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2013-2014 Fellows

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A Whole New Perspective by Jeana Medlin

If I had to choose one word to say how my year as a Fellow has shaped or changed me in some way, I would simply say perspective. If I had to choose one word to describe what the program was like as a whole, I would say rich.

It gave me perspective in the way I view work; it was rich in helping me not only create a network of professionals but also in helping me serve a company through my internship that I now hold dear to my heart and admire greatly. 

It gave me perspective in the way I value community; it was incredibly rich in giving us the space to build a community that is deep and meaningful and gave me the gift of a group of friends that will continue to be a major part of my life going forward. 

It gave me perspective in the way I see church; it was rich in partnering with churches who are full of members who work hard and work well in whatever vocational field they are in and who care about raising up young leaders to pour into the city they are a part of. 

The Fellows Program has a vision of vocation that is unlike any I have experienced in the past. It shares a vision that is holistic and scriptural, and shares it in a way that really allows us to see the Lord's heart for work. After going through the program myself, I can’t imagine an atmosphere that could set up a variety of unique people to enter into a variety of unique workplaces better than the Fellows Program. This program draws out our passions. It reveals our gifts. And it helps provide opportunities. It teaches fellows that those things are good and essential to discovering our callings. And it teaches us that in whatever we pursue post-fellows, it will be good and glory-giving to the One who deserves it. 

The Fellows Program calls its participants to a level of community that is extremely unique and as close to community as God created it to be that we can experience in a broken world. It really was an amazing experience to watch how close and connected we became as a group really quickly. We got to know each other’s stories more deeply than ever before; we encouraged one another; shared truth with one another; lived life with one another; and grew in our faith with one another. And I have no doubts that we will continue to do that even though the program has officially ended. 

The Fellows program challenges us to reconsider the way we think about Church and the way we engage with the church we are a part of. Before I even made the trek to Nashville in August, I told the Board that I wanted to go to the Church that would be the most different from what I was used to, because I like adventure and I like a challenge. So, I was placed at St. George’s Episcopal Church-a tradition that I’m not sure I even knew existed before I applied (and look at me now: correcting people who don’t correctly call the parishioners “Episcopalian” and the church “Episcopal”). An adventure and challenge it was. I had never stood, kneeled, sat, kneeled, and stood more in a church service in my life. I had no idea what I was doing the first few weeks. However, attending St. George’s and working with the youth in the church (I taught 7th grade Sunday school and also coached the girl’s church basketball team) was by far one of the richest experiences of the year. It taught me to see Church as a place of community, a place of service, and a place of healing. 

Some would say that those who choose to do a program like the Fellows Program after graduating are just cheating by putting off “real-life” for another year. And I would completely agree with them. But I’m glad I cheated. I’m glad that I lived only a pseudo real life for 9 months if it meant having the rich experience that I was able to have, to build the rich community I was able to build, to create a rich network that would have taken years without the program, and to mold a rich view, a view that Christ holds, of the Church. The program gave me the resources necessary to transition well and left an impact that will continue forming me years down the road.

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Graduation for the Fellows Class of 2013-2014 by Spencer Holleman

It’s been almost two weeks since the Nashville Fellows Program graduation, and I have learned an important truth in this short time: the Fellows Program never ends. Now you may read that as vexing on my part, but in fact, it is coming from a grateful heart. Understanding how to live out of our God-given calling in the workplace and engage people with Gospel intentionality will be something that I pray never strays from our hearts and minds. I’ll rewind to our graduation night before I jump to far ahead.

The night was surprisingly normal. At least compared to my previous graduations. High school graduation was surrounded by drama and the longing of summer freedom. College graduation was a momentary relief amidst a lot of stress and unknown situations. But the NFP graduation felt like just another gathering of people in the community around a common theme or goal. I say “just another” because we went to several of these events throughout the year, and now we were at one that happened to be about us.  Don’t hear me wrong, the night was filled with laughter, happy tears, and the recognition of those who helped us along the way, but it was done with hearts that were not restless but had matured to a sense of readiness to move forward with what God has for each of us.

At first I think the normalcy bothered me, but then it occurred to me that this is exactly what it should be like. Every other graduation is very emotionally charged, because I am ending one part of my life and starting a whole new one. This created the thought that after a “significant” amount of time at one place, it is time to move on to the next. While not all of us are staying in Nashville, and therefore, may not be feeling exactly what I am currently feeling, I think we all walked away with a better understanding to invest in the places and people around which God puts us. This is simply part of a life following Jesus. Life can be exceptionally normal and routine, but that does not have to be a negative thought. Since being out of the NFP, I have interacted with a lot of different people in the “real world” and am finding how pertinent the skills we developed in networking, story-work, community, and the classroom have helped me bring God into every aspect of my life. It is Jesus who makes “normal” life filled with excitement and adventure.

