm sooner?” But what I am certain of is that Jesus didn’t let his friends down and he has come through for me every time, so why would he stop now? 

So now I want to say thank you. Thank you Jesus for friends who have supported me and loved me in the way I needed it most this year. For our teachers who sacrifice their time to share with us more about what your design is for work and for our life as a whole. For my host family who has sacrificed time and money to provide a safe space for me to come home and rest. For my mentor who has walked alongside me offering encouragement and wisdom. For the fellows committee who has worked behind the scenes to bring all aspects of this program together. For Ashley, who has been a bold leader as well as deep companion to us all this year. For the Apostles community for making us a part of the family from the very beginning. For nine months to spend learning about who you are and who you made me to be. I'm certain that we'll continue to wrestle through this in the lifetime to come, but we'll do it together. Thank you Jesus.




End well.

**Disclaimer: I know that most of my blog posts have been about community, but when I think back on this year, that is the area I have learned and grown the most in, so forgive me while I brag on my people :)

A year ago today, I was graduating from college (Go Dins!) 10 months ago, I moved to Raleigh. 9 months ago, I walked into a stranger's house and met 9 other strangers who I'd be spending LOTS of time with. But in September, I had NO idea what Christian community really meant. I knew what it seemed like from the outside, and I knew I wanted it. But, in September, I began to experience it, slowly building my own definition of community along the way.

It happened as Jessie asked me how I was feeling when she could tell I felt unsettled after a group activity on our first beach retreat. Or when Stephen brought me my favorite food for lunch, seeking out tough conversation that would eventually strengthen our relationship. It was Kenz and I's deep life chat in the backseat of the minivan our first night as Fellows, sharing pieces of our stories and our hearts with one another.

It happened as I learned how to navigate a new work place with Richie, and feeling like he was a safe space almost immediately, accepting my tears, questions, and unformed thoughts on those front porch rocking chairs. It was sitting in Starbucks with Mariah, praying fervently and believing in a God of healing and of power. Or looking at Gebbie's face as we rafted down the whitewater and knowing I wasn't alone in my fear. It was in the way I watched Zach begin to bring the group together from the start, whether it was over a ridiculous game of train at the beach or somehow getting me to a State football game... GO TARHEELS! It was Matty teasing me like a brother, but also showing me what it looks like to have a deep understanding of the Holy Spirit.

It was Ash encouraging community by asking tough questions, including "intentional hangouts" in our schedule, or always being willing to start a hilarious dance party. It was the way Spencer and Derick and Ally and Pete welcomed me into their family, always making me feel like I was just one of the Daniel's. Or Barbara sharing her wisdom with me, encouraging me, and praying intentionally.

It was Sam and the kids giving up time as a family and letting a bunch of loud, hungry people in their house every Thursday night. Or the Fellows alumni welcoming us into the family. It was the teachers introducing me to new ways to experience a God I've known for what feels like forever. It was a group of 15 sixth grade girls meeting weekly for fellowship and prayer as they begin to understand who that God is. It was a church family who stretched out their hands and prayed for us, making sure we felt known and cared for. 

And this all happened in the first MONTH!

So thank you, all of you, for the ways you have taught and are continuing to teach me what community means. I wrote a blog post in October about how I had been searching for the "easy button" for community building. But community is not easy, it takes work. And I have learned more and more that those tough moments are often the same moments I feel growth happening.

As I begin to reflect back on the year and attempt to "end well," there are many questions still left unanswered, many uncertainties in the future. But, I know that the Lord has used this community to give me a more clear picture of who He is, drawing me closer to Himself each day. And for that, I am forever grateful. 





If I could try and find one word to sum up my experience as a Raleigh Fellow this year, it would be the word “Surprise.”  This year has been a surprise from start to finish. I never expected a lot of things about this year, but then, I never expected to be in the Fellows program in the first place. It is this unexpected that is the blessing, the gift. The Surprise.

Last year around this time, I was thinking about and praying over my future and the Lord put on my heart this verse:

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Praying over this verse, I thought, “Wow, I don’t know. I can ask and imagine a lot. How in the world does this verse work?” And you see, what I discovered this year is that, it is not that the Lord takes our plans and does more than we ask. It is that the Lord has his own plans and then places them in our life to bless us in ways we never thought possible. It is the very surprise that makes the gift “more than all we ask or imagine.”

And that is what I can truly say about this year. I never expected to live in Raleigh, to live with a family that feels like home, to have a community of peers that quickly have become “my people.” I never expected to work in Youth Ministry and then step into a full-time ministry position. All of this is more than I could ever ask. The truthy of the matter is this year has been totally unexpected. A Surprise - immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.  

And as I look towards the future, what is after Fellows, there are a few things that I know and a lot that I don’t.  The cool thing though is that God is not done working. I believe He still wants to surprise me and I can’t wait to open some more of His good gifts. 




Why Every College Graduate Should Do a Fellows Program

Richie Rojas

Over the past 9 months, I moved to Raleigh, NC to start the Raleigh Fellows program. For those of you who do not know what a Fellows program is, then let me explain. The Raleigh Fellows program is a part of a growing movement across the United States called the Fellows Initiative. It is about a 9 month Christian leadership development program that aims to equip recent college graduates with the foundations to enter into the workplace. This mission is accomplished through many learning experiences like bible classes, mentors, work, personality and career assessments, and more. The goal is to develop a seamless life between work and faith realizing that all work and life is pleasing to the Lord.

Now there are fellows program across the nation, but I felt the calling me to Raleigh. So I picked up and moved cross country from Arizona to start a life in Raleigh. Little did I know the challenges and growth that would occur. So here is my reasoning for every college graduate to take a year to do a fellows program!

1.     Take the time to invest in who God designed you to be.

Over this year, there have been countless opportunities to understand and learn more on how God specifically designed me to be. I am walking away from this year knowing my strengths weaknesses, spiritual gifts, love languages, personality type, and so much more on how I work and function as a person. I have taken the time and effort to use the resources that were provided to me to learn more. Society has formed us to constantly thinking about what is next. We are always going for one thing to the next without spending the needed time to sit and learn.

2.     Develop spiritually with solid Jesus loving teachers and mentors

The fellows’ community is surrounded by so many knowledgeable, wise, and loving people that are looking to disciple and train us fellows. We have been gifted to have so many teachers and mentors through the program and church that share their life experiences and gifts so we can connect with God in new and enriching ways. I have walked away with so many spiritual “nuggets” this year that has allowed me to gain an added Christian worldview.

