“What is your dream?”
This is a question I asked students time and time again over the course of my five-week summer internship in Orlando, Florida with Student Leadership University. What a privilege it is to step into someone else’s dream! It takes vulnerability for students to be able to share something so special with a relative stranger. As C.S. Lewis famously stated in The Four Loves, “To love is to be vulnerable.” I would humbly add that to dream is to be vulnerable; I’ve found they often go hand-in-hand.
Even before serving with SLU, God had already placed the burden on my heart to dream with others. “Dream” was the word God gave me for 2017 back in January of this last year. In order to earn vulnerability from others, one must first give vulnerability. For example, my dream over the past year has been to write and publish a book about the power of hope. I will be entering into the editing stage very soon and I can’t wait to share it share with the world. We experience the power of hope the most in seasons when we need it the most—in seasons of change.
Many of the students I met this summer had recently entered into their own seasons of change—transitioning from middle school to high school, high school to college, or even less routine but more painful transitions brought about by divorce or death. I met Meredith in week one, whose dream is to be a writer; Aden in week two, whose dream is to be a speaker; Maddy in week three, whose dream is to be an artist; Halle in week four, whose dream is to teach ESL in Cambodia; and Andrew in week five, whose dream is to be a film director. Hope can be found in each of our abilities to dream.
SLU never tells a student what to dream—we merely gave them the tools to know how to dream. The best dreamers are the ones who are able to connect the dots of their own lives in order to foster their dream. A dream, or a calling, is where one’s passions, talents, and gifts all intersect in a specific area. Meredith loves to write. Aden has always had a talent for running his mouth. He would be the first one to tell you this about himself, which is why he will one day make an incredible speaker. Maddy’s eyes allow her to see a world no one else can see and then capture it on a canvas. These are their passions, talents, and gifts. These are their dreams.
The prophet Joel writes in Scripture about dreams when prophesying of the coming day of Pentecost, speaking for the Lord and saying, “Afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28 NIV). Years later—when the day of Pentecost finally arrives—the Holy Spirit is poured out on all of the believers who are gathered together. Following this miraculous moment, Peter begins to preach using Joel’s powerful words. Three thousand people came to know the Lord because of it. As followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit is still inside each of us today, filling us with new dreams.
Dreaming comes more naturally to us in childhood. We chatter of becoming astronauts, firefighters, or dolphin trainers—there is not limit to a child’s self-conceived potential. This is one reason why Jesus tells us we must be more like children if we hope to enter the Kingdom of God. As we grow older, we often find ourselves compromising those same dreams for personal security. The Holy Spirit restores our ability to conceive “childlike” dreams. Student Leadership University hopes to fan the fire and passion of each student’s dream so they may be equipped to burn brightly for the Kingdom of God for the rest of their lives.
SLU is currently entering a season of dreaming of its own. It was exciting to play a small role in this, even for such a short period of time. The Lord allowed our particular summer staff to intersect the organization at a moment in which it has recently hired several fresh, new dreamers onto their full-time team. The fact many of these newly hired dreamers went through SLU as students themselves demonstrates the success of the organization. The dreams they wrote down in their notes years ago have become realities in their lives. Incredibly, here they are now, ready to dream again with a new generation of leaders.
SLU does not merely talk about dreaming; the leaders of the organization live it out. It takes a great deal of faith to hand over one’s dreams to the Lord, and the experiment known as Student Leadership University has faithfulness in its DNA. The Lord is at work just as much behind the scenes in the lives of the full-time staff as He is in the lives of every student who passes through the four stages of the SLU journey. Student Leadership University empowers students to think, dream, and lead, but it goes so much deeper. Students finish their time with SLU thinking with faith, dreaming with hope, and leading with love—and those three things last forever.