Now in its second year, the EXSEL (experience, service, leadership) discipleship program at OCF’s White Sulphur Springs Conference Center is a yearlong, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young men and women ages 18-24. Consider the value of your son or daughter discovering God’s direction for their lives through an exciting, immersive community experience. In EXSEL they’ll learn and practice a vocational skill, earn academic credits, and focus on Christian spiritual disciplines while serving others. WSS director Paul Robyn answered a few questions about changes for the second season, now underway.
What’s new for EXSEL in 2016-2017?
The biggest change is that we now have Lt Col Jim and Claudia Marrs, USAF (Ret.), on the ministry team full time to run the program. Based on lessons learned from evaluating last year’s resources and interviewing interns and staff, some elements will remain with some new materials introduced. Despite the adjustments, the focus of everything done in EXSEL is to help the interns grow as disciples of Christ and servant leaders. With His grace, the great work accomplished last year will be refined and magnified.
What are some of the successes you had with the first EXSEL class?
Just going from initial concept to launching EXSEL (mid-2014 to mid-2015) was a major praise! It’s like building an airplane while in flight. The major successes: seeing the interns grow in faith and understanding. Providing more hands and feet to serve and minister—a blessing to our ministry. Especially with weekend retreats we could provide a full quality children’s program for groups with the interns here.
What were some of the things you saw the Lord do in the interns’ lives?
It was truly exciting to be part of what the Lord did in their lives. Each intern grew in faith and understanding of the Lord. We saw the Lord working in the hearts of several, who were facing challenging family circumstances at home, to repent of their sins and be able to extend forgiveness. Two interns both came here thinking they were Christians and upon realizing they weren’t, gave their hearts to Jesus. It was a joy to look back over the year to remember where each intern was when they arrived at EXSEL.
What has been one of the more unexpected outcomes?
Realizing the power of this type of environment for discipleship. In today’s world—even if you’re extremely purposeful about discipleship—at best, you only get snippets of time while trying to balance work, family, and school, etc. EXSEL is completely immersive. The interns live, work, serve, eat, and learn with us as parts of the WSS family. It is impossible to be part of this program for an entire year, and keep a mask on. Masks come off as we live life together. And when that happens, the Lord uses it to change hearts and mold us into Christ-likeness.
Why should parents encourage their young adults to apply for EXSEL?
Even with the best possible home and educational environments during childhood, it’s likely that young adults have been negatively impacted by a culture that’s increasingly abandoning biblical values. Experience is another reason. Many young adults move from high school to college and to the workforce without gaining any real life or work experience. By the time they leave EXSEL they’ll have actual work experience to put on a resume, including project management, marketing, facilities, maintenance and food service.
For more information about EXSEL, go to: whitesulphursprings.org/exsel