This post was written by John Haysom, Charlotte Fellow class of 2014. John currently lives just outside Washington, D.C and works as a Federal IT Contractor.
I work in IT Integrations in Washington D.C., which is a fancy way of saying I make new IT projects work for the State Department. It's a big challenge. I work long hours with my team to make our client happy and improve our little corner of the world. I also work in an office with colleagues that do not pray, have never been to church, and actively walk away from Jesus Christ. College does not equip you for that; the Charlotte Fellows Program does.
I am a Texas-born and thoroughly-churched kind of guy (and contrary to popular opinion, the two aren't one in the same). I grew up going to church, attending youth groups and camps, received Christian schooling, and played team sports at the YMCA. That kind of life is a blessing, but it separates us from the secular world. That world often finds its way back into our lives in the workplace. Here is my story of how the Charlotte Fellows program helped give me the tools to work in such an environment.
After college, I was eager to find a job in finance and grind out a dazzling start with my newly-minted finance degree from the University of Tennessee. I had worked very hard in my last years in college and was eager to take the next step into the workforce. In my last two years of college, the majority of my close Christian friends graduated, moved away, or completely dropped out. Studying dominated my life, and campus recruiting (when companies come on-campus to interview and hire soon-to-be college grads) had become a heart-wrenching ordeal to suffer through.
My community was smashed, and I was feeling low. Through some family connections, I got the number of Matt Avery, the former Director of the Charlotte Fellows. Matt was an attorney and the type of guy to give it to you straight. After having a long conversation about my college years he said, “You know, I think you totally have the wrong idea. That’s okay. I think we may butt heads if you came to Charlotte, but I think you should come anyways. You’d really get a lot out of a year in Charlotte.” I had the feeling Matt would be the right kind of guy to learn from, so I signed up and headed to Charlotte.
In Charlotte I was matched with a great host family, a rewarding internship, a thoughtful mentor, a great seminary teacher, accomplished church leaders, and a group of eight other godly peers to bond with. We routinely listened and explored our hearts and the hardships we each were facing. Not just with each other, but also the host families, mentors, employers, Charlotte Directors.
And during that year we saw some pretty big hardships: unemployment, breakups, death of a family member, anger, authority issues, unfulfilling work, money issues, exhaustion, family conflict, host family conflict, dating, and multiple upcoming marriages. We all dealt with the issues of comparison, selfishness, fear, and loss openly within our men’s and women’s circles. The established network of mentors, host-families, speakers, employers, and especially our Directors, thoughtfully listened and reminded us all to place our hopes, thoughts, and self-worth on our relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Proverbs 3:5-6 says
If I have a problem, I should be calling upon Jesus Christ before anyone else. I should be praying to God like a child approaches a father. That flies in the face of what America and its universities preach which goes something like, “Dig deep and push even harder!” or “Don’t look to anyone else for help; it’s on you...” Dependence is the antithesis of modern America.
Fighting for True Community
That dependence is an easy one to prescribe, but a truly daunting one to fully apply. As a result, the encouragement of the Fellows community became even more critical in light of Proverbs 3:5-6’s counsel. Having a community patient enough to always listen, strong enough to hold you accountable, eager to see you seeking Christ throughout a struggle, and loving enough to see your identity first and foremost as a child of God, is truly special. It is worth seeking and fighting for. Surrounding yourself with a faith community where you can a find pieces of that listening, accountability, seeking, and loving becomes a primary need. Christ’s example is too big to go it alone, you need a team. Whether that be a church, roommates, friends, or your family.
Those two lessons have played a large role in the years that have followed my year in Charlotte. My ability to persist and work hard in the marketplace is directly related to my spiritual dependency on Christ and my supportive faith community. I hope that this message gives you hope and shows the amazing impact that a program like the Charlotte Fellows can have.