As the end of the year approaches, I wanted to highlight some of the amazing ways God is using the ministry of Forge Leadership Network in young people’s lives and futures. In the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you a series of testimonials from Forge graduates and current students. You will hear their personal stories in their own words.
Last week, you read Forge graduate Andrew Martin’s story. This week, our featured Forge student is Haley Holmlund, a current member of the 2018-2019 Forge Mentorship Academy. Haley attended the 2018 Forge Leadership Summit in Columbus this past July, traveling all the way from the San Francisco Bay Area, which also happens to be my birthplace. But, unlike me coming of age in the Midwest, Haley has grown up as a millennial on the coast, a place where (as you’ll read from Haley below) very few 23 year-olds share her beliefs and convictions, both religiously and politically. A 2017 graduate of Liberty University with a degree in Strategic Communications, Haley works as the Communications Director for United In Purpose, an excellent national organization that has been a blessing to Forge and hundreds of other conservative organizations, providing technology services, communications strategy, coaching, coalition-building, and more to the conservative movement.
Haley’s reflections on Forge’s impact on her life:
“I am a conservative Christian millennial, and I am a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. These are two facts that, to some, may seem irreconcilable. Yet I assure you, it is completely possible to be both of these things. It is also very lonely.
A year and a half ago, I moved back home to the Bay Area after graduating from Liberty University. The culture shock I experienced was even more extreme than 4 years previously, when I first moved to Virginia and discovered that fried Oreos exist. After leaving home and making both my faith and my political views my own, returning to the culture I grew up in was challenging to say the least.
I began working for a wonderful Christian nonprofit organization, but I was discouraged that my co-workers were essentially the only people in my life with whom I could share ideas. I also wanted friends – not people who thought exactly like me, but at least people who didn’t think so differently from me it was impossible to have a civil conversation. I missed the stimulating discussions and lively debates I had with classmates, professors, and friends while I was in school. I missed being around people who constantly pushed me to expand my thinking. I wanted to be around people who shared my values – people who pursued truth.
After a few months in California, I ran into Adam at a conference, and he invited me to the 2018 Forge Leadership Summit – an opportunity to spend a week in Ohio with 75 other young conservatives. Honestly, I would have gone just to meet one conservative my age, let alone 75. And given how discouraged I was feeling, it seemed like the Lord’s timing. And so, I traded a week of summer in California for a week of summer in Ohio. On paper, that might not seem like the brightest decision, but it was truly one of the best I’ve ever made. Because, what transpired was one of the most life-changing weeks I’ve ever experienced.
That week, I was challenged more than I thought possible. I both heard from and engaged with thought leaders and conservative champions. I was part of an incredible team (victorious, I might add) that created a Campaign-in-a-Day. And I participated in a mock legislature where I had the opportunity to pass a California bill eliminating a ridiculous government regulation on the Ohio Statehouse floor. Sadly, this bill must make it through a non-mock California legislature to become reality – but stay tuned.
This week was transformative for me. At a time in my life when for so long, I had felt frustrated and stagnant, I felt truly alive.
Since then, I have gone on to become part of the Forge 2018-2019 Mentorship Academy. It’s not only one of the most enriching aspects of my personal and professional development – it’s also the most fun. It has continually stretched and challenged me in so many different ways. It has helped me to hone my skills and understand and articulate my beliefs.
Forge has the most incredible educational and vocational opportunities. The knowledge and experiences I have gained from it and continue to gain from it will impact me for the rest of my life. But what truly makes it the amazing experience that it is, is what makes any experience what it is – the people.
The people of Forge are servant-leaders – mentors and peers of the highest caliber. People with love for the Lord and a burning desire to impact the world. People who choose what is right over what is easy or simple. People who seek truth. They’re the people I was looking for when I flew to Ohio this summer. Every day, they challenge and inspire me to think bigger and be better. Every day, they remind me how it important it is to stand by what I believe. And every day, they show me what it looks like to do that on a practical level.
I’m forever grateful to the people of Forge, because they have equipped me to stand as a lone conservative Christian millennial here in the San Francisco Bay Area. They’ve become my lifelong friends, my comrades in arms. The people of Forge have given me courage. They’ve given me hope.”
Thank you for reading, and thank you for your interest in and support of the life-changing impact Forge is having on young servant-leaders like Haley. I hope these stories encourage and inspire you.
Thank you for considering making these stories possible through your generosity!
Happy New Year!