Kristi Phillips

These people assumed I was capable, and through their quiet encouragement, I began to believe that they were right.


Why did you attend the program?

As a rising high school senior, I was beginning to encounter a lot of the typical, “So what do you want to do with your life?” questions in conversation. I found myself frustrated by the amount of pressure and expectation I felt was being placed on me as a seventeen-year-old who knew nothing about the world. When I heard about Trailhead as a program that gave people my age tools to "Seek God's Call," I decided that instead of complaining about how unprepared I felt for the future, I could start preparing myself by attending Trailhead


What kind of questions or decisions were you struggling with?

Rather than wrestling directly with the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" I felt that I wrestled more with "How am I, at seventeen, expected to know the answer to a question like that?". I also felt that such questions were often limited to certain kinds of answers, namely ones that focused on a major and a career. I struggled a lot with the amount of expectations that I felt were being placed on me. Talking to others my age and hearing statistics about how commonly people change their major these days, I felt dishonest giving people confident-sounding answers to the questions they asked about my future. 

I guess my biggest struggle was finding a way to express myself as the clueless, unprepared child, who was ready for an exciting and disorganized adventure, that I felt I was when people seemed to expect me to be an ambitious, driven young adult confidently working towards a career. It was like people set out a map in front of me labeled "My Future" and asked me to chart a clear course, when all I wanted to do was explore freely, to get lost in the hills of the theatre arts department for a while, to camp out in “Desert of Undecided,” to wander aimlessly through the “Forests of Philosophy,” before eventually summiting the mountain of my true major. Not to mention that this map they laid out often used only academic markers. What about my spiritual growth? What about my ambitions to form lasting relationships? 


How was your experience during the event? 

At Trailhead, I was repeatedly surprised by how natural and fitting it felt to participate in reflective activities like lectio divina and listening groups. As a naturally introspective person, I felt very at home in an environment where deep reflection, silence and listening were valued. 


What were some of the changes you noticed after? 

One of the biggest changes I noticed in myself was my perspective on what I abstractly referred to as "darkness." As an overly idealistic and optimistic person who had been sheltered for most of my life, I was terrified of being exposed to the darker realities of the world: violence, pain, vulgar language - all less than ideal. I feared that seeing the brokenness of the world would cause me to lose all hope, so I actively avoided the "darkness." 

At Trailhead, we had a lesson that focused on chronic pain and suffering that completely changed my perspective on this. As unhappy as I was that at the beginning of the session I was being exposed to the suffering in the world, I walked away astonished by a truth that should have been obvious to me from the beginning: even in the darkest of circumstances, God is still at work. Since then, I have seen darkness not as something that might snuff out the light, but as something that makes the light all the more beautiful and visible in contrast.


What did you learn about yourself, the world, or ministry at this time?

Trailhead helped expand my understanding in a lot of areas. The program deepened my appreciation for art, created in me an awareness of the kind of social issues facing America, challenged my perspective on human suffering and enriched my understanding of hope. It helped me realize how much I still have to learn about the world, but in a way that made me feel excited rather than overwhelmed by all that I didn't know.


Do you feel better equipped for the future after attending? 

Trailhead made me feel much better equipped for the future in multiple ways. Firstly, the program provided me with a lot of information about how certain parts of the world work. The tour of the Westmont campus and the city of Santa Barbara gave me a better understanding of what life in college might look like, and the sessions we had on art, chronic illness, race and justice and hope exposed me to a lot of important and valuable ideas. 

In addition, we were provided with a lot of resources for self-reflection, from practicing lectio divina to making collages, from going on a silent hike to sorting through our values on cards. The aspect of Trailhead that I found most helpful in making me feel prepared for the future was the way that those involved with the program treated its attendees. They believed in us and in our ability to learn, grow and make the world a better place. The amount of time, attention and effort that they invested in all of us filled me with a sense of optimism about my ability to handle the future. These people assumed I was capable, and through their quiet encouragement, I began to believe that they were right.


What was the best thing about attending?

It was very fulfilling and encouraging to me to find a community so dedicated to seeking God and thinking deeply. The best part about attending Trailhead was being in the environment that the program created - one of peace, honesty and earnest seeking.


How have you engaged in ministry since the program, or how do you plan to be engaged in ministry in the future? 

Since experiencing the community created at Trailhead, I've looked for opportunities to create similar communities in my own life. The year after Trailhead, as a senior going to a Christian high school, I worked really hard to be a spiritual leader of the school, mentoring people younger than me and trying to create similar places for reflection and honest conversation. As a writer, I've also tried to use art to address issues that I've encountered in the world, writing a play that encourages people to see others as human beings instead of labels and writing poems that challenge people to think outside of themselves.


What advice would you give to someone who wanted to attend?

Come in with an open mind and an open heart. What Trailhead has to offer could change your perspective and possibly even your life if you let it.

Trey Phillips
Nashville, TN
Aaron Doell
Winfield, KS
Elizabeth Perkins
Waco, TX
Rachel Larson
St. Peter, MN
Alex Theship-Rosales
St. Peter, MN