3.     Learn how to participate in community

 “Community.” This is one of those Christian words that people really never teach you how to do or what it looks like. We are all stumbling around trying to figure this word out. The fellows program places you in a forced community. We did not choose each other, but God placed us together to learn and grow together. Too often if we don’t agree or like somebody, then we choose to go elsewhere without engaging in the hard uncomfortable conversations that ensue with relationships. This year I was placed in a group of 9 people that I had the opportunity to develop and grow with. Life happened. Things got hard. But something beautiful happened when we pressed in instead of leaving, we experienced true Christian community.

4.     Get glimpses of what Christian marriage and parenting looks like

This may be a weird point to read, but is something so vital! Each fellow is placed with a host family for the year. This family sacrifices time, space, and money so that a fellow can live and be a part of their family. I was placed with the Boulton family. This family of four boys has loved me, taught me, and incorporated me into their lives. Most importantly they feed me!! But really.. I had the privilege of seeing how a Christian husband and wife love each other. I saw how Christian parents loved, discipled, and taught their kids. This family opened up every part of their lives to my many questions about life, Jesus, and every day venting. What a gift!

5.     Experience a consistent and strong church

Each Fellows program is based out of a church on purpose. I have practiced out of Church of the Apostles, an Anglican church here in Raleigh. Coming into the program, I was hesitant to enter into this church not knowing what to expect. I have been blown away by what I have learned. The program hopes to connect the value of church to the need of spiritual community. We as fellows get to experience every part of the church. We are involved with youth ministry, Sunday school, volunteering during church services, and more. I have come to really value going to church every Sunday and being involved in the many avenues church provides. I have come to learn about Church history and tradition in a new way. It is giving each fellow a backbone and context in church.

6.     Witness and engage the bottom lines of the city

This was a foreign concept to me before the fellows program and didn’t really know what it meant until getting to experience what the “bottom lines” mean. As a fellow you are engaged with community outreach and transformation. To view the bottom lines of the city means to enter into the needs and shortcomings that occur in the city. It is about developing a worldview that doesn’t look inward, but outward to the people and city you live in. How many of us can actually say we truly understand and know the bottom lines of our city? Through fellows, we are starting to scratch the surface of that. We get to mentor kids from inner city Raleigh through Neighbor to Neighbor. We serve every month through a service project that sees a need in the city. Fellows is teaching us to constantly see outward to our city and participate in God’s continual process of renewing the city.

7.     Lastly, you get to meet Ashley and Sam Crutchfield

Ashley Crutchfield is our program director here in The Raleigh Fellows program. Then there is wise and generous husband, Sam Crutchfield. This family pours so much into the program so that each fellows walks away changed and closer to Jesus. They seek to equip every person that comes through the Raleigh Fellows by carefully orchestrating every part of the program so it consistently points to Jesus. You will never regret getting to know Ashley and Sam. They make you feel like the most special and loved person in the room. They have an incredible ability to lead us well, but also get on our level. You will dance, laugh, sing, cry, hug, and realize through all of it that you are known and loved.

I could continue to go on with the many reasons why every college graduate should do a fellows program, but that would make this way longer than it is supposed to be. I know I am definitely missing a bunch of stuff as well that I could have added. But hear me say this, things won’t always be easy or perfect during a fellows program. That is just life. Every fellows experience is different. We all experience rough patches. But I promise you that you will walk away from the year closer to Jesus and knowing yourself way better. I have been challenged, stretched, and hurt at times. But all things that I have experienced this year have pushed me to pursuing and loving Jesus more. I am walking away so glad I did the Raleigh Fellows program.

Now you go sign up!




Robots and Burgers

Hey guys!

Sorry for being MIA. Life has been fairly busy recently. But, to catch you up, I am no longer jobless! I have accepted a job as a vertical marketing specialist at a company called Dude Solutions. I know. What a name, right? But, Dude is no joke. They have been around since 1999, have around 400 employees in their Cary office, and has been voted as both one of the best places to work and one of the fastest growing companies in NC last year. Dude is a cloud-based operations and facility management software company. I’m so excited to start May 17th and if you have any connections over there, please shoot them my way!

Also, my time at the Raleigh Fellows Program is nearly over. My last day as a fellow is May 13th. Nuts. Time has flown by and I just want to thank you all so very much. Without you and your prayer and financial support, I know and believe I wouldn’t have grown the way that I did this year. With that being said, I want to send you off with one more witty, insightful and, hopefully, clever update. It is the least I can do. Literally.

Alright, story time. A man by the name of Steve Garber was telling a story at a conference I was at recently. Steve oversees an organization called, The Washington Institute: Connecting Faith, Vocation, and Culture. He started off telling us that he had just recently started gathering a small group at a nearby college that had a famous robotics program. All the guys he was gathering with were Christians and were working on their graduate degrees there. They would meet up in the robotics lab each Wednesday night and have discussions on several different things: scripture, culture, vocation, science, and how all are intertwined. One such Wednesday night, they were talking about robotics in our culture nowadays. Steve was leading the discussion and heard the door open behind him. He was in the middle of a sentence and concluded his thought a minute or so later. However, when he turned around to see who was there, he saw no one there. A few days went by and Steve met an Australian pastor who was on a sabbatical and was going to be in the area the next couple of months. When the man was asking Steve about local believers, Steve invited the man to join his group on Wednesday nights. They talked back and forth for a little and they came to discuss the location and occurrence of the meetings. Steve then confirmed that they met every Wednesday in the robotics lab on campus. The man then asked, “Were you all meeting up last Wednesday? I walked in on a group of 10 guys last week talking about robotics so which lab should I come to?”

Now, for some of you all reading, this is not a big deal at all. “Of course the pastor was weary! They were a group of Christians talking about robotics during small group.” However, my question is why is that so taboo? Why is a group of Christian, graduate robotic students who are discussing robotics in a robotics lab not acceptable? See, the point that Steve was making is that we as Christians have made our vocation and Christian walks as a make-shift dualism, if you will. Why waste time talking about robotics when you could be studying scripture and praying?  

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not diminishing either scripture or prayer. Scripture is God’s word and insurmountably important in a Christian’s life. And prayer is a gift from God that allows us to freely communicate with the maker of the universe. However, what I am doing is pointing out this dualism that several us believe, me included. That Jesus is not found in the hours of 8:00-5:00 Monday through Friday. How can that be true? See the reality is that most of us spend 45+ hours at our jobs a week. That is more time than you spend with your spouse and kids. It is more time than you spend at church and small group combined. More time than you spend sleeping some weeks.

