God and the outdoors

Gerber shares her experience leading ASWWU's Connect with the Creator film festival

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Brooklyn Gerber is a sophomore piano major. As spiritual vice president for Associated Students of Walla Walla University (ASWWU), she led organization efforts for ASWWU’s second annual Connect with the Creator Film Festival. The festival is open to students of all Adventist colleges in North America and videos respond to the question, “How do you connect with God through the outdoors?” 

“Coming into this year [2023–24] as ASWWU spiritual vice president was a little intimidating at first. Last year I got to experience all of the fun programs and events that ASWWU plans, and now I had to live up to those expectations. Because of this, I really appreciate being able to rely on my boss Annaliese Grellmann, ASWWU president, and learning about leadership by watching her example.

This year, I was prepared to plan week of worships and all of the vespers and afterglows, but I didn’t expect that I would get the chance to organize a film festival too. Parker Leclerc, a WWU grad and last year’s ASWWU spiritual VP, created this festival, because he saw a lack of outdoor film festivals that emphasize a spiritual twist. As Christians, the outdoors serve as evidence of God’s character, through it we can see who God is, and that is such a big part of worship to us. 

I was excited about continuing Connect with the Creator, and being a part of its beginning stages—I hope to see it take off and grow in the future. However, this event was much larger than the others that I have been in charge of so far: it wasn’t just a one night event, it required a lot of continuous communication, planning, and networking with other colleges and student associations. 

The biggest challenge was not hearing back from schools and struggling to gain commitment from possible participants. The students have a lot of other classes and projects going on, but I can only host a film festival with whatever films I am presented with. It was difficult at first to find people who were willing to commit the amount of time necessary for creating these films. But after I received substantial interest, it was really cool to get to see the resulting energy that was sparked in these filmmakers. They had to set their own deadlines and checks; this wasn't part of a class, but it still required a big time commitment and it demanded quality results. 

This whole process taught me the importance of communication and trust when it comes to any kind of leadership. I had to be sure everyone—my team, the other colleges, and the participants—were aware of every deadline and were updated on all the current event information. But at some point I had to trust the filmmakers to turn in a quality film for the show. 

The Connect with the Creator film festival was a lot of work, but it was absolutely worth it. Each film was so cool because they all had the same prompt, but each was so different: one talked about studying God by looking at nature as His handiwork, and another focused on the community that can be found in the outdoors especially when working towards a common goal. I would definitely call this year’s festival a success, and I am so excited to watch it grow in the future. 

I wouldn't have been able to successfully execute this event if I hadn’t been able to lean on those around me. During my time as ASWWU spiritual vice president, I learned that just because someone may be the spiritual head, or the leader of some team, doesn't mean they can do more than the average person. It is really important to ask for help when you need it. 

You can watch the collection of short films submitted to the festival on ASWWU’s YouTube channel.

Posted June 14, 2024

Portrait of Brooklyn Gerber