I started going to youth group in 7th grade and like many of the other youth in our region, I went to the Winter Retreat, regional conferences, and Project Timothy (a week-long intensive leadership bootcamp for teens in the Eastern Region). Over the years I felt more and more like my life was being called towards ministry but I wasn’t sure about what exactly I would be able to do right out of high school. Fortunately, it was around this time that I found out that my home church was starting a discipleship school called the Pathway Vineyard: Heroic Leadership Institute. This was to be a nine month long school where leadership was taught using education, spiritual formation and hands on participation! It seemed to be a perfect fit! Before I knew it, I was going on a camping trip in the wilderness with 11 other people whom I had just met. I didn’t have cell phone service and that in itself was terrifying! Even with my extremely extroverted personality, this was a little intimidating. Over the course of that weekend I began building a foundation for friendships that will without a doubt last me a lifetime.

In my experience thus far at HLI, I’ve learned and grown in many ways: in the classroom with brilliant Vineyard leaders, on our outreaches to our local non-profit organizations, and about Jesus and myself in my daily reflection time. Our day to day schedule is packed full of teaching, worship, outreach, and most importantly (in my opinion) time with one another. When you put 12 people, with 12 different personalities, and 12 different passions, together everyday to walk out life, it can get a little intense. All of a sudden that guy isn’t breathing your air the right way and she’s talking way too much and that same kid leaves a mess wherever he goes… YIKES! But thank God that during HLI we have established a culture where we are learning to be expert communicators and are committed  to honoring each other beyond circumstances. Self-awareness has played a huge role in all of our lives and we have all become really good at using two integral words in leadership—“I’m sorry.”

We have been exposed to many Vineyard churches and in that I have really grown to love the Vineyard movement. It’s so exciting to see that there is no “cookie cutter” way to have a church. Whether you’re in an auditorium, or in a bar, the love of God knows no earthly boundaries and can still move in radical ways!  I had a desire to church plant even before I came to HLI, so naturally I signed up to do the church-planting stream which has been a blast. However, as I am learning more about myself I’ve realized that I have passions that have been placed on the back burner. I’m so thankful that I am in an environment where people are able to see my potential and passions and without hesitation call them out as they seem them—even if I don‘t.

Being at the half-way mark of this journey is a little strange. But when I look around the classroom everyday it makes me so happy to know that I sit in a class of world-changers—and I instantly feel honored to learn, grow, and just be among them. We’ve had many people come and speak to us about their roles in leadership and what they’re passionate about. One thing that they all have in common is throughout their journeys they keep saying “Yes” to the plans that God lays before them. I recently had a chance to say a big “Yes” to doing an internship, post-HLI,  with our children’s pastor. I have a feeling that it is going to be just the beginning of all of the opportunities that I get the privilege of saying “Yes” to in my life. I am a Heroic Leader, and I am becoming a Heroic Leader!

Heroic Leadership Institute is a nine month ministry training school aimed at raising and releasing young adult leaders in the Vineyard. It is based at Pathway Vineyard in Lewiston, Maine, and you can find more information at GoDoGreatThings.com.