If I'm Honest

Almost two months into the Fellows program, and I do not feel like myself. Pre-Fellows program Calley did not communicate well at all. If she sensed conflict, she ran from it. She’d rather lie than face the often awkwardness of honesty. That is me. That is who I am and that is what I do.

Or it was. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a switch has been flipped somewhere. I find myself speaking my mind, verbally articulating my feelings. If I sense even the slightest hint of conflict with another Fellow, I try to talk it out as soon as possible. Granted, when having to have such confrontations, I feel sick to my stomach and my pulse is racing. I speak my mind and instantly fear the reaction my statements will cause. Will I lose a friend? Am I pushing too hard? Will they resent me or judge me? But I know it is necessary. This group is to be my family for the next seven months, and a well-differentiated family (as we learned in our Family Systems class) has open communication, even if it leads to conflict. Two months in, and I already love my new family so much, and with every roundtable, every class, every Monday lunch, I love them more. It would be unfair, then, for me to still be old Calley, someone who lets fear and anxiety keep her from being honest about how she feels. So, in the spirit of honesty, there are days I wake up and have to talk myself into going to work, even though I love my job. There are days I sit in class and spend the whole three hours daydreaming. There are days I feel distant from the other Fellows, and days some of the other Fellows feel distant from me. How’s that for honesty?

Almost two months into the Fellows program, and I do not feel like myself. I feel better.

~ Calley




"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." -Romans 15:7

One of the biggest struggles I have seen and heard of for those transitioning from life in college to the "real world" is finding community. Belonging is something we all strive for and desire, and it usually it isn't easy. Work, travel, new living arrangements, different cities, stress, families, and so much more can quickly become an impedance to our ability to feeling like we belong. I was blessed with my community while at UNC, but now I'm gone too.

I am thankful to say that this has not been the case for me right after leaving my community at UNC. Moving to Raleigh and embarking on the Fellows Program has been the most welcoming experience. Church staff and members, host families, mentors, employers, community members, teachers, and other fellows have all welcomed me with open arms. They have opened up their homes, refrigerators, schedules, wallets, wisdom, and themselves. Belonging was the first of many gifts within the first month of being in Raleigh.

However, I want to unpack it a little further. The Romans verse above has stuck with me over the past 3 years. For most of that time I really looked at it in a sense of a "welcoming" atmosphere to those around me, those in my house, and those I encountered in daily interactions. But lately, I've been sitting on more and more aspects of how "Christ has welcomed" all of us. Christ welcomes us into every part of his life; his living and his dying, his creating and his redeeming, his sitting and his walking, his speaking and his listening, his power and his humility, his freedom and his obedience, and also his love. I am all the more thankful that these relationships that have already been built during my first month as a Fellow have given me a taste of this kind of welcoming. My hope and my confidence is that I will imitate this manner more and more each day.

And so I say "welcome" to these next 8 months specifically. Welcome to the fun, the laughs, the nicknames, movie and game nights, Round Table, Church of the Apostles, Neighbor to Neighbor, all the classes (and reading and papers), the Curlin's/Batchelder's, Knott & Boyle PLLC, Brad McGinity, Sam & Ashley Crutchfield, Sunday nights at The Deal, the Raleigh Fellows Committee and community, hard conversations, tiredness, Raleigh traffic, long days after F3, and everything else in store for me. 

"Welcome, to the real world."

-Taylor Irvin



A taste of Raleigh

Hey there, pals!

Food blogs are all the rage, so… I am going to give you a little taste of what my experience arriving in Raleigh has been: I have been seasoned and delighted with ‘hellos’ and more introductions than I can count. These have been like appetizers, giving me an anticipation of what’s to come and reminding me daily that I am where I am supposed to be. The Lord has placed me here and He has created a community to take me in. I am savoring His assurance (cool beans!).

Raleigh and the Fellows Program offer so much that it’s hard to decide what concise aspect I want to write about here without taking all your time… but what I feel that I have relished most in this first month, and therefore will share with you, is the consistent welcoming attitude I have encountered from the moment I set foot in Raleigh. I have savored small moments and gestures that greeted me as the warmest welcomes. My new, post-undergraduate beginning has sparked in me a desire to intentionally welcome others into my places and spaces in a similar fashion. I have absolutely loved getting to know my awesome fellow-mates who are here with me, but our time getting to know each other would not be possible without the community surrounding us with outstretched arms. This deep-rooted welcome has been the sweetest hug of comfort for me and I am so thankful for its continuous presence. As a fellow, everything feels new and nothing seems ‘known’ yet, but these people have allowed me to know that I am welcome.

