Two words come to mind when Kirsten Gillson thinks of her Summit experience: “informative” and “inspiring.” While she was attending her first summer conference, Kirsten realized that she could not remain idle — a passive recipient of the truths being expressed hour after hour by the nation’s top Christian thinkers.
So for the next four consecutive summers — which she considers some of the best of her life — Kirsten served as a staff member in Manitou Springs, where she helped incoming students internalize the Summit mentality, which Kirsten describes as “an unwavering commitment to speak truth, regardless of popular opinion and against any attempt to dilute it.”
“Summit increased my hunger for truth and my desire to take a stand,” Kirsten remarks. And at Summit, Kirsten learned that she does not have to take that stand alone. Under the shelter of the historic Summit hotel, a broad array of Christian traditions is represented. Her exposure to the wider Christian community motivated her to seek out previously estranged brothers and sisters with whom to associate in her defense of the biblical worldview.
While not minimizing denominational differences, Kirsten believes it is imperative that Christ-followers join together in order to bring light and life to culture. Kirsten says, “Working and learning alongside Christians from a variety of denominations and backgrounds showed me the image of Christ and a deep commitment to the obedience of His Word stamped on each individual.”
Through Summit, Kirsten was first introduced to Alliance Defending Freedom, a ministry whose goal is to spread the Gospel through the transformation of the legal system. Having listened to several presentations by ADF spokespeople, she felt an irresistible pull toward the organization, which is well-respected for its unwavering commitment to religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and the defense of marriage.
Once her days as a Summit staffer had concluded, Kirsten knew exactly where she wanted to work. She moved to Phoenix, contacted ADF, and landed a job there a few months later. As an internship administrator for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship (ADF’s training and internship program for law students), Kirsten coordinates with attorneys around the world, so that Blackstone Fellows can gain practical experience abroad.
“What really motivates me from day to day,” Kirsten says, “is being involved in assisting future leaders: providing training, resources, and encouragement, facilitating connections and opportunities that they would not find on their own, and building up the Body of Christ to do mighty things.”
In Kirsten’s opinion, her position at ADF is an extension of the work she began at Summit, where she invested in students and gave them the tools with which to advance God’s truth. Commenting on the similarities between Summit and ADF, Kirsten indicates that both are focused on encouraging students and enabling them to confront a culture that is so often hostile to Christianity.
Kirsten believes that, with a balance of intellectual rigor and Christ-like love, this generation of Christ-followers can go on the offensive, creating a thriving culture they can be proud of. One prominent theme that has pervaded her work at Summit and ADF concerns Christian engagement with culture: There is no reason for Christians to cower before culture when they have the power to create a culture that is pleasing to God.
“Culture,” Gillson remarks, “is shaped by those who show up and speak up.”
Organizations like Summit and ADF inspire students to show up and empower them to speak up. And alumni like Kirsten Gillson are leading the way.