In The Wilderness by Kimberly Swanson


When I showed up to Duluth that Sunday morning, I knew for a fact that I was entering into a beautiful yet challenging season of life. Now about five months into the program, God has shown me so much, planted dreams within me, and spoke truth into my heart and mind. HLI has encouraged me to keep pressing into Jesus every single day, and say “yes” to the challenges, even when I do not want to. One thing I felt that I should write about is how challenging HLI actually is. Heroic Leadership Institute is hard.

One of the biggest challenges in HLI thus far, is feeling like I am in the wilderness. In the Bible we see multiple examples, even with Jesus Himself where God took them through the wilderness to prepare them for their ministry. At times, it feels like I have not seen any growth in myself and if I am being completely honest, I just want to go home. One particular time that comes to mind was a time when the enemy was being a ginormous pain in the booty (for lack of stronger language), he was using mine and another’s insecurities and fears to create tension and defensiveness between us. So much so, that during that conflict and tension my autopilot response was to shut down and walk away physically out of the building. For those who do not know, the winters in Duluth are flipping cold; I have no idea why I walked outside. I got into my Subaru and had many thoughts of leaving HLI flooding my brain space as I thought about what had just happened. Before I could even start my car, I looked in my side mirror and I saw my director with the two interns walking towards my car. Quite frankly, that made me even more livid than I had expressed just three minutes before. I angrily got out of my car and listened to what he had to say about what just previously went down.

I honestly could not tell you what all he had said, but one thing that will always stick with me was, “We are willing to stand out in the cold and fight for you.” Then it hit me that I have leaders who are willing to fight for me no matter what. This was a complete 180° turn from what I had experienced in my past. In that moment I felt really loved and cared for, but also confused at why I was even worth fighting for. What Jesus has shown me in the Bible is that He constantly fights for those who feel less than. If this was true then, it must be true now because God’s character never changes. My director and interns showed me Jesus’ heart for me in that moment. Jesus calls me worthy and worth fighting for even in the misted of my own sin. He is fighting for me even though I feel like I am in the wilderness, even when I feel alone and misunderstood and walk out on Him. He still fights for me.


This is only one of the different moments I have felt stranded in the wilderness, wandering around aimlessly not seeing any change. When I am about to give up and I want to say no to the challenges that have been placed before me, I will always have a director, two interns, my classmates, and my Heavenly Father fighting for me all the time. HLI is full of difficult challenges, at any moment I could choose to give up and drop out, that is completely my choice. But I am going to keep saying yes to Jesus even when I do not want to, holding onto the truth that Jesus is preparing me in the wilderness before He sends me into my ministry. Just like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for forty years before they reached the promised land.

Mary McKellick