“When the crowds learned it, they followed Him, and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” Luke 9:11. A big thank you to Church of the Apostles and the greater Raleigh community for welcoming me, speaking of the Kingdom to me, and for beginning to send healing my way that I did not know I was in need of. You are showing me Jesus!

Here are 10 of the many extremely comforting “welcome/join-us” moments I have had in this first & fast month of September as a Raleigh Fellow:

1)    The Young’s sweet signs for me, hung in my room upon arrival

2)    Coffee with my mentor, Janet, before the program even officially started

3)    The first hug/big smile I got from Ashley on our first morning together and the many thereafter

4)    The welcome lunch prepared by Lou for the fellows at the church our first afternoon

5)    The “official” premade nametag waiting for me at my first day of work

6)    Old fellow classes including us in their social plans

7)    Members of the church community knowing my name and remembering it

8)    The Mangum’s having us over for lunch every week

9)    My Monday Mentee with Neighbor to Neighbor telling me that she couldn’t wait for our next meeting

10) So many host families allowing us to take over their spaces, sometimes late in the evening to watch various sports games and TV shows like This Is Us

I was excited to start the Fellows Program and now after the first month, I’m even more excited anticipating what the next 8 will bring to our table! 

-Rachel Ray



Writing a Story

Writing a Story

Why are we so captivated by a good story? Why do we spend countless watching movies and reading novels? Why did I feel the the need to read the 7th Harry Potter in one sitting? These are all questions I have been asking myself recently. Over the summer, I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Miller discusses the concept and the power behind story by highlighting his experience attempting to turn his successful memoir into a movie. He explains what elements compose a great story and how we are all individually created for a story. I was fascinated by his life and related to many of the feelings and questions Miller had about the kind of story he was writing. We are all desperate to write a story that has meaning, love, impact, adventure and excitement. We want our story to affect other people and leave a lasting legacy. Yet, how does one write a meaningful story? Oftentimes it feels like we’re writing a rather dull story as we trudge through our daily routines- I wouldn’t say I’m changing the world at my internship. Jesus said he came so that we could have life to the full, but it’s just tough to feel that way sometimes.

This idea of story has already been raised in a couple of our classes while discussing the old testament, family systems, and work within and our culture. I’m excited to learn how my own personal story has shaped me and to better understand the biblical narrative. I really don’t have the answers, but I am hoping to explore these questions over the course of this program. This is definitely a step into the unknown and an uncomfortable place for me having lived in Charlottesville my whole life. I believe that The Lord works when we step outside of our comfort zones and I hope I will be open to what he has for me. I’m also excited to spend the next 8 living life and learning from the other fellows.

Ultimately, this is why I’m doing this program(and pretty much everything we do in life). I want to live out a story that means something. I’m attempting not to live out my own story, but rather to put myself in the best position to live out the story that God has created for my life. That story is much more fulfilling and meaningful than anything I could imagine for myself. I feel confident that this step into an uncomfortable and new situation has me headed in the right direction.




The Freshest Start

Dalton Taylor

Hey friends and family!

As many of you know I committed to the fellows program very late and was blessed enough to snag that last spot just three weeks before the program started. We are now three weeks in and I cannot express the comfort I have experienced from the lord in this last minute transition. I was anxious, nervous and uncertain about why all the jobs I had applied and interviewed for just seemed to fall through in such weird and mysterious ways. Frustration was beginning to boil over. A week before I sent in all my application information, I received an email from a family friend saying the program had an opening last minute because a guy had dropped. In this moment I had two options. The first was to continue to follow these “leads” for jobs that would most likely fall through and be frustrated in what my purpose in life was. The second was to follow the advice of a former fellow we hosted when I was young and “stop being an idiot and do the program”. The straightforwardness was something that I needed (the enneagram 9 in me). So I had a good conversation with our director Ashley and I committed.

Romans 12: 2 says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will"

A majority of my life I have viewed the start of new things as fresh starts to change/adjust to being the man the lord created me to be. However I never really followed through once I got to the feeling of comfort in whatever the new experience was. This verse in romans was read a couple times during our orientation retreat and has just continued to stick with me in these first three weeks. Of course I always knew the verse but never in the context that it had been explained to me in our first weekend as “new best friends”. I also took this verse extremely literal in that I wanted to renew my mind through the healing and strength of the lord.

