As I look back on the past year I can see that it has been a long journey getting here to Focus Leadership Institute. It all started during my junior year of college (Jan 2008). I was working a full-time job at a local IT-Consulting company in the area, while pulling a full load of classes at UNC-Charlotte. I worked my way through school and worked very hard juggling both roles. I knew that I wanted to take a break and get away from things for a little while and had thought about going back home after I graduated. My mom had heard about the Institute on the radio and thought it would be good for me to attend.
At the time the thought of leaving home for a semester in Colorado was not all that appealing to me and I was almost disinclined to apply. I looked into it and researched other possibilities. I had grown up in Fayetteville, NC, and was attending college in Charlotte. I had never really left the state except on a few short trips for work and one or two vacations over the years. I had always been within two hours driving distance of my entire family. All of my family lived in North Carolina. For me venturing out to Colorado for a one semester program was a big change for me. The thought of spending four months away scared me.
I prayed about it for the spring semester of my junior year and really began to feel God tugging at my heart. The more I found out about the program the more interested I became and the more I felt God leading me to apply. I knew that there were a limited number of spots in the program and there was still a huge cost, I was unsure of how I would be able to attend.
I sent in my application to Focus back in the summer of 2009. I knew that if it was God’s will for me to attend I would be accepted. I thought that there was no way I would be but I would apply and give it a go. I was not expecting to hear back from them for a while but the very next month I got a response back that I had been accepted. Thus began the hard process of dealing with getting ready to leave. I had almost a year to get ready for it. And knowing that I had been accepted prepared me for the next hurdle.
I had been saving for a while, but even with that I did not think I was going to be able to afford the semester. In August something happened that hit me like a freight train. With the economy the way it was things were not going so well at work and there were a lot of significant cutbacks in hours. I ended up having to use everything I had in my savings to be able to stay in school. Through that situation God began to show me that no matter what our plans are, He knows what’s ahead of us, and always provides for the obstacles, and that He will never place anything in our path that we cannot conquer. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” Jeremiah 29:11-14a (ESV).
That verse rang in my head for four months. God had provided everything I needed. He was working on my faith and building my character, teaching me to depend on Him, and reminding me that I can’t do it on my own. I knew that there was one more hurdle to overcome. The funding for the Institute had to come or there was not going to be any way I could attend. I knew that God had opened the first door when I had been accepted and was fully relying on Him to open the next. After graduation, I was able to increase my hours at work so things got a little easier but I still had no way of paying for the program out of pocket. One day I received a phone call from the Institute and they said that they could help out with some financial aid. I could see God beginning to open that door a little. I began doing some fund raisers; sent out letters and did a few car washes, but still did not have enough to cover all of the costs of the program.
Through all of that I began to doubt that I was going to be able to attend and started to run things over in my mind. Even if God provides the money, will I be able to leave? Do I really want to give up everything I have and pursue this? I was feeling really discouraged about it all, and God began to speak in my life through scripture and through some great friends. My close friends really helped me to see what was ahead and just encouraged me so very much. I did a book study on Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem with a group of guys over the summer and there was a chapter on God’s Providence that examines Exodus and God pointed something out to me. “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” Exodus 33:14 (ESV) God began to work on my heart and show me that Colorado is where He wanted me. I was not sure why exactly, but at that point I knew I was ready and that God was going to provide the way.
So, here I am now out in Colorado Springs (Back in Sept 2010). It took quite a bit of faith to face the struggles, but through God’s Word and the encouragement of my friends, He prepared me to make the journey. The funding has almost all been covered and I have faith that God is going to provide the last portion. Looking back and I can see that God has done so much work in my heart to prepare me for this. I went from thinking that “FLI was a cool program, but I don’t really want to do that,” to “OK God, I don’t know what you want me to do but I am ready to go.” God performed a radical change in my heart and prepared me to get here. Now that I am here, I know that God has so much in store for me this semester, and I am excited to see how He uses this time to challenge and strengthen me