As we hit the end of November, we also hit Forge Leadership Network’s first birthday anniversary. Because of that milestone and the holiday season of faithful reflection and
thankfulness upon us, for this newsletter, I want to reflect on one of the lessons that God has taught me as a result of Year One of this great adventure.
Because of the belief and generosity of many folks
like you and the success we’ve already seen in our first year, I strongly believe that Forge will have many thriving years and decades to come, Lord-willing.
…That last part is key: “Lord-willing.” Psalm 127:1 reminds us:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”
Over the last 12 months, God has used Forge Leadership Network as a way to stretch my faith, to humble me, and to refine my perspective:
Prior to Forge Leadership Network, I’d never started a brand-new organization. I’d never raised $100,000. I’d never applied for tax-exempt IRS status. I’d never recruited students to an event they had never heard of before! And, the list goes on… My co-founder Justin Powell and I believed we could do it alongside an amazing board, supporters like you, and faithful donors [We’d love to have you join our Donor Team!]. We were firmly convinced that we had done our homework, had sought and implemented advice from wise counsel, and we absolutely knew that Forge Leadership Network would play a unique role – that we were creating it to fit a much-needed gap, to solve a real deficiency in the conservative universe and in the development of young leaders. But, there were still a lot of unknowns...
Now, one year later, I look back humbled at what God has used Forge to accomplish:
- 43 students attending and completing the inaugural Forge Leadership Summit in July 2015.
- 22 outstanding college-aged Forge Summit grads nominated and accepted into our Forge Fellowship (our year-long formal mentoring program) Class of 2015-2016.
- Securing incredible personal mentors for each of those 22 Fellows – mentors with tremendous character, talent, and reputation in their diverse vocations in the public square. Mentors that fit our Fellows’ individual needs and vocational hopes “to a T.”
- Countless conversations I have had with Fellows and potential 2016 Summit attendees whose words, lives, and goals encourage me, challenge me, and inspire me.
- Top-notch internships for each Fellow that has asked for our help to secure one.
- A Featured Story in a National Publication.
- 8 (and growing) national organizations that see the value in what we’re doing in Ohio and the Midwest.
- We are within $4,000 and counting of meeting our 2015 Budget goals.
I also look toward next year’s highly-achievable big goals:
- 99 students at the 2016 Forge Leadership Summit (max-capacity for the legislative simulation portion of our Summit at the 99-member Ohio Statehouse Chamber)
- students from every corner of the state of Ohio and an increased amount from neighboring states.
- 50 Summit grads nominated and accepted into the Forge Fellowship for the 2016-2017 year/Class.
- Multiplying our internship and job placement and networking services.
- Growing our budget in order to to bring on a student recruiter/coordinator.
- Building toward having an additional expansion Summit in a neighboring state in 2017.
God has seen fit this year to use Forge for noble purposes, to invest in the hearts and minds of young people, to equip them for the diverse, unique, and special plans He has for each one of them. The Forge Board of Advisors and I are full-speed ahead to build on this success, to be thoughtful stewards, to work smart and hard to grow Forge so that it can bless more and more young conservatives. But, it’s good to take some time to reflect…
When I was 21, the age of many of our Forge Fellows, I was very ill. I had been struggling for over two years with the mental agony of severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the physical anguish of a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/auto-immune issue that left me feeling more exhausted when I woke up than when I had gone to sleep the night before. The combination of these, added to the longevity, produced some other real physical complications and periods of deep depression.
In that deep valley, God showed me that His Ways were far different than my ways, that His Plans were far different than my plans for my own life, and that His Timing was far different than my timing. He taught me that His ways/timing/plans were better and taught me to believe that even when I couldn’t see at the time, in that circumstance. I began, in the midst of that valley, to trust God with my future, to surrender and yield my agenda for my life in exchange for His. As a result, He gave me rest, He gave me peace, He gave me hope. This season in my life brought new experiential meaning to the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
The first year of Forge Leadership Network has reminded me of many of these truths. When I am weak, He is strong. When I am bewildered or confused, He has perfect plans. When I make mistakes, He is not moved or ruined. When I doubt, He leads me to trust and place my confidence in Him.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, the Apostle Paul writes:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
My experience with the first year of Forge has caused me to resonate deeply with this truth.
I want to be an empty vessel that God can use, a tool in the hands of the most brilliant Artist and Craftsman. My greatest prayer, and that of the Board, is that God would glory Himself through Forge, through the way we communicate with our donors and supporters; through the way we serve our students; through the relationships we nurture; through the reputation for integrity we build with the public.
This has been the most rewarding and humbling year of my life. Thank you for sharing it with me and helping make it possible with your encouragement, spreading the word, recommending students, sound advice, and more. I wake up so encouraged by knowing all of the folks who have invested time, talent, and treasure into making Forge a success. Thank you so very much for your prayers, well-wishes, and belief in the value and vision of Forge Leadership Network.
P.S. If you don’t like puns, I hope you will forgive that sign-off.
P.P.S. If you would like to help us go out of 2015 with a bang by giving a special year-end gift, I’d be so honored. You can donate here or send a check to the address below.
Forge Leadership Network. 707 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd. #202, Dayton, OH 45459.