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Garett Collins

How My “Heavenly Father” Became My Dad

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IMG_2370When I first came to the 360 Experience I had a very limited idea of who my Father in Heaven was. My relationship with God had just begun to gain depth. This program was one of the greatest things that could have crossed my path during that time of my life. I had vague ideas of who I was as His daughter, and my foundation in Christ was just beginning to build. I came into this year with little expectations, and it was my goal to simply allow God to have His way. What I did not know is that He would take that invitation and run in such a beautiful way with it.

With an open heart God began to reshape my image of who He was as my Father. I knew deep within me that God is all-powerful, all knowing and all seeing but calling Him my Father never settled well with me.  This was an area in my heart that God wanted to reveal truth to, and to show me that He was first and foremost my Dad. He was a Dad that would never forsake me and would never withhold love and kindness from me. How could I know myself as a Daughter if I did not first recognize God as my Father?

Often times I would begin prayer with “Dear Heavenly Father”, but as the lecture phase progressed I realized those words I was saying had no heart behind them. The knowledge of Him being a Father was just resonating in my mind instead of where it belonged, which is in my heart. Apprehension filled my heart, because I was afraid of walking down that path of intimacy with God. It would open me up to be completely vulnerable and it would expose past wounds. Thankfully God had placed me in such a great environment that was geared towards my growth. As the lecture phase went on God began to peel away the lies that built themselves upon the name Father.  The truth started to surface within my heart, and the level of intimacy that God desired to have with me started to blossom.

God was pulling me closer, and He wanted so badly for me to know Him to be more than just this big God who created all things. He was my friend, and most of all He was my loving Father who wanted to place the pieces of my heart together. Slowly I learned how good of a Father He was, and that nothing on this earth could compare to the love He had for me. With that knowledge settling in my heart I could then begin to walk in my identity as His daughter.

Learning that I have a Father in Heaven who looks at me daily with joy and love is irreplaceable. Knowing that He is proud to call me His daughter, and He will never leave me is priceless. I could not put a price tag on the time I spent in the 360 Experience. I learned to walk in confidence with God, and my heart can now cry out “Abba Father”, and know with absolute assurance that He will hear me. Nothing can compare to whole heartedly knowing that I am a daughter of a King. I can fearlessly move forward knowing that an incredible God shields my days. If someone asked me if I would do these nine months over again, without hesitation I would say yes.

By: Natalie Gagnon

7 Reasons To Take a Gap-Year With Us

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Having been around for decades in Europe, Gap-Year is only now becoming a known term in the great old US of A. There is a reason it works and here are 7 of many reasons for you to do a gap-year with us.

 

1. Grow in Relationship with God
The 360 Experience is designed to provide a rich environment for you to be able to get to know God. This is accomplished through various teachings on the Christian life, consistent times of worship and prayer, personal mentorship, community discipleship, structured quiet times, Bible based assignments, and much more. This will be perhaps the only time in your life when you get to devote all of your time to simply growing in God and developing yourself through Him.

 

2. Know Who You Are
The Bible says we are made in the image of God. The more you get to know Him the more you will find out about yourself. During your time with The 360 Experience, you will have the ability to discover who God created you to be and find your identity in Him. We also place an emphasis on practical self-discovery and development. You will cultivate your passions and strengths as well as learn how to allow what you do flow from who you are.

  

3. Save Time & Money
The average college tuition costs roughly $30,000 a year. 80% of college students change their major at least once, and on average students change their major up to THREE times! That is an extra cost of $30-80,000! Less than half of college graduates say their college education was worth the time and money. Taking a gap year will allow you to discover who you are and develop your passion and identity in a safe environment. With a greater understanding of who you are and what your place is in the world, you will be more prepared to go to college and focus on what you want to do! 

 
 
4. Life Experience 
You will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set aside 9 months of your life simply to pursue God and explore life with Him. You will gain practical experience in evangelism, ministry, fitness, arts, cooking, humanitarian aid, running a home, leadership, and more. You will also gain deep lasting relationships, step out of your comfort zone, try new things, learn a lot, and see the world.
 
 

5. Develop Your Self
Self development seems to have become a rather popular undertaking these days. We value Biblical self development and are committed to helping you grow as a Christian and as a young adult. Above all, this is a dedicated time for God to reveal Himself to you and in turn, help you grow into who He created you to be. Using resources such as Gallups Strengthsfinder, DISC Profile, Meyers Briggs, and others, you will get to find out your personality traits, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you interact with the world. This will help you to determine what you want to do with your life and how you can succeed.

 

6. Setup Your Future for Success
60% of young adult Christians fall away from the faith once they go to college. You don’t have to be part of this statistic. Devoting a year of your life to growing a stronger faith and relationship with God will equip you to successfully navigate through your college career and the rest of your life as a Christian. An alarming less than 1 in 5 young adults have any idea why the Bible is important and applicable to every day life. We believe the Bible is vital for the Christian life and have incorporated Biblical Worldview teaching into our curriculum. You will also gain practical teaching and training that will prepare you for the adult life, such as money management, marriage & family, work ethic, conflict resolution, communication, and more.