This fresh start has been unlike any other in my life. I am so grateful for the 10 other fellows the lord placed in this program. I am thankful for the way the lord has provided me outlets for healing, growth and comfort. He truly works in the MOST mysterious ways. As I continue to grow throughout this next nine months I ask that you pray for our class, jobs, relationships and experiences. Thank you to anyone reading this that has provided financial support and guidance in such an exciting/nerve-racking season of my life. Something I can say I am learning is that the lords plan for our lives is so much more important than our own. I am thankful now that he provided me this program and this fresh start.

Until next time!




Living in Answered Prayer

I think there is something to be said about friendship. In just knowing that one friend can completely change everything. To feel seen, known, and loved does something to us. A prayer for awhile now has been just that;  deep, intimate, hard, and real friendship with believers. It was also a big reason why I wanted to do a Fellow’s program in the first place. Community.

From the initial phone call with Kara Smith to talking to Ashley on the phone (a lot), I got the simplest taste of what Christian community COULD look like, however I had far too many reservations. Was it legit? I know it could be deep and cherished, but could it actually be…. fun?

In a little shy of my one month here I now laugh at that. Laugh at my prayers of asking the Lord to establish at least ONE friendship quickly and laugh at myself that I prayed so hard for the Lord to help me feel comfortable around groups of Christian’s, because I never had really been around any before. I also prayed for my guard not to go up but instead to trust in them. I laugh not because my prayer’s are wrong or that I shouldn’t share even what seems to be the tiniest of my desire’s to the Lord, but because the Lord continues to show me He is who He is. He is trustworthy. He is Provider. It is simply in His nature, it is also His joy in doing so. He is a God who knows the importance of friendship and community. He knew my reservations and so quickly showed me that He provides so much more than I could have ever hoped for. The past month has been filled with deep and quick friendships (praise God), comfort, so many giggles, and meaning. Thank God that He has abundantly more for us than we can ever hope and dream of.

I am thankful for the Spirit led and Christ driven people I have met in the past month. You guys have been reassuring, loving, dependable, bold, fun, and the absolute biggest answer to a long prayer of mine.

Emilee Grissom




by Faith Dunn

The last month has been stacked with transition, new everything, stress, and all other stretching things, so I am surprised to look back and not think, “I don’t know how I got through that but I am glad it’s over,” as I typically do in such stretching seasons.  

Throughout the past month I have felt so covered in prayer and reminded of truth. People telling me to take it one day at a time, people looking into my eyes (and I think into my soul) and asking me how I am doing. People encouraging to press into my identity as Christ’s creation. My host family having a conversation with me when I walk in the door.

This is not how I usually live in a busy season. Usually I rush from one thing to the next, pick up Chick-fil-A along the way, note all the travel coffee mugs that need to be washed at some point, and feel guilty that I didn’t make time to truly connect with my loved ones, hoping that a season will come soon when it comes more naturally.

I have laughed more than I can ever remember, and been refreshed watching busy, important people prioritize solitude with the Lord, a meal with family and/or friends, exercise that strengthens the body and refreshes the mind, hours of prayer, game nights that let you lose track of time, a night of worship, a simple night at home. These are the things that I used to consider luxuries that I have now observed to be immeasurably life giving.

As friends are starting to think about what they will do after graduation, they have started to ask me about Raleigh Fellows. I can’t exactly articulate what I love. Sure, the classes are great, I love my job, and volunteering at Neighbor 2 Neighbor is incredible. But there is something deeply soul nourishing about this program, this church, and the people I am surrounded by, and each day is like a little massage on my chronically hurried soul.



Month 1 in the Books

By Chris Fronczak

Dear friends, family, and whomever else may be reading this: thank you for taking time to learn about what is going on in Raleigh Fellows. We appreciate all the support from every single one of you guys as well as the numerous prayer that have been offered for us already. I would be lying if I said I couldn't see the affect of them on the start of our program year.  I would love to fill you in on a few things that have happened over this past month. Believe me when I say that I would love to fill each and every on of you in about every little thing that has happened, however there is no possible way to include all of that in this post so I will give a "highlight reel" version of that. 

