Summer Project. Oh how I never wanted to go on you. Oh how I shouldn’t have ever made it here. 8 months ago, I was a young life leader, planning on going to camp with kids in the summer and then staying at home being a camp counselor and working. But I guess that plan just wasn’t going to cut it. I was feeling that young life wasn’t where I belonged anymore, that I could be used more effectively and grow in a different environment. So I applied for a summer project through Campus Crusade for Christ. People say a summer project is the best and biggest life changing summer you’ll ever have. My life started changing as I was filling out the application. I got accepted to Lake Tahoe in late January (I actually had Chicago as my #1 choice a few days before I turned in the app, but for some reason which to this day I still cannot say why, I changed my #1 choice.) I was still a young life leader then, but I was on my way out when I spoke with an inspiring and great man who has an awkward passion (but I absolutely love it) for board games. Jacob Wershing and I talked for a good while at Cru’s winter retreat and I decided I was going to try and switch ministries and become a leader in Cru. Within a couple weeks, I had been accepted on project, stopped leading young life, transitioned over to Cru and helped co-lead a bible study with the bro of them all, Greg Silverman and a couple o SMO’s. Ever since late January, my life has changed radically and I can see where I’m growing, noticing areas where I need to work on and just experiencing great community.
Summer project has been the pinnacle of this change.
I came in not knowing a soul and am leaving with 8o new best friends. I’ve already mapped out a hypothetical road trip in which I would travel cross-country to visit all my new friends while they’re still in school as I’m on my ridiculous 6 week winter break. Although, it would take a ridiculous amount of gas mileage, planning, etc. So if someone wants to join with and travel to Indiana, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho, let me know ;). Of course it’s only a thought, but that’s how strong the community has been here. I’ve already talked with fellow LTSP (Lake Tahoe Summer Project) folks about splitting costs to road trip across America just to see these people. No big cities, theme parks or unusual roadside attractions, just traveling to their college, bummin’ on their couch, eatin 17 cent packs of ramen noodles all the way, and enjoying life.
I’m coming down to this final week with a better perspective and temper on a lot of things. I understand there’s still so much I have yet to learn and I am ready to pour out and be poured into. And now we’re down to the week of lasts. Only 6 more days to go and I will be laying on my comfy couch on Kettering Bend, with my cat Mario laying on my lap, laptop on one side and a sausage and cheese bagel on the other with my dog Harry begging for a bite. It’s sad to say goodbye, but I’m ready to take what I’ve learned here back to campus and apply.
It’s been a great summer. I’ve had the opportunity to share life and reach out to the community and specifically my co-workers. One being a 47-year old Elvis wannabe who has the life you would want to make a movie out of. The other, a mid-40’s Filipino mother of 2 who immigrated here 3 years ago, still struggles with English (can’t even drive unfortunately here yet) and has ended up being one of the most surprising inspirations I’ve found. Turns out she did church mission back in the Phillipines and hasn’t been able to go to church since she’s been here. Neither has my Elvis friend in the past 3 years. I’ve been able to take them both and even though it’s hardly much at all, they’ve both felt happier and better just with one trip and being around my fellow project folk. Oh, and I’ve been working at a movie theater. I have a major in video production and minor in film, talk about a great summer job. I’ve had the opportunity to go to San Francisco, scalp 1st baseline tickets to a Giants-Dodgers game for $20 in which Tim “The Freak” Lincecum was pitching and then got to cruise around the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I was blessed to be chosen as a co-leader for the Community Team for our project halfway through, facilitating and co-heading up events to bring project unity and fellowship. Heck, we had a blacklight/white t-shirt highlighter dance party last Saturday. Epicness ensued. I’ve stayed up til 4 am discussing life, theology and just sharing experiences multiple times. Denny’s has become my favorite late night restaurant and I’ve survived these past 9 weeks with ZERO Chipotles. I’ve taken so many pictures of the gorgeous lake, waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets that even God would say, “I know this creation is good, but calm down kid.”
So Athens, here we come. Of course though, I must reflect through photos now. So as we’re winding down and I’m getting ready to go back into the theater, into the heated box office, here are some photos I hope y’all enjoy. A summary in a sense of these past 6ish weeks in Tahoe (since I’ve last posted):
So I initially planned on posting this about 10 days ago or so, but Tahoe has consumed my life. I now have a job at the Heavenly Village Cinema (woot) as a Concession/Sales guy (however, I usher and am learning box office now too)!!! God has blessed me immensely with this job and ministry opportunities galore within which I will go into detail on a later day where I don’t only have 17 minutes left until my laundry finishes at this sketchy laundromat.
