The sun shines on the big white tent crouched at the edge of the late summer forest. We sit on folding chairs, sometimes shouting to be heard over the low flying airplanes and noise of the streets around us. This is REACH training 2020.
Eleven participants. Six interns. Two regular speakers. One COVID bubble – inside the Rosedale International Center and outside in a tent with airflow.
Over the past years, the REACH program has launched trainings of over 30 participants. Typically, the trainings were packed 24/7 with dynamic speakers, worship teams, and outreach opportunities. The experience has been likened to drinking from a fire hydrant – drenching participants in a flood of spiritual experience.
This year looks different. Two months ago, REACH staff wondered if the training program was viable, interns grieved the loss of City Challenge, and now, possibly, the whole year’s programming. But leaders heard the whisper of new things. “Even before COVID-19 we wondered if some changes could be helpful,” reflects Joe, President of Rosedale International (RI). REACH participants typically enjoyed a rich spiritual high, but some struggled to reintegrate into church and ministry post-REACH.
As RI’s leaders sought God for this REACH training, they heard the invitation to continue. Through the uncertainty directly before them, they saw a simpler way emerge. Instead of dozens of speakers, a few regular RI leaders would facilitate daily in-depth, manuscript Bible Studies. Instead of diverse worship teams, in-house staff and interns would lead weekly church time and meditation on Jesus. Instead of prior forms of outreach, teams would seek God in order to hear what outreach could be possible while physically isolated. Isaac, Director of Short-Term Programs mused, “If we don’t let previous experiences hold us down, this is going to be rich.”
“There is a growing excitement to give this year’s REACHers simpler tools to seek Jesus, to create community, to go to deeper with Scripture – wherever they are.”
RI realized that the needed pruning and simplification could bring life to not only this year’s much smaller training but could enliven future REACH trainings. Joe sees potential to “prepare these young people to build community and to be confident at hearing the voice of Jesus.” There is a growing excitement to give this year’s REACHers simpler tools to seek Jesus, to create community, to go to deeper with Scripture – wherever they are. Paige, Assistant Director of Short-Term Programs, is excited to see how this experience can give young people confidence for future leadership positions and long-term work in the kingdom of God. Isaac hopes to combine the valued traditions and purpose of past REACH trainings with aspects of this year’s vision in order to nurture and grow the program into a holistic and healthy hybrid for future participants.
Walking with RI leaders this year are the RI Interns. Seth, Sierra, Annie, Katie, Conner, and Ginny signed up for a normal position as year-long interns but quickly realized that they would need grace and flexibility beyond the original job description. Through loss and uncertainty, they have maintained hope. When asked where they have found hope, they quickly said, “Community.” As they walk together, they have become leaders. They have also deepened their role as followers of Jesus. Knowing that Jesus has grown them through difficulties in the past, they look forward with hope, while realizing hope takes trust and the willingness to grow. Interns were quick to acknowledge their sorrow, and also quick to point to Jesus. Sierra sums up, “The thing that gives me hope is also the scary thing.” This community exercise in trust may look scary sometimes but these leaders are stepping up to fill empty spaces.
Joining the interns to walk alongside this year’s REACH participants are team leaders Sara and Derek, both from Ohio. “I only have Jesus,” Sara exclaimed when asked where she derives hope. Derek and Sara have shown great joy, maturity, trust, and love as they begin to lead this year’s teams. Derek (center of photo) gathers around him Annie (OH), Chuck (MD), Tobin (DE), and Emily (PA). After discipleship training in the white tent in Columbus OH, they anticipate outreach in Utica, NY. Sara (pictured second from the left) welcomes Keturah (PA), Brianna (OH), Jadyn (PA), Destiny (OH), and Cassidy (OH) to her team and will travel to Albuquerque, NM for outreach. Together, these leaders and participants seek to actively wait on Jesus as he shows them the way. This year, in particular, we wait with bated breath to see what happens next in the journey of these Jesus followers becoming leaders. Rosedale International welcomes REACH 2020!