Knowing Your Story

by Benjie Colberg, Class of 2019


We don’t talk about story enough. You have one, I have one, your parents have one, your boss has one, even Kanye has one. But do we know these stories? Do we know the stories of our friends and family? Do we even know our own? Before this year I would have said that I knew mine, but I would have been lying. Sure, I knew the obvious things pretty well—where I was born, what my childhood looked like, where I went to school, and what the triumphs and tragedies in my life were, but I hadn’t yet sought to understand how all of these experiences had shaped me and continued to shape me. Fellows woke me up by asking me to wrestle with and engage my story, and in turn, engage my Creator. While there are many themes of the Trinity Fellows year, one that rings loudly for me can be summarized by John Calvin (with a Benjie Colberg addition at the end), “One cannot truly know God without knowing oneself, and one cannot truly know oneself without knowing God. [Additionally, one cannot truly know others without knowing oneself]”.

Fellows creates the space for you to dive deeply into your story in ways that are simultaneously burdensome and beautiful. I say burdensome because all of our stories contain memories and experiences that are difficult. We all encounter loss, pain, sadness, embarrassment, and brokenness in our lives… this is inevitable. To look back on those times and recount them is a heavy, yet imperative endeavor. For understanding and naming the brokenness allows you to more clearly see the beauty that takes place as a result. As Fellows, this process begins during Testimony retreat, where you are asked to share your story, broken pieces and all, with 15 strangers. That was a sacred time for us as a class, as we heard each other’s life story up to the day we arrived in Charlottesville. The stories were hard, they were funny, they were unique, they were sad, and they were joyful. Yet most importantly, they were all beautiful, because our God writes beautiful, redemptive stories. Testimony retreat allowed us to take off the masks we wear in public and be vulnerable with each other, a necessity for friendship.

From there, we continued to learn how we are wired through various assessments such as the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, Highlands Ability Battery (a test that shows your natural abilities), and MCore (a test that shows your core motivations). We dove into what these results mean for us—both how our stories are impacted by our personalities and how our personalities are impacted by our stories. We also explored our stories’ role in shaping our interactions with family, friends, and strangers. While this introspection was a good and necessary first step, perhaps more importantly we were given platforms to understand each other’s results, painting a more clear picture of who each person is. As the Fellows year proceeded, we had roundtable dinners and retreats, where it seemed that every speaker told us his or her story and how God had brought redemption through it. We heard from pastors, artists, singers, writers, educators, students, parents, husbands, wives, bankers, financial advisors, and farmers. Their stories have shaped them into who they are today, and across the board, their ability to know their own story has offered them a deeper relationship with God, their families, and their friends. It’s difficult to quantify the encouragement we have felt from the stories that have been shared with us this year.

So what does this mean for us moving forward? I think a few things. First, we must continue to engage our stories, as they are still being written every day. Our stories change every time we tell them, because more has been added. Ceasing to do so would be failing to love ourselves and as a result, failing to love our Creator. Second, we must be intentional in seeking to know each other’s stories! How can we pretend to understand where our friends, colleagues, parents, and the other people we interact with are coming from if we don’t really know them? (Trick question, we can’t). I know we will be better friends, workers, bosses, husbands, wives, and parents if we give the people in our lives the opportunity to tell us their story. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability—sharing your story with others allows them the freedom to share their own. Lastly, and most importantly, we must, at all times, look for God in our story. In my short experience, I’ve seen that I can’t always find Him in the present stages of my life. He seems quiet, sometimes nonexistent, and that can be disheartening and scary. Yet I rest in the knowledge that I always see Him when I look backwards, or when I hear other people’s stories. Aren’t we missing the entire point of being human if we don’t do this?

It’s bittersweet to think that we only have a few weeks of Fellows left, and I will miss these people, this place, and this program more than words can express. Yet I am eternally grateful for the chapter of my life that Fellows has written. I feel honored to have played just a minor role in the story of my brothers and sisters, and I know that our stories together are just beginning. For that’s what happens when you engage and know other people’s stories… you create friendships that are deep, that are true, and that will last. That is a beautiful thing, and I find great comfort in this truth as I prepare to move on from Fellows to wherever it is that God would continue my story!

