NLC: From Friends to Family

Categories: Alumni Memories, DiscoveryBound Tags: ,

By Anna-Lena Hathaway, National Alumni Board

So there I was, on a busy street in a strange city, with five hours to round up a whole range of stuff from all over town with four other teenagers I only sort of knew. And it was one of the best and most meaningful days of my life.

I had joined the DiscoveryBound National Leadership Council (NLC, 2011 Class) having heard the name, but not much else. Fortunately for me, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Anna-Lena (center, green shirt) with her 2011 DiscoveryBound National Leadership Council class

It was during our second year, on our adventure trip to California, that we completed the “Amazing Race.” My NLC classmates and I were wandering around the streets of San Francisco in search of a fortune cookie factory. We had been split into groups, given a list of tasks to complete, and then dropped off in different locations around the city. We had to complete our lists and make it to Ghirardelli Square by 5 p.m. with enough money left over for each of us to purchase an ice cream sundae.

We learned to work together, as one of the requirements was to complete our set of tasks without the use of a smart phone. We relied on a map of the city, our sense of direction and the kindness of strangers as we looked for the fortune cookie factory, a Chinese bao, Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf and Lombard Street, to name a few. The day was full of challenges; we had trouble figuring out what a bao was, and we got lost a few times. But we always found our way again, and we made it to Ghirardelli Square in time to enjoy an ice cream sundae after a long day of exploring.


There are a lot of amazing NLC experiences to choose from when I think back on my time in the program – our service trip to Iowa for flood relief, peaking a mountain, rafting the American River and exploring Boston. But our adventure in San Francisco is particularly special because it pushed us to rely on each other. That day was when we truly started to bond on a deeper level – through spiritual growth.

After four years together filled with challenges and victories, we became a family. By the time of our graduation, we were all crying together, grateful for the past four years and sad our biannual meetings were coming to an end.

I graduated more than six years ago, but my NLC classmates are still a family I rely on. We may not speak to one another regularly, but those four years together exploring new places, overcoming both mental and physical challenges, and growing spiritually have bonded us for life. Wherever we are, we bring the skills of a servant leader to our communities. I know I can contact any of my classmates, because we are no longer awkward teens who first met in the Boston airport. We are a family.

The application for DiscoveryBound’s National Leadership Council is now open through October 10. Click here to learn more and share with 8th grade Sunday School students in your family and community.

Editor’s note: This version has been corrected to remove the reference to “no adult supervision.” The teens were accompanied by adults during the trip.

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