It has now been just about a month since I moved to Raleigh North Carolina.  I packed my car and drove down to 5524 Kimbrook Dr. (my host families address) on Tuesday, September 5th and that date could not have come soon enough.  The last 3 or 4 weeks of summer were pretty tough being at home because most of my friends had either gone back to school by then, or had real jobs, or had started other after school plans of theirs. That period of time (and just this summer in general) was when it really hit me how important fellowship is, to have believers around you where you could bond on the common unity of Jesus Christ with each other.  Also during this time I got really good at explaining what a "fellows program" is.  If you are still not sure what exactly it is, then you are on the perfect website to find that out :)

Have any of you guys ever straight up drove to a totally new place, knocked on the door of a totally new house, and walked in with all your stuff to live with a totally new family that you may have talked to once or twice?  If so then you understand that it is not natural in the least.  It is not common to just walk into someone else's home and make it your own.  These were the feelings that I experienced that day. However when I knocked on the front door I was greeted by a huge hug from Pauline Byron and immediately was sat down and asked my life story before my car was even unpacked.  I knew this was going to be good for me from that moment.  To top it off, the first thing that Chris Byron said to me when he got home from work was: "have you gotten yourself a beer yet?"  THAT is when I knew that this family was awesome and that I would be just fine feeling like I am at home.  Fast forward a whole 3 and a half weeks to now and I feel comfortable enough to leave my clothes lying on my floor and to really be able to be myself.  I think on top of being hospitable, my host family has also cared for me as they would for their own children, as well as been a source of wisdom and guidance to me as I am trying to juggle meeting new people, maintaining old relationships, working, and being involved in classes and other program activities.  It has been a huge blessing thus far and I am super thankful for every single bit of it. 

On top of moving into someone else's house, the next day in the program, we met at our director Ashley's house with all the other fellows and were told that we were to become best friends.  So in two days now I am supposed to call a new place my home, and totally new people my best friends.  I wasn't as much overwhelmed as I was a little uncomfortable.  If you know me, I am not good at doing introductions and talking about myself in that way, not to mention I didn't want my first impression with my new best friends to be a bad one.  Well thankfully, after a whole day spent together meeting church staff, and other people involved in the fellows program I learned everyones names (the fellows that is, I still meet people at church who's name I should know) and felt like we were getting somewhere.  That night we all became more comfortable with each other as they stuck all the guys in a car together to drive 3 hours to the beach for our first retreat.  On the ride we found out a lot more about one another, along with many surprises such as Hayes' taste in music, and Dalton's part time hobby that he is involved in.  This was the story of the beach retreat: we had meetings where we went over rules and expectations of the program, but the best part was getting to play games and hangout with one another laughing and having a great time making inside jokes with each other (which some still live on).  So within the first few days I had been put in some different yet seemingly uncomfortable situations, however God had worked through each one showing me that the strongest way to hold relationships together is through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Now each of us actually are close friends and have been pushing one another in growing towards the Lord together while also taking time to giggle throughout it. 

Ok many of you are probably getting tired of reading this so far and I will begin to wrap it up, but I would like to highlight a few other things that I have learned or gone through thus far in a month: 

  • My job: it is not what I had expected it to be.  For those of you who know, I studied Biology in college with hopes to eventually go onto graduate school in the medical field.  I have been feeling unsure about this path over the past year or so, and I figured that if I could work in a position for 9 months during this program I will be able to discern whether that would be the right track for me or not. Seems like I have drawn up a good plan for my next step right?  Wrong.  I was reminded in a rather hard way that when I make plans, they might not always be what the Lord wants for me, at least right now.  So I am working construction at a company called Hill Building Solutions (when I say that fast people think I am saying "hillbilly solutions" which would be an awesome company btw).  I am working with a man named Martin Hill who used to be a member at Church of the Apostles and has been in the real estate and construction business for many years now. Pray for this time with him that I will be able to learn what God wants to teach me. So far I have enjoyed it much more than I thought might be the case. 
  • My relationship: I am in a relationship that is long distance as my girlfriend Mayumi is doing the Salt Lake City fellows program.  Going different ways and doing different programs seemed to be a terrifying, awful idea in some respects since we had each always lived 5 minutes down the road from each other in high school and college. However God has shown us each that He needs to individually shape us in our respective programs, while at the same time bringing us closer together in ways that only He can do.  People ask me how it has been doing long distance and I usually respond "that has been the easiest and best part of this so far!" Praise Jesus for technology and being able to see someone else's face on the other side of the country.  He has really forced us to have to communicate in a healthy way with each other, to fight to protect our relationship, and reassure one another that we are committed to each other constantly.  It has been a joy for each of us to walk through essentially the same path in different areas and to be able to share that with one another.  Don't read this whole letter and think that things have not been hard in any ways, but even if they are hard, they are GOOD
  • My personal growth: I have already alluded to many things that have forced me to be shaped but let me just reiterate that everything that has happened and will happen here is to achieve the goal of shaping me into the man of Christ that God wants me to be.  If any of you have experienced God shaping you in that way, you know that many times it hurts, many times it is NOT easy, and many times it is not what we think is best for ourselves.  I have experienced all of these in 3 and a half weeks.  Pretty crazy.  I also know that this is just the beginning of this stretching and shaping of me.  I can see areas of my life that still need to be worked on and I have been praying that I would be willing to let them go to God as he wants to take them. One quick example is that for those of you who know what the Enneagram is *eye roll* it has been an obsession amongst some of the fellows and maybe even the director....As stated earlier I am not an introspective, psychoanalytic person so this kind of stuff makes me cringe and frankly I think it often becomes too much about us and less about God.  However it is a part of the program and I will have to commit to learning about it and using it as a tool to find more about myself out and how God made me. 

