Chantelle, Steward, Marcela and Grady came to GFA World's School of Discipleship (SD) at different times, from different parts of the world and with different ideas of what the programme might look like, but they all came with a common expectation: to grow closer to Jesus.
Steward stared at the SD ad that asked, "Can you die to yourself for one year?" The question moved him almost to tears. He felt like he couldn't die to himself for 10 seconds successfully. Filled with a desire to be around other people who wanted to die to themselves, Steward decided to take SD up on their offer.
"I wanted to learn to die to myself," he says. "I wanted to learn to live Christ's life and not mine."
Living Christ's Life, Not His Own
Steward came to SD in August 2011 as a 25-year-old who had been living on his own for seven years. He anticipated there would be certain programme expectations, like abiding by a curfew and participating in weekend activities, but he was willing to surrender his own will, knowing the Lord was using those things to do a work in his heart.
"With School of Discipleship, things like the emphasis on love and the emphasis on actually walking out things that Christ said to His followers . . . really made it clear to me the distinctions between living my own life and living Christ's life, and made it easier for me to make the choice at times to live the life that Christ is living," Steward says.
Marcela thought the programme would be physically demanding, involving time in the mountains and climbing rocks. But she believed it would help teach her about God and what it meant to serve Him, so she braced herself for the challenges.
Oh boy, she thought, I don't have enough strength, but the Lord will have to give it to me.
Preparing for a Lifelong Walk
When Marcela arrived at SD in 2011, she came as a new believer eager to discover what it meant to serve the Lord and "pick up her cross."
She didn't learn about this concept through physically demanding activities, as she had envisioned. Instead, she grew in understanding as the Lord challenged her in daily life—whether through praying with other students and the staff, learning to serve her roommates, or discussing topics like discipleship during class.
"As a new believer, you have all this zeal, and you're like, 'Yeah, I'm going to follow Jesus and serve Him,'" Marcela comments. "But I think if there's not that very crucial time of discipleship, . . . we're human, so we tend to just forget about it, you know? But the Lord was gracious and merciful, and He brought me here to the School of Discipleship to be discipled. And during that time, He taught me a lot about what it means to live reality in the light of eternity."
Grady believed SD would offer something he needed and wanted: an opportunity to go deeper in his personal relationship with Christ.
"It really struck a chord with me because I knew I wasn't living what a Christian should be," Grady says.
Learning Through Grace
When Grady left Australia for SD in January 2014, he found it incredibly difficult to wave goodbye to his parents. But when he arrived in Texas, he found a refreshing sense of community and unity among the staff at GFA World and among his roommates and resident assistants, who helped him grow in his walk with Jesus.
"Getting to live with them and seeing their walks with the Lord was a huge encouragement to me to pursue after Him," Grady says. "The other students were fantastic. … Definitely my spiritual life was a result of having those people around me."
*Names of people and places may have been changed for privacy and security reasons. Images are GFA stock photos used for representation purposes and are not the actual person/location, unless otherwise noted.