We sat down with Mark Shaw, Director of Via Institute, to talk about the newly-formed Via Institute.
What is Via Institute?
Via is a new Peninsula Community Chapel (PCC) project to provide seminary-level training to our congregation. Via Institute partners with both Peninsula Fellows and Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in D.C. to provide courses in the Bible, Christian history, calling, and career and cultural engagement to equip both Fellows and congregants to know His word on a deeper level and be able to engage our culture more effectively. These Via courses can be audited or taken for credit. One can take a single class or both that are on offer. After finishing our four residential courses, one can pursue a degree at RTS at a great discount. For those interested in getting a master's from RTS, Via can save you thousands off of the normal tuition.
Why is Via helpful for Fellows?
Peninsula Fellows is committed to training its young men and women in a rounded way. They work in a professional part-time job, they volunteer at PCC and in the community, but they also develop a Christian mind by taking graduate-level courses. The experience of studying God's word in a multi-generational setting is also a benefit for Fellows and congregants alike. Developing the mind of Christ is one of the most important things that a young person can do, and Via Institute helps them do that.
What are you studying now?
In the Fall semester, Via offered two courses. The 4:30 PM class is Missional Church, a tour of Christianity worldwide and how the Christian movement has grown and expanded over the 2000 years since its beginning. The 6:30 PM class is Missional God, a survey of the big story of the Bible in six dramatic acts. This course enables you to see the flow of the Biblical story and put your individual study times in the Word into context. We have about 14 students in the two classes with a nice mix of ages and backgrounds. I have been having a blast teaching them.
What will you be studying next semester? How do you register for classes?
Starting January 20, 2022, two new courses will be offered. Each course is 15 weeks in length. Missional Lifestyle looks at the concept of calling and how to integrate your calling with career and family. The second course is Missional Engagement. This course prepares you to understand where our culture is going and to speak truth into the culture. We particularly explore the role of art and beauty to disarm a resistant modern culture and create a desire for Christ and his truth. To register, write an email to me at email@example.com for more details. The cost for each course is $40 to audit and $80 for seminary credit plus textbooks. We would love to have you join us in January!
by Mark Shaw
Peninsula Fellows Director
What has Peninsula Fellows got to do with the Swiss Alps? At first glance, not a lot. Our locality is a little short on snow-covered mountains and cute mountain chalets. But don't be fooled by appearances. Peninsula Fellows is linked by history to the towering peaks of that land of Saint Bernards and ski resorts.
In his book, To Think Christianly: A History of L'Abri, Regent College, and the Christian Study Center Movement Charles Cotherman draws the family tree of the Fellows movement. At the top of the tree is L'Abri, the legendary Swiss-based ministry of Francis and Edith Schaeffer that transformed so many young people in the 1960s and 70s (and still going on today). The idea of L'Abri ("The Shelter") was to provide a safe place for college-age students (and others) to ask tough but honest questions in the context of a learning community that fed them, loved them and prayed for them. Regent College in Vancouver was founded with some of those same elements, as was the Christian Study Center movement. And one of the recent movements inspired by L'Abri? The Fellows Initiative of which Peninsula Fellows is a part. When John Yates founded the Fellows in Falls Church, VA, in the 1990s, he drew inspiration from all the above sources.
So what? One may ask. We are a long way from the Alps, and it's been a long time since the 1970s. This alpine link is vital for two reasons. First, L'Abri, according to Cotherman, is part of the fellows' DNA. This past year its was such great fun to watch Janie Anderson, Rachel Palekas, Allan Samuels, Kathryn Lott, and Kayla Reesey learn together and live together in community with host families. They also practiced the spiritual disciplines of word and prayer together as a group and as part of PCC. The spirit of L'Abri is alive and well and living in Yorktown.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, Peninsula Fellows is learning to practice a crucial spiritual discipline of the Schaeffers and L'Abri-- persistent, submissive, corporate prayer. In his book, Cotherman identifies the central prayer that shaped L'Abri. It was prayed daily by hundreds. "Lord, bring us the people of your choice."