You see, I find it crazy how we treat our jobs as a “necessary evil” instead of a way to live out our calling. From the beginning God created us in his image. God created and so do we. God worked and so do we. God rested and so shall we. And, the thing is, work was created before the fall. Therefore, it is inherently good and part of our nature. There is a reason that we as humans need a vocation beyond a paycheck. It is hardwired into our DNA.

You see, I have found myself being 100% confident that Jesus cares about my work and what I do at my job – however small or meaningless in my eyes. That when I do good work, He is glorified. That when I feel life is ordinary and monotonous, Jesus is working. That the work I am doing is bringing about redemption in our fallen world.

Another story from Steve: a man named Frans opened a burger joint. Him and his wife had been Christians for many decades then. His burger joint had become well-known as the best place in all the state to get a burger. His restaurant had received award after award for their food. One day, he was approached by some out-of-town guests who knew his story of faith. They asked, “why don’t you have any crosses hanging up? Or anything representing Jesus? How are we sure in your faith?” Frans took a second and replied similarly to Jesus does in the gospels, “Those who have taste buds, let them taste.” You see what he is saying!? You see, Frans had told Steve some time ago that he felt his call was to make burgers “the way they ought to be made”. How profound. To go about ordinary things as if unto to the Lord.

This brings me to my final thought: my work matters. That I have been equipped with skills and gifts that help me in my work. That my work is a part of His work. That my story is a part of the big story. That my faith in Jesus gives meaning to my entire life. Not just on Sundays or small group nights. But rather every day. That a belief in Jesus must create a seamless life. That a group of Christians talking about robotics in a robotics lab is glorifying. That a man making burgers the way they ought to be made is glorifying. That a guy doing marketing for a company called Dude Solutions is glorifying.

So now my question is how might you take part in doing something the “way it ought to be done?”

Thanks for the ride and reading these updates friends. 

Zach Kunkel




lean in

Overwhelmed. The best adjective to convey how I’m feeling as Fellows begins to wrap up. Fellows activities have somewhat slowed, but housing and job-hunting more than make up for fewer assignments. This is the 3rd time in my life the path hasn’t been well-lined for me: first just when I graduated in 2015, then this past year before Fellows, but this time is different. Going to Spain was a one-year commitment, as was Fellows. Now the pressure of finding something more long term feels critical.

Of course life goes on. No one and nothing stops so I can devote all of my time to job-hunting. There are projects at my internship, which will soon include passing off my duties for the transition. There are also friendships to maintain, some to build into next year and a few that distance will complicate. Over it all, I seem to be wrestling far more, deep spiritual questions than I ever have.

One of my high school teachers once pointed out to us the natural rhythm of life, that is, the almost universal pattern of wishful planning. Always wishing for the next big event. From high school on to college, then a job, marriage, children, retirement with other major events filling in the gaps. He warned that mentality leads to wishing our lives away. So live in the present, in contentment. Problematically, I have no idea how to do that for more than a few moments, and in the big decision periods of life, contentment seems counterintuitive.

I want a life not driven by checklists. The list in my head is too long to remember, but writing it down makes it feel unmanageable. And then my list of questions is daunting too. Unmanageable. Maybe the real issue here is my incessant attempt to manage my life instead of holding it before the Lord. I know from experience this doesn’t go well for me, and yet I haughtily seize control, insisting I know better. Leaning into the discomfort may be the better option, but I’ll fight with all I have until I’m forced to give up control. I have to remind myself my Father is giving me grace when he brings me to that place. If the best thing for me is to be close to him, and if I can only do that by letting loose my tight grip, then it must be grace that charges me to give up. Lord help me lean in.  

J. Nordstrom



Exhale. Rest. Inhale.

The month of March has been jammed packed from the beginning to end. It went from one thing to the next. Throughout the month though, I was constantly reminded how BIG our God is and how he is constantly fighting for justice, renewing community and individual people, and speaking ever so quietly when his children get quiet enough to listen. Wow… What a God!

Here are a few highlights from March!

We started off the first weekend of the month heading to Washington, D.C. for the Global Prayer Gathering for the International Justice Mission. Talk about thought provoking, prayer intensive, and freely feeling the Spirit move! As fellows, we were honored to enter into the stories of the people IJM works with. We listened and heard as speaker after speaker presented what they are doing in different parts of the world with specificity and authenticity. We spent time praying to the God of many names: Elohim, El-Shaddai, Yahweh, Jehovah and Adonai. Each individual name described an attribute of our God. I have never spent time reading and learning about each name of God. That is something that has slowly been incorporated into my life this month. I also valued how intentional IJM functions as a whole from company prayer times every day, to how strategic each plenary session was planned and balanced with worship and prayer, to the belief of raising up communities in their own country to fight injustice, and continually and faithfully relying on Jesus. One of the most beautiful sights and memories that I treasure was experiencing Spirit-filled worship with the other fellows. There were several times I would look at all of us and see each encountering our God in a special and unique way. I walked away from this weekend loving everything that happened. I was informed about modern day slavery, touched by the spirit, and inspired to strive for change in my community that God has called me to.

In the middle of the month, two of my awesome Arizona friends came out to Raleigh to visit me. It was such a sweet time of catching up, but also picking up where we last left off. We spent the time exploring Raleigh while taking many pictures along the way, driving to Charlotte for a fantastic Judah and the Lion concert, and eating some goooooooooood food! Throughout our many explorations, I was so blessed by these friends and the time they gave to me singing, dancing, and living life.

We ended the last weekend of the month with a Silent Retreat at St. Francis of Assisi Retreat Center led by one of our teachers, Ray Siegler. Over the course of 24 hours, we spent time in silence seeking to purposefully spend time with Jesus. We sought to allow God the time and space to speak to us as we quieted our minds, lives, and hearts. I did not walk away having this grand revelation from God, but I did walk away feeling closer to Him. Ray consistently reminded us during these times, it is not about doing or a checklist, but an opportunity to reconnect and focus on our relationship with Jesus.

Exhale. Rest. Inhale. The theme of our Silent Retreat, but this ended up how the busy month looked like. I would feel tired and busy. Sit to be with myself and Jesus. Then feel rejuvenated and peaceful in Jesus. There were so much good things going on like a professionalism seminar, realizing my best friend was sitting next to me, meeting with a financial planner, multi-ethnicity talks, hanging with the fellows, and more. It is easy to get wrapped up in the busy, and forget that God is in the midst of all of it. He is constantly renewing each one of us! I walked away from this month seeing how busy my month was but realizing that I was surrounded by God’s presence way more.

