This week, Devin and I spent a few days at Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia. Why were we there? It was a great opportunity to connect with old friends and share the story of God at work in our lives.
Devin’s former youth pastor is the Director of Spiritual Formation at TFC and had recently been focusing on chasing God’s dreams with the students on campus. So, he asked Devin to share a message at chapel and also offered Devin and I both the chance to tell how a dream became a reality in Bright Side.
So, this past Monday, we headed off to Georgia and met up for dinner with Chris and Michelle Stratton. We loved catching up with them, and it is always a joy for me to see the mentors of Devin’s early years. Chris has a passion for developing and discipling students that I definitely see reflected in Devin’s heart for leadership and mentoring. Simply connecting with them and their sweet family was refreshing and encouraging. And add to that staying in a rustic cottage in the foothills and close to a beautiful waterfall; three days at TFC had us feeling more relaxed and rested than we have in a long time.
On Tuesday morning, Devin shared about society’s often low expectations of today’s teens and college students. Some students buy into the lies of current culture and don’t chase big dreams and large vision because they hear the negative voices calling them lazy, irresponsible, self-absorbed, and too into technology to acknowledge the world around them. So, Devin offered the challenge to rise above and rebel against those low expectations by exceeding them. Just as Paul challenged Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12.
Then on Tuesday evening, we met with a group of 35-40 students in a more informal setting in the student lounge to share specifically about Bright Side and how God has moved and worked in helping us turn a dream into reality. This was our favorite time of those few days! We loved telling the story of how Bright Side began with a desire to bring together two passions and then eventually was molded into a cause to impact the next generation through a relationship with a mentor and a connection with a horse. We also talked about what we have learned about vision so far, and made it clear that we are still in the learning curve.
One of the best parts was the Q&A time at the end. The students asked great questions pertaining to certain aspects of the programs at the ranch or how we are dealing with larger issues. We also had the opportunity to hear some of their dreams and share encouragement with them to keep pursuing what God set before them. I think there are times when our questions or the roadblocks seem overwhelming and we just need a little help to push past them and keep moving forward. And sometimes we just need to hear that it’s okay that it’s all messy and not the “ideal” or “traditional” form of ministry that we are used to seeing. God created us uniquely and calls us uniquely. There are similar ministries we can network with and even partner with, but God uses our own set of strengths, passions, and gifts in beautifully original ways of approaching ministry.
So, what have learned about vision so far and what did we share? Here you go:
1. Pray. A lot.
- Pray consistently and pray in desperation
- The whole path of the last 10 years in moving from desire to passion to vision to cause and then all into reality is all centered around praying. How did we know this vision was from God and not a selfish endeavor? Prayer. How did we have the strength to take a risk? Prayer. How has God continually provided for our needs? Prayer. How have others joined in on the journey? Prayer.
- We have endless stories of one answered prayer after another, but we focused specifically sharing about the 5 acres next door and how we prayer walked over the property, asked God to make a way, and how God moved in that whole process.
2. Waiting doesn’t have to be stagnant
- We often see waiting as a means to an end. We wait in line for coffee at Starbucks or wait in line at an amusement park for the big ride. What if waiting wasn’t about just getting to the end but who you become in the process?
- There are moments or seasons in our lives where we feel stuck. For me, there were years spent waiting on the right timing, but for others, it might be going through the motions of classes or knowing God has given you a passion that you can’t fully lean into just yet.
- These moments and seasons aren’t meant for us to wallow in or go through with impatience - it’s a time where God can develop our character, clarify the vision, and build a foundation.
3. Develop a team
- A vision from God is never going to lead to a place that gives glory to one person. It always leads to a place that gives Him glory and involves a community.
- Living into a vision is a process. We grow and are developed in the process of bringing the vision into reality as we are obedient to Him.
- A vision from God cannot be brought about by one person. It is a community-driven activity.
4. True vision connects people to a cause
- Vision isn’t just something you like to do--it is a cause that solves a problem that impacts our world today.
- Don’t just think about what you want to do or what you like to do, think about a problem you want to solve.
- Develop a solution to that problem and that is the beginning of a vision.
One question asked among many others was “How did you know this vision was from God and not just an excuse to do something for yourself?” Time and prayer were a part of that process, but it came down to if we didn’t say yes to God on stepping out in faith on this vision that we would be disobedient. He was calling (and is still calling) us forward to inspire the next generation toward Hope and we just have to be obedient and say yes.
What does Bright Side get out of sharing at a college campus? I’m not sure yet how He’ll use this one, although I have no doubt that He will. But, I know that we received such joy in this process. Getting away for a couple days at Toccoa Falls and telling story after story of God’s provision (and our learning to trust deeper) was great for our marriage and a good reminder of the Lord’s enduring faithfulness. Big questions never stop coming. Large roadblocks continue to pop up. But, we can look back and be reminded of how far we have come, rejoice in how God answered the cries of our hearts in the past, and know God will guide us as we move forward one step at a time.
And, it is encouraging to see the next generation rising up, not just as dreamers, but trailblazers that will carve out new ministry paths as they put feet to their faith.