“SOMA is more than a class, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just studying, it’s a community.”
SOMA (Woodland’s School of Missional Apprenticeship) is in its third year, and we’re pretty excited about a couple of unique elements! SOMA is now officially international, with three students enrolled from Haiti! Also, this is the first year where all of the live-in students are housed right next door to Beacon of Hope Church, where classes are held. Every SOMA community is unique because each student has a story to tell.
Obed is a deacon at his church in Les Cayes, Haiti, and heard about SOMA through a friend. “I always wanted to study the Bible but never had time to do it. When I heard about this opening, I thought I could better serve my church and better evangelize in my workplace.” As he goes through the program, Obed sees a bigger purpose in his studies. “My goal is to duplicate SOMA in Haiti. When we discover the love of God, it is a gift we pass on to our neighbors, friends and enemies.”
Pascale is also from Les Cayes, and she’s the only woman in this year’s class. Although the population of Les Cayes is about 87,000 people, coincidentally Pascale and Obed were already acquainted through their local bank. Little did they know they’d end up in school together!
Pascale first encountered Jesus one month after Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010. A friend asked her to church and when the pastor invited people to meet Jesus, Pascale knew that was exactly what she wanted.
In July of this year, Pascale was in Miami participating in a “40 Days of Faith” event and praying over her relationship with God. During that time, a friend told her about SOMA. She says, “It was an answer to my prayer, to have a big relationship with God.”
Both Pascale and Obed are married with children, and their families are still in Haiti. Although the long-distance separation is hard, their spouses are strong Christians, standing behind them and supporting this opportunity.
Charly joins the class from Port au Prince. When he first heard about SOMA, he thought it meant that he’d have to become a preacher and he wasn’t so sure about that. But when he learned that SOMA was a place to deepen his relationship with God, he decided to attend.
When asked about his initial impressions, he cracked a few jokes: “Sharing a house with the other men in the class, I clean and cook a lot more! I’m also starting to experience the cold, even though people say it’s not that cold yet. But I think I’ll survive.”
Then he gets serious. “I knew in my head God was love, but SOMA is showing me that God really is LOVE. In Haiti, there is a lot of talk about judgement but not love, so wherever God leads me, I want to share this new narrative.”
Pascale teases Charly, joking that she left one son behind and gained two sons in Charly and Noah, who are the youngest students.
Noah, a Pittsburgh native, graduated from high school this year and wasn’t sure what to do next. When his dad heard about SOMA on Woodland’s podcast, he told Noah, “You should do this!” Noah says, “I had never planned on going to college, because of the expense and the fact that many jobs don’t require a college degree, but I knew there were some things I’d miss out in the college experience. When I heard about SOMA, I realized I would be able to gain those things but also have a chance to grow in my walk with God and in the way I relate to others.”
The final class member is Nate, a Minnesota native who commutes in from Afton, where he and his wife Sarah live with their two-year-old son. Nate heard about SOMA in 2018, but the timing was not right for him to enroll. Then everything changed when the couple lost a daughter in a late-term still-birth. They had chosen Matthew 6:33 as her life verse: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else.” When Nate and Sarah saw that this was also a core verse in SOMA’s description, things shifted for them. Nate left his job as a physician’s assistant, they sold their home and moved in with family, and Nate enrolled in SOMA. This time, it was the right time.
For all the students, it has been clear that now is the right time for them. Each one comes to SOMA with a history of how God brought them to this exact moment. And each one trusts that their experience in SOMA will carry them on to the next step.
We are so excited and thankful for each of them, and look forward to seeing what they will do with the things they learn!