Story

Aaron Doell

I took a small leap of faith and I went, and it was the best faith experience I have ever had in my life. 

 

Why did you attend the program?

The first year that I attended The Summit was in 2018. It had been recommended to me by my childhood youth director. Initially, I was very unaware about what the week would have in store for me, but over time the idea of attending grew on me. All I knew was that the disciples would be looking into what God is calling them to do in an occupational manor. 

We would end up doing this by taking the Birkman Personality Assessment and looking at where our great joys met the world's great needs in order to discover our vocation. The short version that was described to me was that we would look into how we as Christians can incorporate God in our occupations and careers. So, I took a small leap of faith and I went, and it was the best faith experience I have ever had in my life. 

The Holy Spirit was certainly encouraging me to go. Looking at it now, I think I wanted to go mostly because deep down I was searching for the next step, some movement, anything to reignite my interest in God. Up until the Summit, while I was a devout Christian, I had never actively pursued a quality relationship with God. The week would flip that around.

 

How was your experience working with the program?

At the Summit I was greeted by like minded people and some familiar faces. I knew a few of the other disciples and leaders, but for the most part the community was new. The group was quite inviting, which allowed me to open up and be myself, even embarrassingly so at times. Everyone lived in the dorms at the college in groups of two. We ate in the cafeteria and made use of most of the campus throughout the week. 

In regards to the faith portion of the week, the experience was very engaging and immersive. The questions and conversations were deep and challenging. Our minds were pushed to the limits and it felt great.

 

What was the best thing about working with the program?

I didn't realize it until I went to the Summit, but for most of my life I had been forgetting about God. I had never kept him in mind outside of church and I had never taken the time to realize what an amazing resource he is. The Summit taught me to communicate with him in a broader range of emotions, to not be so affixed to a single idea during prayer and to spend more time than ever before listening for his voice. 

As a result, I express more gratitude than ever before. I thank God for the good, the seemingly coincidental occurrences and for the troubling things in life for what they will make of me. When I make a request of God it is no longer for desired outcomes or for results. Instead I ask for opportunities. Opportunities to seize a desired outcome for myself and to find good in the most undesirable scenarios.

 

What do you think this program helps students learn about themselves, the world or ministry?

My first year in the Summit, as advertised, had a large focus on yourself and learning more about yourself and your connection with God. We discovered our vocation and how to incorporate our faith life within it. From the assigned personality assessment that I took, I learned about how I think, work and how others perceive how I operate. 

The results described how I function under stress or when I am most comfortable, what kind of environment I am most productive in, the things that best incentivise me, the way I take on leadership roles, my thought process, the way I express my opinions and thoughts, the ways that I devote my time and energy and my social energy or how I communicate. 

The results also explained how my personality would be best used in the workplace. For instance, I was advised against teaching or doing library related work, but my strongest area was in "Construction and Extraction," followed by "Business and Finance." These areas included jobs such as construction, carpentry, electrical work, auditing, giving financial advice and accounting. These recommendations included some surprising things as well, for example "Protective Services" such as law enforcement and firefighting. Considering that the test said that I am straightforward, a natural authority figure and can easily devote full attention to a given task, it made sense. 

This was a repeating theme in the test results. All of my peers and I would repeatedly say things like, "This is so me" or "Yeah, I can see that in myself,” and it felt nice to be so understood, even if it was from a packet of paper test results.

 

Do you feel students were better equipped for their next step or stage of life after attending? 

After not only one but two years of the Summit, I can undeniably say that I am not only better equipped for my future, but also more confident in it. I have a better relationship with God now than I ever have before in my life, and I am thrilled for not only the next steps in my faith life, but in my life's journey as a whole.

 

What was your favorite part of the program? 

The best part about having been through the Summit is that it introduced me to the Wesleyan Band Meeting, an amazing way to interact with other people of the same faith. At least from my experience, discussing my religion and personal faith experience outside of church is never an easy thing to do, but the Band has completely changed that. 

I certainly can't explain it as well as it has been explained to me, but in short, a Wesleyan Band Meeting is a group of at least two or more people, usually no more than five or six, who come together in God's name and discuss their deepest faith experiences. There are two sets of questions that can be used in these discussions, the original five and an advanced set, all of which are meant to draw out your deepest feelings to strengthen your connection with God. 

Some of the questions include, "How is it with your soul?" "Do you have any sins to confess?” and "What do you feel the Holy Spirit is calling you to do?". The primary goal of the meeting is not to be a time for confession, but instead for honesty, both with yourself and with God. It is not a time for advice or commentary from the other members of the Band and one of the best parts is that the meeting is completely confidential. 

A key part of the group is that before you start meeting, you decide to not share what's said in the meeting with people outside of the group. Being able to truly speak your mind is one of the greatest beauties of the Band. And while sometimes attendance or regularity of the meetings can be inconsistent, all of the members trust each other and we all have an interest in the Band. My Band has become a "rock" for me to build my life.

 

Did this experience shape your career or ministry engagement in general?

After two years of attending the Summit as a disciple (participant), I have since returned this last summer as a Trail Guide. While my participation in church has not increased significantly since, in my personal faith life and in Boy Scouts I have encouraged strengthening my relationship with God.

 

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to lead a program like this?

As far as I know, eligible youth to be disciples are primarily recommended by a youth leader or reached out to by a previous Summit attendee. If you are offered an opportunity to participate, I highly recommend that you do. The experience was life changing for me, and I know that for anyone else with an open heart and mind to God it can be for them as well. 

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