As I think more on it now, I think our graduation could have been more aptly named a commission. Every graduation has a sense of commission to it, but this had a different taste to me. Scotty Smith beckoned us to continue to engage our hearts and minds to the Gospel through a video message he recorded. Scott Sauls so eloquently encouraged and cautioned us in our gifts as we carry the Gospel with us vocationally. Every part of the night reminded us that what we had learned this year was not a lofty ideal but an exceptionally practical worldview that could change our culture for God’s Kingdom.

And because I had the privilege to intentionally walk alongside this group of men and women, I can confidently say that we will probably have some of the most exciting “normal” lives our generation has witnessed, as we run after Jesus in everything we do. 

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Recap of the National Fellows Conference by Jessie Sellers

This past weekend, the other Nashville Fellows and I had the pleasure of attending the Fellows National Conference hosted by the McLean and Falls Church Fellows Programs in Washington, D.C. We were excited to reconnect with some of the other Fellows whom we had met at the regional conference in the Fall (shout out to our great friends the Charlotte Fellows Program!), and we were eager to do some exploring together in our nation’s capital!

On Thursday morning we embarked on our 12-hour journey in a 14-passenger van, and we arrived early enough that evening to get plenty of sleep for our adventures the following day. On Friday, while our fearless director, Shane, attended meetings with other current and prospective program directors, we spent the whole day seeing the best of the city. First, we passed several powerful and heavy hours at the Holocaust Museum. Then we walked the Mall, had lunch, went up into the old Post Office tower for an excellent 360° view of the city, and took some token “selfies” in front of the White House and the Lincoln Memorial. 

Friday night marked the beginning of the conference, and we arrived at McLean Presbyterian Church ready to eat and ready to learn! We reconnected with old friends and acquaintances, sat with new friends at dinner, and heard from our main speaker, Kate Harris, and several other former Fellows. Saturday morning and evening bore much the same schedule with an afternoon off in between during which we drove around beautiful Georgetown and got some frozen custard in the city.

The main topics discussed by our keynote speakers included commitment to time and place, coherence in all aspects of our lives, a life lived joyfully in the present, and the importance of fidelity in faithful friendship and mentorship. I was inspired by the call to consistency of faith and self in all situations. It is true of the Fellows in each of the programs nationwide that we are in a time of waiting, decisions, and transition. In less than a month, our Fellows year will be over, and each of us will step into whatever God has provided for us next. This prospect is both exciting and terrifying. 

In the Nashville program alone, some of us have jobs lined up already, and some of us don’t. Some of us know where we are going to live one month from now, and some of us don’t. Some of us know what long-term career and personal goals we would like to accomplish, and some of us are still searching. All of us know that we must trust our Father and Advocate in Heaven to worry about these things for us, but all of us tend to worry about what the future might hold. Because of this, the encouragement this weekend about living faithfully in the present was an aptly timed reminder. 

Many speakers also referred to the “pick and stick” method, an idea that says that choosing a place and a community to be loyal to and “stick” with-- though not a popular idea in our modern thrill-seeking culture-- will cultivate deeper relationships, a stronger commitment to the good of our town or city, and a more authentic sense of engagement and purpose in God’s story of redemption right where we are. This advice was especially reassuring for me because I have made the decision to “stick” with Nashville for a long time. Because of the relationships I have formed this year and the shallow roots that I have put down, I joyfully choose to stay faithful to this, my new home, and pour back into future Fellows here as well as advocate for the good of the city as a whole.

We left the conference on Sunday morning and used much of our return journey to discuss what we had learned and how the Spirit has led each of us this year. Some of us were profoundly moved and motivated by what was said this weekend, and others weren’t quite as impressed. And that’s okay! I’m grateful that we could discuss these things transparently and without judgment- a testament to the unique kind of friendships formed in just 9 months of commitment and fidelity to this program and to each other. The way we’ve grown together this year gives me great hope and excitement for how we will continue to grow together and in new relationships as well! 

As we drove back into town on Sunday evening, I was surprised by the happiness and comfort that flooded my heart as the Nashville skyline loomed ahead of us. As I said, I have chosen this city to be my home. Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, my hometown, are wonderful, but I am thrilled to return HERE, to invest HERE, to love this city, for better or for worse. In the same way, Spencer, Emily, Hallerin, Jeana, Stewart, Becca, and I, led by Shane, have chosen to enter into and remain faithful to this Fellows bond that will endure even after the program ends. We are the Inaugural Nashville Fellows, and although we never could have predicted it, we have become a family. God is creative and wonderfully unpredictable, and time and distance will eventually separate some of us, but I am confident that this family will remain of one heart: committed to the flourishing of the whole and always spurring each other on through difficulties. This we will do until the day that our King Jesus returns to redeem this world, when we will worship and work in perfect harmony, together with all the saints, in glory, forever. Hallelujah!!

