Sometimes I repeat who I identify myself to be in the mirror as a sort of mantra. “My name is Sophia Giles; I am 19 years old, currently attending Washington State University to study creative writing and sociology. I am a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, a women’s Greek fraternity on campus.” I imagine myself behind a podium in front of important looking people who look back at me as if I too, am important. In this way, I try to secure myself in this world as if my interests, how old I am, and how I spend my time define me by boxing me into neat little packages. I welcome the stereotypes that come with each aspect. “I bleed crimson and gray,” I’m ~artsy~, and I am a “bubbly sorority girl with 70 best friends who wears her letters wherever she goes.”
Treating these surface-level aspects of my life as the big picture allows me to imagine my life as a simple and uncomplicated storyline that (unsurprisingly) doesn’t reflect who I entirely am. Defining myself in these narrow descriptions only allows for half-truths. While these things are parts of who I am, they are not who I am, but minor details about my life. How long would I be able to go on and on about these surface-level aspects of who I think Sophia Giles is until I get to my true identity? How much farther down the list of descriptions could I name until I arrived at my true identity, that I am a child of God. I am saved. I am His disciple. How much time have I spent looking to this world to tell me who I should be instead of recognizing that there is a God who already knows me better than I could ever know myself? By learning more about the good news of the gospel and who God is to me, and I to him, won't I ultimately be able secure myself not in this world, but in His story. Upon recognizing that I am first and foremost His daughter, His servant, and His beloved, I have started a new kind of affirmation routine, one that is true, and unchanging. “I am His child. I am redeemed. I am Chosen.”
This is where Elevate 2018 comes in.
1,000 miles from home, 50+ people living on mission, 10 weeks, and 1 God. Set in La Jolla, California, Elevate is a 10-week discipleship/ leadership program that allows for me to dedicate my entire summer to growing in my faith and learning to take advantage of opportunities to share the gospel with others, while also building and living in a community. I want to apologetically run towards God and see where He takes me, see what He makes of me. I want to build this spark I have towards God and turn it into a full-on wildfire, consuming my life in a way that allows for His name to be seen and heard by the people all around me.
But why elevate? Why pack up all my things, search for a new job, and move across the state to live in a hotel room with seven other girls when I could grow in my faith back home?
One of the main reasons I wanted to come on Elevate was the idea of building a community. Growing up in a small town, I struggled to find my community of people like myself. Although my freshman year of college has treated me well in finding friends and people to surround myself with, the idea of building faith-based relationships that would allow for the support and closeness to pour into each other made me hopeful in finding a real community. In other words, picking up and moving, living with seven strangers, and spending 40 hours a week job hunting until I find one, doesn’t seem so crazy when it means having a community of people who have all agreed to hold each other up in our journey through Christ. So yes, I could serve and learn about God in Washington, but the question is who would hold me accountable? Who would teach me the true word of God? I want to grow in my faith and find my identity in Christ rather than the things of this world, but I don’t have the tools on my own.
Elevate isn’t just about me though, and friendships aren’t about how they can serve us, but rather how we can serve them. Elevate is about bringing the kingdom of God to this earth, how we can learn to seek out others and share the gospel with them, and how to have faith-based conversations with others to bring them to Jesus. There are so many people that I am already eager to share the gospel with, but it’s hard to know where to even begin. In other words, I can’t do it alone. I need a God-centered community of peers and leaders to guide me.
I believe God has provided an opportunity through Elevate to learn and grow in Christ and community in an environment that requires me to lean into his word wholly. So thank you, to every one of you who helped me get here, I believe God has put you in my life for a reason to help me start on this journey. It’s going to be an amazing ride, and I can't wait to share it all with you, God is on the move!