To “follow Jesus’ is to be His disciple, yet we live in a culture that very few of us experience the fullness of what that call embodies. Many have made “decisions” for Christ, but few are committed followers of the One who beckons us to “take up our cross and follow Him.” And because we don’t know how to follow, we miss out on the abundance promised when we do.
I sensed God wanted me to offer a space for women to grow, to deal with their baggage, to learn more about their Redeemer and to experience His Presence. And from this Institute, a foundation of faith and freedom would be established that would carry them out as His disciples across the globe. This has been the vision of Redeemed Girl Institute for the past five years, but I can honestly say, nothing prepared me for how Jesus would move this year.
Young women from across the nation traveled to Pensacola Beach, Florida last week for a week of in-depth discipleship. Most arrived not knowing what to expect, but sensing in their hearts that God was calling them out, onto the water, to stand in oceans deep. Some raised money in tip jars to make the trek to Florida and others asked friends and family to support them. From the very first night, I watched the Lord move mightily in this group. I say this as a word of hope to anyone who might be reading this and thinking the future of the church looks bleak. Fear not! Jesus is growing up a generation of young women who worship Him in spirit and in truth! They are beautifully radiant and bold as lions!
The best compliment I can give these young women is how teachable they are. This year we crammed more teaching sessions in than ever before and what blew me away about these girls was their hunger! They leaned in, took notes, asked amazing questions and worshipped like they were on fire. In an age of distraction and constant noise, they were zoned in on God’s Word and eager to learn during every session.
Please don’t read this and think that these women are somehow immune to the pressures and temptations of the world. They are not. Most arrived that first day battling all kinds of insecurities and anxieties. I know several who were dealing with consequences of sin and shame. The majority arrived feeling uncertain and battling the lies of the enemy that they weren’t worthy. But as that first night ensued, Jesus washed over us one clear message—“you belong.” Knowing that Jesus loved us, saw us in our brokenness, understood our struggles and still called us to be His own, established our time together as a “no shame zone.” With our eyes fixed on the acceptance found in Christ alone allowed us the freedom to be real and to seek wholeness.
One thing that impacted me personally was watching the various gifts in the Body of Christ come together for His Glory. From our food team who fed our bellies to our teachers who fed our souls, we all worked together to make disciples and glorify God.
I must stop and thank the women who made #RGI2015 a reality. First, our worship leaders: Jourdan Johnson and Molley Moody. The best compliment I can give them is that they disappear on stage and Jesus is exalted. There are so many worship leaders who make it about themselves, but these two women lead others so beautifully into the Presence of God.
The RGM staff of Rebecca Harper and Blake Snyder worked all year long to plan RGI. These servants worked faithfully behind the scenes, but I want the world to know how hard they worked to create such a beautiful and welcoming environment for these young women to learn God’s word. The same goes for our prayer team; men and women from across the nation prayed and interceded for this event and the fruit of their prayers was evident.
In addition, each woman was placed in a group with others her age and with a condo leader to facilitate the week. These leaders are former RGI graduates who come back to guide others as they walk through this experience. I want to thank Inger Calderon and her team of leaders for being the hands and feet of Jesus this week for these women. Your listening ears, caring hands and praying hearts made this week so special.
Wow, our teaching team! I don’t think I have enough words to express the caliber of teaching these women brought to the table. Thank you Leigh Kohler, Kat Harris and Sharie King for bringing such powerful and relevant teachings every day. I said at the beginning of the week that we wanted to “experience Jesus, not just learn information about Him.” I can honestly say that through each teaching we did just that.
Finally, I want to thank the numerous men and women who financially supported RGI2015. Because of your gifts, each attendee received a scholarship and was able to experience this unique discipleship opportunity without financial reservations. Your anonymous gifts made this week possible.
As I reflect on all that #RGI2015 was I keep hearing the words of Jesus echo through my heart.
Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” –John 10:6-10 (The Message)
Many of the women walked into Redeemed Girl Institute with stories of how the enemy tried to destroy them in the past. But today they are experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised as they follow Him. They can boldly confess with me “Jesus is better!” Please pray for them as they return to their campuses, careers and callings. Lift them up as they aim to bring Jesus into every arena of their lives and lead others to their Redeemer.
All photos by Justin Ellis Photography
Marian Jordan Ellis, Founder + President