The First Week of Ellerslie

Thursday, June 8, 2017

It's kind of crazy that I've been here at Ellerslie for five days already! A lot has happened! On June 3rd I arrived at the Denver Airport, and was greeted by two of the sweet staff members: Kimberly and Sarah. I was so excited; it all felt so surreal! I had prayed and dreamed of this place for years, and at long last, it was happening! That morning, I rode the shuttle from the airport to Windsor; our drive included many beautiful mountain views! Not something I see in Michigan every day!! When we got to the campus, I was taken into my dorm room where I met my roommates: Sarah, Janetta, and later Heather. I am so thankful for each of these sweet ladies I have the privilege of living with! Sarah is a Practicum D2 student (which, in case you don't know, is one of the other, higher up, programs they have at Ellerslie). She's radiant, so thoughtful, and made me feel beyond welcome when I came in. Janetta is from Kansas, and loves Jesus so much. She has been such an inspiration to me; during almost every free time she can be found in His Word! And Heather is pretty wonderful too!! She has a sweet, quiet personality, and deeply, deeply cares for each person around her; she has encouraged me so much!

Jesus has really been drawing me closer to Himself through this time here. I can't completely describe it.... But one little song has a fragment into it:

"My heart responds with Holy, Holy!"

The first evening we had a picnic on the lawn by the dorms:

On Tuesday, they told us about the schedule of how we would be reading through the New Testament 2 times in these three months, and the other exciting assignments to be done!

It's seriously beautiful around here....

Just to confuse you, we'll jump backwards. On Sunday we had our campus tour:

My tour group :)

Then we had our ID photos taken:

Here are a few common sights for the Ellerslie student:

Banquet night was so wonderful! We got to meet all our teachers and hear more about the vision behind Ellerslie:

Coffee House 29 is a GREAT place to go, if you're ever in Windsor. I've already been there twice!

[I know right about now you're thinking how you should come to Ellerslie too! You should click here and totally go yourself....]

Ellerslie: His Perfect Provision

Saturday, June 3, 2017

It's like a dream. Today by noon I'll officially be an Ellerslie student. I'm feeling so expectant, excited, joy-filled, and totally over the moon. There aren't words for this feeling!

"So what exactly is Ellerslie?" People have been asking me this question lately. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have had no idea. On a winter day, half way through middle school, I was looking through some of Bright Light's recommended resources in their online store, and as I looked through many different titles, I came across this unique name: Ludy. "What is this?" I asked myself. I looked at some of the reviews, and noticed that some people raved over their books, while others were extreme critics. I was intrigued by the sound of the book "The Lost Art of True Beauty," and read it shortly after. It wasn't until I brought it home from the library that I realized that I had read one of their other books before: "When God Writes Your Love Story." To be fully honest, I tend to hate books (I've never been a huge reader...). But "The Lost Art of True Beauty" had me rushing home from the events of the day just to read one more page. My life was greatly impacted by that book. Eventually I found their online magazine "Setapartgirl" where I saw an ad for Ellerslie.

Just that week I had been talking with my mom about my hopes to attend a medical missions school in the Philippines, and I told her that there was no way I would change my mind on that plan. In my head, it was set in stone! I wasn't about to let some "Ellerslie," whatever that was, change my long-time plan to study as a midwife. No way!

"Well, that's nice, but I'm not going there!"

I was determined. But as I gave each of my plans into Jesus' hands, my heart was slowly being changed. As an attempt to dissuade myself from considering Ellerslie, I started listening to Eric Ludy--the president of Ellerslie's--sermons. I listened to one, going in with an extremely skeptical attitude, as was usual for me, expecting to be able to permanently write this small missions school off my list for good. But quite the opposite happened. After hearing one the sermon, something stirred in my soul. His message lifted my eyes to Jesus; it was convicting, encouraging, and pressed me to pursue Him with everything in me.

I had a sense that somehow and someday, Jesus would work everything out for me to attend this school.

Fast forward a few years; it's January, the start of the second semester of senior year. "I am definitely going to apply this month to Ellerslie!" I determined. As I pondered where I thought Jesus would be leading me in the upcoming years, I couldn't find a better fit to prepare me for what is hopefully to come than this missions school. The defining characteristic of this school isn't how many students they've graduated, how incredible and breathtaking their Colorado campus is, their spectacular faculty, or any of their accomplishments (and there are may accomplishments, if you ask me).

