The amount that can go on in a few weeks is amazing!
Just a month ago we had completed moving out of our house in Grove City. With everything packed into a 10’x20’ box or in the back of our car we left 417 East Washington Blvd as our home for the last time. Even now, as I type this, it’s still weird to me and a little sad as well. Even though I complained about the “nothing to do” when I moved there after we got married, I have developed things about it that I love and will miss… almost all of them revolve around the people who have become a part of our daily lives there.
The first destination that we were headed for when we left on May 20th was Ocean City, MD for Summer Project. As I look back on the past 6 weeks I consider my expectations officially blown away. Like everyone, I have the tendency to idolize the past and had my doubts that this summer could come anywhere close to how good last summer was… I was wrong.
After spending a week getting the student housing ready for the arrival of 26 students who thought they were ready for everything that God had to dish out, the 29th came and so did they. There was everything from excitement and laughing to one guy who retreated immediately to his bedroom to journal and sleep, all the time with a distinct deer-in-the-headlights look.
I can speak about “my” guys – the men that I had the absolute privilege to disciple this summer: Adam, Brad, Brett, Justin and Tim. My group had it all: two deep/quiet guys who were athletically gifted; the loud, opinionated Democrat who challenges specifics of whatever is said, but is fully seeking Truth; the diesel technology major who possesses less social graces than most; and the guy who came to Christ just 10 months ago who is seeking after the Lord hard. They were coming from Slippery Rock, Penn College of Technology, Indiana University of PA and George Mason University and I am excited to be sending them back to their schools to lead in the movements that they’re a part of.
Just a few months ago I was worried that we weren’t going to have enough guys to really fill up the project, but God did his part and filled it out… and it was full of boys who were ready to make the commitment to become men after God’s heart. We spent time each week talking about what it means to move out of boyhood into authentic manhood. By the end of our time in Ocean City they all made a public commitment to reject passivity in their lives, to accept responsibility for their decisions (both good and bad), to lead courageously to point others toward Christ even when they don’t want to and when it’s uncomfortable to do so and to expect the greater reward of obedience to God even when it’s easier to settle for less.
Carrie and I got to experience living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a number of very specific ways. Both of us got to usher someone from death into life… within a week of each other. Each Saturday all of the students and staff would spend some time on the beach or boardwalk initiating conversations with the visitors and tourists at the beach. There were a team of students who would set a vision for what we would try to do to start these conversations each week; this week in particular we were simply asking people if there were things in their life that they wanted prayer for – and praying for them there and then if they wanted. Twice that day I approached people who were a little intimidating, a biker couple complete with the leader riding gear and green fading tattoos and a guy sitting on the back of a bench with a black hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with a giant red skull with nails driven through it. The biker couple joked a bit with us, but turned us down, but after asking the guy who was dressed in clothing that wouldn’t be out of character for some of my closer friends, he responded with a sober and serious, “ Yeah, I could definitely use some prayer…”
The night before, Mark, one of the students on our project, was up on the porch of the student housing talking on the phone when he heard sirens of the ambulance turn down the one of the side roads just down from the house, he walked toward the scene and saw a few more ambulances and police there. There was a car flipped over in the road and they were pulling two people from inside of it. When Mark told us about it that morning we all commented that it was odd since the side road was short and none of us could figure out how it had flipped and how it had not hit any of the cars parked on the side of the road or any of the other cars driving at the time.
“…last night my friend took my car keys without asking and was driving my car around and flipped it over. He’s okay, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do.” The wide-open door to talk to Josh was immediate and obvious. As he, Adam (one of my guys) and I talked for the next hour, we learned that he had grown up going to church and still went every once in a while because he somehow knew he should. The conversation opened up for me to share the truth of the Gospel with him – that God had created us all to have a relationship with us, but it is our sin that prevents us from knowing God personally or experiencing His love and no matter how hard we try we cannot overcome our sin in our own strength, but God did something about it in Christ dying and resurrecting three days later, but it’s not enough that any of us just know it in our head but that we receive it individually as an act of faith. Josh, for the first time, grasped the importance of Christ’s work and prayed and asked Him to save him and take the steering wheel of his life. We did explain that it was not going to make everything instantly better, but that he would begin to see God working and changing his life on the whole as he continued to yield more of it to Christ’s control.