 

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Glorifying God in Whatever We Do by Jeana Medli

In January the Nashville Fellows went on a 5 day “Vocational Counseling” retreat; we walked on water (frozen water, but still), explored abandoned houses, worshipped, communed, and were more vulnerable with each other than we ever had been, thanks to the stomach bug. We were counseled by a great man, Art Lindsley, as he walked through our gifts and dreams with us and even gave us ideas about what he thought we should pursue vocationally.

After a great weekend of wise advice and godly council, I still don’t know what I want to do. In fact, I think for those of us who went in to that weekend to come out of it with epiphany-like clarity about what our career is going to look like, we were sorely disappointed. It’s more like coming out with a car load of things to process through: process through our gifts and talents we are called to be stewards of, process through our dreams and hopes, process through how and where and in what vocation we will bring the Lord the most glory. So no, I still don’t know exactly what I want to do as a job when I get done with this Fellows year. And that’s okay; I’m not worried about what I’m going to do. I want to focus more on how I do whatever I do.

The beauty of the Fellows is that it gives us the room we need to process and grow. This year isn’t about figuring out exactly what it is we need to be doing with our lives. This year is about learning that in WHATEVER we do, we work in order to help bring restoration to God’s kingdom. Do you know how freeing it is to know that the will of the Lord is to love Him with all your heart, mind, body, and soul and to seek His kingdom first? Because that means that if you are seeking His kingdom first and loving Him with all your heart, mind, body, and soul, you can do pretty much anything and it be in alignment with His will for your life. *MIND BLOWN*

We have fellows who are going to go on to glorify God with their music. Side note: do you know how hard it is to sing worship alongside people who are very vocally gifted? The answer is really hard.

We have fellows who are going to go on to glorify God in vocational ministry-whether it be serving generations of youth and/or college students or going overseas and engaging in cross-cultural ministry.

We have fellows who are going to go into counseling or business (or insert random career here) and make a difference in vocational areas that could otherwise be pawned off as “too lost to be saved” or “too corrupt.”

We have fellows who are extraordinarily gifted and passionate about different things and different areas of God’s kingdom. We may not all know exactly what it’s going to look like, but isn’t that the fun part? Life’s an adventure. I don’t want to know exactly what the next 10 years are going to look like; I don’t even want to know exactly what tomorrow is going to look like, that would be incredibly boring. And chances are that it’s not going to look exactly how I picture it anyways. Something I do know, though, is that there are 21 Fellows programs across the country with Fellows who are going to go on and do big things in whatever it is they choose to do because we serve a big God who can and will use puny people in big ways.

reflections on our first semester by Becca Vinson

The leaves of fall paved the way for the goodness of Thanksgiving, the gathering of families prepared hearts for the season of Advent & the beauty of Christmas faded into the lively, renewed Spirit of the New Year. For many of us Fellows, life as we see it now at the beginning of 2014 looks different than it did at the beginning of 2013. As we reflect upon the past four months of the Fellows program, we recognize that change is upon us. As Scotty Smith has gathered us weekly & led us through a handful of some very challenging & convicting reads - John Murray’s Redemption: Accomplished & Applied & Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved, to name a few - he was sure to leave space for prayer & reflection before we departed for the holidays & as we arrived back to Nashville. During these times of transparency & of sharing, our requests, our expectations, our worries, & our excitements all shifted from November to the beginning of January. Transformation is occurring within our hearts, within our host families, within our respective jobs, within our minds & within our relationships with each other. We are being stretched, many times uncomfortably so, & deeply encouraged to explore how we are created to live here on Earth as a Child of God, individually & collectively. Is it not the highest honor to be transformed into an ambassador of His hope for the city of Nashville? He’s changing us as 2 Corinthians 3:18 so illustrates.

But, oh, how comforting it is to acknowledge that He remains. His word remains & in fact, His word has always remained. Each of us chose a verse at the beginning of our Fellows year. Let us cling to His word, these truths - the only Truth - amidst transition & transformation as we simply step forward into this spring semester that is right before us.

Skylar: Ephesians 3

Emily: Ephesians 1:17-18

Jessie: Romans 15:1-8

Jeana Medlin: Colossians 3:12-15 & James 5:16-18

Becca: Isaiah 7

Spencer: Matthew 6:33

Hallerin: Psalm 37:3-6

Stewart: Jeremiah 29:7, 11

How comforting is it to know that nothing has happened this year, within the past four months, apart from Him AND that nothing will happen this coming year without Him.

Families. Depth. Vocation. Leadership. Youth. Defeat. Discussion. Challenges. Churches. Reading. Questions. Vision. Retreats. Class. Fullness. Restlessness. Community...HALLELUJAH for how we are experiencing grace & the Lord’s love for us in deeper, richer ways with every passing day here in Nashville.