So I started off summer project right reading-wise by picking up “Wild at Heart” (thank you Brad Myers). Reading through the first couple chapters so far, it talks about “something wild in the heart of every man” because there is something wild and strong about God. It discusses the hardwiring differences between men and women.
A couple Wednesdays back, our project had a night of reflection to think back on the first week. I decided to go with a few people to Emerald Bay and trek down a huge waterfall that leads into the bay. Now I’m not the biggest outdoorsman. I don’t really hike or go camping so much and I’m not the biggest fan of heights. But this day I wanted to be adventurous. I conquered the rocks about 2/3 of the way down and found myself at the bottom of a good 30 ft waterfall or so, which only ran 100 ft further down. Needless to say, I was in awe. I think our generation uses the term “awesome” far too often to describe anything and forget the “awe” part of the word. However, this sight was truly awesome (as evidence by the picture below at the end of this).
I felt at home in God’s kingdom, as I have at many other locations in Tahoe. The mountains are gorgeous. The lake is gorgeous. The waterfalls are gorgeous. Everything. Is. Gorgeous. Sitting at one of the local beaches surrounded by mountains, one truly feels they’re sitting in God’s lap. To be honest, if I didn’t feel I belonged at Ohio U and that it is where God wants me to be, I may be considering transferring to Washington State just to be near the area. But I do belong at Ohio University. . . for now. Not only would I be near the area though, but I would be surrounded by a large amount of my fellow project students.
Washington State, Montana State, Eastern Washington, and Idaho University compile up nearly 70% of this summer project. The community I have experienced here has outweighed any of which I have taken part. I have experienced tremendous growth through my life group (3 other guys and 1 male staff member), outreaches into the beach and at my workplace, training times, and just down time with friends and talks with staff guys. It makes me long for a stronger community back at college. I know there is great community there and maybe I’m just on a spiritual/emotional high right now, but I feel like the community here is far greater. The 78 students here on project cover probably somewhere near 20 different schools. Many people knew each other coming in, yet I have barely even sniffed anything close to a clique forming. Everyone is open and friendly with another. We share testimonies almost every night, are always looking for opportunities to get to know different people and are never satisfied with our spiritual growth, always searching for more.
So I suppose this is somewhat of a challenge to everyone back at Ohio University or any other college really. I have experienced the community through Cru at OU as a leader for 6 months now and as an attendee for 2 years. We have serious clique issues. There are so many people that come to the weekly meeting and don’t ever meet anyone or get out of their group or comfort zone. There is a girl on project here who is 26, from a school where she doesn’t really have anyone else and I cannot count how many people have reached out to her, how many hearts she’s touched and how much she has grown in her walk with God and grown out of her comfort zone. As a leader in Cru, she inspires me to reach out to others beyond belief and invest in lives of those I don’t know. I would hate to look back at my college career at Ohio and involvement with Cru and say that there was more I could have done. I want to be spent for God and pour out into others. So yeah, call it a challenge.
I can’t believe that I’m already 3 weeks into project. Staff leaves in a week and a half. I really don’t want this to end. I just want to take all my fellow project students back to school. I’ve struggled with worrying about the day I have to go back to Ohio. I’ll cope with it, so in the meantime I just have to enjoy the time with the people I have here.
Fun Facts through the first 3 weeks in Tahoe
-A fellow projecter named Emily almost came to OU, grew up near Columbus and used to be best friends with a guy I shared with in Baker Center at OU near the end of spring quarter. She expressed how he had taken a turn for the worse since high school and wishes he would get involved with Cru. One of her best friends is his sister. When I talked with him a few weeks ago, he expressed a strong desire to come out to bible study. Emily goes to school in Montana.