Richie Rojas



"I love you, but I disagree"

You can see the depth and security of friendships in the space and ability you give people to hold different opinions. To hear each other and talk about an issue, and give the other person the freedom to say “I love you, but I disagree.” I was drawn to this community by this very fact. I remember during my interview, Sam Crutchfield, the husband of our director said, “Round table is a unique time. It’s good to sit across from a fellow believer in your community and say ‘I disagree with you.’”

I have found that this is incredibly beautiful and honoring to the people around me. I can love my fellow Christian and disagree with her, because the truth is, what is “Christian” is not always incredibly clear in many topics. Our round table discussions have ranged from politics to generational questions, to how we can best love nonbelievers. I have found that at least once in every Thursday night, someone says some variation of “I disagree”, and it’s a beautiful thing. There is space to think, to wrestle with ideas, to disagree with your friends, who, at the end of the night will still be your friends.  

This year, I have been given the space and freedom to think through and wrestle with thoughts, ideas, and God on my own.  This year is not about conforming to one ‘group-think’ attitude, or about listening to a person who will tell us the one and only “right way.” Sure, there is Godly instruction, sound Biblical teaching, and a commitment to the authority of Scripture. However,  there is space for disagreement, space for questioning, and ultimately, space for growth. And that is a beautiful thing. 




I Responded to THE Queen B

Hey everybody!

Hope that you jam-packed a normal month into these short 28 days. February was QUITE a month for myself. “Why did you emphasize ‘quite’ so much Zach?” Because I have some big news for all: in response to the Mrs. Beyoncé Knowles, I liked it so I put a ring on it. In normal words, I have a fiancé! It has been such an awesome couple of weeks and Hannah and I have been celebrated and cared for so much. With all this excitement, I would be foolish to not ask for prayer from you guys. Can you all pray for us as we plan our wedding? For the details and conversations that will be had along the way. That when we get stressed about the details we would remember that the day is ultimately about our life together, not just this one day. Ultimately, that during this season of engagement, we would seek Christ first.

Not to us, Lord, not to us,

but to your name be the glory,

because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1

Life is busy. I remember back in high school when I thought, “man, life is going to be so free in college”. Ehhhh, wrong. Then, I remember thinking in college, “man, life is going to be much less busy when I graduate and start working”. I know. I can’t even think of a good excuse for believing that one. We are all busy, all the time.

Personally, I think I make myself busy half the time. Alright, maybe more like three-quarters of the time. But I should be busy, right? Because if I’m not busy, then I’m not important. Or if I’m not busy, then I’m a bum. Or if I’m not busy, then I’m unproductive. You might be thinking that these aren’t true but wait. Think about it. Think about your friend or coworker who is always busy. What do you think about them? “They must be important with all of those meetings and friends” is about what I think. Think about how much America values busyness. The sad thing is that somewhere along the way busyness started to equate to worthiness.

How did busyness become something where people look to for their identity? I have my own thoughts on that but I am no John Piper/CS Lewis/Francis Chan so I will spar you my failed theology and logic. However, I think we can all stack hands and agree that gone is the 9-5 business day. Gone are weekends. Gone are the minutes we think we don’t have to have a conversation with someone. We are all just “too busy”. The world and country we live in values busyness and we eat right out of the palm of its hand.

I’ve been thinking about this busyness phenomenon for a little bit and have asked myself how I can attempt to be less busy. Or at least to slow my life down. And I found an answer: silence. If you know me well, you might have laughed at that answer. In a world where from the second I get to work I am bombarded with questions, expected to be on my A-game, and it doesn’t cease until my head hits the pillow, I have figured that I have to be still and silent before the day begins. Without those minutes of silence and tranquility, I might not make it (dramatic but trying to make a point!)

“Am I being unproductive? Should I be doing something else? Is this a waste of time?” and many other thoughts plague my mind for the first few minutes but as I press deeper into silence, I begin to see its fruit: peace, single-mindedness, clarity, ability to think clearly, proper ranking of importance and others.

Oftentimes, I drive into work in silence. Not because there is nothing but commercials on the radio. But because I have come to realize that these moments of “wasted time” are prime-time moments for us to come to God and rest (Psalm 23:2). Do I view them as this all the time? No chance! I’m an idealist, not a saint. However, I would say that we, myself definitely included, too oftentimes rush to the next thing in order to be busy. Take advantage of long drives into and from work. Get up a few minutes earlier in the morning. Go on a walk or run with no music. Press into the silence. It is not as scary as you think. Also, I bet you need it more than you know. 



silence and spiritual formation

I think “mortified” is the word to describe my feelings the first day of “Spiritual Formation” class. Our teacher led us though a mild exercise in which we spent a few moments in silence and then reported whatever word was on our heart or mind. All I could think was, “This is hoaky,” …sorry Mary. Please read on; I promise it gets better. Rather than to voice my thoughts, I took a pass on sharing with the class and instead left thinking, “We (this class and I) are not going to get along.”

My sentiments have changed since then. It’s been a gradual change from hostility to affection but definitely one of great consequence. Back in November we began practicing the spiritual exercise of silence. Just to sit with the Lord in silence with no agenda, no formulated prayer, just a desire to be in his presence. When we were assigned this task, I thought, “Perfect! I’m an introvert and I get to sit in silence and call it homework” …I quickly found out I could not sit 5 minutes in silence without getting restless. I wanted to do my laundry or answer that text message or read a book or whatever. Silence is a learned skill.

At the beginning of the year, in one of my first meetings with my mentor, I laid out my then current issues and asked for advice. Mentors think hard and then give advice, right? Ever so gently, Terri suggested the Lord just might be beckoning me to seek Him and not answers to my never-ending questions. How counter-intuitive and counter-productive. I need to fix. What is being if I never do anything?

God speaks in those still, quiet moments.

In SF the a few weeks ago, I selected 4 pictures (from about 500)—one that drew me, one that represented my desire, one that represented my hope for the future, and one that represented my fear of the future. To my chagrin but not by design, I found I’d selected ¾ photos with a theme—mountains and ocean. These weren’t scenes I’d ever seen nor expect to see in the United States. They were in Europe, maybe even my beloved Spain. So many thoughts elbowed their way from the recesses of my mind to the forefront. I’ve been on a beach like that. I’d like to get lost in the streets of that town. This is my dream. Why can’t I live there?

The desire I’d tried so hard to shove down bubbled to the surface. If only I could live abroad and have the faith community I so desperately need. And isn’t that a good desire? The way I’d experienced God in Spain was intoxicating only after the reality of living there without Christian friends was suffocating. Life and culture in Spain was so much healthier than in the states. God seemed so bigger, closer. The kingdom was far more vast.

