Jennifer Goff is a senior family studies major from Austin, TX.
This summer I went to Colorado Springs, Colo., for a program called Focus Leadership Institute. Focus Leadership Institute exists as a ministry of Focus on the Family that strives to train and equip future leaders with the skills and abilities needed to lead others.
As part of my time at the Institute, I worked at Boundless, an online community that discusses issues such as marriage, family, finances, conflict, and career choices among 20-30 year olds. I had the opportunity to write blog posts, participate in online podcasts, and meet rather interesting authors who shared their thoughts about the books that they wrote on those very topics. I was really encouraged to see that much of what I had studied as a part of my family studies major mattered to people with real needs.
The first three weeks I also sat through a Christian Worldview class led by Dr. Del Tackett, author and founder of the Truth Project. In this class, I learned how to systematically defend and explain my Christian worldview in regards to church, family, work, government, man, and God. One of my biggest takeaways was discovering that both “sacred” and “secular” vocations are important to the Lord. You do not technically have to be a minister or a missionary or a pastor in order to do God’s work. Everyone is called to be a minister in whichever profession they find themselves in. Being a stay-at-home mom can be an incredible ministry opportunity if that is what God is calling a woman to do.
After this three week intensive, my FLI group had the opportunity to visit DC during the week of the 4th of July. There my group of friends and I got to see how a cohesive Christian worldview plays out in the political realm. My favorite memory though was walking through the monuments and the Arlington cemetery. I was delighted when, on the plane home at the end of the summer, I saw the new Captain America movie and recognized all the monuments!
Halfway through the week, we met with wealthy Focus on the Family donors who supported the ministry and toured many places with them, including the National Archives, the Newseum, and the Capital Building. It was neat to make so many amazing connections.
While I was there, I also nearly ran into three of my friends from Howard Payne: Glorianna Stolle, who was working with her dad at International Justice Mission; Katie Bonner, who was interning at the capitol; and Jake Aschmutat, an HPU grad who is now studying at law school.
I heard speakers from various political platforms tell of the great need to impact the next generation and raise up Christian leaders. The political atmosphere can be dry for Christ, but just looking at where God positioned my friends from both Focus Leadership Institute and from Howard Payne during the nation’s 4th really encouraged me. God is already raising up Christ-like leaders and I get to be one of them.
The second class I took when we got back from D.C. was a Christian Leadership and Identity course, taught by Dr. Robert and Elena Thomason. In this class I took a personality assessment and strengths finder test. On the personality assessment, I was classified as an INFP. This meant that I had at least a moderate bent towards being introverted, am highly intuitive, think through things mostly on a feelings basis, and can be rather disorganized. I learned that although I may not get things done in an orderly fashion, that’s okay. It was encouraging to discover too, that most people who have the same personality type as me may take roundabout and adventurous ways to get things done- including making a career choice. That was great news for me since I am graduating and still have very little idea about my future plans.
My strengths, I learned, were adaptability, ideation, input, communication, and positivity. When I read about my strengths I learned how I could leverage them into a career that I could be really successful at and co-labor with other Christians to further the Kingdom of God- whether that was through a secular or sacred vocation.
As a whole though, the most important thing I learned about was the concept of community. I thought I had a good concept of what it meant to be a part of a healthy and thriving community, but what I learned at FLI healed some very broken ideas I had. While it was hard to grow close to people in such short amount of time, FLI challenged me to be open and vulnerable. In that vulnerability, I learned that I am free to be exactly who I am in Christ.
I’m great at what I do because I’m me, even though I’m not always sure what it is I need to be doing or where exactly I am going. FLI was an opportunity to begin understanding that about myself. I know graduating in December from Howard Payne may not change the fact that I’m only just beginning to find my own path.
The world just keeps getting bigger and it is so fun knowing adventures are just up ahead. I know I’m on a journey and God is definitely not through with me yet.