-While trying to take a picture up some rocks while hiking, I turned my head up only to find the sharp part of a broken branch of a tree facing my forehead. We met head on and I got the hugest bandage I’ve probably ever had. The scar on my forehead kind of looks like Harry Potter. Guess I’m the boy who lived! P.S. – Don’t worry mom, I’m perfectly fine ;)
-My testimony is a lot longer and a lot more in depth than I thought. While waiting for work to start, my friend Tori and I shared our testimonies and I took 40 minutes. And I realized that there is no 180 in my life that has taken place, at least I don’t want to define it as that. Since 8th grade, I have been steadily turning my life to God. I don’t like to think of my life or any part of it as a 180. That makes it sound like I’ve made it or I’m all good with God now. But I can still be a control freak and don’t want to give God full control over certain situations in my life. No, I may be at a 136 instead, but I’m constantly inching. For, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:14
Below are a few more pictures to sum up the summer so far. . .
After the first five days or so (I’ve lost track of legitimate time with the changing time zones) it is safe to say that this summer is going to be the best of my life. However, it will only be the first of many. My discipler, life group (small group of 4 guys sharing together, growing in community), cabin-mates and others have truly shown me a community centered around Christ. I have experienced both the beauty of Lake Tahoe and the mountains that surround it as well as the beauty in Jesus’ death on the cross and his grace. Today, for two hours or so, our 80-some project group went on a “prayer journey” through our living area. Completely silent towards each other, but completely open and conversational with God. There are always struggles and bad experiences in the past that I can point to that have kept a part of me from furthering my walk with God. Today, I was shown through quiet time and heavy prayer that there have been a couple of things I have not wanted to admit I’ve done; things in my life I have struggled with but not wanted to bring to light. However, with a little help from spring quarter bible study on 1 John and the prayer journey today, I am beginning to fully grasp that if I keep certain things in the dark, even from God, they won’t be fixed. You know you have a problem when you don’t even want to journal something for to see it on paper would only bring up memories. Yet God called me today and is calling all of us to just let it go.
Just let it go? My first inclination to letting major sins go is simply to not let them go. Yet Jesus has already paid for all of those sins with his death on the cross. Yes, I’ve heard this many times and I’m sure many of y’all have. Yet it is so hard to fully wrap your mind around. Imagine a memory of one of the worst sins you have ever committed. Really. Stop and visualize it (this worked for me, so I hope it may help). It may be a certain event that you look back on and hang your head in shame. It may be a sin that you continually commit and don’t know how to break the habit. Visualize it. Good. Now imagine a knock on the door. You freak out thinking someone witnessed you committing this horrific, unforgettable sin. Panic runs through your mind. You go to the door and swing it open only to find God standing there. He stops you in awe of his awesome power and the presence he gives off. Then he speaks, “I know what you have done.” You freak out (not that he didn’t know already but he’s at the door)! Yet instead of disappointment, he hugs you. Confused? Probably. But he has more to say, “It’s all going to be okay. Come and take a walk with me.”
Now you’re not gonna deny taking a walk with God, so you go. He takes you on a long walk as you hang your head and gently turns your face to a nearby hillside where you see a young man on a cross. You suddenly realize the man on the cross is his son. And God says to you, “We picked this strategic moment: this moment of great weakness. We didn’t pick the moment in the future when you would be healthy. We chose this moment to show you how serious we are about this and how significant you are to us. My son is dying for you because you are worth a son to me. You are worth more than your guilt. We are the only ones who know who you are. We know who you are, and I love you.” Let it sink in.
That last quote was an excerpt from a handout we received on the prayer journey. It’s from a book by David Eckman titled Becoming Who God Intended. That excerpt, writing out my shameful sins, and really taking the time out of my day to listen to God and how he loves me no matter what has impacted me greatly. I can’t even really describe it except with a grateful expression and “WOW” written on my tongue. Jesus has already paid for our sins and he loves us more than we’ll ever deserve, so I pray I can live a life worthy of his gift and pray this for all of you as well.
It’s now 12:09 Tahoe time on June 14th aka the day I turn 20. And I’m starting the day out right, writing this in a Safeway grocery store as it gets ready to close, an IBC root beer at my side, and fake cactus decorations all around me. I got a job at Coldstone for the summer and will be working with quite a few other project students while ministering to my co-workers and customers. And I shared on the beach of Tahoe this past Saturday and man was it encouraging. I had great conversations and even though my friend and I got rejected a couple times, we grew immensely and I was shocked at some of the respect people gave us and how open people were to talk. I wish I could post a photo on here but I didn’t bring my cord to the grocery store. But trust me when I say this place is one of the most gorgeous settings you’ll ever see. Before I trek back to the cabin to doze off for the night, I figured I’d drop my address that I’ll be at while I’m here at Tahoe. If you feel compelled to send a letter, I’d love to hear how life wherever is going. If you feel compelled to send a package, just don’t send any live animals. The post office might not like it. So I’ll leave y’all with my address and hope everyone has a great night/morning and can take some time out of the day just to pray for a while because the two hours I had today probably set a tone for the rest of my summer and perhaps the rest of my school years. You never know what God wants to say. . .