I was sentimental, broken, confused. Those scenes felt so out of reach. I felt like a pawn in someone’s game. No agency, blindfolded even. But then I didn’t and don’t trust myself. I don’t trust my own memories. Could I revise my own history and convince myself life in Spain was far better than it actually was?

So what can I do with all this? I thought. Again, enter Terri. Pay attention, she said. Is this a desire for something or a fear of the alternative? she asked. So I went out to Umstead State part and considered this question as I explored the terrain, trying to channel my inner mystic. 15 minutes with Jesus in a blend of agenda-filled prayer and silence. Lord is this a desire for something or a fear of the alternative? This time instead of seeking a hard answer, I held out my question with an open hand. What might you do with this time, Father? No answer, but for maybe the first time in my life, I was completely at peace without an answer. Silence and peace are learned.

This is new territory for me. I’m praying it continues. Life’s easier when I stop trying to fix and stop asking God to give me answers quickly. That only exhausts and frustrates me. He doesn’t work like that anyway. In silence with unclenched fists and open hands, I want to seek the Lord and see what he’ll do from there.

J. Nordstrom



Jesus In My Place

As we loaded up the minivan this weekend to head to the beach, I’m not sure any of us could have imagined what the Lord had planned for the COTA Women’s Retreat. Sure, we may get to stare out at the ocean from our hotel room on a dreary February day. Yes, we would hopefully meet some new women from Apostles. We would probably enjoy our speaker, Kathy. And we had heard there might be a pretty fun dance party one night. 

But the Lord had abundantly more for us. We didn't just stare out at the beach, we walked in the sand on a sunny, 75° February day. We did not just meet new women, we heard real stories, we bonded over shared life experiences, we forged new friendships. Kathy did not just speak good words; she dug deep in scripture and in her own heart and shared the powerful, raw story of redemption—in her life and ours. And oh, we would definitely forego a restful night of sleep to dance all night with a whole bunch of women. 

And our God worked. The Spirit moved. Jesus redeemed. There are stories of healing—from deep down in our toes to deep down in our souls. There are stories of experiencing God through new gifts. There are stories of Jesus showing up, even in the midst of pain. 

My story (in a very abbreviated version) is when Jesus took my place at the table. In a very powerful moment of prayer, I was asked to go back to a moment in my life where I felt pain and rejection. I went back to that moment, and struggled to find Jesus there at first. But, after some conversation and questions, I was able to confess some unforgiveness, admit my deep need for Jesus, and then it happened. I went back to that painful memory, and I looked for Jesus. And there I saw him. He was sitting at the table, in my place. The hurtful words and insults still came, but Jesus took them all. As I sat cowering behind the chair I was previously sitting in, I no longer heard the insults because they went through Jesus first. I watched him take my pain and my hurt. I watched him pick up my burdens. Yes, Jesus took my place. The chains began to loosen, I finally tasted the ice cream, and it was delicious. I felt free.

So, thank you, Apostles women, for choosing to love. When a confused, hurting 23-year-old girl admitted that confusion and hurt, you did not run. You prayed. You asked questions. You spoke truth from the Lord into the deepest places in my soul. You pleaded with Jesus on my behalf. You did not even know my name, but yet you called me sister, you called me daughter, you called me friend. Thank you.

-Carryl Tinsley




Ah February. The month with the least amount of days. Even though it was only 2 or 3 days less than the other months, it sure felt like it went a lot quicker than that. People always say, 'time flies when you're having fun'. But I didn't feel like I was having fun. I felt like I had wasted away a whole month, not really getting myself anywhere. I apologize for the tone of this blog - I don't mean to sound so sad, I'm simply telling the truth of how I felt about the past month. Of course, when I look back and carefully analyze each week, I see how I have been making progress in my life's journey and how I have touched the lives of those around me. I think what has really been causing this cloud of unhelpful deceit around my head is my inconsistency with reading God's word. For this entire month, I have been spotty. I have not been consistent with the time or the length of time spent in scripture. I surely always feel less energized and motivated when I have not had my slice of that good pie.

Don't get me wrong. I am not really trying to promote legalism when it comes to reading the bible. I have never been a slave to starting my devotional time every day at the exact same time, or feeling horribly guilty when I don't. However, I do believe in spending that time with God every day, because that time is sacred and I want to be in a relationship with Christ in which I talk to him every day. If I am to love him above all else; if he is to be my closest friend, how can I possibly not be in connection with him every single day? I am not saying that praying and reading the word is to become a chore, or another line item to check off the list. I am saying that it is and should be the single most important thing in our lives that we look forward to each day. And I had an empty-feeling month because I did not choose to make that happen. I think people are often mistaken for being legalistic, when really they are just in love with God and believe that nothing should come above the time they spend with him. Now, we all spend time with God in different ways; in our own ways. But, "as long as we continue to reduce prayer to occasional piety we keep running away from the mystery of God's jealous love"! My closest friends are those whom I share the most with, and those who know me best! I am saying that my February just did not feel right because Jesus was not one of my closest friends this month. It was a one-way street; the traffic was only heading South. 

I had written in my journal the following words: "God, graciously shift my perspective on your word. Give me grace to come and drink."

Drink? What am I drinking? Here I am referring again to his word - that I would follow through on what I know is best for me. I cannot describe it any better than this: "Imagine a man walking through the desert and in desperate need of water. When he finally finds a river, he experiences overwhelming delight. Kneeling down at the river bank, he is not asking himself, "What is the least amount I can drink and still satisfy the thirst I have?" No! He is asking, "How much of this water can I possibly get into me?!" Alas, too often for the past month (and of course many times too in the months preceding February) I have been that man, asking the first and undeniably idiotic question. Thus my prayer for you and me and everyone is this - to be rational and ask that second question when we come across the river of water that is God's word, and to desperately gulp it down as if our lives depend on it.

Well (pun intended), because they do.




Not According to my Plan

Most fellows are starting to feel the pressure with the program wrapping up its 6th month, and we are starting to think about what is next. We are giving a lot of thought space to jobs in particular. I know for myself, January was a month of affirming who God made me to be through our Vocation and Calling Retreat which helped to reframe the way I view work and ministry in monumental ways. It has shifted my perspective in how ministry truly is a part of every aspect of a person’s life. In this process, I have been affirmed in the gifts God has blessed me with for youth ministry. Young Life over the past 4 years has been the avenue that I used these gifts. It has given me the space to pursue what it would look like to do full time ministry as a job.

