Louisville Fellows Monthly Blog PostsRead what the Fellows are learning during their time in our program - the good, the hard, the unexpected. God often works in ways we would not expect, and he delights in our joy. Read on to hear from the Fellows themselves!
by David Holmes
Change is a hard concept to handle. We are constantly changing, yet there are also distinct moments when we can see how we have changed as people. While in the Louisville Bridge Fellows Program, I have been constantly changing. Sometimes I can see improvement, but, other times, I see regression. However, the change is still there.
One of the amazing parts of this program has been being able to accept that change will constantly be happening. While I write this, I am in a place of strong spiritual growth after an amazing weekend talking about our vocation from God. Right after Christmas, I was not having the strongest personal relationship with God even though the weeks leading up to Christmas felt like a steady growth to me. In the end, accepting that this cycle, this change, will constantly occur has been an amazing aspect of the program to learn.
I look forward to seeing how I continue to change over these final 3 months. Whether that change be in my professional experience, relationship with God, or just ability to plan out a week like an adult, I know that the change is coming. I am eager and anxious to see how God will help me tackle this change.
by Brianna Nalley
6 months ago, my summer job was coming to an end and I had absolutely no idea what was next. I had been praying that God would open a door for months. Nothing. We had less than a month left of camp and I was getting antsy. Throughout the summer Camp Greystone offered morning devotions for the staff. Every time, I either forgot it was happening or had to be in the glass hut. However, the day the director of the Louisville Fellows Program showed up happened to be the one day I made it to the group devotion. As soon as she spoke the name “Louisville” I felt a nudge from the Lord. “Louisville? What’s in Louisville?” I thought. As she continued speaking, my heart beat accelerated. I knew I couldn’t leave without talking to her. Flash forward a few weeks and there I am packing my bags for Louisville, Kentucky. Am I crazy for packing up and moving to a place I had only thought of for the first time a few weeks prior to live with complete strangers and participate in a program I really didn’t know much about? Maybe, but I’ve learned that God’s way is better than mine. He always seems to surprise me. His goodness made it easy to say yes.
Growing up in small towns, first in the mountains of North Carolina and then surrounded by cow pastures in Georgia, saying that moving to Louisville was culture shock would be an understatement. First, the roads. Where I come from, it’s relatively common for a cow to somehow end up on the wrong side of the fence and be blocking the curvy two-lane road you’re trying to drive down. Here, there are exits on both sides of the road and pretty much every road I drive on has a minimum of 4 lanes. Then, you have the closeness of everything. I didn’t realize how nice this was until I went home for Christmas and the closest gym was a 30 minute drive compared to my now usual 7 minute commute. My first big shock though, took place the day after I arrived. I have been blessed to grow up in a Christian household. My dad sings Southern Gospel and my mom was a Sunday school teacher which means I was in church every Sunday morning, most Wednesday nights, and even some Friday and Saturday evenings. However, the Baptist and evangelical churches I was used to are drastically different from St. Francis. Sunday mornings at Newspring, the church I attended in college, consisted of a dark sanctuary with lighting and a full band dedicated to being the frame for Jesus to minister to His bride rather than the picture in the frame. St Francis is the complete opposite with a big bright room covered in floor to ceiling windows, choral worship with string instruments and an organ. Instead of colorful lights St. Francis has candles.
Although shocking at first, I have grown to love this place. Generally the other Fellows and I all sit together at the 9am service each Sunday. Last Sunday, however, I was running late and ended up alone at the 11:15 service. I quickly realized that I was not in fact alone. I recognized so many faces. People who have welcomed us into the sweet family of St. Francis, people who have loved on and poured into us everyday since we arrived in August. I felt a peace sweep over me and felt the presence of the Lord stronger than any Sunday since arriving in Kentucky. Part of my journey has been wrestling with the idea of scripted prayers and liturgy. The differing ideas surrounding baptism and other topics which have always been foundational to my faith have been challenged by the Anglican tradition. I don’t have all the answers. Honestly, I probably have more questions than I started with, but I have learned that God is at work and very much alive in this church and in Louisville.
