I walked onto Wheaton’s campus with a bag full of the latest academic work on Leadership and Evangelism, a computer, a handful of snacks, some gum, and a massive cup of coffee. I also carried an even heavier emotional bag full of concerns, nerves, and questions. What will I bring to the table? Can I handle this level of scholarship? How will I use my voice? Will they even like me?
As each woman began to pour into the classroom from across the country, from different spheres of marketplace and ministry, and from diverse seasons of life, my fearful questions quickly transformed into questions of vision. God, what are you planning to do with this group of brilliant women? Then I moved into moments of straight-up awe—God, you are doing something expansive and explosive here that is much bigger than all of us. Thank you.
Near the end of our week of little-to-no sleep, demanding class time, presentations, assignments, and rigorous learning, most of the women, although exhausted, went out to dinner to celebrate. We immediately ran into a problem. What restaurant could possibly hold twenty women at one table, at the last minute?
But we’re Propel Women. So we talked to waiters and managers. We pleaded our case. And eventually, in the middle of a crowded restaurant on a Friday night, we rearranged everything and created one long table.
In all of this hustle and bustle, a few women at one end of our makeshift table realized that there weren’t enough seats for them. So they began to head to another table nearby. But that didn’t last long. Some of us ran around the restaurant searching for extra chairs. Others refused to sit down until every woman had a spot. The rest of us moved over. We squeezed in. We created space.
And I thought Yes. This is the Propel Women’s Cohort. There is enough room at the table for everyone.
It may seem like a small thing. But these days, success for women is so often defined by building platform, having the loudest voice, increasing social influence, gaining numbers. It’s a competition for spotlight, worth, and attention. While sometimes hustle is the stark reality of how things get done, many women have been bruised and bloodied by this roller derby of rivalry.
Here were twenty strong and talented female leaders—not elbowing their way into first place—but championing each other—making room at the table for each other’s bodies, voices, stories, callings, and unique gifts. I realize I’m being a bit presumptuous here, but in that moment I think God looked at what He had created through this cohort and saw that it was good.
On Saturday, our final day of learning about God’s Kingdom, the Gospel, Church Movements, History, Evangelism (and frankly, other things that my brain is still catching up on), we ended our 52 hours of class time in a prayer room set up by our professor.
We praised Jesus for the power of the cross. We thanked God for our bodies. We were still. We prayed for the global poor, for Syrian refugees, for A21. We stood on maps and pleaded for the world. And then we were sent back into our cities, streets, and homes – equipped and expanded, hungry for more.
I left Wheaton’s campus that evening with my bag of books, my computer and coffee cup, but without any more fears, and with only one pressing question. I don’t wonder anymore what God is planning to do with us. I wonder who can stop us now that we’ve started. Who could even try to thwart the work of God that is unleashing through the Propel Women’s Cohort? Only history will tell.
The Propel Cohort is Master’s Program in Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. A New Cohort is starting soon. For more information and to apply, click here.
Aubrey Sampson is a church planter in the Chicago area with her husband Kevin, and their three hilarious sons. She is the author of two books: Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan), and Game Changer: Lament and Hope in Seasons of Difficulty (coming soon, NavPress). She is a speaker and preacher, part of the Propel Women’s Cohort at Wheaton College, and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find and follow her @aubsamp. For more info: www.aubreysampson.com.