Think. Dream. Lead.

I want to start off by saying thank you. Thank you to those who have supported me in my leadership journey in any way, shape, or form. This is only the beginning. You have helped me get a head start on life. Thank you for all the life skills you have taught me. Thank you for the encouraging words. Thank you for leading by example. Thank you for the financial support. Most of all, thank you for the moments you spent praying for me and for the rest of the young men and women who accompanied me at SLU this year. None of this would be possible without the intervention of the Lord on our behalf. “Ask and it will be given to you,” Matthew 7:7. So thank you. Thank you all so very much.

This blog is intended for the men and women I was thanking in the paragraph above, which applies to anyone and everyone who impacted me and my leadership journey… even if you are unaware of your contribution ;). I am writing to tell those who are curious what I learned, and how God worked in and through SLU 201 and SLU 301. If that is you, or even if it’s not, I advise you to get some coffee and a nice cozy blanket because this might take some time. Of course, this is a condensed (and by condensed, I mean the “Abby” type of condensed… so you know what that means) version, and I can’t wait to be able to tell you all more about it whenever I see you!

First of all, what is SLU: Student Leadership University?

The heart of Student Leadership University is to teach, equip and inspire the young people of this generation, and generations to come, to be leaders for Christ and play a role in bringing His Kingdom to earth. There are 4 different levels to SLU. The first: SLU 101 is held all over the country and is designed to teach students “practical, relational and life skills to change the way they think, dream and lead,” (http://www.slulead.com/slu). The second: SLU 201 is held in Washington D.C. and is designed to allow students to “learn from the national leaders and witness the legacy of the founding fathers,” so that they can then discover their “own roles in society’s future,” (http://www.slulead.com/slu). The third: SLU 301 is in Europe and focuses on old church history and helps students realize that they are called to be a leader, and leave a legacy for a cause (Jesus) that is much bigger than ourselves. The last: SLU 401 is in Israel and is the only one I have not attended. 401 is designed to help students connect with the “life of Christ and [understand] their role in God’s redemptive story of the world,” (http://www.slulead.com/slu).

As many of you know, I attended SLU 201 and 301 this summer and wow, did I learn a lot!!

SLU 201: Washington D.C.

Politics. Government. Voting. War. Racism. Sexism. Etc. SLU 201 covered everything. I’m going to be honest with you… I am NOT big on politics. I care about what’s going on in the world. I want to know how I can make a difference… but politics? Government? yeah… not my thing. SLU 201 exposed us to the realities of the current events around the world, and recruited guests who are working in the midst of it to speak to us, encourage us, and equip us to change the world. And I’d say it was a success. We got to hear from Senators, Congressman, War Veterans, and more. We were able to tour some of the monuments and explore the museums to gain knowledge on the history of our nation from primary sources (and secondary, of course). I’d say my main take away from 201 was just the simple fact that I can have hope because there are people in government work who love the Lord with all of their soul and are actively living it out and leading others to Christ.

SLU 301: Europe

Normandy, Paris, Oxford and London! WHAT A TRIP! Much more my style than 201 was! SLU 301 was filled with facts, history, and a practical teaching approach to leadership. Now practicality- THAT’S my thing. The first place we visited was Normandy, France. We went to Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the D-Day Memorial. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I was so humbled and thankful for the experience of walking where so many young men lost their lives for the case of freedom. The next destination was Paris, France… YAY! Paris is a very busy, compact, adorable city with so much culture! We were able to visit Notre Dame and experience all of the art and architecture in the building. There was so much thought and meaning behind each piece of architecture that we viewed. Next is London, my ABSOLUTE favorite! I could live there. I fell in love with the city, culture, architecture and atmosphere. All the people were so kind and the main reason I loved it so much is because that is where I learned the most. We visited 3 cathedrals that day and learned so much about significant church leaders and martyrs. We saw how the art and architecture of that time were made to literally convey the gospel of Christ- which is awesome! We also spent the last day of our trip in London. One of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis, played a very large role in the development of Christianity in London. We got to learn about how he grew up and the impacts he made for the Kingdom of Christ. The fourth day, we spent in Oxford and Windsor Castle and there we got to learn more about the culture, the British Parliament and the martyrs that were killed so that we can enjoy Christianity the way we can today. Again, so humbling!

