Dr. Jay Strack has said, “You will be the same person ten years from now except for the books you read, the places you go, the people you meet, and the Scripture you memorize.” Whenever someone asks what my favorite part about my SLU experience is, it is always hard to narrow down all the memories, knowledge, and experiences into one “favorite.” However, most of the time I tell questioners this quote because I believe it encompasses my entire SLU experience of a lifetime.
“The books you read” … Before SLU 101 even began, my dad was super pumped about me getting to go on this trip. Through all of his excitement, he told me to read. He found the SLU reading list, and he ordered all the books for me to begin to surround myself with the knowledge and prepare myself for this experience. Before this, I enjoyed reading; however, my normal reading plan was filled with romance novels and Christian fiction, not biographies and leadership information books like what was on the SLU reading list. Through all of the books I have read over the years—from the SLU reading list to more biographies and informative books that I have added myself—I have learned so much more than I would have had I not read. When different situations arise, I use the wisdom gained from the books and apply it. We all grow through the SLU sessions, but books bring more in-depth challenges to leadership and they continue the excitement of the one week SLU to a lifetime of application. With biographies, there is wisdom to be gained through that person’s life. With informative books, there is life application through nuggets of wisdom in between the lines. Ten years from now, my future will be changed because I read thought-provoking books.
“The people you meet” … While the books I read really began at 101, the people I met at 201 truly changed my perspective. At SLU 201 in Washington D.C., we heard from amazing speakers, including founders of nonprofit organizations, governmental senators, actors, and military men. I had never been so exposed to so many wise people in one place. From the podium, each spoke wisdom individually into our lives. Specifically from 201, I have learned to soak up wisdom from anyone that is willing to share. Whether a college student who is only in town for the summer telling me how to be prepared for college or an older lady in the grocery store that I have never met showing me how to have joy in the mundane, I have learned to listen. I remember a time when several out of town college students stayed at our house for two days. They had so much wisdom to share about their college journeys. I only wish I had more time to spend talking with them! I’ve learned to never take anyone for granted. With the people you meet, always listen. Learn from their experience. The people you meet will change you and make you wiser.
“The places you go” … SLU 301 was the first time I had ever been out of the country. While I didn’t know what to expect at first, I saw both similarities and differences. The European people looked the same, yet their culture and way of living was slightly different than anything I had ever experienced before. Even after one day of being on a different continent, my perspective was changed forever. Since 301, I have been to two other continents (Colombia, South America on a mission trip and Israel in the Middle East with SLU 401), and seeing the different ways people live is life changing. When you experience a totally new culture and environment, your life is forever altered. When you meet people from different parts of the world, your heart yearns to meet them at their point of need, and your heart is expanded for sharing Christ with the nations. Your perspective changes. Your goals change. Your life changes. The places you go changes you.
“The Scripture you memorize” … Before the SLU 401 trip to the Holy Land, I felt God’s call in my personal walk with Him for me to memorize more Scripture. After a few weeks of Scripture memory, I saw the importance of it especially in spiritual warfare against the devil. I even applied a lesson I learned from a speaker at 201 to pray Scripture over people in our spheres of influence. Chaplain Barry Black said, “When you pray back the promises, you move the hand of the Omnipotent.” Because of my foundation in memorizing Scripture, God’s Word came alive on 401! With my mind full of the Bible, I experienced SLU 401 to its full potential. I would not have been able to see all God had in store if I didn’t memorize Scripture beforehand. It also would not have meant as much if I did not know the Scripture references to the places we were visiting. With 401 and with all of life, God has the power to open our spiritual eyes in different situations and bring Scripture we have memorized to the forefront of our mind. The hardships of this world pale in comparison to the power in God’s Word. Your life will be changed by the Scripture you memorize.
But now that my SLU experience is over, how do I continue to think, dream, and lead? How do I keep my dream alive? While this is the whole purpose of SLU, many forget to continue to live the life of a leader who pursues excellence. If we continue to apply the wisdom we learn from books, people, places, and Scripture, I believe we will grow into the leader that God desires us to be. My challenge for myself is to continue to read books that are thought-provoking, listen to others and the wisdom that they have, go places to experience the world through different eyes, and memorize more and more of God’s precious Words of life. Will you join me?
My Suggested SLU Reading List*
Before SLU 101
Leadership Rocks by Jay Strack
The Call by Brent Crowe
Before SLU 201
Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Lincoln Speaks to Leaders by Pat Williams
Identity Theft by Jay Strack
Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger
Before SLU 301
Seven Men by Eric Metaxas
William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity by Kevin Belmonte
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc by Douglas Brinkley
ReImagine by Brent Crowe
Seven Women by Eric Metaxas
Before SLU 401
Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick
Read as much of the Bible as possible—I suggest looking at the schedule for each day of 401 and researching where the places are in the Bible before you go on the trip (example: for Mt. Carmel, I wrote down and read 1 Kings 18:19-40).