by Anna Birch
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a part of the Forge? We asked four current “Forgies”—Ferrin Gillespie, Austin Lim, Mattie Stewart, and Mark Garwood—to share their experience so far in Pine Cove’s leadership development ministry. Take a little behind-the-scenes look (without any spoilers!) at lessons learned and the benefits of the program.
Mark: I have absolutely loved getting to dig deep into my faith and solidify why I believe what I believe!
Ferrin: Personally, I think the best part about the Forge program has been intentionally doing life with 32 other people. It has been such a gift to answer tough questions, disentangle myself from lies that the enemy has had me believe for too long, and to begin walking in truth more than I ever have in my whole 22 years of living—all with 32 other people rooting for me along the way. I could not be more grateful for my Forge brothers and sisters.
Mattie: The best part of the program so far has been learning from all of the mentors and teachers. Being shepherded by our Forge directors Kristen Ray, Dexter Carter, and Jared Schuler has been one of the sweetest gifts. Following them as they follow Christ has impacted my relationship with Jesus tremendously in just a few short months. Also, learning from Bob Livesay, Chris Sherrod, Chris Legg, Amy Waters, and all of the other teachers is like drinking out of a fire hose. They give us so much information and wisdom, it has been so cool to learn about really hard subjects and see how each of them are interwoven into the Kingdom.
Austin: The community that I’ve been able to be a part of. It has been a gift to walk with fellow believers through difficult things. We have encouraged one another in difficult trials and through small things. We have continued to love one another despite conflict and have grown through it. We have been vulnerable with one another while trusting that no matter what happened in the past or present, we aren’t walking out on each other.
Ferrin: I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned about God this semester is that He truly isn’t like anyone on this earth. He is capital “G” God for a reason. So although it’s understandable for me to assume that He’s a lot like my parents or my friends or the people around me, He’s just not. And that is such great news. He is more kind than the kindest person I know. He is more gentle and loving and graciously patient than anyone else on this planet. My community around me has shown me a lot of how they can emulate some of God’s qualities, but they are all just mirrors reflecting God’s perfect character. How cool is that!?
Mattie: Growing up and even through college, I was alway searching for “the land of milk and honey,” the abundant life that I read about in Scripture. It wasn’t until this program that the Lord revealed to me a really cool picture of what that life actually looks like. The abundant life isn’t always smooth and pretty, quite often it is hard. I have seen day after day the faithful and constant character of the Lord through this program. Living in the abundant life Christ offers us has allowed me to explore more of who He has created me to be. God has uniquely crafted us for specific purposes in His kingdom and this program has been the vessel He is using to reveal to me my unique design, which has been really cool!
Mark: I have learned that living in community is a difficult, yet beautiful thing—more of a way of life than an exercise to be conducted once or twice a week. I have seen that living in true relationship with others is a burden, but one that I joyfully take on only through the strength and redemption that God provides.
Austin: Something that has been difficult for me is giving myself grace. I think a clear example of this is in “P2” (our morning workouts). I get frustrated when I can’t finish everything and although I might not show it outwardly, inwardly it’s hard. I’ve learned that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly. It is okay that I can’t finish certain workouts because it is something I think is worth my effort, and doing what I can is enough.
Mark: Stepping into honesty in calling out and “calling up” those around me, and learning to humbly accept critique and advice.
Ferrin: I walked into the Forge with trust issues that went a lot deeper than I had ever realized. But in time, the Lord has been good and kind to show me that the people around me are worthy of my trust. They are not perfect, but they are still doing their best to love me well and earn my trust, slowly but surely. I’m definitely still learning how to not keep people at arm’s length, to let them in, and articulate my feelings, but when I think about who I was walking into the Forge compared to who I am now, I’m just blown away.
Mattie: Oh, there are so many reasons! But if you are wondering how the Lord can use you in the Kingdom or how your specific gifts, talents, personality, etc. can be used to glorify God, then apply for the Forge! The identity aspect of this program is one of the big reasons I wanted to apply. Over the course of the program, you learn so much about how the Lord has uniquely designed you and how you can use that to further the Kingdom. Knowing your identity in Christ can help you develop a faith worth following.
Austin: I would recommend someone do the Forge because of the valuable communication skills I’ve learned. I have learned about how I can better care for others. I’ve also learned ways that I miscommunicate with those around me.
Ferrin: I think the best way that I could answer this is with an analogy. Imagine trying to make a basket or land an arrow on the bullseye of a target without glasses. You could probably get pretty close with some learned attempts, but it’d be really difficult. A lot of guessing, but not a lot of certainty. In this situation, the Forge would be the glasses you need to make that basket or hit that bullseye. When it comes to pinpointing your identity in Christ, your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and how the Lord has uniquely designed you to further share the glory of His kingdom, the Forge isn’t a program where you can just make assumptions of those answers. The people around you, your roommates, and our directors see you for who you are and spur you on to grow so that ultimately, you may better reflect the character of Christ, not just a more polished or marketable version of yourself.
Mark: I can already see how what I’m learning will change the way I approach my faith, my relationships with others, my own identity, and how I approach the Lord. It is such a blessing to be able to study the word and truths of God deeply alongside the other students, directors, and teachers who are passionately following Christ and are willing to exhort and encourage you in your growth in Him.
Posted Jan 20, 2021