Every summer students from campuses across the country meet for an intensive month of leadership development at Cedar Campus, called the School of Leadership Training. While most students leave the school well-prepared to lead their campus chapters, a remarkable number of them also leave with extraordinary stories of personal transformation. Bette, a senior at Western Michigan University, attended SLT this past summer. This is what she has to say about her time at camp:
I can safely say that my month at SLT was the best month of my life! The Lord drew me into a sacred space of rest and joy in Him that will stay with me forever. Even upon arrival, as I pulled my car into Cedar Campus, I could feel the Lord’s love and blessing wash over me. He led me into a season of spring at Cedar Campus, where He would ultimately teach me what it means to walk in joy and be filled by the Lord’s intimate love for me.
The year prior to SLT was a hard year, a year full of depression and wrestling with sin. It was a year of God’s pruning in my life – His deep work in my heart to tear out all the sinful habits and areas of brokenness. Yet, as I approached SLT, I could physically feel the weight of all that I had been enslaved to – my identity placed on what others thought, my performance judged against others, and my physical beauty compared to cultural expectations – fall off of me.
During one of the first sessions “Christ and Culture,” the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me all of the areas that Jesus had been working hard to free me in the past few years. As I sat there, I started to cry with joy and thankfulness, because I realized all that I had wrestled through in the previous year was a way of God crucifying those sins and rescuing me from them. I finally felt free.
That freedom came with a release of joy uncontainable . . . an unearthly joy so great that others named me “sunshine ball.” As I began to walk in this joy in the first few days, it felt like an explosion had happened in me – and each day was full of the Lord’s doting on me through His nature, encouragement from others, and elation with every activity we did.
I realize now that the Lord was building a foundation of joy within me to sustain me through future trials. The experience at SLT taught me what it means to walk in that joy, and walk in my identity in Christ – a beautiful, loved daughter of a king.
There is no better way to explain what the Lord had been doing in me than my reflection in a quiet time to the Lord after reading Psalm 126:
- When the LORD brought back the captives to [a] Zion, we were like men who dreamed.
- Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
- The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
- Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev.
- Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
- He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Oh Lord! This is my prayer! What a reflection of how You’ve been working in my life. You have restored me. You have filled my mouth with laughter and my tongue with songs of joy. You have done great things for me and You delight in making me the object of Your blessing. You have restored my fortune like streams in the Negev. How wonderful You are my Lord. You are too good for words!
My hope and joy lies in You and You alone-my satisfaction and delight is in YOU. You, my God, the object of my affection. The cause for my joy and great abundance. It is with You I rejoice O Lord, my God- for bringing me from a desert wasteland into an oasis of abundance, fruit and joy. I leap and dance and sing with praises beautifying my lips for You- for You are faithful, my God, You have rescued me from my own destruction. How good You are to me!
The years and months I have sowed with tears I now reap with joy. And what a bountiful harvest it is. You are good, Lord, and I delight in You!
Lord, may I return with even more sheaves of joy! Continue to open up new petals of this Daffodil so I may reflect Your joy and beauty! Oh God, You are my God, the living God, and there is none like You!
Lord, it is so beautiful to see how You were carving and crafting me into something beautiful, that the pain of Your potter’s knife digging into me was with purpose towards the end result. That every agonizing trial and suffering was with deliberate intention to shape me into more of Your glory and a reflection of Your beauty. What a wonderful artist You are!
You still are carrying out Your work in me and I am like an unfinished canvas…a painting still not completely clear in its expression- but someday You will finish Your last stroke and I will be the finished masterpiece You set out to create. Others will see, then, Your purpose in creating me and I will look more like a reflection of Your beautiful image…pure and complete. O Lord, I await that day!
The time I was able to take away to hear the Lord and sit with Him at SLT is invaluable. There was space enough in the beauty of His creation at Cedar Campus to quiet myself enough to listen, and He spoke great things about His love and plans for me. Beyond that, staff that genuinely cared for me poured wisdom and encouragement into my life and spurred on my potential to do great things for the Lord. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything in the world!
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