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LIVING THE EPIC LIFE
By Tim Walker
YW (YouthWalk) Magazine
June 2002

When Jedd Medefind, Trey Sklar, Matt Kronberg, and Mike Peterson graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, they embarked on a journey much different than the rest of their classmates—they traveled the world. From delivering medical supplies to Honduras to preaching the Gospel in Russia to smuggling Bibles into Vietnam, these four friends discovered much more than different cultures and scenic locales. In their book, 4 Souls (Word Publishing), these four guys chronicle their trip, giving us a glimpse of what faith in Christ looks like outside of America and how one doesn’t need a passport to live an “epic” life for God.

How did you prepare for the trip?

Trey: Soon after we decided to go for it, we purchased a big map of the world and put it up on the wall. We began to figure out where we had connections—our focus was on where we would be useful to locals and could live with them and learn
from them.

How did you perceive life outside the U.S. before and now?

Jedd: Growing up, my sense of the difference between the U.S. and many other countries focused on the “things” we have that they don’t. And those disparities are huge. Most of the world’s people will never have many of the things we simply expect, from Big Macs and cell phones to antibiotics and clean water. But the deeper you dig, though, the more you discover humanness—or, rather, you see in each person the image of God. You see creativity, an awareness of eternity, a desire to be respected and loved, a need for relationship, as well as man’s sin nature. It’s so clear the Creator left His stamp on each person.

Were you surprised by the warmth and generosity of people, even though your trip plans were dependent on that?

Trey: I was expecting generosity and warmth, but we truly were overwhelmed. We had houses and cars loaned to us—even though we were almost total strangers. It left a deep impression on us.

Describe one of the other guys or yourself.

Jedd: Trey is optimistic, capable of imagining the unimaginable and presenting it to others, but sometimes without full consideration of how to get there. He sees real beauty and helps others to see it as well.
Mike: Trey was the dreamer, but Jedd was the doer. More than anybody I ever met, Jedd is committed to being a good steward of the gifts God has given him.
Trey: Mike is able to think out of the box. He is also able to discern the motives behind each person’s behavior with remarkable
accuracy.
Matt: I’m a thinker and a planner, and I like to know what I’m getting myself into. There were times when the optimism of some of the other guys was hard for me because it got us into some situations I wasn’t totally comfortable with.

In the book, you describe your motivation for the trip was to live the “epic life.” What is that?

Jedd: Epic life is living with abandon for Jesus in committed relationship with others who share that passion. In the movie Braveheart, as William Wallace nears his execution, he declares, “All men die . . . not all men really live.” That’s what we wanted—to really live, with passion and purpose.
Trey: The epic life is simply abandonment to Christ in the every day moments of life. This is carried out by being sensitive to the Spirit, knowledgeable of the Word, and willing to be used by God in any circumstance.

How can someone who doesn’t have the freedom to travel the world live the epic life?

Jedd: The reality is that epic life isn’t waiting for you out there somewhere. It isn’t limited to people who can travel to crazy places. Even the wildest experiences lose their wildness if done enough times. Epic life—and the greatest challenge of our existence—is to translate God’s eternal truths and purposes into the ordinary moments of everyday life. That means loving, serving, laying your life down for others, turning the other cheek, “losing your life to find it,” and everything else Jesus called us to. It’s these little, day-to-day choices that make everyday life epic.

For someone preparing for a summer mission trip with their youth group, what can they do to make the experience “epic”?

Jedd: Realize that the trip itself—the intriguing people, strange foods, exotic places—may be fascinating, but it isn’t where true “epicness” is found. The things you see and learn may inspire you, but the epic life really begins when you’re back in your ordinary life at home and at school, and you start living passionately for Jesus. If you can begin to do that before you go, the trip is guaranteed to be epic, wherever you end up.

From the trip, what did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about Jesus Christ?

Jedd: That I wasn’t the others-focused, selfless guy I imagined myself to be. It’s easy to be selfless when you’re around people part of a day. When you’re together constantly for months on end, the reality of who you really are comes out. In all this, though, I also gained a thrilling sense of what we’re capable of when we abandon ourselves to Christ. Anything can happen when you put yourself totally in His hands.
Mike: I learned how important it is to me to have male friends that I can commit to serving God with. I also learned that being a witness for Christ is something that happens primarily in the day-to-day actions of ordinary life.
Trey: I learned that I need close contact with close friends in order to grow. Without a 24/7 relationship, your friends don’t really know the full extent of what is going on inside of you. I also learned that compared to the rest of the world, I’ve got it made.
Matt: I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I’m just one blip of billions on this planet, and I’m nothing without Jesus Christ. But I am something to Jesus. He cares the world about me, and He cares about you. Jesus is faithful, and He wants us all to live in complete abandon to Him—because that is what we were created for. That’s where we will be most fulfilled, and that’s where we will get to experience the adventure, the beauty, and the intimacy of community that we’ve been searching for all our lives.