A Joyful Noise

by Elle Prosterman, Class of 2019


This past Monday, I sat in my office with the familiar post-retreat feeling—a unique mixture of encouragement, refreshment, and exhaustion. This feeling has become familiar as the beginning of the Fellows year is infamous for a deluge of retreats. Those who are familiar with the retreat-heavy beginning of the Fellows year have commented on how difficult it must be to pack up and venture elsewhere after having just moved to a new city. However, it is with gladness that my fellow Fellows and I have embarked on these adventures four times since being in Charlottesville. Each retreat stands as a picture of one of the most precious gifts that this year offers: a strong community of people, all uniquely made in the image of God. By enjoying each other’s company and the sweetness of community grounded in Him, we are able to engage more deeply with the God who brought us together.

Our orientation retreat allowed for hours in the car where we had the privilege of asking each other questions, seeking to know each other better. We rock climbed, whitewater rafted, cooked for each other, swam in the lake, and worshipped together. Our testimony retreat invited us to patiently and lovingly bear one another’s stories, struggles, and victories. We mourned and rejoiced with and for one another while acknowledging God as our Creator and Sustainer. We realized the glory of serving alongside each other while on Modgnik, the middle school retreat. We served and loved middle schoolers either by sitting with and listening to them or sending them down the ropes course or water slide. Most recently, we learned more about God in the midst of knowing our own stories while on Trinity’s young adult retreat.

Each weekend retreat has given us the space to venture deeper into our own spiritual lives while also sharing in the ability that God gives us to enjoy His creation. We grow in our ability to rest, whether that be through a boat ride on the lake, a game of cards, or ultimate frisbee. We learn more about each other and treasure each other’s presence while sharing a meal or an impromptu dance party. Each of these experiences points to the God that longs to embrace us, walk with us, dine with us, and dance with us. Our time together is where we practice the lessons we are learning in this year as well. We see what it means to long for the new creation about which Bill Wilder is teaching us. We seek opportunities to cultivate gratitude as we have learned from Wade Bradshaw. We offer hospitality to each other as we have learned from the example of our host families, mentors, and job hosts.

As we were reading Psalm 95 during our most recent roundtable discussion, I realized that what these retreats are teaching us parallel David’s call in the Psalm:

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!

For the Lord is a great God,

And a great king above all gods.

In His hand are the depths of the earth;

The heights of the mountains are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it,

And His hands formed the dry land.”

Psalm 95:1-5

We gratefully sing a joyful noise to the Lord in our conversations, laughter, tears, and stories shared.

We do so while acknowledging the work that our great God has done and will do in our lives.

We remind each other that we are even more beautifully crafted than the creation that causes us to stand in awe.

May this retreat posture remain throughout our year, and may we carry these lessons throughout our lives as well.

The Gift of Fun

by Taylor Vashro, Class of 2018

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:1-3

Fellows Blog November Taylor.png

“I just want to play…” sighed one of my fellow Fellows in the midst of a retreat as we reflected on the emotional exhaustion we were both feeling after the first few months of Fellows. A lot of what we do in the Fellows program is extremely life-giving, but can also be heavy and emotionally draining. So what did we do? We got up and played!

In my time at Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES), I studied Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise and distinctly remember learning about the seven dimensions of wellness in my Health Counseling class. The seven dimensions include: social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical wellness. Each dimension individually contributes to overall wellness and also overlaps to potentially affect each other. If you are satisfied in six dimensions but largely neglect one dimension, it will impact your overall health as well as potentially hinder your wellness in other dimensions. According to the seven dimensions of wellness model, being physically active and mitigating emotional stress are essential for our overall health and also spiritual wellness.

Thankfully, in the midst of all the introspection, journaling, processing, and crying we have also been blessed with the gift of having fun! From rock climbing and white water rafting during our orientation retreat to using free time at conferences for sports and games, our Fellows class has been very intentional about prioritizing physical activity and fun. As a group this has looked like a myriad of activities: hiking, running, painting, exploring culture, karaoke, rock climbing, playing instruments, cooking and even serving together.

