A week of transformation and self-discovery. If I was told that I could only use one sentence to explain my week at Six8 at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN, that is exactly how I would choose to word my response.
Before arrival, I found myself doubting the purpose of my presence for this theological intensive that has since changed and reformed several of my opinions and beliefs. Questions rang through my head and made me almost dread the possibility of the week being a flop. I worried that the twelve-hour drive that my dad had to make four times to drop me off, go back to Florida, pick me up, and then go back to Florida again would be essentially worthless. I worried that everybody at the program would not care about the theology and that it would just be something that they just considered another credential they could put on their college applications. I worried that no one would want to engage with one another and that it would be a week of silence. I wondered if I should have chosen another program that I had the opportunity to participate in.
But then, I got there. I was tired, the drive had been awful, it was hot outside, and all I wanted to do was sleep for a couple of hours. But, we were there. And that was when it was proven to me that I had to be there. That God had brought me there for a reason. I knew within the first hour and a half that the week was going to be one that would be forever engraved in my heart, mind, and soul. My exhaustion dissipated, my worry fled, and my eyes were opened to the possibilities of the week. People were talking to one another as if they had known each other for years. People who had seen each other in small intervals around their respective districts were finally connecting. People of different denominations and sects of the Christian church were all communed together in one classroom to all engage and learn with one another. And that… that was beyond exciting.
Day after day, we each experienced different emotions which consisted of anger, confusion, frustration, sorrow for our world, each other, and ourselves, deliverance, freedom, hope, discouragement, encouragement, grace, mercy, contentment, and abounding agape love. Our connection with each other grew by the second. Life-long relationships were being formed and we all knew that we would forever cherish one another. Mentors held their hands out for us the entire week but still made us work to understand. Professors engaged with us on personal level and made us think at a theological level that none of us had ever truly experienced. Guest speakers made their involvement consist more of the experience than the presentation. Each class was enlightening. Each worship session free. Each small group session safe. There was never a day where I felt like I had not done anything useful. There was never a moment that I doubted my, or anyone else’s, presence at Six8. Everyone added and no one took away.
Of course, when talking about social justice from a theological point of view, sentiments and opinions are not always shared or agreed upon. Feelings were stirred and angered. People had many defense mechanisms which ranged from laughter to argumentative attitudes. Others just chose to shut down the second they did not agree with an opinion expressed. We crossed into many different scenarios and situations that most sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduates would not normally be able to handle. My mind was never left wandering idly during the week but was always left processing all of the information and theological learning that we had done that day. There were nights that all of the girls came together and hung out until late hours of the night to process, joke around, and eat pizza before we did it all again the next day. We were practically all best friends by Day 2.
A week might not seem like a long time to get to know a person, but if you are spending every bit of 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds with a group that only consists of 24 people, you become fast friends with everyone that surrounds you. Relationships are built and developed off of one singular conversation with someone. Plus, you know you have limited time, therefore you only have that limited time to love the people you are living with. Your heart expands within a matter of hours. And these relationships are ones that will last for years. The ones that will forever be evolved and developed through the use of GroupMe, Snapchat, Instagram, and constant text conversations. Many spontaneous trips will be planned to visit one another, even if only for a couple of hours.
And, in all honesty, we all got much more than we bargained for. At the time of signing up for this program, most of us assumed that everyone was expecting to leave Six8 a little bit smarter and a little bit wiser. No one expected to leave Six8 with 23 new brothers and sisters, one heck of an intern, six flipping amazing mentors, two incredible worship pastors, an improv team of 4, three teachers/professors/pastors, two fearless leaders, and a refugee as a part of their forever family. A very diverse one at that.
The Six8 Fellowship was not called the Six8 Camp, Theological Intensive, or Program for a reason. It was called a Fellowship because through Him and what we learned, we all came together and became fellows. Yes, we joked around all week and called one another “fella.” But, it was because we truly were all connected.
It would normally be assumed that a group of teens going on a theological trip would be the “ones touching lives,” but it was the complete opposite. Everyone that we met was touching us. From Odessa, the lady in charge of the Napier Community Center, to Ahmed, a refugee, our lives were completely transfigured. There is no way that any one of us could ever be the same.
The Six8 Fellowship was not a week of games and shopping. It was not a week of constant free times and super high spiritual revelations. It was week of self-discovery and transformation with one another. It was a week of fellowship and never-ending conversation. It was a week of being neighbors to and with each other. And it was worth every penny, minute, and doubt that I paid to get there.
I love all of my fellow Six8 fellas. Let’s go love our neighbors.