For more information on their adventure, read the book 4 Souls published by Word Publishing, or visit their Web site at www.foursoulsthebook.com.


# # # #

Authors Bring Tales of International Adventure to the Marbled Halls of Congress
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 22, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC -- Four friends. Seventeen countries. Two-hundred and ten days. One mission: to discover the epic life.

Three of the four authors of the new book, "Four Souls: A Search for Epic Life," continued their travels today with two visits to the Washington, DC-Metro area. They spoke to over 100 congressional staffers in the U.S. Capitol, and to a smaller gathering of supporters at a Starbucks in McLean, VA.

The events were sponsored by The Voice Behind, Inc., a faith-based communications group.

"It would have been crushing to discover that 'life to the full' could only be found in seeking one adrenaline rush after another," said Jedd Medefind recalling the stories of adventure the authors encountered. "But that's simply not the case. The abundant life Jesus promised is available to any who seek it, right in the midst of the ordinary moments of everyday life, but only as we give ourselves completely to him and his purposes."

The authors told stories of encountering trouble in Guatemala, smuggling Bibles into Vietnam, and bathing the sick and dying in Calcutta.

Critics say the book will revolutionize a generation with its radical departure from "self-discovery" travels. Author Os Guinness says, "The Four Souls restores the venture to faith and the epic to life. [It is] a fascinating read."

More than just a collection of thrilling stories, the authors share why life to the full is found only in a radical commitment to Jesus Christ.

"Four Souls" can be purchased through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, or the authors web site at www.foursoulsthebook.com

The web site also contains excerpts from the book.

# # # #

Students Share New Way Of Life
By Clint Cooper
Chattanooga Times Free Press
March 2, 2002

Four young men seeking excitement on a round-the-world post-college trip found a new way of life instead, members of the group said earlier this week at Covenant College. "We wanted to have an adventure, maybe help some people out," said Trey Sklar, "but our focus shifted."

They found "a fullness of living," they said, in the "ordinary life" of a dedicated married couple in Uspantan, Guatemala; of a faithful community in Yemva, Russia; and of a daring young Bible smuggler in Vietnam. Along the way, they saw the pyramids in Egypt, hiked the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal and neaked "holy contraband" into a communist country.

Three of the four, Mike Peterson, Jedd Medefind and Mr. Sklar, spoke to students at two Covenant chapel services and also answered questions at an evening session.

The four men wrote about their experience in a recently published book, "Four Souls" (www.foursoulsthebook.com), and are spending January through May talking to audiences across the country about it.

All four men graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1997 and made plans for post-trip lives of business, law and other job opportunities. Westmont, like Covenant, Bryan and Lee colleges locally, is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

The focus of the trip, Mr. Peterson said, was to find the purpose in life that is always assumed to be just around the next bend in ther road. "What we were hoping to find was that exciting, heart-thumping kind of living," said Mr. Medefind. "It was a dream," Mr. Peterson said, "to search after and stick to the places off the beaten path."

The priority they found after their experience, they said, is the need "to day by day put the instructions of Christ into practice."

People living out lives bound together was a common element of their stops, Mr. Sklar said. In Russia, for instance, he said a community of Christian believers comes together nightly not just for Bible study but for support and love of each other.

"That made a deep impression on us -- the way they practiced community," he said.

Mr. Sklar said Americans seeking a similar fullness of life need to realize that life often "happens in the interruptions." Small groups that feathere Bible study, discussion and accountablity are "a step in the right direction" for Americans, he said, but the ultimate would be to "take the community instructions of Jesus Christ at face value" -- to actually help meet the needs, share together with and live in community with their neighbors.

E-mail Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com


# # # #

Four Souls Review
MOODY MAGAZINE

March/April 2002

Four young men, just out of college, put off jobs and grad school to travel around the world and work with local Christians for most of year. “We wanted to discover the kind of living that would make each day worth waking up for.” They deal with bribe-seeking officials, befriend a young prostitute, and smuggle Bibles. Interspersed between their lively travelogues are brief, first-person reflections on what matters most in life.


