Written by Allie Sampson
Photographed by Sydnee Mela & JD Gravitt
As the Cageless Birds community, we have set our hands and hearts to so many things. We release albums and books, create art, run an online store, take photos and create videos, roast coffee, craft leather goods and take on building projects. Though we spend six months out of the year creating and growing the Cageless Birds collective, we believe that there is no greater thing we can invest in than people. In the other six months of the year, we host two discipleship schools: Phase I and Phase II of the 18 Inch Journey. We consistently refer to the discipleship season as the highlight of our year, and while we value art and love creating, we have found that seeing people come face to face with Jesus is the most rewarding thing we can invest in. More than songs, more than words, more than art, we believe that the effects of a person who has encountered the love of God will change the course of eternity. At the heart of the Cageless Birds collective is the dream for discipleship — to see a generation wake up to who they are as sons and daughters; to see a generation changed by the Love of God.
Last Friday we closed this year’s 18 Inch Journey and we were blown away by the Goodness of God in the lives of each of the 32 students. They each came in to the school unsure of what the sixty days would bring, but ready and willing to give Jesus their yes. Throughout the school, they discovered the power of their willing and humble hearts. They consistently came to the end of their ability and made the powerful choice to let God meet them, help them and change them. Through the creative collectives, teachings, cleaning times, work duties and assignments, they unpacked this one simple truth: dependency on the Holy Spirit is the key to sustainability. Over the two months, the students found themselves in the middle of moments that challenged them and pressed them in many different areas. It was in these moments that their character was forged as they learned the power of their choice: to refuse His help and stay the same, or to make space for the Holy Spirit to speak into their lives and change them. Over and over again, these students chose to let the Father tear down their walls and to welcome the process of becoming a new creation. From standing on chairs and declaring who God is for them to creating paintings to declare who they are as sons and daughters to letting family see and celebrate them, they faced their fears and they were transformed. As we sat down at an extravagant dinner table, we reflected on all that the Father did in their lives in such a short time and we were overcome with gratitude. Truly, He is faithful.
Tonight our entire community will sit down at another beautiful feast as we close our Phase II school. These ten students all chose to come back for another season in the woods of Sophia, North Carolina. They said yes to six months of discipleship, humility, growth and servant leadership. They said yes to Jesus, and they have been profoundly changed. As we sit together for one final dinner, we will hear from each of the ten as they read their exit statements and seal their season by proclaiming what the Father has done for them, who they have discovered Him to be, and who they are as they step into their next season. We will laugh deeply and weep earnestly as we remember how faithful the Father is to each one. We will close this season with celebration and bless them as they bravely step into their next seasons. Tonight, around the table, we will honor the incredible journey of each of their lives and raise our glasses to the Author of their stories. It has been our deep privilege to walk with them, lead them, live alongside them and love them. We are forever grateful for the season the Father gave us with these ten. Their lives are saturated with hope, and we are certain that beautiful things are ahead for each of them because they have cultivated friendship with the Father and surrendered themselves to the best leader that they will ever have: the Holy Spirit.
After closing the Phase II school this evening, our community will be taking some time off to visit our families and loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Cageless Birds community will resume our normal rhythms in December. We pray that you have a restful holiday. We look forward to sharing more from our community with you this soon!