Our spiritual wellness can best be reflected to the world when we appropriately steward our time and gifts to care for our overall wellness and the temple for the Holy Spirit that dwells within us: “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). As a surprise to most, we’re not only learning how to glorify God through our vocation and hard work, but also through rest and fun in the midst of the pandemonium of life. We’ve discovered that the freedom we find in Christ allows us to rejoice and play, not in attempt to be fully satisfied by these hobbies, but to compliment the fulfillment we find in our relationship with Christ, “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

There will definitely be seasons of life where hardships, mentally and physically, will have an unavoidable effect on us. However, in this year we have the opportunity to develop habits that prioritize all dimensions of wellness so that we may flourish the way God designed us to. When learning about the Fellows program and all that it entails, no one promised us time to play, yet this time has been a vital aspect of this program and one that I pray continues to be a God given gift for the rest of our lives!

Gathering Around a Table

by Hugh Stephens, Class of 2018

As the trees begin to explode into hues of red, yellow, orange, I find it hard to describe the beauty that Charlottesville holds in the fall. This beauty marks the end of an exciting summer with winter beginning to show its first signs. As the summer season comes to a close, it seems that the Fellows Program has also arrived at the end of its first cycle. August and September were filled with new beginnings, fresh jobs, perfect friends, and adventures. As the cold begins to set in so do the mundanities of life. Even in such an exciting world the weekly routine has begun to weigh heavy: jobs are, for some, challenging and unglamorous; life is busy; and, believe it or not, the men or women in this program are not as perfect as they once seemed. Amidst all these fresh realities, it is through a weekly meal that I am reminded just how fortunate I am to be a Trinity Fellow.

The lessons and memories I have made around a table are fundamental to the man that I am today. I can still feel the joy that would swell up in me as a teenager walking into my home in Memphis, when the aroma of my momma’s cooking would first waft into my nose. She always sings as she cooks, and her voice has always been molasses to my ears, slow and sweet, reminding me of the joys to come as we would gather together for supper. What I loved most about my family supper is that we committed to that time together regardless of any circumstantial difficulties. Some nights we loathed one another and ended the meal in frustration, but for the most part we talked and laughed with each other, quickly forgetting any tensions that existed. Comfort flowed from that table every time that I took my seat. The table was always a place of renewal in my life, and I am so thankful that it continues to be so in this Fellows year.

Every single Monday, amidst the hustle and bustle of the world, the Fellows gather together for a home-cooked meal, and week after week this evening means more to me than any other. There is nothing that puts my mind at ease after a busy Monday more than walking into the Doran’s home to a bouquet of friendly faces, familiar voices, and delicious smells of the meal to come. Just as with my family, there are times when I wish for a night to myself. A night where I could just watch a movie sometimes sounds favorable to congregating with twenty people, but these feelings quickly dissipate into a cherished affection for all who have come to feast together. Something almost magical occurs when eating with someone and pouring out past experiences, feelings, or even what has happened during the past twenty-four hours.

After supper, music permeates the living room and fills us all as we gather for worship. What a blessing to be able to pause on a Monday evening and re-center our lives after the opening day of the work week. Worship is succeeded by a hodge-podge of various speakers, seminars, and discussions. Missionaries working for Surge swept us away to Africa as they shared their experiences with us; anger swelled within us as we discussed the pain of the August 12th rally in Charlottesville; and we have heard from one another the ways in which we have seen God in the simplicities of life. Most importantly, we gather. We spend time together, and receive the imperative reminder that at the end of the day, even in the loneliest of weeks, we have a family here. The perfect bookend to a wonderful night is the singing of the doxology and the charge to go out and bring the renewal and joy of Christ to our world. As I wander back to my car each week I thank God for the feast given to my body and my soul.

The cold of fall has always been, to me, a welcomed friend. I enjoy the feeling of crisp air on my skin and in my lungs and the warmth wrapped around me by my favorite sweatshirt. It gives me a feeling of comfort that the warmer months simply do not offer. So too, the mundaneness of life, the annoyances in friends, and the longings for home force me to wrap myself up in the things that give me warmth. The beauty of this program is not that all aspects of life are perfect, but rather that they are not. It is amidst the frustrating mundanities of life that true growth comes, and it is the love that can permeate frustrations that offers genuine warmth. For me, that warmth has always come while gathering around a table.