# # # #

Odyssey transforms four friends into four souls
By Staff Reporter
CHRISTIAN TIMES
January 2002

“We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

Far from the Scottish highlands and the cinematic wonders that brought the epic life of William Wallace to the big screen in “Braveheart,” a quartet of Westmont College graduates sought their own answers with far fewer bells and whistles.
They found it nonetheless.

“It caused something inside of you to rise up and to live beyond the mundane,” said San Diegan Mike Peterson, a fan of the “Braveheart” film.
And, in an effort to share that vision with others, they have scratched the horse, mounting a 21st century fifth-wheel as part of a nationwide tour to promote their manual, a 362-page book outlining their worldwide, seven-month odyssey. “Our generation is hungry for a vision they can believe in and sacrifice for,” said Peterson. “We hope to inspire them about the idea of living in community and those communities would inspire the world around them, not [just] go to church on Sunday and put a bumper sticker on their car.”

While their days at Westmont were spent studying such subjects as international business, communications and philosophy, the months after their graduation they majored in community. Committed to avoiding the materialism trap that is often the cornerstone of the American dream, the four souls were looking for an abundant life built around their faith in Jesus Christ. “We definitely thought it had something to do with faith and significant relationships,” said Jeff Medefind, who was on a path to attend the University of Virginia Law School. “Those were the two things we were certain would be key ingredients. But exactly how it would flush out, we didn’t have a clue.”

Medefind said his eyes were opened during a senior-year internship at Price Waterhouse in Moscow. His mentor was a man who was billing $500 an hour, and taking regular vacations to Europe. “Looking at his life, I concluded that [with all the material success] I really would not be satisfied with my life in the deeper sense,” said Medefind, now a resident of Sacramento. “It was almost a sense of desperation that, if the vocation I had planned for isn’t going to provide it, what was? “I didn’t want to be 40, waiting for the weekends, looking forward to vacations.” He wasn’t alone.

“Looking at our options, we decided we did not want to go down the same road as everyone else,” said Trey Sklar, adding that many college graduates ultimately lost their idealism as they transitioned into community. “We wanted to figure out the gist of life before we dropped into the same old thing,” Sklar said.

Over time, the foursome discussed a wide range of options including a worldwide tour to work beside and witness the work of average Christians. On October 1997, with a thumbnail sketch for an itinerary and only half of the anticipated funds in the bank, the friends headed south to Mexico. “The rest came in while we were gone,” Peterson said. “It was pretty amazing. We thought we would get stuck in Africa or something.” Before it was over, they visited Guatemala, Russia, Egypt, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam. “It flew in the face of reason to do some of the things that we did,” Sklar said. “We were giving up a lot of things that, in the world’s eyes, you just don’t give up.”

Transcending cultures


Each will tell you that they gained far more. Stripped of the distractions steeped in the American lifestyle, the traveling friends found glimpses of the epic life in the most simple ways and places.
“What gives meat to the bones was seeing the lives of ordinary people around the world living it,” Medefind said. “These lives, they certainly weren’t easy. There were major sacrifices they were making daily for Jesus Christ. But there was that joy, purpose and passion we were looking for.”

And while they were critical of the success trappings on the home front, they also came to the realization that the epic life is alive and well here, too. “As we came to understand, some of these people were living the epic life, but it just wasn’t as high adrenaline on the surface that we might expect,” Medefind said.

These snapshots of the epic lifestyle have been captured in the pages of “Four Souls,” the W Publishing Group book, which sold out its initial 7,000-copy print run in the first month. The book chronicles their adventures, complete with individual journal accounts of their thoughts, hopes and dreams. “Our hope is that the reader will discover this same vision on their own as they travel with us,” Medefind said. To help the readers travel with them, the authors are traveling to them.

“We feel very strongly about the ideas and principles in the book,” Sklar said. “We would have gone on this trip around the country, even if we didn’t have this book.” “The book gives us an open door. It’s a good tool to reach a lot of people you wouldn’t always get an audience with.”

Chiseling away the ego

A lot of what they gave up was pride. Wanting desperately not to give into to friendly advice that the close quarters would ultimately squash their friendship, the epic-seekers met nightly for a time of introspection and reconciliation. The sessions were often uncomfortable as hurts were hashed out and friendship renewed. From spirituality, to philosophy, to theology and psychology, the awkward discussions drew the foursome tighter and tighter.