Last Sunday, I witnessed two beautiful families dedicate their children to the Lord through baptism surrounded by the congregation. It was the most awe-inspiring ceremony I have been a part of and I saw Jesus in every single moment. From the godparents who vowed to support the children and their parents in this endeavor, I was reminded of my own godparents and the role they have played in my own life. The next layer of support comes from the grandparents and close family friends who came to be a part of the celebration. Then, the congregation. We surrounded the family and vowed to help raise these girls up in Truth. This is extremely different from any other baptism I have seen, yet so beautifully filled with Jesus.
The way the congregation surrounded and vowed to support these two young girls in love and truth, is the same way that they have surrounded us as Fellows. I came into the program with an expectation of being thrown into community with the other Fellows, but did not expect to fall in love with the larger community of St. Francis and even larger Louisville. I was listening to worship music this afternoon when a song lyric stated, “People come together, strange as neighbors, our blood is one.” This is truly something I have felt since coming to St. Francis. Thank you for loving us so well and showing me new layers of Jesus each week.
By Olivia Poteet
Much of my life has been spent in service to the church. As a pastor’s kid who joined the mission field immediately following high school and then attended a Christian college, I have a lot of experience serving. Some of my favorite memories growing up are helping with VBS, going to missions conferences, and participating in community outreach with the youth group. When I learned about the Fellows Program, I knew there was a focus on service in the church, but what I didn’t realize was just how much this focus on service would have an impact on me.
My experience with the Fellows is unique because I am employed in a service-focused job. I work as a family advocate for Family Scholar House, a non-profit organization with a mission to end the cycle of poverty by empowering families to succeed in education and achieve self-sufficiency. My day-to-day life is full of moments of both joy and hardship. I work closely with domestic violence survivors, the underprivileged, single parents, and former foster youth as they struggle to build their lives through education, hard work, and life skills. I witness the everyday struggles of people who are living with trauma and never had the support they needed to succeed. However, I also get to see the joy. I witness the fruits of success and the rebuilding of lives, as well as the healing of families and the love of a supportive community. Every day at work, I see rebirth, growth, and new beginnings. In this job I am truly in my element, and I am thankful for the Louisville Fellows team for helping to place me in this position I love so well.
Another aspect of service in the Fellows Program includes volunteer work. Each week, we have a leadership lunch where we meet someone who impacts the community through the work they do. Often this includes directors of non-profits or businesses with the purpose of serving the community. We have spoken to employees in hospitals, food banks, law offices, and after school programs among others, and as a part of the Fellows Program we are encouraged to volunteer with one of these non-profits for the duration of the year. For my volunteer experience, I am returning to my roots by sharing music with residents in senior living homes. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to get to know these members of my community and serve them.
Finally, a big part of the Louisville Fellows Program is to serve in the church. We do this by working closely with the youth group each week. We attend Sunday school and events, lead Bible studies, and build relationships with the students. I get to attend their school performances and ride in the van with them to youth events. I get roped into running around with them while playing underground church. I get to hear their opinions, fears, joys, and struggles and see how they interact with the rest of the group. My favorite part of this work, however, is getting to know each student individually and having the opportunity to pour into their lives. These students have so much to offer our church and are growing into strong men and women.
These, among others, are the areas of service we focus on in the Louisville Fellows Program and help fulfill one of the main purposes of the program: shaping godly leaders. We as Fellows are met with many challenges as we balance work and classes, but we are called to something even greater as we serve those around us both in our church community and the community at-large. While our work may seem small, it creates ripples over time that impact the Church and the world as each generation of godly leaders shapes the next.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. -Philippians 2:3-4, ESV
by Clay Stewart
When I left Louisville four years ago for college in Wilmington, NC, I wasn’t certain of when or if I would be back home here in Kentucky. However, God works in mysterious ways. A few months before graduation, after deciding I would be taking a gap year while applying to PA school, I was somewhat panicking about how I was going to productively spend this time in between. That is when I was reminded of the brief conversation I had previously had with this enthusiastic, kind-hearted Director of something called the Louisville Fellows Program, and thought, “Hey, it can’t hurt to apply.”