The Narrative Begins

by Elise Hearne, Class of 2018

This summer, as I prepared to move across the country to begin Fellows in Charlottesville, I didn’t know what to expect and wondered what it would look like to enter into a year of fellowship with fifteen strangers. A month in, my mind lingers on the word “story.” Each member of this year’s Trinity Fellows class has a story that has taken them to places and experiences that no one else has seen. We carry with us the cumulative influence of our families, friends, hometowns, universities, and many more transformative life experiences. This year, our stories overlap in a beautiful way.

As we settled into our cool metal chairs for the first day of orientation, I glanced around at a room comprised of fifteen faces I only recognized from recent Facebook stalking and wondered where we would possibly begin. The first few days were a whirlwind of information and expectations. We spent hours frantically scribbling down notes and important dates into our notebooks, pausing briefly to permanently damage our retinas from the eclipse, before continuing to listen to lectures. During one of these lectures, Tim Jones, the Director of Community and Care at Trinity, first introduced the importance of “story.” He explained that we tell ourselves stories in order to live. Yet we don’t live in a vacuum. We connect our own storylines to grander narratives.

Two weeks ago, sitting in a circle on the floor of a family room as rain fell through the fog over the lake outside, we began to walk each other through the turning points of our lives. From the major life events and decisions to some of the smaller narratives that make us who we are, I was amazed by the trust and vulnerability displayed. After sharing both beautiful and immensely painful aspects of our lives, we were embraced by empathetic tears and life-giving words. This willingness to allow others into our stories in raw, unadulterated ways is a perfect picture of how transformative and renewing this year can be. In the peaks and valleys, we have made the commitment to love one another and nurture this community as we grow together in wisdom and grace.

Everyone in that room understood that this group was a safe place to be fully known. We no longer needed to force ourselves to appear “okay” by any standard, but were challenged to admit our faults, insecurities, and struggles. As the weekend drew to a close and the weight of these stories hung in the air, we leaned into one another. We shared meals. We sang with each other. We prayed for the presence of God to heal and comfort each one of us.

In a matter of weeks, these friends have become some of the most influential people in my life. Knowing me and choosing to enter into my story, they challenge me to grow as I learn more about who I am, who God is, and who each of them are.

As our stories continue to develop, I am grateful for the fifteen caring friends who bolster me to learn more about the larger narrative of our lives.  I’m grateful for a community that has opened their homes, fridges, hearts, and brilliant minds to pour into sixteen twenty-somethings. And I am grateful for a program coordinator and leadership team that love us selflessly, motivating us to do the same for others. This year, as any other, will hold its share of challenges, but I am confident that there is no group of people I would rather choose to surround me than these this community.

Welcome Trinity Fellows Class of 2018

Welcome to the Class of 2018 Trinity Fellows! We hope this blog serves to update, encourage, and inspire you through our collective stories over the course of this year. We will rotate authors monthly as we seek to share core components of our Fellows experience.

For everyone who has entered into this year in support of the Fellows, we want to greet you with a heartfelt THANK YOU! Our Fellows class has been overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouragement we have received from the extensive Fellows community. It is so clear that we have been placed into a community and mission that will last far longer than these next 9 months.

In only a month of life in Charlottesville, so much has transpired. Relationships that didn’t exist in any capacity weeks ago have become the most important aspects of our daily lives. Many people familiar with the Fellows Program have thrown around the phrase “drinking through a fire hose” as a means to explain the outpouring of wisdom and new experiences that the program offers. The kindness and hospitality we have received these past four weeks is life giving.

We are expectant and hopeful of a beautiful, transformative year alongside each other as Fellows.

