Last fall Woodland started its School of Everyday Mission (SEM), a three year online course that covers all the same material from our nine month intensive SOMA program. The online format makes it accessible to both our local and non-local congregation; our initial class of eleven students come from Minnesota, Alabama, Colorado, Bolivia and Haiti. Several of them offered to share their first year experience here. We hope it gives you a taste of what SEM is like, especially if you’re considering joining yourself!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up at SEM.
Pamela: I am from and living in La Paz, Bolivia, a country in the center of South America. I am 37 years old, married with two children. I met Jesus when I was seven years old and although I had some rebellious years as a teenager, I was always aware of him and his love. I found Woodland through a Bolivian friend who lives in Norway. One day he emailed me, “I know the way you think and your current struggles so click on this YouTube sermon. I think it will help you.” I did and I felt like I was being understood in a virtual church that shared many of my questions. I was longing to be part of a class or something and SEM appeared! It was a perfect program mainly because it was ONLINE and fit my schedule and because I would be in communion with others.
Kent: I grew up in a non-denominational church where I gave my life to Christ as an early teen. I had been a “podrishioner” for many years in Illinois and had heard about SOMA, but that just never seemed possible to me. We’ve now lived in Minnesota for a number of years and when we heard about SEM, my wife, Alanea leaned over and said, “That sounds exactly like the type of class you’ve always wished would be offered.” She was right.
Clara: I am a young lady living in Haiti. I grew up in a Christian family, and got baptized at 14, but before last year I never felt so close to God as I do now. I had an experience last year that has consequently changed my spiritual life. While there was no hope (according to people) for my family to overcome a situation we were facing I prayed and God answered me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had to be more connected with God, in knowing him better, living through him and also spreading his word. God put in my way a friend who lives in Minnesota and then introduced me to SEM, which was perfect for me. It may seem difficult to take online theology classes in a foreign language while I live in Haiti but this is one of the most amazing things I have experienced so far in my life.
Clay: I am a 35 year old Colorado native, happily married to Becky and dad to eight kiddos (five adopted three bio). I started my journey with Jesus about 12 years ago and bounced around different theological camps before landing at Woodland Hills. Becky and I had been searching for a like-minded community in Colorado for a while and when we heard about SEM the timing was amazing because we wanted to get more plugged in. Even with the three-year time frame, we figured any time spent in SEM with Kevin, Greg and Paul, as well as the potential classmates was worth it.
Carol: I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of four from Alabama. We have only one more year of homeschooling left, so I was seeking God for my next vocation when I heard the announcement about SEM. I was instantly interested as I thought being equipped and taught by kingdom-focused people would be a great use of my “waiting” time.
Lucner: I am from Haiti, have been married for five years and am the father of a two year old girl. Although I was born and raised in a family where there are few people who follow Jesus Christ, I have been converted eleven years and I am a preacher of the Gospel. Studying and understanding the word of God is a very great necessity for me. Following the testimonials I received about SOMA from Pascale Douyon (former student) and Sem Lafleur (Woodland Hills member) I knew I would like something like that. So when I learned the news of SEM, I felt I needed to take part in it.
What has your SEM experience been like?
Pamela: The lessons have opened up my mind, kind of like if I was a square inside of another square (the church), but now I feel like a geometric figure without form that wants to expand this kind of freedom to others.
Kent: So far the highlights for me have been hearing the other SEM students’ stories. Everyone has been so open and vulnerable with each other and that has greatly enhanced the whole class. I have an appreciation for members of my spiritual family that I would not have known otherwise.
Clara: I really appreciate the teaching methods and the availability and openness of the teachers to answer every question and help me fill some biblical gaps. Open discussion is very important and I find I have the opportunity to speak honestly without being judged. I have learned we are God’s children, perfectly loved; he calls us in to be loved and becoming loving.
Clay: It has been life-changing to learn how to read and interpret scripture through a Jesus-centered lens and ask questions when something doesn’t line up with the character of God.
Carol: SEM has been a wonderful extension of my journey to re-examine my beliefs about God and how he works: to strengthen what is Biblical and sound and to discard that which is not in line with a Jesus-looking God.
Lucner: I love the reality of the Kingdom of God which always expresses itself among us, as well as the vision of the Kingdom which is emerging.
What have you enjoyed about your SEM classmates?
Pamela: I have learned and am still learning about cultural differences and that at the same time we are not so different! I have learned that I know very little, haha.
Kent: I have really appreciated the perspectives of people outside of Minnesota, and outside of the country. It has helped make the SEM experience a more well-rounded approach and is thus not just a US-centric view of things. I love that those of us that are local are working on ways to enhance the experience here by making attempts to get together when we can. Also, we now know that we need to start a support group for those with Zoom deficiencies (pretty much just Greg).
Clara: One thing I love in SEM is that we become one big family in Jesus in spite of geographical distance. The social side of SEM is very interesting because it connects different cultures together. We learn a lot from each other.
Clay: This experience has brought us into a community of like-minded believers who ask difficult questions and are truly learning to love together.
Carol: I have enjoyed getting to know real people, with real struggles who are striving to know God deeper.
Lucner: I see in my SEM comrades the great community of love that we are called to offer to others.
SEM enrollment is open for this next year! If you’re interested in joining, learn more here.