As we gear up for year two of Peninsula Fellows and are still recruiting recent graduates for the new cohort, this mountain top prayer must become our own. "Lord, for Peninsula Fellows, bring us the people of your choice."
Would you consider spending five minutes a day during June praying that prayer daily with us and for us? Why? Because it will grow your faith even as it will grow mine. Because it will transform Peninsula Fellows in the year ahead. Because, to a watching world, it will bring more glory and fame to our God, the faithful, caring, almighty God who is there for his people, whether on the tidewater of Virginia or in the Alps of Switzerland.
by Robin Cumpston
Peninsula Fellows Leadership Team Member
Special Events Coordinator
I became a “quasi” member of the Fellows leadership team when Mark Shaw, our director, asked if I’d consider heading up the Kick-off and Graduation banquets. I say “quasi” member because my role is basically food service; nothing as important as mentoring or being a host family. Now, don’t get me wrong, food is something a lot of Christians consider an integral part of fellowship. But my role can be more about elbow grease than brain matter – especially when the guest list has 75 to 100 people. Our leadership team is composed of genuine born leaders but I consider myself a “worker bee.” Even so, I joined the Fellows team asking myself if I could really be a part of the team, or would I just do my part whenever the time comes. Here’s my short story how that unspoken question was answered.
It was the first or second leadership team meeting I’d attended, and as the team discussed what the fellows program would entail, I felt a nudging about someone that might be a good candidate for the program. I have a lot of ideas. Usually, dark or fearful thoughts crowd them and they get filed away into the section of the brain that collects cobwebs. First dark thought: Who am I to suggest a candidate? I’m just the food service personnel! The nudging: What if the Lord is really in this? Dark thoughts: This team is full of people much more qualified, much more spiritual than me who should be identifying candidates. Maybe I should just keep my thoughts to myself. The nudging: This someone is near and dear to you. Dark thought: Maybe it’s a mistake. And on and on the battle went until after the meeting I had just enough nerve to ask the director, “What about Kathryn Lott?” I think I must have spilled out several reasons why I thought she’d be perfect. The director said, yes, why don’t YOU ask her and tell her what YOU know about the program. Dark thoughts: Me? You’re kidding, right. What do I know – I’m the food service personnel!
As the days rolled on we (this includes my husband, who, by default and on a regular basis, gets to suffer through my fearful turmoils) needed to get in touch with Kathryn to see if she was interested – time was fleeting. Dark thoughts: What if it’s a bad idea? The nudging: What if it’s the right time in Kathryn’s life for something like this? Dark thoughts: What if she leaves her job all the way over in South Dakota and it turns out to be a terrible idea? She’ll have nothing and it will be all my fault. The nudging: What if it equips her and gives her new ideas and good things? We prayed and asked for direction and eventually, I stopped agonizing. And as we presented the opportunity to Kathryn, there was peace, there was ownership, investment, and a little more belonging than just being the food service personnel. Kathryn said that she would investigate, pray and consider it. So we prayed too that the Lord would lead her into the decision He desired what was best for her. After all – the decision wasn’t mine, it belonged to God and to Kathryn. It’s sort of like presenting the gospel to someone and then praying and trusting the Spirit to work.
We were overjoyed when Kathryn told us her decision was “yes.” We’d get a chance to see her again, help if needed, and know that we’d followed through (albeit with a lot of questioning) to help a young lady in the next chapter of her life. I count it as one of the defining moments of last year. A chance to help grow a program, grow a person, and grow in faith.
I beam whenever I see the Fellows at Peninsula Community Chapel or hear a report about how they are doing. Though the Coronavirus has derailed the prospects of a graduation banquet this year, the plans for a creative, virtual celebration are underway. While I know they are busy with lots of studying, serving, working, and growing – I think of all the ways Kathryn and the fellows are preparing to “Transform the marketplace by connecting their work to the eternal work of God.”