 

7. Help Change the World
During your time in The 360 Experience you will get to participate in various local relief and overseas outreach efforts. You will get to be part of helping to rebuild homes for Hurricane Sandy victims in NY, reach out to the local communities around Maine, and spend two months in a third-world nation. You will get to provide homes for those who lost them, bring hope to those who are hungry, fight human injustices, share the Gospel with those who have never heard the name of Jesus, and be equipped to fulfill the Great Commission wherever you go in life. 

 

Sources:
US NEWS – HUFFINGTON POST – LAVERNE UNIVERSITY – BARNA – AMERICAN GAP
NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATIONAL STATISTICS – INSTITUTE OF EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES
HARVARD EDUCATION

Looking Back // Moving Forward

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If I could choose to relive one significant part of my life, it would be to relive my time at The 360 Experience. It has impacted the way I see God, myself and others, and also the world. Before I decided to pack up and move to Maine for 9 months, I had no clue as to who I was as a person, or even knowing what talents I had. In high school, I was involved in many extracurricular activities. Being active in FFA, band, theater, and in the top quarter of my class; any one would think that I knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. This was not the truth, because graduating high school terrified me. I would stay up at night thinking about what would happen the next school year. I had doubts about myself, my talents, and my beliefs. Most of my questions involved; “What will I do now?” or “I don’t even know what my major will be, what will happen when I’m 25?” I was freaking out.  At one point in my pity party, I decided to do what everyone had expected from me and I was going to go to Texas Technical University in Lubbock Texas, and be an agriculture teacher. Even that scared me! I was scared to settle, but I had a recurring thought that would pass through my head, and it would ask me; “do you really want to do this?” This thought was never condemning; it would just always make me think more about the decision that was made.

One day, my older sister talked me into looking at YWAM as an option for post-graduation. There were many schools that sounded great, but I couldn’t find a Discipleship Training School (DTS) that sounded right for my situation. I ended up going down this long list of schools in the United States, in alphabetical order, and there was one school that seemed to know about my situation. The 360 Experience in Biddeford, Maine; I admit it, I wanted to keep scrolling through the rest of the list, and I was about to just give up in my search and let other people tell me what to do. Then I read their mission about knowing God for who He truly is, knowing who you are as a person, and discovering your calling in life. This hit me like a ton bricks, this seemed to be what I was supposed to do!

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When it came time for me to start this new chapter, I was so nervous, and I wanted to go home. You would be too if you flew hundreds of miles to meet people you didn’t know, and leaving your childhood home! But,  I was supposed to do this, and somehow I knew that this experience would change my life for the better. It was like a soft little voice giving me peace about my whole situation! Crazy right!?! When the first lecture week started, and all of us students got to know each other, I started to get comfortable around them. We were all in the same boat; we didn’t know our callings, and we also weren’t sure, or even knew of our identities in Christ, and I’m positive we all had different views of who God is. We came from different backgrounds, and yet there were similarities in our testimonies. I now have family all across the country, and they are people I know I can count in times of trouble. We grew alongside each other in a close knit community. We cried together and laughed together, we had serious talks and not so serious talks. There were movie nights, football games, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and a few kitchen fiascos, but those are times I won’t forget because they were spent with very special people.

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My time at The 360 Experience was not only special because of the community, but also the learning and spiritual growth. There were so many times I thought I had my mind blown about how good of God we serve. How much I thought I knew, was wrong, and He actually loves and cherishes us, and that He gave us all unique abilities to use for His glory. All of this was presented in such a way that I understood it, and I loved learning about who God is, and why He loves us. He really is a wonderful God!  There were so many quiet times that I didn’t want to end, and I would have another one in the afternoon just to meet with God again, and church began to get exciting. I never thought I could experience God in that way!

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When the school was finally over and all the goodbyes were said; it was time to finally go back to Texas. I found myself not wanting to go. I wanted to stay in Maine for the rest of my life, and stay somewhere that I thought God would be. It was natural, I think, because Maine is the first place where I had the most intimate times with Him, and where I experienced Him like I never had before. Yet, He wanted me to be back in Texas. Being at home, I realized it’s pretty hard in the world to stay the way I was in YWAM. Is it possible? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Because you get so involved in a Christ-like community and encouragement every day from other people, but when you see others that have not had the experiences you’ve had, you can easily fall right back into where you started. This is when I realized why I had to leave and come back, and I figured out why Jesus said this was not going to be an easy life if you choose to follow Him. You are going to be different, we are meant to be a light in the darkness, and show others the love of God no matter who it is, or what your past looked like. Even when we mess up, He has new mercies every day, and we can keep on walking and knowing God for who He truly is, because He is that good! He wants to be with us, just as much as we want to be with Him. I really do recommend this school to anyone I meet because it’s so Christ centered, and completely true to its mission statement. The 360 Experience is something I will never forget, and it is not just some time that I look back on and reminisce about, but it is something really special that has changed my life.

Caitlyn Bennett, 19
Cleburne, Texas
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