The defining point of Ellerslie is actually one Person. Jesus!

After a few unexpected additions to my schedule, I sent my application in. By then it was March, and I wasn't sure if I would be accepted, knowing that there are lots of people hoping to attend this school, and only so many available spots. The three references I listed all turned in their character references in, in under 12 hours from my time of application being sent in, which was so amazing! It was a wonderful reminder of His hand being over each detail.

It was 5:27PM, exactly three days after I applied; my phone was ringing. It was Sandi, and I was about to have my interview. I walked over to my phone in disbelief; this was really happening. I was seriously about to talk with the Sandi McConnaughey (she's basically famous at Ellerslie ;))!! I took a deep breath and answered...

"Hello Cassidy!" Her sweet voice rang out.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

After a very sweet and encouraging conversation, and many interview questions, Sandi informed me that I was accepted. "Oh my goodness, thank you so much, Sandi!!!!" When the conversation was over, I ran to the kitchen and told my mom and Cami. It felt completely surreal.

That evening, I received my letter of acceptance, and a note about when tuition would be due. It all sounded just perfect.

Eventually a conversation came up with one of my parents about Ellerslie; they weren’t quite as convinced as they had been when I had first applied if I should go after all. I was very surprised. Not too long after that, I realized that the financial situation had also changed. My plans as to how I would pay for the tuition began to fall through. It was only weeks before the payment was due, but I had a sense that despite the circumstances, God would provide every penny.

A few days before I took my state Certified Nursing Assistant exam, I sat down with the nursing director of a local assisted living facility, a few miles from my house, and had an interview. I was so excited to hopefully pursue my first healthcare position, but part of me wondered if I would really be able to balance 3 part time jobs along with finishing up high school.

By His amazing grace, the details began to untangle. The thought of doing a "gofundme" account to help pay for the tuition passed through my mind, but I was convicted strongly that Jesus wanted to show me how able He is to provide. I did not mention the financial need to anyone who did not absolutely have to know. (In other words, only my family and a few Ellerslie people knew). Even though outwardly it seemed there was no way everything could possibly come together in time, He continued to reassure my heart. I had accepted the job offer of a caregiver position at the assisted living facility. And I had signed on a payment plan, so I could pay my tuition in segments, instead of all at once.

But something in me still stirred. Yes, the payment plan seemed like a good option, but I felt challenged to pray for an even bigger step: I began praying that every penny for tuition would come in before the semester began. It was "a lot to ask" considering the fact that I had about 1/8 of what I needed; but the truth is that God always has enough. It was not a lot to ask of the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

A month later, I sat on my bed, calculating the thoughtful graduation gifts that had been given to me. My mom had helped me with the first payment, then my dad graciously took care of the second payment, and now there was a final amount to be payed. The amount I received from the graduation gifts, plus a very thoughtful gift toward my tuition from a sweet friend, equaled over the amount I needed. I stared down at my phone; had I calculated the numbers right??! I rushed out of the room to show my mom, who confirmed my hope.

Soon after, I wrote to Laura, the Ellerslie bookkeeper, with great joy, and explained what had happened. It made me think of the puddle principle…. :) (You’ll have to come to Ellerslie to find out what that is!)

Yea, before the day was I am He \\ Isaiah 43:13

I will direct all his ways; he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives \\ Isaiah 45:13

I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you \\ Isaiah 46:4

Hallelujah! And to think this is only one story of one million of His perfect guidance and provision!

Right now, I’m getting ready to board the plane; it’s like one big dream. Jesus is 100% faithful! Soon Delta Flight 1298 will be called over the loudspeaker, and I will be an Ellerslie Discipleship Training student. Wow.

Goodbye for now, Michigan!

“I am the Lord thy God… which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” Isaiah 48:17

Abandoned in Hubei: Jessica's Story

Saturday, May 20, 2017

It was a humid 85 degree day in Hubei. A young mom held her three month old in her arms as she walked onto a bridge near the Yangtze River; she hushed her little girl, hoping to not be discovered for fear of being arrested for what she was about to do. As the sun rose just above the horizon, the lady placed her baby on a safe spot and pinned a note on her shirt.

“Shhhh! Qi ChunTeng!” Quietly, the young mom ran down the dock, looking fearfully around. At any moment she could be caught and reported to the police for abandoning her child. But what else was she supposed to do? Where would she find the money to raise this child? She was struggling financially. And her family would shame her for not giving birth to a son; she really didn’t want a girl after all.