“We don’t find it weird,” said Kronberg. “It is atypical. I think a lot of people desire the depth of a relationship that we have, but they don’t know how to go about getting it.” The key ingredient, he said, is making yourself authentic and vulnerable. “Our culture really shies away from that,” Kronberg said. “It’s so independent. Everyone is doing their own thing. They don’t want people to question them, but at the same time, they long for a relationship, the intimacy that can only be found in relationships like that.”

The exercise, they all said, helped lay the groundwork for their marriages. In 2000, their friendship circle doubled as each of the young men were married. “They are growing together as well,” Medefind said about the wives. “They really enjoy each other."

It’s a good thing, because for much of the next four months, three of the couples will be living and traveling in the fifth wheel, towing a pickup truck. Kronberg, in seminary, will join up with them as his schedule allows. Taking a leave to join the group full-time would have cost him his scholarship.

“I’m not going to be involved in the same way, the same level, but it doesn’t preclude me,” he said.

While they learned a lot about each other, each brings to the mobile hotel a desire for new lessons. “We expect to be refined by this journey, so we’re excited about that process,” Medefind said. “What we are excited about most is seeking to challenge our generation with a vision of what life can be when we give ourselves fully to Christ.” Part of the discovery process will be to determine how their relationships will mature as they finally settle into more traditional lifestyles. “I think we’re all trying to sort out what our experience in the past means for us in the future,” Kronberg said.

Peterson agreed, saying he hopes the foursome—plus four—will be able to live and work in close proximity. His vision is purchasing an apartment complex where they can model what they’ve learned to non-believers. “Our goal is to do something, to live in community in a way that can be replicated, that other Christians can do on a daily basis, not just on a Sunday,” he said. That, he said, would truly be a testimony to the epic life.

“It’s not something that’s just available to the super spiritual,” he said. “It’s something that’s available to all Christians.”

For more information on the book or the tour, log on to www.foursoulsthebook.com.

# # # #

Book by Chief of Staff Released
The Placer Herald, Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Placer Herald Staff Report

A group of young men have written a book about their travel experiences as they went to countries they thought they would only dream about. One of the writers, Jedd Medefind, works at the California State Capitol for Assemblyman Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City). Leslie heralded the release of the adventure travelogue Four Souls, co-authored by his chief of staff.

Four Souls follows four young men as they step from the paths of graduate school and careers for a year-long expedition around the world-into the Guatemalan highlands, Russia's far north, the mountains of South Africa, villages in Bangladesh, Nepal's Himalayas, rural Vietnam and other rarely traveled lands.

Along with gripping stories of far-flung adventure, Four Souls provides compelling images of life beyond America's borders and delves into substantive questions of life, faith, and human purpose. Also woven throughout the book are the travelers' own thoughts and struggles-revealed candidly in first-person accounts and journal entries-as they come to realize that the very "life to the full" they had set out in search of was not to be found "out there" in the next big thrill or adrenaline rush, but in a life of faith and purpose in midst of ordinary, day-to-day reality.

"I'm blown away by this book," explained Leslie. "I've always had a passion for encouraging people, especially youth, to seek after the best and to think seriously about life's most important questions. Four Souls does just that as it draws you on an amazing adventure around the globe."

Added Senator Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), "Four Souls is as captivating as it is provocative. All who encounter this book will be challenged, inspired, and even impassioned by the vision it conveys."

Medefind and his three co-authors will be speaking extensively across the U.S. in universities, schools, and churches over the coming year, challenging students and adults with the stories and ideas contained in Four Souls.

Medefind can be reached at Assemblyman Leslie's capitol office and further information about the book and the speaking tour can be obtained at www.foursoulsthebook.com.


# # # #

Westmont grads return for talk on world journey
Santa Barbara News-Press, November 11, 2001

SANTA BARBARA -- After graduating from Westmont College, four Christian friends traveled around the world and then chronicled the seven-month experience in a book titled "Four Souls: A Search for the Epic Life" (Word Publishing).

The graduates -- Matt Kronberg, Mike Peterson, Jedd Medefind and Trey Sklar -- are returning to their alma mater at 10:30 a.m. Monday to share tales and insights from their journey, which included treks through the former Soviet Union, Guatemala, India and Vietnam.

The foursome shared a desire for meaningful life after college. What they found is that attaining this had nothing to do with thrill-seeking travel adventures, but with a life guided by their faith, they said.