Yep, I’m the food service personnel on the team and I had the privilege of knowing and inviting a perfect candidate to consider the first Peninsula Fellows program and make our first year a wonderful success! Perhaps the Lord is leading you to tell a young 20-something college graduate about the Peninsula Fellows program? YOU might just be the best source for the next class of Peninsula Fellows!
by Janie Anderson
In 2020, we live in a world that is, thankfully, more open than ever to having honest discussions about things like race, gender, power, privilege, and bias. This is true in both the wider cultural context and within the culture of the church. One divider that is not as frequently addressed is the dichotomy in our society between extroversion and introversion. Although not as pervasive as systematic discrimination, this bias is still impactful.
Susan Cain is one of the foremost researchers on the psychology of introverted and extroverted personalities. She claims that Western cultures live in what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal,” and that it is a symptom of a deep-seated Western discomfort with sitting in the quiet. In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she writes, “If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of your shell’ –that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”
With all of this in mind, how do we proceed as a church, a parachurch organization, or as a Christian in the workplace in a way that is inclusive of everyone’s gifts?
I am thankful to have seen a vision for this in many ways in my seven months with the Peninsula Fellows Program. Peninsula Fellows is a younger and smaller program than many of its sister programs, and this year our inaugural class consisted of five people. I tend to thrive more in smaller, more intimate environments, so having a small class of other comrades is ideal for me. I usually prefer a smaller group where I feel like I can get to know everyone well rather than a larger group where I may not have a real relationship with each individual.
People who are naturally introverted may not speak up as frequently in large group discussions, so I have felt more comfort than I otherwise might have sharing my thoughts in class discussions, roundtable dinners, and in our small group. I love deeper one-on-one conversations, so I thrive in meetings with my mentor, leading a small group of high school girls, having dinner with my host family, and getting to know the other fellows personally. A previous boss told me that while I’m perfectly capable of addressing crowds and acting outgoing when needed, he valued me as a leader for the qualities that I bring as an introvert: being comfortable going deep with others, and making people feel known and loved as individuals. I’ve felt similarly appreciated in the Peninsula Fellows, and the fact that the other four fellows also call themselves introverts has allowed me to notice and appreciate the same qualities in them.
That is not to say that I haven’t felt challenged in the program. I think as believers we are called to a healthy level of being stretched so that we can grow more into the people Christ intends us to be. I’ve grown a lot the past few months in my ability to network and navigate the workplace, gained comfort in situations where I might meet many new people at once, and managed a busier schedule where I am not always able to withdraw to recharge when I might want. But I know that I am being grown and pointed toward Christ in new circumstances.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote that those who believe in Jesus are meant to be like many members of the same body to describe the way diversity within the church is beautiful and intentional: “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Cor 12:17-20). This shows us that God purposes different people for different jobs within the church family by gifting them with different abilities. Not everyone is created to do or be all things.
Christians are lucky to have examples of strong believers who worked for God by being quiet, contemplative, and gentle (Moses, Esther, Jesus), as well as believers who performed God’s will by being enthusiastic, sociable, and bold (Paul, Mary of Bethany, Jesus). We function more fully and come closer to realizing the vision of Christian community when we seek to cherish the ways that others are like God in ways we are not, and appreciate the skills that all personality types have been gifted.
* * *
If you are an extrovert looking for ways to love your introverted friend, neighbor, or coworker well, here are some tips:
by Rachel Palekas
One of our classes this semester is a type of apologetics class, or as we’re calling it, “missional engagement.” The main goal of this class is to identify ways that we’ll be interacting with some of the hard questions the ‘secular world’ will be asking us. One of the ways we started to do this was by taking a trip to New York City to explore the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan, trying to find the Lord’s beauty in artists who probably don’t know him. We also looked for ways that art reflects our Creator who calls us to continue His work of creating.