In Wuhan, it was illegal to give up your child for adoption or you would have to face consequences from the local police - including possible fines and detention. To abandon a child was also against the law, and if the parent was caught leaving their child, they would be reported to the authorities. People who turned them in would be rewarded financially; this was especially motivating to the people of Hubei since the government controlled all the wealth.

Qi ChunTeng’s mother slipped away into the distance, feeling ready to forget this chapter of her life and begin a new one.

Soon little Qi ChunTeng’s wailing was heard by a village lady, who was on her way to the market. Most people of Wuhan were very used to finding abandoned babies, and would not go out of their way to help them, but this lady was different. Slowly, she bent down to the ground and scooped up a tiny, beautiful little girl. As the lady held her, she realized there was a piece of paper pinned to the baby’s sweater. She glanced at the description on the paper:


The woman realized that this little one couldn’t be more than twelve weeks old! She went to the police station and handed Qi ChunTeng over to them. The police filled out her paperwork, and placed her temporarily in the Qichun Welfare Home, a fifty year old orphanage down the street. An ad was placed, telling the community about this abandoned little one, along with the many other weekly abandonment announcements in the paper. The authorities did not see many of these deserted children ever reunited with their biological families.

Qi ChunTeng awoke in a metal framed crib, hearing the babies around her crying. This orphanage was understaffed, and although some of the employees truly loved each child, there were not enough people to go around. Most of these children did not bond with the workers, but learned to fend for themselves, as well as they could. This caused the little ones to be closed toward other people, since even the most basic needs weren’t always met. Any love that was given to these children was temporary--from their parents, to the police, to the orphanage staff, to foster care--as the children became older, an underlying question remained: “Am I worth enough to anyone for them to take the time to care for me faithfully? Will everyone get up and leave on me?”

After nine months at the orphanage, little Qi ChunTeng was transferred to a home with two sisters who would become her temporary foster parents, because a family from the US was pursuing her adoption. This was arranged to give the adoptive parents the impression that their child had received one-on-one care from the very beginning. The Chinese government did not want the adoptive parents to become aware of the difficult conditions these orphans had endured prior to a family’s promise to give them a forever home.

By the time she was sixteen months old, the time had arrived for Qi ChunTeng to meet her adoptive family. The sisters notified the adoption agency that little Qi ChunTeng had a high fever the evening before; the agency decided it would be best not to expose the Eddy family to Qi ChunTeng’s illness, and looked through their files for similar children they could instead send home with them. The orphanages were so full that they didn’t want to send this family back empty handed.

The day the adoptive family arrived, miraculously, their little girl’s fever had subsided. Soon Qi ChunTeng--now known as Jessica--boarded the plane with her new family, and hesitantly embraced this new life as a member of the Eddy family. Eventually Jessica came to understand that her new mom and dad loved her, and were not just temporary people in her life. As she got older, Jessica came to realize that in the same way her family welcomed her in, so her heavenly Father welcomed her with open arms. After being shown Christ’s love in this family for several years, Jessica trusted Jesus as her personal savior, and understood that Jesus was the one who protected her at every moment. When her mom abandoned her at the dock, when the village woman handed her over to the police, when the police transferred her to the orphanage, and when the orphanage moved her to the foster family, He was with her every step of the way.

One day, while a middle school small group, a friend asked Jessica rather insensitively: “Are your parents actually your real parents?!” Jessica was taken off guard by her comment; she really hadn't thought about that. As the small group leader continued with the lesson, Jessica began to realize why she had felt so insecure in the past several years. She felt alone and rejected as she began believing the lie that her mother had left her because she was unworthy of love. Because of these lies she believed, Jessica became very introverted.  

A few years later Jessica was great impacted by two passages:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:13-17).

Through His Word, Jessica found freedom to fully forgive her mom and let go of the lies that she was unworthy or unloved, combating both lies with the Word of God. She started praying specifically that her mom would come to know Jesus as her personal Savior. And that she would one day be reunited with her.  

There over 160 million orphans in the world who need to be rescued. Jessica’s story is such a beautiful reminder that every life is so valuable to our King. God has called each of us to stand in the gap for orphans:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

“Whoever receives one little child…in My name receives Me.” (Matthew. 18:5).

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

Let’s be women who joyfully stand for these lives! He so longs for each of these orphans to come into His family, through Jesus!

