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First Mile Two Graduates Take Formative Experience into the Rest of Life
Jeff Banman likens the Mile Two Discipleship School to a greenhouse—to an environment that nurtures growth until transplanting takes place into the soil of the rest of life.
“We need a greenhouse at certain times,” he says. “We’re not necessarily meant to live our lives in greenhouses, but there are times when we need periods of intense growth to put down roots.”
It’s an apt and helpful metaphor for explaining the work and mission of Mile Two, which recently graduated nine students from the immersive, eight-month program.
Next year will see participation nearly double (capacity is capped at 22), and while ballooning enrollment speaks to the school’s success, Banman, the Mile Two Director, emphasizes the importance of shared space, communal time and the connection between community and discipleship.
“They really do live together,” he says of his students, who are housed and go about their studies on the Providence campus. “They learn to read scripture together; they learn how to hear God’s voice, how to serve and how to put others ahead of themselves.”
A typical day in the program begins at 8:30 a.m. and includes breakfast, devotions, worship and sharing before classroom instruction and lunch, after which students serve in placements with organizations such as Lighthouse Mission and Siloam Mission.
A winter trip to Israel is included in the course, and in February the 2014-15 class visited numerous sites, heard the varying worldviews of several speakers (including a Jewish settler, a Palestinian Christian and a Palestinian Muslim) and spent time with people working to build peace in the region.
Overall, says Banman, the Mile Two graduates are vastly different people from the ones he met in the fall.
“We can hardly even remember September,” he says. “They’re different people. Some of them grew slowly and steadily and some grew in leaps and bounds. They’ve all experienced a lot of healing in their lives. They’ve learned a lot about themselves. They’ve learned even more about God.”
And they’ve done it together.
Banman cites Jesus’ disciples as a model for Mile Two—a group that “didn’t do anything by themselves.” He also underlines the importance of one-on-one mentorship, which, he says, is especially key for young adults coming out of high school and entering adulthood.
“They have many questions and they need somebody to walk this road with—somebody who has been down the road, who is a few years older, who has journeyed life a little bit longer and can simply walk with them.”
He adds: “I really believe that everybody needs someone in their life who they are learning from.”
His hope is that this year’s graduates, and the ones who follow, will, themselves, become mentors to young people who yearn to follow Jesus.
“One of the goals in designing Mile Two was that it would be an easily-reproducible model of discipleship,” he says. “We learn what it means to follow Jesus in everyday life and we want that to be reproducible for when they leave here and go to their job or university.”
For when they leave the greenhouse.
Banman believes Mile Two will end up being among the most formative periods of his students’ lives—that graduates will find the intentional community, service and radical obedience to Jesus to be a life-changing experience.
“These are ideal growing conditions for your spiritual walk,” he says. “You will not be the same person when you leave.”
(Graduates—top photo, back row: Sam Goertzen, Brady Plett, Jacob Tamlin, Tyson Murray; front row: Rebekah Mullins, Sarena Ferguson, Chantel Hildebrandt, Hilary do Roo, Sydney Krahn.)
Highlights from Sydney Krahn’s Mile Two Graduation Valedictorian Address:
Go the second mile…This short phrase simply means that we have chosen to see what it looks like to go beyond the comfort of the lukewarm Christian life.
When you are given eight months full of great teaching, personal mentors and a close family community like we have, somewhere along the way you catch glimpses of the humble love of Christ. You begin to formulate a relationship with Jesus, and with each day you begin to see yourself going further, going that second mile.
Saying goodbye today is like saying goodbye to a family. A family in which we grew together as our devotion to Christ grew. I had never given so much thought to the disciples when they split up and Jesus sent them out into the world to make disciples. But the relationship that they must have had after spending three years together would have been a bond that we can probably relate to in many ways.
Mile Two has truly set a firm foundation for what is to come in our lives. Each of us has personally learned the most valuable lesson: to trust God and what His plan is. We have seen the power of prayer and have learned to shift away from an earthly view to the kingdom view. Through pain, through joy and whatever is to come our way, knowing that the Lord is securely for us and that we will see Him face-to-face, we can go on from this place sharing the good news to the world.
I can’t imagine where I would be without God’s leading into Mile Two, and I’m sure I speak on behalf of everybody when I say that. He couldn’t have planned a more perfect year for us. I pray that we will always remember the uncountable blessings that we received this year.
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