One of my favorite paintings of all time is the incredibly famous painting Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. I never really knew why I loved it so much until I was reading Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life for class about how art and beauty are in our calling to care for creation. In it, Mako Fujimora describes why and how Van Gogh created that famous image: “Vincent painted this ‘superior and changed condition of existence’ [aka the church connecting the earth to the heavens] as already here--but not yet fully so. He developed a visual diction that serves as a bridge between our current condition and a future transformed” (Fujimora 76).
If you look at Starry Night, the piece holding the entire painting together is the church--smack dab in the middle, with the lights off (which implies the ‘not yet’ part of the Kingdom of God), reaching into the beauty of the stars and heavens. In John, as Jesus was being tried before he was crucified, he was very clear in saying that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and that is displayed so beautifully in Starry Night. I’ve always felt so drawn to this painting, mostly because of the swoops and sways of the stars reminding me of something so much bigger than myself. But getting to see it in person after learning about the background of Van Gogh (who decided not to be a pastor because he felt he could love people better through art than through the pulpit) and the way he intentionally designed this painting led me to be in awe not only of the painting, but of the Lord, who gives His children the gifts and abilities to create beauty to point back to His kingdom that already exists, but is not yet fully realized.
by Allen Samuels
I will be completely honest from the beginning. When I heard that I’d be getting a mentor as part of the Peninsula Fellows program, my first thoughts were “I don’t need a mentor! What’re they going to do for me?” In my defense, I’d just gotten out of college, I liked being independent, and the last time I’d signed up for a mentorship program they didn’t do a thing for me. Even though I was starting to realize that God was calling me to change and become the person he had called me to be, I was still hesitant about opening myself up to others. I honestly thought that it would be a waste of my time.
Fortunately, God has a habit of proving us wrong.
When Peter and I first met, we were two weeks into the program and I’d already experienced God’s work in transforming my life during the first week-long retreat. All the same, I was still nervous about meeting this stranger. What would he ask me? What would I talk about? Apparently, my life story. Over the course of a delicious Asian meal and the car rides before and after, I laid out to Peter the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’d known him for less than an hour.
If you were expecting a happy ending to this, you won’t be disappointed. Peter took what he’d been handed and went at his job with gusto. By the end of our first meeting, I knew I had made not only a new friend, but a brother in Christ. Since then, he has been amazing. We meet at least once a week, and I can give him a call or text whenever anything comes up. Ever since I first felt a calling to participate in Peninsula Fellows, I have experienced one blessing after another. I won’t lie and say that everything these past few months have been perfect, but I can always count on getting help and advice from my mentor, and for that I’m truly grateful.
About the Author
Allen is a Graduate of the University of South Florida with a Bachelors in Technical Writing. He is working this year at Genex Systems as a proposal writer. In his free time, Allen enjoys enjoying nature and reading books.
by Kathryn Lott
The topic of my blog post came to me while thinking about a much-needed prompt question. The question was, while on Christmas break what did you reflect on about the Fellows program? In all honesty I did not reflect much on the Fellows program while on break because I was far too busy reflecting on now badly I react to my mother during the holidays. However, upon reading the prompt question I began to think about what I have learned during the Fellows program. My findings were not particularly flattering.
Being a Fellow has shown me how easily I deceive myself into thinking I’m a pretty nice person, as long as I’m not asked to fill up most of my time or have my plans disrupted. Basically, as long as I don’t have to do anything I don’t really want to, I am a peach (a peach, of course, being something delightful in its own right). That is a terribly dangerous mind set to have as a follower of Jesus and I am certain that is why He has me in the Fellows program.
Being in the Peninsula Fellows program has been the Father’s gentle way of growing me by confronting my unwilling attitudes. It’s like He asks me everyday, “You say you want to lay down your life for me, but what if I ask you to do that by adding another event to your week or another person who requires your time and energy?” The extent of my “time selfishness” has been a real slap in the face, but I know I want to be more like the Son, so I am very grateful that the reproof has come in the form of the Fellowship Program. I hope by having this concentrated time of refining, I will respond with more grace and patience in the future.