Not once did I feel like a tourist in any of these places. Of course we had a blast and saw the Eiffel Tower, visited a (real life!) castle and SO much more, but I felt like I was there for a purpose and that was to learn from the leaders of the world that helped Christianity spread so that God’s Kingdom could be brought to earth. AND how I can make a difference too. Thank you, SLU, for such an amazing experience and for preparing me to think and dream like a leader. I will never forget what I learned at SLU, so thank YOU, whoever is reading this, for your prayers, financial support, and moral support. It was not in vain!

Student Leadership University life-lessons that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Student Leadership has taught me 5 things:

Be prepared.

Be prepared for what? There is a quote from SLU that Mr. Jay Strack had us write down on multiple occasions and it says this: “The future belongs to those who are prepared.” I don’t know of a truer statement. We were asked to read a couple books before attending the conference. Also, while at the conference, specifically during 301, we were asked to read about the history that built and created the places that we were going to visit.

We, as students, can’t expect to get anywhere in life if we fail to prepare. Prepare for the testing that will get you into the college you want to go to. Prepare to be in long-lasting fruitful relationships… and prepare for the not-so-lovely ones as well. Prepare to marry one day. Prepare your speeches. And always prepare to be questioned about your faith. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” 1 Peter 3:15. One thing SLU helped me realize is that primarily every question I have is already answered in the bible, whether it is through a direct command or someone’s testimony. Friendship is defined in the bible. The Lord warns us against bad company and encourages us to speak kindly to one another. (1 Cor. 15:33, Prov. 16:24). Marriage is defined in the bible. Wives must submit to husbands and husbands must love their wives as they love themselves. (Eph.5:22-30).

There is a famous quote that says: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is something that Student Leadership University ingrained in our brains! And I am so thankful they did.

Be persistent. Be productive.

Is anyone else really great at reading their bibles daily for a couple weeks and then slowly reaching a standstill? Yeah… me too. One thing SLU has stressed from the very beginning in 101 is to put an end to mediocrity. As Christians, we are called to be MORE than conquerors. So often we stop there, but if we keep reading, Romans 8:37 actually says that “overwhelming victory is ours THROUGH CHRIST WHO LOVED US.” We can’t put an end to mediocrity on our own. Although we are built as human beings, we are made for a much greater purpose than simply living to die. We must practice discipline. People always make time for the things that are important to them. If I have committed to live my life for Christ, I simply can’t sit here and think that praying once a day and reading the daily bible verse is enough. God calls us to a greater purpose!! I don’t understand Christians who can keep all the love and passion of Christ all bottled up inside of them. GET EXCITED!! He doesn’t need you, yet HE CHOOSES YOU. HE WANTS YOU.  SLU taught me to be persistent and to put an end to mediocrity TODAY… not tomorrow.

Be passionate.

Passion is something that is attractive to the human race. I know that if I can tell my teachers are passionate about the subject they are teaching, it makes me want to learn more about it. While we are having a conversation with someone we don’t know, we always ask: what do you do in your free time, what do you enjoy, what are your hobbies? It’s natural for us to want to know WHY someone loves math so much, or why they adore playing the trumpet. Passion is encouraging and it’s contagious. So, it only makes sense to apply passion to our walk with Christ. SLU taught us that people are watching us… whether we realize it or not. The way we act and speak are constant reflections of what you believe. If you are a christian who LOVES the Lord and wants to please him, let it overflow in the activities you engage in and the company you’re around and the way you speak. Again, put an end to mediocre Christianity and let the passion overflow! Do the Lord’s work constantly. Encourage one another and build each other up. Share the gospel that WILL set people free from their sins, from DEATH. GET EXCITED! Be passionate about what you believe, because if you are, people will notice, and the Kingdom of God will be brought to earth.

Be proud.

No, not proud in a haughty manner. Rather, be proud of who you are. Be proud of how you look. Be proud to be an American. Be proud of your friends. Be proud of your accomplishments. Be proud to be a child of God. And don’t forget to give every scrap of credit to the only one who deserves it: Jesus Christ. SLU taught us to be proud of the things we work for. I know I paid for half of my SLU 201 and 301 by working, saving birthday money, and of course, asking for donations from you guys (THANK YOU<3). It felt so good to be able to go on these trips and know that it wasn’t just a walk in the park. I wanted to be there, so I needed to work for it. That’s the first time I’ve ever had to work to pay for a trip to go on so yeah, I’m proud of that. I feel accomplished. But, WHO opened an opportunity for a job? WHO pricked the hearts of those who felt led to give? WHO convicted the hearts of those who were called to pray for my trip? Jesus. Only Jesus. To HIM be the glory. HE allowed me to go on this trip. And I am so very thankful.

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