Over my lifetime, there have been many times where I can point to that fueled my desire to pursue youth ministry. So as I look to what is next, my heart and mind have been telling me a job doing youth ministry. I decided to reapply for Young Life staff here in the Carolina region. Last year I went through the process and was placed in a town that was not a good fit. I am thankful now on the other side because it has led me to the Raleigh Fellows program. I began the process again in late January, interviewed at the beginning of February, and heard back last week that again I was not a good fit. Throughout this entire process, I continued to pray and seek God in all of this knowing that I needed him in this.

Last year when all of this did not work out, I was pretty shaken in my identity, my calling, and my relationship with the Lord. I wasn’t a good fit? What does that mean? Again I got the same answer, but this time around was drastically different in how I handled the situation. The program has taught and pointed me to where my identity, calling, and relationship with the Lord are rooted. This time around when processing the letdown, I found myself not questioning or doubting, but seeking Jesus to guide me in this. I am not saying I was not disappointed or hurt, but I understood where and from whom my foundation is set in. I still firmly believe the Lord has gifted me for youth ministry. The devil has tried to snare me and feed me lies about my identity, my calling, and my relationship with the Lord, but I have sought to flee the other way.

This year has not turned out to be according to my plans, but the Lord has had something so much richer for me. When I joined the fellows program, I said it was a stepping stone to Young Life staff here in the Carolina region. As my plans have been flipped around, I still know and believe the Lord has something for me. He has created and given me my gifts, passions, and desires. He has continually been with me in each step as I step out of the boat of comfort and on to the water for Jesus. My plans cannot and will not hold any weight to what the Lord has envisioned. My gifts and desires point to youth ministry; now I get to knock on doors to see if opportunity is there. I do not know where I will be or what I will be doing, but Jesus is with me and equipped me uniquely as I am slowly figuring this out.

Please join me in praying as each of us are discerning, applying, and trying to figure what is next after the Fellows program.

Richie Rojas



YOU Can't

I sat completely alone in the church pew. All ninety pounds and five-and-a-half-ish feet of my skinny frame hunched over trying to be even smaller than I already was. Eyes closed and head resting on my forearms. Forearms firmly crossed over my knees. I desperately wanted to disappear. 

You wouldn’t think someone would dread celebrating their sins being washed away by the blood of the lamb. But I dreaded communion Sunday like the plague. Growing up I loathed the fourth Sunday of every month because communion wasn’t for me. I hadn’t been baptized into the church and so I was rightly told that I couldn’t partake of communion. Instead, I sat in that church pew all alone feeling as though the eyes of the congregation were certainly boring through my soul. 

I felt like it would rock my little world of Christians friends if they found out that I couldn’t believe the gospel. I couldn’t take and eat of his body broken for me. I couldn’t live my life for Christ. In some ways I never shook that feeling that I couldn’t believe, that a life wholly given to Christ wasn’t for me. 

I never shook that feeling until Sunday January 29th, 2017. On that day I was blessed to be baptized before The Church of The Apostles. The ceremony was performed by my dear friend and mentor Eric Bolash in front of many people I’ve come to know and love. I finally felt that the Lord’s table was for me. That he was pierced for my transgressions too, he was crushed for my iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds I too was healed.

Though I did feel those things, I can’t say that the heavens opened up and I suddenly knew how to live my life in new commitment to Christ. Though that day was a blessing and a turning point, it was just a beginning. I want to wake and live every day for Christ because he died for me. I want to feel Jesus’ love in the depths of my soul. I want him to be the most real thing in my life. But, even after being baptized, I can’t do any of those things. Only he can in me. I hope and pray for the day that he does.

- Stephen Sumrall




I want to talk about Thursday nights. I'm talking about the real TNF. No, not Thursday Night Football (while we're on the NFL talk, shed a tear for Matty Ice), Thursday Night Fellows(hip)! Us Fellows don't really see each other all that much from after class on Mondays until we reconvene at Roundtable on Thursday nights. So, needless to say, thank God for Thursday nights! For me, seeing people I love on a regular basis is very important. At roundtable, we sit around a (very) rectangular table and enjoy dinner prepared by two of the Fellows. [Apparently, according to Ashley (who shall henceforth be referred to as Our Wonderful Director), it is called 'roundtable' because Kings once used actual roundtables for their most important discussions with advisors and leaders, as well as "bougie universities like Cambridge and Oxford"]. Ok. Roundtable just got ten times cooler. As for the food - cooking for ~14 hungry mouths is no small task. Pull me aside next time you see me and ask me about that time when the Fellows in charge of RT dinner (who will for now remain unnamed) forgot about it and had to call in an emergency Domino's delivery. It's a good one. But I digress. My point is, I thoroughly enjoy getting together with the Fellows and Our Wonderful Director and Sam and Jake and Beau and Molly and Chip (*pant*) after three full days (an eternity in Matty Chen's books) of limited F2F time. Thursday nights = good.

The friends and the three-course meal aren't the only things that get me excited about TNF. Around the dinner table, we discuss life and all its joys and obstacles. Our Wonderful Director organizes for knowledgeable people to come to roundtable and lead a dinnertime life lesson, usually beginning just as dessert is being served. A couple weeks ago we learnt about the importance of insurance - life, auto, home, everything. It's pretty amazing how little awareness we have about exactly how the world works. I for one am very appreciative of all the learning opportunities that are made available to me. I feel equipped to 'Start Well' with the knowledge that I have gained and will continue to amass as this year rolls on. I am beginning to realize that this Fellows year is really a launchpad for my adult life - of which the specific direction of launch must constantly be readjusted; for I am still finding my footing among the rocks.

After dinner, we migrate to the living room for more discussion. Fellows (past & present) has being leading the discussion for the past four weeks, with topics that they particularly care about. These aren't soft, easily digestible topics. We have talked about the Millennials, human sexuality, and race relations. I know that at times I can very easily fall into a state of vegetation - not using my brain and not thinking at all, unless prompted. And boy oh boy does RT discussion prompt some serious thinking! While these discussion are by no means an end in themselves, they are effective in getting the ball rolling and masterful in bringing people together. In the end, we are under God and we seek only to honor Him. Whatever we talk about and whatever we perceive, we see through a Gospel filter that preaches love above all. That has been chiefly encouraging for me personally, whilst also challenging. I don't grow if I am not challenged. So I feel good about saying that I have been constantly growing, constantly striving to understand how I can apply the gospel to my everyday life, constantly struggling to please God by loving others the way He loves them. Thus, I find myself thinking more and thanking more. I am thankful for Roundtable. I am thankful for Thursday Night Fellowship. It brings me closer to the mind of God, and that is nothing short of magical.

As Our Wonderful Director always says, "I love us!"