About the Author
Kathryn is a graduate of Central Christian College of McPherson Kansas. She has worked in construction for the last 2 years and hopes to use those skills in a mission capacity either in the U.S or over seas. Kathryn’s interests include but are not limited to Nerf guns, stained glass, and board games. She lives with Dwight and Jenny Kinter who are her host family and also life-long family friends.
by Janie Anderson
The first time I knocked on their door, I was nervous. Did I really know what I was getting into? I knew I would be meeting with a Muslim refugee mother and her daughter to help them with English as a private tutor, but that’s all I knew. Walking up the steps to their apartment in the public housing complex, I was exceedingly aware of the two very different worlds we came from. Would I, with my limited experience, actually have anything to offer them?
One of my favorite parts of Peninsula Fellow so far has been the volunteer requirement. The Fellows program emphasizes that finding a way to help others is vital to a balanced, Biblically-based lifestyle, and I’m grateful to Peninsula Fellows for working with me so that I can volunteer in a way that really interests me, and allows me to get experience in a career field I may want to pursue.
In college, I studied English and believed I wanted a job in the publishing industry, where I could read and edit other people’s words in a quiet, orderly office. After two years of teaching English to college students in Asia, I have a completely different outlook on career and calling. I’ve realized that I want a job where I help people more directly, possibly social work, and that I desire to work with immigrants or refugees. I was connected with a refugee family through a member of Peninsula Community Chapel, and I’ve been meeting with them and growing our relationship every other Friday.
When I met Leila*, she was reserved, but I could tell she was excited. I found out that she’s in the tenth grade at the local high school, loves math, and dreams of going to college. By the end of my visit, she was excitedly telling me about her extended family and showing me photos on her phone of her old life before her family came to America. She told me she needed help with grammar and writing more than speaking. She went to show me her English homework, and to my delight, I found that her class was learning rules about comma use, and that it was something I knew well and enjoyed. We spent two hours going over it together.
Nadia* was more shy, at first, than her daughter. I finally bonded with her when we realized her youngest son has the same name as the young son of my close friend. She was so excited when I showed her pictures of them. On my last visit, we had fun going over the words to “Deck the Halls” together. Nadia is learning the Christmas carol for a Christmas party her church-sponsored English class is hosting. She needed help with pronunciation, and I enjoyed explaining what many of the old-fashioned words meant. At the end of my visit, I felt honored when Nadia invited me to attend their Christmas party next month to watch them perform.
Meeting with Leila and Nadia has blessed me in many ways, including showing me that I do have something I can offer them, and has given me a lens through which to view my God-given gifts, as well as clarity for how I might continue using my gifts in the future. The Leviticus 19:34 call to treat immigrants and refugees with kindness was made clear to me in new ways when I lived internationally, and I feel passionate about putting that into practice now that I have returned to the U.S. I am so excited to see where these relationships lead over the next few months, and I feel lucky to get to learn from and teach Leila and Nadia
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
About the Author
Janie graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2017 with a BA in English. After graduating, she taught English to college students in Asia for two years. Currently, she is a marketing intern at Alliance Solutions Group. In her free time, Janie enjoys reading and spending time in coffee shops.
by Kayla Reesey
After two months in the Peninsula Fellows program, I am processing a lot of new experiences and perspectives. I’m learning a lot about balancing work and life and how to implement my faith into my workday. Someone who has been a tremendous help with processing these new experiences is my mentor, Dawn.
Each Fellow is given a mentor who challenges and cheers them on throughout the 9-month program. These mentors are willing members of Peninsula Community Chapel who have a heart for young adults and who are ready to dive deep and talk about what really matters with honesty and love.
Time with Dawn is so life-giving. She balances homeschooling some of her kids while investing in the lives of refugees on the Peninsula. The more we meet, the more I see how big her heart is for her family and community. Dawn and I get together once a week, usually at my favorite local coffee shop, and she eagerly asks me how I’m doing, like how I’m really doing. When we’re having a good week we rejoice together, and when we’re struggling we talk through it together.