“Look among the nations and see, wonder and be amazed. For I am doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5

Four Years After


By Kaitlyn Amos, Fellows Class of 2012

Some Trinity Fellows begin their year with an already substantial idea about who they are and where they are headed. The wild ride of this program simply secures their confidence, broadens their perspective, and launches them into a sector of the culture (and the Kingdom) they will help build. While I admired the beautiful insight some of my peers possessed, I wasn’t one of those Fellows. I walked out of our graduation banquet brimming with ideas coupled with a healthy dose of uncertainty—all under the framework of a grand narrative that (for the first time) actually felt grand enough to hold all my fragments together. I concluded Trinity Fellows with little direction and a lot of conviction to slow down, to prioritize a few Fellows-inspired disciplines, and to pay attention to my own story unfolding within this larger plot.

In May 2012, to the best of my ability, I started to do just that.

I committed to live intentionally with four other Fellows Program graduates. I started a new job, joined a prayer group, and immersed myself in a community of Latino kids who wanted to hang out as much as possible. I tended to that patch of life with all my might, while trying to remain alert to the Lord’s leading. It looked something like: one step forward, two steps, stop; ear to the ground, look around, evaluate my next move. While I haven’t covered a great distance at this pace, I have tried to thoroughly inhabit each space, giving myself back to the people and work given to me.

Surprisingly, this past year my little patchwork trail led to a more paved road. It’s a road down a newer career in healthcare that curiously gathers together so many of the gifts, wounds, and relationships I’ve tended to. (And this road actually has a map!)

Not surprisingly, the vocational framework established during my time as a Fellow provided me with the imagination to recognize this unlikely pavement as my own. Because of Fellows, and the days of rooting in that followed, I was prepared to take on this next venture when it emerged.

A few months ago, I handed over my job of four years to a younger Fellows Program graduate (whom I now consider a close friend). She had recently crossed the finish line of her high-paced year and was ripe for processing the transition. But I found it difficult to answer her questions about my experience adequately. I struggled to distinguish (much less articulate) what specific lessons from the Fellows Program I had carried into the real world.

The more I reflected, the more the patches of life-since-Fellows morphed together—blurring where one section ended and another began. Over the years that followed our program, I had hardly noticed how much our Fellows-taught theology and Fellows-embodied practices had transformed the way I understood the world. And now, looking back, it felt as though it had always been this way. When my childhood friend called to talk about her dad’s diagnosis, I didn’t pull up Bill Wilder’s PowerPoint illustration to explain away her fear. His teaching once interpreted this already-but-not-yet life we inhabit, and now it is the only context within which I can receive her pained words. It is the sole structure that enables me to hold both the suffering and the hope with her, believing that the story won’t end there.

When I choose to sit and read another Narnia book with Juana, I don’t rehearse my training as an Abundant Life Tutor before I open the cover. I do recall the freedom of giving my hours away, witnessing someone thrive in their own story, and mysteriously receiving more than I invested—now it is just what I want to include as essential in my weeks.

When my boss stayed for hours after I left Monroe Hall to edit and perfect a report for the tenth time, I didn’t need a National Fellows Conference to tell me he’s aspiring for excellence because he knows all his work matters to the King and His Kingdom. But at a conference someone did speak about all work being sacred, and now it is the standard by which I will always measure the worth of labor.

When the girls of our 411 Moseley Drive household invite another new peer to our Sunday night celebrations, I don’t quote John Cunningham’s lesson about perichoresis. But I hold onto that word in place of a language I once lacked. Now I can tell you that triune love expands and welcomes because that is who God is and we are becoming like Him, so hospitality is actually very holy work.

When Michael and Dottie Guthrie sat across from me and offered their home and endless support for yet another season of unknowns, I didn’t pull out Dennis Doran’s email about how your host family might one day become like your real family, although I did remember his words. I am able to accept their generosity after years of learning to trust its richness.

If I cry after a poignant conversation with Wade Bradshaw, I am no longer alarmed because I now believe I am only becoming more human.

When I meet with roommates for morning prayer, I’m not trying to check a box. I know I need to be in conversation with the Lord alongside other believers. And now I crave it.

When my small group represents different cultures and demographics, I don’t consciously think of how the Fellows’ Micah 6:8 Retreat might have birthed my desire to worship amidst a diverse body of believers. Now I am continually drawn to sisters and brothers who together portray the mosaic and textured glimpse of Christ’s Kingdom I’ve come to long for.