Why I Ditched Calvinism and Arminianism and What I Embraced Instead

Saturday, April 29, 2017

“After searching for answers for many years, I finally headed to my local Christian bookstore and looked for a book on predestination. One of the employees there set me up with some spectacular resources and now I finally see the light on these issues! Let me tell you ladies about Calvinism!” The Bible study leader’s voice boomed with enthusiasm. She proceeded to launch into a long discussion about just why John Calvin’s views could fix so many issues. I joined in to the conversation and mentioned that Calvin cannot and did not solve everything: only Jesus can do that.

On my ten minute drive home, my mind was conflicted; was it really true that I had to get under the banner of Arminius or Calvin? This leader seemed to suggest that if I didn’t get my thoughts “straightened out” on this (in other words, become a Calvinist) then how could I actually be saved?

Being my strong-willed and determined self, I got home and researched Calvin’s “opposite:” Arminianism. “Well, this seems to be missing some important things too…” I thought to myself, as I leaned against the kitchen counter. I Googled “Calvinism versus Arminianism,” and to my shock, there appeared to be some followers of both who had seemingly forgotten about Jesus. And instead of clinging to the Cross, they were clinging to their certain views on predestination, election, and free will.

What a total tragedy it is when the followers of Jesus leave Him behind for a bunny trail. And, yes, I dare call both Calvinism and Arminianism “bunny trails” whenever they take our eyes off of the Author of Salvation! Such a statement sounds like foolishness to many; this is the point where the long time information-oriented theologian clicks the “X” button in the top right corner of the web page. This article is not for the Christian satisfied with mere head knowledge about Jesus Christ; these thoughts have been churned out onto paper for the Christian hungry for Jesus Himself. You will not be satisfied with anything further I have to say if you do not desire to intimately know Jesus every day.

The Real Problem with Calvinism and Arminianism

What would you say is the defining characteristic of Christianity? God’s Word boldly exposes to us that it is not about any person or thing apart from God Himself. In other words, if your belief in Jesus is built upon anything apart from Him, you are standing on a faulty foundation, and eventually you will run dry. In John 4 Jesus talks with the woman at the well; He shows us that He is the only One who can truly satisfy our souls: “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’”(4:13-14 ESV, emphasis added).

Is this said of you? “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:2a NASB).

Or do you thirst simply for intellectual knowledge that will one day fade?

We absolutely should face questions about predestination, election, and more! Instead of running to a “18 Ways Arminius's View Clears Things Up” book, what if every single one of us, as followers of Jesus, ran to the foot of the cross with each puzzling thought? Here’s a startling revelation most theologians would shush me for saying: Jesus already has every single answer to each facet of these deep concepts. God is wiser than Calvin and Arminius! What a devastating mistake we make if we lean trustingly upon the shoulder of a man in a way that we should only look to Jesus. Let’s be women who always turn first to Jesus with every question of the day! I call out every individual who calls themself a believer to ask this of Jesus: “Lord, I want you to teach me whatever you see fit for me to know on predestination, election, and every other argument. I ask for my understanding of this issue to reflect a heart ever gazing up, into the eyes of my Savior.”

A.W. Tozer makes a very important statement that often helps me to bring perspective to these discussions: “Every belief that is not firmly rooted in the cross of Christ will lead others astray.” If your belief about anything comes into conflict with God’s Word, who wins? You or God? Calvin or God? Arminias or God?

“The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8 HCSB).

“There are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:7b-10 NASB).

I do not necessarily consider these varying theological views to be fully contrary to the Gospel; rather I notice the fact that embracing these movements often puts our eyes on ourselves and what we can do rather than on Him. The Christian life is not all about me or you; it's about Jesus Christ! As Ian Thomas as so eloquently put it: “The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you--your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything--then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it.”

Digging Deeper

An author I greatly respect has said: “Important as it is that we recognize God working in us, I would yet warn against a too-great preoccupation with the thought. It is a sure road to sterile passivity. God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, ‘O Lord, Thou knowest.’ Those things belong to the deep and mysterious profound of God’s omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.” [1]

Are you consumed with side issues or the main Character? Jesus didn’t die so we could all debate and discuss little intricacies; He shows us plainly in His Word: “A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10 HCSB). We were created for His honor, glory, and praise.