I’m in a unique situation where I have the opportunity to work three part-time jobs; I am an Administrative Assistant for Young Life, an IT Specialist for Summit Christian Academy, and a Team Leader for the 56 Ministry at Peninsula Community Chapel. Despite the flexibility that these jobs offer, I’ve recently been struggling to balance the workload.
During our meetings, Dawn listens patiently and offers much-appreciated advice. After I described my work-balance situation, she was able to help put my issue into words. She noticed I’ve been overwhelmed in my work and this actually led me to procrastination. While yes, this was very convicting, it was exactly what I needed to hear: I wasn’t using my time well. It was a reality check I wouldn’t have been able to accept on my own. We then jumped into how I can combat my urge to procrastinate. Dawn helped me create practical steps, like rearranging my work schedule to set myself up for success. Now she holds me accountable each week about these new habits.
Every time we meet, it’s more and more apparent why the Lord paired us together. Although we are in different stages of life, there’s something very special about learning similar life lessons while serving the same gracious God. I am so thankful for this new friend, who is patient and straight forward, yet perfectly encouraging.
About the Author
Kayla graduated from Christopher Newport University in December 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems. Her hometown is Stafford, Virginia, but has remained on the Virginia Peninsula since college graduation. She is an administrative assistant for Young Life, IT Specialist for Summit Christian Academy, and Team Leader for 56 Ministry at PCC. Her favorite pastime is watching Youtube videos.
by Rachel Palekas
There was a three-month break between my graduation from Liberty University and the start of the inaugural class of Peninsula Fellows, and it felt like a lifetime. Not many people talk about the weird limbo of post-grad but pre-career life, but sometimes it felt like an early mid-life crisis. Every recent college grad knows the question well: “So what’s next?” Explaining to classmates, family, family friends, and just about anyone that I was moving to the peninsula of Virginia to start a nine-month program where I get a job, but not a full-time job, take some classes, but not a full load, and be in community with four strangers gave me some strange looks and a lot of “oh, well, good luck!” responses.
As I packed up my car and drove the 6 hours up to the Peninsula, I had not only a trunk full of my worldly possessions, but also four years’ worth of baggage from my college experience packed up with me. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was walking into: I didn’t have any certainty of a job lined up, I was moving into a family’s house that I had never met before, and I had four other Fellows (aka more strangers) with which I was going to be thrown into intimate community. I was clinging desperately onto the hope that my Father had a unique and significant purpose for me in Yorktown and praying that He would make the transition one of joy and peace.
Fast forward three weeks, and I’m busier than I ever thought possible, I’ve had vulnerable and intimate relationships form (over Enneagram memes and viewings of Spy Kids and National Treasure), and the Lord has whispered reminders of His love to me in so many different ways already. One way the Lord has really shown me His love for me has been through my growing relationship with my mentor. We’ve already spent hours just talking (mostly me ranting and her graciously nodding along) about anything and everything. She’s listened to my anxieties about building relationships and the baggage I’ve brought with me, she’s gracefully given me advice and reminders that I serve a God that loves me and knows me well. When I felt especially anxious about a number of different things, she reminded me of our enemy that prowls around, waiting like a lion for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and prayed intentionally against him. I was nervous to have someone we were asked to sit down and be extra vulnerable with, on top of all the other new relationships we’ve been building, but I have already been so blessed by it and I’m so grateful that it’s a built-in part of our program.
All of that said, any of my free time now is spent reading one of six books for class or making myself yet another cup of coffee (ask any of the other Fellows about my caffeine addiction) so I can stay awake to keep reading, but I feel so confident in the fact that the Lord is preparing us five Fellows for something so great this year, and I’m grateful to be strapped in on the first row of this roller coaster ride.
About the Author
Rachel graduated from Liberty University this past May. She grew up moving around with a military family, but calls Columbia, SC home. She studied Psychology and Biblical studies and is working this year with Bay Aging to develop Dementia Friendly Communities, a national initiative dedicated to creating supportive communities for those with dementia and their caregivers. She’s a proud Enneagram type 4.