Oh heyy 2017

The beginning of a new year brings a lot of people to look forward to what’s ahead for the year. The fellows were no exception. January started off with an opportunity for us to reflect on the things that we have enjoyed doing, the gifts we’ve been given, and the opportunities that we’ve encountered to give us insight into what could be next for us at our Career and Vocation Retreat. Along with this came thinking about jobs and career paths and things that could be in store for the year and beyond. January has been full of exciting conversations, dreaming about the future, spontaneous drives around Raleigh, and wayyyyy too much time spent on Zillow.

But the beginning of a new year also inevitably leads to reflecting on the previous one. The theme that kept coming up as I reflected on my previous 5 months being in Raleigh was thankfulness. That thankfulness was what spurred me to write a letter to the people at Church of the Apostles who make the Raleigh Fellows Program possible. ...Ok, so it wasn’t really my idea, Ashley asked us to, but I do think it’s the truest picture of why I’m thankful for my past five months as a fellow. So here it is:

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for Fellows. I came into this year being unsure of who I was, unsure of where I was headed, unsure of who the Lord was making me into, and even unsure of what I believed to be true about the Lord. In the Raleigh Fellows Program, I found a space to wrestle through these questions alongside 8 others who were struggling through some of the same things. I am particularly thankful for the community that Fellows has surrounded me with this year. Being a very late addition to the group, I joke that I got the “left-overs” of people who didn’t want to commit to a Fellow this year but Ashley convinced them into it for my sake ;). I can joke about this because of how untrue it really is. I know that the Lord had prepared the way for me to be a fellow in Raleigh because of how perfectly placed I was in each area of fellows. My host family has loved me in a way I didn’t even know existed and have provided me a safe place to rest and be comforted this year. My mentor is an incredibly wise woman who has walked through similar life experiences as I have and we get to wrestle through our current issues together. Ashley and Sam have been incredible friends, encouragers, and leaders and have given me a beautiful picture of what a healthy, God-centered, partnership marriage can be. The other fellows have walked through one of the hardest seasons of life alongside me, whether it’s by offering words of encouragement and love, or quietly bearing my burdens with me and for me. They have been patient and kind and I couldn’t be more thankful for their friendship. Thank you for all that you do to make this program happen. I am forever changed because of it.

So here’s to a new year full of appreciating the past, living in the present, and being excited about the future.




Around the Table

Around the table, life happens. Around the table, stories are shared. Around the table, love grows.

When people ask my favorite part of Fellows, my quick answer is the community surrounding me—the people pointing me towards Jesus. But recently, I have started thinking about what makes that community so special, and I think the answer is in how it was built. Any relationship takes time. And time around the table with this community has been sweet.

There is something about sitting around the table together that unites—maybe because we all need food to survive, maybe because eating is an activity enjoyed by a large majority of people, maybe it is in the example set for us by Jesus. But most people would agree that somehow they find joy in the simple act of eating.

With my host family, it looks like Monday nights spent in the kitchen laughing at Pete’s stories of hilarious fifth grade boy things and reminiscing on middle school as I hear about Ally’s love for Justin Bieber and her friends. I am encouraged as I watch the way Spencer and Derick love each other and their kids. Around this table, I feel inclusion, welcoming, belonging. Around the Daniel's kitchen island, I feel like I am just part of the family.

My sweet mentor and I share life around the tables of various delicious restaurants in Raleigh, usually trying to make the most of a quick break from work. Barbara encourages me to race towards Jesus with my whole life. She loves me with the most thoughtful gifts, often times just because she knows it will make me smile. She sets an example for me in the way she loves her husband, her family, and the random stranger serving us at the restaurant. Around those tables, I feel poured into in a way I never have before.

Thursday nights are reserved for cooking and praying and deep life chatting and eating and questioning at our weekly Roundtable dinners. As we sit around a rectangular table (never quite understood the name), we hear stories. Stories of how the Lord is working. Stories of tough, confusing situations that sometimes make it hard to believe God is in them, but then stories of how we see God in the midst. Stories of grace upon grace. Stories of redemption. Stories of deep joy. Stories of healing.

And then of course there are those spontaneous nights around tables that bless me in ways I could never expect. The late nights of accidental karaoke around the piano bar table. The coffee shop dates that turn into deep life chats around the table at Sola. The nights of tough conversation about what it looks like to really, truly love people around my aunt and uncle's kitchen table.

There, around the table, we see each other. I don't mean simply laying eyes on one another, but truly seeing into the depths of their soul (in the least creepy way possible). We bring the mess of our lives to that table, learning what it looks like to share our burdens. We tell stories and share joys, celebrating even the smallest things (like when I don't completely butcher a Roundtable meal...).

It is around the table where we share ourselves--our real, honest, vulnerable, messy selves. These tables have become sacred space. The tables of unassuming coffee shops and kitchen counters and beautiful dining rooms have become spaces for encounters with each other and with Jesus. Around the table, life happens. And yes, life around the table is messy, but it is so stinking beautiful. Around the table, my cup runneth over.

At first, I was disappointed that this is the only picture I have of us around the table. But then, I realized that this is real. This is honest. This is what life around the table actually looks like. So here ya go... 

At first, I was disappointed that this is the only picture I have of us around the table. But then, I realized that this is real. This is honest. This is what life around the table actually looks like. So here ya go... 

-Carryl Tinsley



Rocky... But not Sylvester Stallone

Hey all!

Hope that you guys are off to a great start of 2017. If you are resolution-ing, you go bro/girl. If you aren’t, more power to you. I’ve been off to a great start of 2017 and have been thinking about resolutions myself.

The concept of a New Year’s resolutions is pretty crazy, isn’t it? You analyze all last year and then you ask yourself, “Self, where could I get better? What goal do I want to set for myself?” for the whole year… It is CRAZY. The craziest part is that, if you’re like me, you think about and decide the resolution in one day. Yep. Insane. So, you’re probably thinking this is another post ripping New Year’s resolutions. But actually, it isn’t.

Lately, God has been teaching me this concept of, “being present”. It is not a new concept by any means but I’m starting to see it manifest into other areas of my life. When I usually talk about being present, I mean fighting my incessant need to be on my phone or scroll through social media. That when I’m hanging out with people or at dinner with someone, I should actually BE hanging out with people or at dinner with them. That all that other stuff can wait! Story time: I was at lunch the other day with some coworkers and I looked up from my food at one point and realized that everyone was on their phones. Everyone! Snap chatting, checking Instagram, texting their significant other, or just constantly checking the time. I realized this multiple times and am not mentioning this to boast about me not doing so, but rather just to show that this is a common and easy way to be present with people that we so often don’t take advantage of.