Sorry for the length of this post! I know so much has happened in just a few weeks worth of time, and there is so much more that hasn't been mentioned. If anyone wants to hear more I would love to spend time telling you and catching up.  Thank you for the prayers and PLEASE keep them coming.  I would not be able to be shaped into the man that God wants me to be without exterior support. 

In Christ,

Chris Fronczak 



I'm Doing Good

In conversations with my good friends, family, and mentor the question keeps coming up. “So how are you doing?” Three weeks in, all I can really muster up in response is a “good.” I elaborate on the program, the people, and my job, which really are all good. They’re great even. But of course I need to speak more of my mind for the people who care about me to feel like they know what’s going on inside. And here’s what I usually say.

New people, new city, new home, new life

There’s no denying that all of us Fellows have made a big shift in the past few weeks. We are surrounded by new. The only people we hang out with are people we just met. The city we live in is still a mystery; where to go on a Saturday night and where the nearest Chick-fil-A is are still questions that desperately need answers. The feeling of home, of comfort and relaxation, in our host houses hasn’t quite hit.  We’ve been given a new world, but we haven’t sunk in yet. Yet.

New normal

I was told throughout my senior year that the first year out of college is the hardest. Not sure how true that is, but I think it has some valid arguments. College life has been our normal for four years now. Before that, normal was grade school for 12 years. And now we sit in this place called post grad life, which really means real life. For the rest of our lives.  Our normal until. I can’t say that I hate it, but I can’t say that I’m thriving in it. Thankfully Raleigh Fellows is kind of a baby step into it. (So check back this time next year when we are actually in real life.)

I tell my people that if I had one of these without the other, it’d probably be easier. Figuring out post grad life alongside familiarity wouldn’t be as challenging. Going back to the school routine, even with a whole new atmosphere, would probably be comfortable enough. But we face both.

My “good” response is not a lie though. As much as I sound like a Debbie Downer, my eyes are fixed on something higher than my life circumstances. My eternal God is still the same. The center of my soul is constant and unchanging. That’s my comfort.

“But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” – Psalm 102:27

So I’m good. I’m adjusting, but I’m expectant. And I think three weeks in, that’s a great place to be. 

- Elaina

PS: This isn’t my first blogging rodeo. I love my internship at Angel Oak Creative, and they let me post a blog my second week there. Shameless plug.



God is in the process

I've tried explaining to so many people over the last 7 months what I'm doing this year. Sometimes, I'd tell them that what I was doing was called Fellows, and I would explain to them the different elements of what I was doing. Sometimes, all I would tell them was that I was moving to North Carolina, or that I was going to spend some time working at a nonprofit and getting involved in youth ministry at a church. Not untrue, I guess. But what I failed to mention to people, no matter what I told them, was that at the heart of this program is community - both among the Fellows and within the greater church community at Apostles. From day 1, it was so evident that people were excited we were here. From day one, at the welcome dinner, it was obvious that the people who composed the "fellows village" were overjoyed to have us here, and already loved us. 

