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!
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.
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!
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