Later that Tuesday, Carrie was also able to be a “worker for the harvest” and saw a high school student, Sam, from Pasadena, CA understand and claim the work of Christ for herself as well. As Carrie explained and offered the opportunity to respond to Christ’s offer of salvation and purpose, she responded, “I already prayed for that, just now.” God does not ask us to bring conviction, just to speak truth and sow the seed for the Holy Spirit to use to convince people of their need for His work in their life.
Wednesday, and yet another opportunity to live out the sacrificial love of Christ… after an international dinner and feeding more than 250 international students who are in Ocean City working for the summer and after our weekly large group worship meeting we were leaving to go back and rest from the day. As we walked to our car we saw two of our students come out from behind a dumpster by the large ice cream shop next door to our meeting place. Finding that more than a little odd, we asked what was going on.
It turned out that they, and another of our students, Breyana, were sitting with a very-drunk girl who was there on “Senior Week” (basically a week of non-stop alcohol and partying that recent high school grads participate in each year). It turned out that the girl, Megan, was too drunk to walk, couldn’t find her friends and wanted to get back to the condo she was staying in, but the only thing that she was sure about was that it was at least 75 blocks away… and she didn’t know what it was called. Carrie and I decided to give her a ride to the condo, because there was no way she was going to get there by herself and in the condition (and state of dress, or lack thereof) she was a prime target for a rapist.
During the drive to her condo she told us she was “sure it was on” 73rd, then 80th, then 79th; she vomited in the back of our car (fortunately, we had been wise enough to give her a garbage bag); called her friends numerous times to no avail; and fell asleep again and again and again. When we finally found her condo building (79th street was the winner), her friends were not there and she had no key. Still her friends were not picking up… after about 45 minutes of waiting with her, Carrie and I decided that we would let her stay on an extra bed in our apartment and let her get a hold of her friends in the morning. Driving back the 75 blocks to our apartment, she was just beginning to sober up.
After giving her a shirt (my “Cru” logo shirt) to cover up what her dress was failing to cover we got her settled in to the bed (with a bucket & some water) and headed to bed ourselves; it was now closing in on 1 AM. It wasn’t long before we heard our new friend yelling in the other room (it was pretty apparent that her friends had finally called back), as I began to worry that she would wake up the other staff saying in the same building I heard the yelling stop and a small tapping on our bedroom door. Her friends were now back at the condo and were mad at her for not coming into the under 21 dance club they had gone to (the club that falsely claims a “strict no alcohol policy”) and wanted her to come back right now and told her that if she wasn’t back in 5 minutes they weren’t going to let her back in.
We got back in the car and drove the 75 blocks yet again. She shared that one of her friends had just learned that she was pregnant the week before, but that it was “okay, because she going to get an abortion,” also as her friend talked to her on the phone a fistfight broke out between two more of her friends over the issue of them drinking when the girl was pregnant. Megan informed us that she was glad that she was going to college at Virginia Tech next fall because she believed that it was going to make everything about her life better.
As we dropped her off with the one friend that seemed sober and to truly be worried about her, Carrie exchanged phone numbers with her. She received a text message from Megan thanking us for the care and help that night. Please pray for Megan and the thousands of recent high school grads that have and will come through Ocean City and towns like it who are so caught up in alcohol, sex, drugs and partying that are trusting that a new location and new friends will make their life better. These are the incoming freshmen at our schools! Also, pray that Megan will arrive at Virginia Tech and see something with that logo of Campus Crusade for Christ on it and check out the group, pray that she will caught by the love and call of Jesus Christ just like Brett, Adam, Brad, Justin, Tim, Mark, Josh and Sam.
Thank you for your prayers! These are just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on during the Summer Projects all around the country – God is working, thank you for being a part of it!