I've been here 22 days, and some days it feels like much longer (ex. I know my way to church, Ashley's and work without my GPS!) and other days the fact that I don't yet feel like I have a rhythm make it feel like much shorter. I'm learning to have grace with myself- rhythms are hard to cultivate, especially in a new place, with a new job, a new home, and a new community. It is a process of actively inviting the Lord into each day, and actively seeking Him in all things big and small. I also find myself becoming impatient with the time it takes to know others and be known by others. If only we could snap our fingers and be the closest of friends, knowing and loving each other well. But indeed, it is a process; and the Lord is reminding me that I need to trust Him in that process, and though I have a hard time being patient with it- I am confident He is at work. 

In fact- He is so definitely at work that I can pinpoint ways in which I have seen Him and been loved by His people already- in the way that Dana, my host mom, buys special gluten-free treats for me, just because; in the way that my Fellow "mates" already know my love for coffee (I feel so known in this way!); in the way that we have already been able to listen to and share testimonies with each other as Fellows; in the way that we've committed ourselves to communal prayer as Fellows; in the way that Ashley followed the Spirit's leading to pray over me during a conversation we were having; in the way that 6th grade girls have accepted & loved me simply because I'm their small group leader, and the fact they are beginning to acknowledge their own need for God; in the way that Pauline vulnerably shared her heart with me and asked me deep, genuine questions during our impromptu conversation; in someone giving us free tickets (& really good ones at that!) to the NC State football game; in Carryl being not only my "buddy" but also a familiar face at work every day, and asking me how she can pray for me; in Calley's mom making us lunch every Monday; in the way my N2N mentee already accepted me and offered me a hug at the end of our hour together (even though she was a genius and hardly needed me help doing her math); in the encouragement Rachel offered me before I gave my testimony; in Faith buying my chips & guac at Chipotle; in the hugs, prayers, and encouragement we've already shared among our Fellows group; and in the gracious hospitality, generosity, and love shown me by so many already. I could go on & on, but isn't it awesome how the Lord is already working!? (Oh, and I can't forget to mention- the way the Lord paired me with a host family that has the sweetest little dog :).

This year is about so many things, but I think one of the things that Ashley articulated so well at the beginning was that this year is not about performing, it's about being. College was so much about performing & achieving, and though on many occasions, I sought to remind myself that my call was not to succeed, it was to abide and to be faithful, I seldom took this reminder from head knowledge to heart knowledge. But, when I did the Lord was so incredibly faithful to show up. I so look forward to learning to simply "be" in the Lord and to be faithful to Him and others; I expect He will show up in big ways.  So here's to (approximately) 9 more months of growing and seeing what the Lord does.

The Lord is faithful, the Lord is good, the Lord is sovereign, and the Lord loves us- this is true, forevermore. 




A Big Waste of Time

Three weeks into the Fellows program I am often reminded of a question that most have faced at least once in their life: "What's next?" On the surface, when I evaluate my current situation in Raleigh, I think to myself, "Great, Hayes, you have simply prolonged the inevitable" Eventually I am going to have to put a foot in the career path, pay for my own rent, and "grow up." Why delay what is assuredly to come? When I told a friend last year that he too should consider a Fellows Program he said, "Is that really going to be the best use of my time?" At first I was hurt when I heard this, but then quickly realized the answer to his question; no it will not be the best used of your time, not from a worldly standard. From the world's perspective what we are doing is a bit ridiculous: discerning this thing called "vocation", spending time in "Christ centered community" and pursuing youth for the sake of the Gospel will assuredly not accelerate one's career, or lead to quick riches. In an age that is about efficiency and success the Fellows Program without a doubt could be seen as a tremendous waste of time. Yet, for those who call themselves disciples, we are in a relationship with an ageless God, the creator and giver of time, who wants our hearts far more than our productivity; his call is to abide. As a Christian I am beginning to see the beauty, freedom, and gift that is the "inefficiency" of this year long program. Life in Christ is not about the most success in the least amount of time, but rather it is about investing in and pursuing  a lifelong relationship with the Lord Jesus. I am so grateful that through the Raleigh Fellows I am encouraged to pursue this as the foundation for whatever the future hold, this time is truly a gift. I have found that this program seeks to cause recent grads to establish their work, relationships and very selves on God's love for us that was demonstrated on the cross.  Perhaps this moment in Raleigh is not a waste of time after all, but the very best use of the days that God has given us. On day 20 of the program I am so thankful to have the opportunity to waste time getting to know the Lord on a deeper level in a wonderful community.