Well, here we are, three months into the Fellows Program, and I can confidently say that, despite my initial concerns and hesitations, this is one of the best decisions I have made to this day. As I prepared for the start of the program, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some worries. I’m a 22-year-old college graduate–am I really about to move back in with my parents? What if the church that I grew up in, our “host church,” has changed? What if they set me up with a job that I don’t like? What if I don’t get along with the other Fellows?
Boy, was I being dramatic. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Although slightly different than the conventional Fellows’ programming, being “hosted” by my own family and the church I grew up in has been such an incredible blessing. Having the opportunity to grow closer to my family while navigating the complexities that accompany this chapter of my life alongside them has truly been a gift. It turns out that my childhood church has changed, but in beautiful ways that can only be credited to God’s loving and faithful works. Additionally, by working alongside my old youth minister in leading the youth group, I have been blessed with the chance to pour into these youth and give back to something that had such a profound impact on my own faith journey. As for my job, it has been everything I hoped it would be and more, providing me with the perfect opportunity to acquire the experience I need while concurrently enabling me to learn from a mentor who demonstrates what it looks like for faith and vocation to coexist. And finally, the Fellows have provided me with a sense of Christian community I never knew I was without and friendships I hope to never lose. Looking back on the past three months and forward to the remaining six, I am thankful for what God has been doing and excited for what is yet to come.
By Gracie Puckett
My time since saying yes to being part of the Fellows Initiative at-large has not been what I expected. From saying yes and gearing up to go to Memphis to getting the sad news of the program shutting down for the year, I questioned God’s ability to lead and provide for me. Little did I know God had this beautiful option around the corner that fit exactly what I was looking for in this “gap” year program I had said yes to in March. Even in my questioning of Him, God provided!
Before arriving in Louisville, I was elated to be moving to a new city but also quite nervous at what was ahead. I was nervous about St. Francis, connecting with the other Fellows, relationships with the staff at the church, what my host family would be like, and what work would look like. From growing up as a pastor’s kid in the PCA, St. Francis was quite the one eighty that I was not expecting. The first Sunday I was just amazed at the beauty of the church service, specifically the liturgy, community, choir, and communion. This amazement has only grown as the months have gone by. God has provided a beautiful church where I get to recognize His holiness in all aspects of the church service which I haven’t done on this scale ever before. The other Fellows have been such a blessing more than words can describe; they have truly made Louisville home. God has continued providing. The church staff welcomed us with open arms as we entered the unknown and have truly shown me love in every interaction. He is my provider. My host family has been beyond amazing and has been truly like a family to me; I am immensely blessed. I keep thanking God for providing me a beautiful home. Not finding work right away was unexpected and nerve-wracking, yet God met me in my space and provided me a job at Home of the Innocents. Daily I get to just be in awe of the way God continues to provide for me and come to Him with trust and excitement for the year ahead.
by David Holmes
Getting to Louisville, I was nervous about many aspects of the Fellows Program. Would I enjoy Louisville? Will I get along with the other Fellows? Did I make the right decision in choosing the Fellows? Most of all, I was nervous about what job I was going to have. Even after starting the program, the lack of a job was at the forefront of my mind. Will I get a job that works for what I want? What if the people at my work do not like me? Can I even do the job I will be hired to do?
However, God used this time of stress and turmoil for good. While my thoughts were quickly evolving into uncertainty about all aspects of my life, God had a different plan. God forced me out of my own mind to look at all the good that the program has done for me. For instance, how my first 24 hours in Louisville were filled with nothing but dozens of people from St. Francis telling me how excited they were to have me and the other fellows here, or how Louisville was filled with all of what I wanted in a city where I live. God taught me a lesson that could be seen in a 1986 classic: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Perhaps my first couple weeks are not exactly how I expected them to be, yet God has shown me all the good here in Louisville and St. Francis in the Fields. Now that I have stopped and looked around at what God has provided me, I am excited for what this year in the Louisville Bridge Fellows will provide.