But, as I mentioned, I’ve started seeing this concept of being present pop up in another aspect of my life: planning and looking to the future. This “on to the next thing” way-of-life that our culture subscribes to is what I’m talking about. You know what I’m talking about. How from the time you start high school you are supposed to know where you want to go to college and what job you want to hold. How when you start college you are supposed to have a five, ten and twenty-year plan. Our society wants us to be thinking about the next and best thing. How we should be planning for retirement from the time we accept our first job. Now, am I saying that planning is bad? Of course not! I think that is one of the biggest reasons we have a brain. So, that we can think critically and plan. I mean, Jesus had a plan from the start of his life on Earth. To find His leadership (his 12 disciples), disciple and develop them, and then send them to the ends of the Earth proclaiming His gospel (Acts 1:8). Moses, Paul, Nehemiah, and many other biblical figures showed planning to be a key part of their lives. Proverbs 14:15 says, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps."

“What is your point then, Zach?” My point is that our culture is never allowing us to be satisfied or content with where we are in life. For me, I’m in the Raleigh Fellows Program and have found myself being consumed by next year. The fear of the unknown. The doubt of my vocation. The inevitable roadblocks that will pop up. But, the thing is, I felt a calling by God to this program. And this program is nine months long, not five months. So, what I’m saying is that I, like many of us, am looking past my current stage of life onto the next one and am not able to enjoy it fully. For those who are in entry level jobs looking to climb the corporate ladder; enjoy that time of learning and growing as an employee. For those who are nearing the age of retirement and longing for it; see that God is using your work for his Kingdom and you in other people’s lives. For those of us who are desiring that one thing that will make our lives easier; know that the Lord has given you more than what you need. I guess what I’m trying to say is enjoy the present. Don’t be consumed by the fear, uncertainty, or longing of the future.

You all really are awesome people. You are valued and uniquely made people. You are valued not because of who we are but because of whose we are; you are God’s beloved sons and daughters. So, treat yourself that way. Focus on being present where you are and not being consumed by the future because, like A$AP Rocky once said, “my presence is a present, just to kick it is blessing.”

PS: I do not condone any other lyrics A$AP Rocky raps.

Zach Kunkel



a month of self-study

The Fellows program, by nature, forces self-reflection, -discovery and –growth, but the month of January bore special significance for the year. We both experienced the mid-year vocational retreat and composed a massive biographical genogram reflection paper—the first event, a glimpse into our future, and the second, an investigation of our past. I’ve learned a great many things about myself this month. I’ve also learned how the Lord has woven his unending grace into the fabric of my life today and back multiple generations in my family.

To write the genogram paper, I interviewed my parents, two brothers, sister, and my maternal grandmother. To gather information on my three deceased grandparents, I interviewed their closest kin. Lots of hours on the phone, but the wealth of history I gathered is invaluable. Though the paper itself is finished, I’d guess the internal processing of this history will continue for weeks and maybe months to come. Some early realizations include the following:

  • My grandparents, both the Protestants and the Catholics, laid the foundations of my faith. For much of my life, I believed those foundations were truly laid by my parents (and other faith mentors in my life), but after researching, I’m convinced that even my opinionated, Italian-American, Catholic grandmother set some of the wood forms for that foundation. I hope to be so fortunate as to leave that kind of legacy for my descendants.
  • Some of my humor developed as a coping mechanism for conflict in my home growing up. I tend to make jokes to ease tense situations, a skill I picked up in the assertive, aggressive environment that was my home. It’s served me well in the past, and it’s a fun talent to wield when necessary. 
  • My grandparents’ aversion to discussing conflict in their families of origin stems from family loyalty but also the decision of that generation to be optimistic and the necessity to be strong. Post WWII life in the US was no place for selfishness or weakness, and there was strength in family; so they learned to value family tremendously.
  • The perspectives of my siblings nuance the stories of my childhood. They see some of the big issues with different eyes than I have for all my life. I look forward to learning their perspectives on past as well as future issues in the world and our family alike. 

This list, I’m certain, will grow if I continue to reflect on my family history, and these realizations are useful as I think about myself, my current modus operandi and my actions towards the future.

As for the future, the mid-year vocational retreat provided space to dream. Dreaming about who I want to be, what values I want to govern my life, and what career fits my gifting, desire and opportunities. I received the results from assessments of my natural gifts, motivations and emotional strengths, very little of which was a surprise. The true value was in the rhetoric. The retreat gave me the language to communicate what I already knew about myself. It improved my ability to communicate myself to others, which I believe will further relationships in both my work and personal life. I could go on, but suffice it to say, this retreat and the genogram have provoked enough thought to keep me busy for a while.

J. Nordstrom



Fully Renewed

As cliché as New Year new me may be, it suitably fits how I felt this new month of a new year. 2017 has been a radical change of perspective, thought, and so much more.

Over the past 6 months, things have radically changed like location, job, community, programs, school, and much more. It has been a season of transition and change. I found myself last semester telling people when they would ask how the program was going saying things like “It has been a whole of new and different experience which has taken a lot of transition.” The more I reflect on this past 6 months then the more I realize I really enjoy comfort and security. The Lord has definitely pushed me out of the boat on that front. I have had an opportunity to trust in the Lord in new ways than expected during a time of lot of internal struggle.

After my Christmas break, I went straight to the Raleigh Fellow’s career and vocation retreat, which has been such a highlight of the program and great way to start off the year. During this week, we took time and thought space to look at how God has uniquely made each one of us in regards to how we think, feel, learn, process, why and how we do things. I walked away from the retreat having practical knowledge about myself. I was able to put words to the thoughts I have had many times before. This retreat even inspired a great talk that help push a friendship to a new level.

Then fast forward to January 22, it was my birthday! I am usually not a huge birthday person until I realized that I holding back people that wanted to celebrate me. My host family took me out to a Japanese dinner with a show. Then they threw me a kid themed birthday party, which included a piñata, toys, and a big cake. As people sang me happy birthday, I looked around and for the first time I thought that Raleigh could be a place long term. There is such a big community around the Fellows that want us to succeed and thrive. I looked around a several of these people that came to my party and realized I was so blessed.

Throughout this month, I have had so many times where I felt incredibly loved and cared for. From my birthday, great conversations, and what I have been learning, I have felt peace and great amounts of joy.


I do not know what it has been exactly, but when I came back this year something was different. I have felt different, acted different, and just viewed a lot of things differently this semester. Jesus has surely answered prayers. This month for the first time in the program really, I feel like Richie again.

-Richie Rojas