We held the Forge Leadership Summit – in person with 80 aspiring young leaders – at the end of July, and it was a huge success! We took every effort to ensure the health and safety of our students and speakers, and we’re thrilled to share eight weeks after the Summit that we did not have a single COVID case.
Here is feedback we received from a young female Summit participant from Cincinnati who attends college in Illinois:
“I want to tell Forge donors ‘thank you for supporting Forge.’ My experience at Forge has had a tremendous impact on my life. My relationship with Christ has been deepened. And I can now better articulate why I love my country. Forge gave me the education and inspiration to do such things. Without Forge, I wouldn’t have the confidence to step into the public square on difficult political topics that need to be addressed. So, once again, thank you so much. Your support is leading the future.”
It’s hard for me to beat that testament to the week’s impact!
Overcoming Obstacles To Train Young Patriots
Before delving further into testimonials and a recap of the week, I must tell you the wild story of how much we overcame in order to have this event.
Five days before the Forge Summit began – on Wednesday night July 15th at 8:30pm – I typed the following words to send to the 80 students on their way to Central Ohio for the 2020 Forge Leadership Summit:
“We’re thrilled to welcome you into the Forge Network and family next week in Columbus, Ohio. The last five years, I’ve personally witnessed the Summit serve as the catalyst for incredible personal growth and friendships, professional accomplishment, and impact on our states, nation, and world. I also know, decades from now, we will all look back at this year’s Forge Summit as particularly special given all the disruption and difficulties you’ve overcome to get here in light of Covid-19.”
Little did I know the full extent of that last sentence…
Literally 15 minutes later, Jennie forwarded an email to me from our host location (who had been on the books for a year and with whom we’d communicated and planned with regularly and frequently) …[bombshell]… they’re cancelling on us FIVE days before the event.
In the midst of our shock and trying to make sense of this last-minute cancellation, we immediately started scrambling to find a new location for this year’s Summit. Call after call, comparing and contrasting different scenarios… we were almost out of options. Thankfully, God provided — Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center. It did come with an increased cost, but we were be able to hold the Summit, taking us out of downtown Columbus and into a rural county just to the southwest.
So, against all odds, and everything that 2020 could throw at us, we held the Forge Leadership Summit – in person – as planned July 21-25.
Much Needed Relationships and Community
Our students were thrilled that the Summit was still on, our speakers and trainers were excited to come invest in young leaders; and, after asking and trusting God to open or close doors and guide us, we believed this would be a powerful event, one in which we honored and followed best practices and health guidelines in partnership with the host location. It was just that and more – a phenomenal event, and the students we met were thrilled and grateful that we didn’t cancel or postpone.
And, they needed it. A young woman from Texas opened up to us:
“I must say that this week has probably been the highlight of my entire year. The first four months of this year were very difficult for me, and for awhile, I did not really believe that my year would get much better. Then I heard of Forge. It has been such an incredible blessing to be here and to be encouraged by so many to speak truth and to do it boldly. It has been very lonely for me this year, but this week I made some connections with some pretty great people, learned so much about politics, and was just very encouraged to persevere even when I feel like giving up. Thank you to everyone for this wonderful experience!”
Despite knowing the event would be powerful in the lives of these young leaders, it didn’t mean it was an easy decision to proceed with the event…
Even after negotiating a substantial discount, the Summit cost us significantly more than our campus location would have. We didn’t take this financial hit lightly, but we believe this story of perseverance and wanting to find a way to not let COVID-19 undermine our mission will inspire Forge supporters present and future to more than make up for the added costs of this new venue (our only plausible venue option at that point).
Given what our country has been facing, our mission to raise up faithful young leaders has never been more critical.
Hope for the Future
One attendee, a recent college graduate from Virginia, beautifully summed up the impact of Forge:
“Forge Leadership Summit has fundamentally refocused my vision for my life. I have developed a vision to work at the intersection of academia and politics/policy. I have often questioned my ability to go into politics/policy, and it was Forge’s Summit, especially the legislative simulation, that showed me I have what it takes. This summit gave me immense hope that my faith, my belief in Christ, can inform how I interact in the public square and truly make a difference. Thank you for your contribution to Forge. It made a difference for me and many of my peers – and it will continue to make a difference.”
Thanks for reading and sharing in this story and adventure that is Forge. Famous boxing champion Mike Tyson once said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I’m not sure that the tumultuous week before the Forge Summit qualifies as a punch in the mouth ;), but it sure caused us to improvise quickly, and I am very impressed and grateful for Jennie and Jeremiah’s incredible ability to innovate, stay positive, and not give up!
Coming this Fall: Our quarterly hard-copy newsletter featuring an in-depth recap of the Forge Leadership Summit!
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Thank You for Your Passion to Raise Up the Next Generation,