When I break bread with the Prums or the Stampers or the Coppocks or the Pickells or any of the countless families who graciously and repeatedly welcome me into their homes, I know Christ communes with us in our fellowship. And it is good.

The truths I learned my first year in Charlottesville have become so integrated into my current life, it feels difficult to distinguish what I once did not know. The experiences I had as a Fellow informed so much of the way I live and operate today, it feels difficult to separate how I approached life before.

Despite such coherence, I know that it has not always been this way. The Lord used the Fellows Program to help me initially recognize my belonging in a narrative that, in Wade’s words, “changes everything.”

It’s the narrative of Christ and His coming Kingdom; a story that did not seek to detach from what and whom I grew to love, but a story that instead became solidified by people and practices in the years since our graduation banquet.

The Fellows Program helped me more fully understand the life of Christ and, in doing so, gave me a truer knowing of myself, a bigger dream about where I’m headed, and a better attentiveness to both the loss and the abundance along the way. And Christ’s life is soaked in God’s faithfulness to us, to me. So when the Holy Spirit invites me to be faithful with what is right in front of me—paved road or winding trail—I am freed to do just that.

International interest in Fellows Programs: gathering in Monterrey, Mexico

By Kyle Spencer, Fellows Class of 2017

In a postmodern world that teaches millennials the ideology of individualism, the Fellows Initiative (TFI) was created to help recent college graduates pursue character, excellence, and leadership in every aspect of life, with their faith as the foundation, resulting in the embodiment of Christian virtues. This life system not only engages millennials in the Church, but transforms their theology in the workplace and community, which is why graduates of a Fellows program tend to be drawn to the biblical teaching that our work echoes in eternity. Thus, it is only divine intervention that 25+ Fellows Programs have been created across the United States since 2006, and the reason a TFI “Come and See” conference was held in Monterrey, Mexico.

Through a series of organic conversations, multiple mission agencies such as Mission to the World (MTW), South American Mission, Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission), and folks from the Redeemer City-to-City Church Planting Network (as started by Tim Keller) agreed to meet in Monterrey to better learn how they might globally partner to create Fellows Programs in their local church plants. It is important to note that it is somewhat rare for global mission agencies to fully collaborate due to certain theological and philosophical approaches to reaching the lost. The fact that these many global missions entities were coming together is a testament to TFI’s fruitfulness. There is also a strong desire to engage millennials both in the Church and in the city, and collaborating with TFI serves that common goal. Thus, these partnerships led a local pastor in Monterrey, Mexico, Andres Garza, along with Jud Lamos, a globalization specialist with MTW, to sponsor an event where local church leaders, business leaders, and mission agencies could come and learn about TFI. The goal of this gathering was twofold: to start a relational conversation on engaging millennials through the TFI model, and how the TFI model can be translated across different cultures.

“Rejoicing the City,” the title of this global gathering held in December 2016, was used to target a wide range of audiences: church leaders, business and civic leaders, global mission leaders. The first day was focused on creating a conversation with local church leaders; the second day focused on local business leaders (both Christian and non-Christian), and a third session focused on mission agencies. Although the conversation looked different within each discussion, one main question echoed in all three: How can a Fellows Program bring rejoicing and flourishing to a city? Jeremiah 29:7, the theme of the gathering, calls for Christians to “seek the welfare of the city.” And “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices” according to Proverbs 11:10. The concept of a Fellows Program seeks to achieve these things in the context of its city: to form, strengthen, build, and create Creational and gospel-centered beauty in all different industries: arts, business, politics, etc. The result of each discussion led to a resounding praise, with leaders from each group wanting to create a Fellows Program within their city.

Although there are many questions left to address—such as specifics on how a local church in a global city can start a Fellows Program and how the TFI model can be tailored to fit the specific culture of the city—one thing is clear: God’s glorious plan for His church is alive, actively shaping the lives of millennials (and all people!) through the transformative power of the Gospel, seeking to renew all things in His creation. The fruits of the Fellows Initiative are just one small piece of that beautiful picture of God redeeming and restoring all things through Christ.