A Newly Working Fellow

As one who studied English and Creative Writing, I tend to structure my writing in an anecdotal way, leaving it to the readers to figure out what I'm actually trying to say. Given that this is my first blog post as a Fellow, my introduction to the world of whomever out there wants to read this, I thought a anecdotal blog post was only fitting...

Pre-Fellows Program

“Guess what, girl?" my boss says. "You’re in Ms. Smith's class today!”

“Shadowing?” I try not to sound too hopeful.


It is my second week at Ravenscroft. I have zero classroom teaching experience. Ms. Smith teaches Kindergarten. For a moment, I consider faking an illness.

Thirty minutes later, I greet a class of fourteen six-year-olds as I try to decipher the half-page lesson plan that is supposed to guide me through a seven hour day.

“Who are you?” one girl demands. “Where’s Ms. Smith?”

“She’s going to be late today. I’m Miss Mangum.”

“Miss Mango?!”

I grin and tell her she’s welcome to call me Miss Mango if she wants. The other students laugh in that high-pitched, innocently joyful way only little kids can, and a couple of the boys pretend to eat my arm, because I’m a mango.

But at snack time, when my boss's son pretends to pour his juice over another student’s head, I tell him to stop or I will take it away.

“You can’t do that. If you do, I’ll tell my mom and she’ll fire you.”

For a second, he has shocked me into silence. No one, not even an six-year-old, has ever threatened to have me fired. But after a moment, I lean down to his eye level. “She wouldn’t fire me. I’m not afraid of you.”

“She’ll fire you!”

“Wanna bet?”

That silences him, but later, when Ms. Smith returns and I leave the classroom--all but sprinting out--I am still haunted by his threat, and by my less-than-professional response. I pray I never have to sub in that classroom again.

First Week of Fellows Program

Boy 1 is stabbing Boy 2 with a freshly sharpened pencil. Don’t yell at the children. Girl 1 is sprawled out on the floor like a starfish and refuses to get up. Do not yell at the children. Girl 2 and Girl 3 are yelling at each other because Girl 2 cut in line. Do not yell at the children. Boy 3 has just dumped an entire bucket of crayons on the floor. Do not yell at the children!! The rest of the class stands semi-quietly in line by the door, ready to go to lunch. The 1st grade teacher’s assistant appears in the doorway, and we lock eyes. Help! She immediately blows the whistle around her neck. The stabbing and yelling stops and the crayons are now forgotten, but Girl 1 remains on the floor.

I get down low so she can see my face, but she looks away. So, I channel my mother and say her name slowly, softly, and dangerously. She looks at me.

“I need you to get up. Now.”

“I don’t wanna!”

“Do you want me to move your name down and make you do a reflection with Miss Taylor?”

She groans and rolls over, pretending to get up, but a few seconds later, she is still on the floor. I walk to the discipline board and move her name down from “In Danger” to “Teacher’s Choice,” which means she will have to sit with her teacher and do a reflection sheet, and possibly call home to her parents. When I turn around, she is in line and looking at me expectantly, like I will move her name back up now that she has finally listened. I don’t. I just move to the front of the line and lead them out the door.

Third Week of Fellows Program

“One time, when I was y’all’s age in this very classroom…”

“Did you go here?” one of the boys asks.

I nod while one of the other students shushes him. Another boy starts to roll around on the floor, kicking his classmates. I say his name once, firmly, and he sits back up. They all look up at me from the rug, completely silent now. Listening.

“I was sitting at the computers, just like y’all did earlier. And I opened something that was just for teachers to open, and I clicked a button I shouldn’t have. And guess what happened?”

“What?!” most of the shout.

“They had computers when you were in school?” the same boy asks.

I nod again, trying not to laugh, and say, “I crashed every single computer...not just in second grade...not just in the Lower School...but every single computer at Ravenscroft!

They all gasp.



“Did you get in trouble?”

“So much trouble!” I shake my head as I remember. “I had to go see the principal and she called my parents!”

“Tell us another story!”

“Yeah, another funny one!”

The bell rings to announce that school is dismissed, and the kids all whine.

As they file out, one girl asks, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“No, Mrs. Stevens will be back tomorrow. I’ll be at the front office, though, so if you need ice or a Band-Aid you can come see me.”

She turns to her friends. “I wanna get hurt extra bad tomorrow!”

I laugh and linger in the doorway after they’ve all left.





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.