"A lot of people are not in a situation where they have the freedom to go globe-trotting, but in their ordinary lives they can give themselves to Jesus and serve their neighbors, and in that find something of the fuller life that they are seeking," said Mr. Medefind.
-- Rhonda Parks Manville

# # # #

PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release - November 8, 2001
ADVENTURE TRAVELERS BACK IN SANTA BARBARA

Santa Barbara, CA-What drives a person to abandon the comforts and conveniences of home to seek adventure in countries the modern world has left behind?

Shortly after graduating from Westmont College in 1997, Matt Kronberg, Mike Peterson, Jedd Medefind, and Trey Sklar, did just that, stepping from the path of grad school and careers for a 7-month expedition around the globe. The adventure tales of the journey are captured alongside revealing personal journal reflections in the recently released book, Four Souls (Word Publishing).

As part of a nationwide speaking tour, the four travelers will be returning to Westmont College on Monday, November 12 at 10:30 a.m. to address the school's morning convocation, sharing tales from their journey and stories of life beyond America's borders.

"We've been profoundly impacted by the vision of Christian faith and community we encountered across the world," explained Matt Kronberg, who attended high school in Santa Barbara and is now a grad student in Chicago. "It's our passion to convey this vision to our generation, challenging them to think seriously about life and faith and what it means to follow Jesus."

The remarkable journey took the four recent grads into Guatemala's highlands, Russia's far north, the mountains of South Africa, villages in Bangladesh, Nepal's Himalayas, rural Vietnam, and other rarely-traveled lands. In each place, they lived and worked alongside local Christians committed to serving their countrymen in the name of Jesus.

Although different in many ways, Matt, Mike, Jedd, and Trey shared a desire to find more in life after college than the weekend-waiting, diversion driven, often dissatisfied lives many who had gone before them had settled for. "There was definitely some fear motivating us," explained Mike Peterson. "We had serious doubts as to whether what lay beyond graduation would hold the meaningful, purpose-filled life we so much wanted to live. We wanted to make a last ditch effort to find that 'life to the full' we hoped was out there before we'd settle for the status quo."

As expected, the journey proved to be a grand adventure. From bribe-seeking officials and hurricanes in Central America, to race riots in South Africa, to Bible smuggling in Vietnam, the four travelers were left with a life-time supply of gripping tales.

Ironically, however, the far-flung adventures left the four young men convinced that the deeper life-purpose they sought would not be found merely in continual high adrenaline thrills. "Even the most exciting things become hum-drum if you do them enough times," remarked Trey Sklar. "As great as it was to hike in the Himalaya, see the pyramids, or explore India's jungles, those experiences could not provide the answer to our search for deeper substance and meaning."

But while adventure-in-itself fell short, the travelers began to see the purposeful, vibrant life they sought in places they didn't expect: the ordinary, everyday lives of the people with whom they lived and worked.

In Guatemala, it was the upper class ladinos who had given up wealth and position to serve indigenous Indians. In Russia, it was the Christians who had defied an atheist State and survived the worst Communism could throw at them. There were also the South African officials who had stood against apartheid, Bangladeshi believers who continue to share their faith despite the Muslim government's ban on evangelizing, and many others who had rejected the expectations and definitions of success held by those around them for the sake of their faith in Christ.

This realization is at the heart of their book and spoken message: that the full, purposeful life that so many of us seek is not found in far off adventure or self-absorbed pursuits, but in a life-guiding faith in Jesus.

In this discovery, the four travelers felt their search had led them full-circle, to a time-tested form of the faith of their childhood. In the words of T.S. Elliot, it was to return home "and know the place for the first time."

Jedd Medefind, who now works in the State Legislature, concluded, "It would have been crushing to discover that 'life to the full' could only be found in seeking one adrenaline rush after another. But that's simply not the case. The abundant life Jesus promised is available to any who seek it, right in the midst of the ordinary moments of everyday life, but only as we give ourselves completely to him and his purposes."

# # # #

Dallas Morning News, October 13, 2001

These four California friends set out to do what many Christians have never had the courage to do: go out into the world, rough it for a few months, help as many people as possible, and live completely for Christ. The four buddies from Westmont College in Santa Barbara let their faith guide them after graduation as they traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, Egypt, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Vietnam. Along the way, they strengthened their relationships with one another and with Jesus Christ. Their stories are most poignant as they meet the "poorest of the poor" from the Mayan hills in Guatemala to the streets of Calcutta. You can't help but tear up as you read about Matt and Jedd holding disabled children who cling to them at an orphanage founded by Mother Teresa and her order, the Missionaries of Charity. Four Souls may inspire Christians to do more, to live an epic life for Christ. B.D.

 

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