“It is a tragedy when Jesus Christ becomes an academic subject… You could study the Truth, but if you don’t study the Truth as if it is in fact a Person, named Jesus, you are doing more harm than good. God always has an answer. Always!! If you have a question about Scriptural Truth, the remedy is to trust, with childlike faith, that God planted that question in your heart and mind and He desires to answer it. Stay focused on Jesus. No matter how intriguing or how factual your study may be, if it leads you away from a simple abiding trust and fellowship with Jesus Christ, don’t follow the bait. Sit at Christ’s feet and you can be certain that as you study His Word, with Christ at the center of your studies, you will never fail for lack of knowledge or understanding on any matter.” (Eric Ludy). [2]

Returning to Childlike Faith
Picture this: You’re standing in the middle of a world-renowned seminary and are being given a tour by the president, himself. As you walk through the brick lined hallway, you glance up at the large picture frames containing photos of some of the most well known theologians and Christian leaders of our time, who have graduated from this very school. You suddenly feel very small in the light of all their accomplishments. Suddenly, the president turns to you and abruptly says: “We would like to offer you one class on campus for free. Who would you like to study under?”

All at once your little sister innocently looks up and says, “Well, I want to learn from Jesus!”

Trying to regain your composure, you sternly look into the face of your sister with one command: “Shhh!” Doesn’t she know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity?! Jesus is always with me! These professors are not; how dare I pass up this chance to learn from someone greatly knowledgeable in deep things. To think, many of these people have studied for over ten years on their individual field!

Sadly, so often in my own life, I find myself to resemble the older sister. Trying to be put together and professional sounding, when the life God has called us to has a very different set of credentials. Paul had something to say to the church at Corinth while they were distracted:

“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (11:2-3 NASB, emph. added).

How many of us have become so wrapped up in our own questions that we actually distance ourselves from Jesus, thinking that we have somehow arrived in our own way? Have we lost our sense of childlike wonder and awe that ardently worships the King of kings?

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2-4 NASB).

We are called to look to our Jesus for everything, much like a child looks to their parents to meet their needs. What words quickly flow from the lips of a hungry two-year-old? “Daddy, food!” Do we go that freely to the throne of grace for the answers? He is completely willing to answer us; He has promised to give everything we need for life and godliness!

What about spiritual maturity?
Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that I am condoning the stupidity form of simplicity. Maybe your thoughts are: “Now, Cassidy’s goal is for believers to stay baby Christians forever! She just doesn’t like the hard subjects!” If we are living in obedience to Jesus Christ, we cannot stay as babies. He has called us to childlike faith that matures while still having a glowing child-wonder. As Arthur T. Pierson has said: “The disciple’s maturest manhood is only the perfection of his childhood.” [3]

Anytime we examine a movement - be that Calvinism, Arminianism or anything else - we must look at it through the lens of His Word. I know too many people who use Scripture to prop up their own points. Have you made God’s Word your ultimate authority? May we ever be the people who can say, “What Jesus says goes!”

Calvinism cannot save you, nor can Arminianism. If you’ve been building your life on the five points of Calvinism, I urge you to stop. If you have been desperately building Arminian philosophy into your life, I call you too to stop. If you must have five points, let them be: (1) Jesus (2) Jesus (3) Jesus (4) Jesus (5) Jesus. As I have already stated several times, this does not mean you will never examine predestination and the other issues these two views discuss; what is different is that your starting point is Jesus and your ending point is Jesus. This means you run to His feet and pour out your heart before Him long before you jog up to other teachers and ask for their opinions.  People are excessively flawed; Jesus doesn’t have even one flaw. Who would you rather go to? The Perfect One or a regular Joe with a bucket full of theories?

May our lives ever be built around Jesus Christ, who knows far better than any theologian on every controversial issue. Come and learn from the Master; He’s known all this a lot longer than even the most experienced pastors and teachers. Having doctrine that lines up with God's Word is of great importance! We see that clearly in several places in the Bible: "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1 ESV). "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 1:9 ESV). We need to test every word and thought to His Word. When others are teaching us, we need to dig into God's Word for ourselves and see if what they've said is true. Sound doctrine is of undeniable importance; the question I have been asking is this: who do you look to for the answers? Do you search the Scriptures for the answer and earnestly pray? Or do you believe what you believe simply because "so and so" said it?

Jesus is enough for me. Is He enough for you?

  1. A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 74
  2. Arthur T. Pierson, George Muller of Bristol, 43 [as quoted in the sermon listed above].