Personal Letters only (no packages):
c/o Campus Crusade for Christ
PO Box 8346
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158
c/o Campus Crusade for Christ
2030 West Way
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
31 hours. 40 minutes. That’s how much time is separating myself and a flight taking me to Lake Tahoe, California where I’ll be spending 9 weeks on a summer project. I haven’t raised all my support. I don’t feel like I’m packed for all this. I’m not going to know a single person there except from who I have talked to through the facebook group. As this past week has come to a close and final papers, presentations and exams have gone by, my mind was, to put it simply, stressed. However, every time I felt overwhelmed, unprepared or disappointed at my devotion to raising support, through prayer I would be able to get support out of nowhere, get an extension on a paper, etc.
God has taught me immensely throughout this past year and mainly in these past couple of weeks about the power of prayer. It’s constantly preached to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), yet I feel I don’t do that as often as I should. However we see so often in the Bible that God loves it when his people come to him and pray. So often, God holds out on us until we humbly come and seek his help. At times, I like to try every possible solution to a problem I can think of, but it’s only until I give it up to God and pray to him that things appear to work out. I’m not saying that God is a vending machine and that if I pray that he will provide in the way I desire him to, but that if I recognize his greatness and power and do my best to discern his will for my life, I will certainly not be disappointed.
I pray that I can keep this attitude to “pray without ceasing” and I pray that for all of you as well. To those going on a summer project to Slovenia, Virginia Beach, Ocean City or the many others, I hope y’all (this is the part where my southern jargon comes into play) keep this mindset because it’s going to be important with the summer ahead and the weight it carries. And to those who are staying in Athens or going home and working and spending time with family, know that this this mindset is just as important. When I saw friends going off on project last summer and me sitting on my butt at home without a consistent job, I certainly did not pray continually, but very much the opposite and the results of that ended up in a pretty lazy summer with not too much to look back on with satisfaction or accomplishment. So I hope y’all find this somewhat encouraging and I humbly ask you guys to please pray for each other this summer and for me as I head out to Tahoe, “cause I’m leaving on a(n air) plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again, and oh babe, I hate to go. . . .” Sorry, that was John Denver talking, not me. . . yeah.
I’m going to do my best to update this thing over the summer with stories and pictures of Tahoe, so I’ll give you guys a little taste of where I’ll be staying this summer (link below)! Well, it seems that Hebrews has been the book of the quarter with Campus Crusade for Christ at Ohio University, so I feel it fit to end with a verse from Hebrews.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16
The countdown on my summer project page has been counting down for months now. 23 days. That means that in 23 days, I will be embarking on the journey of a lifetime to put it into a cheesy, overused phrase. This summer, I decided to take a step of faith and apply for a summer project through Campus Crusade for Christ (http://campuscrusadeforchrist.com/) here at Ohio University. When asked about trying out a summer project last year and even this year, I chuckled off the idea and put away the pamphlet. For the longest time, evangelizing was just not my thing. I never liked the idea of it in high school or even early in college. But over winter break, I pondered what I would be doing this summer. I had nothing. Everything about a summer project was daunting to me: raising $3,000 in a few short months, attempting to share Christ with people I would not know nor probably ever meet again and traveling to a place where I would know nobody. But God put it on my heart to take a risk and just apply to see what happened. Well, 5 months later, I’m 23 days away from leaving for Lake Tahoe, California and have raised almost $1,500. I am amazed at what God has done in my life these past few months and especially in the past couple weeks as I have found a resurgence for reconnecting and contacting people about the letters I’ve sent and the response has been nothing but positive.
This makes me think about a big doubt I have as well as many other Christians I’m sure: Why do we constantly fail to trust God with our life? For me, it’s usually fear that I’ll be taken down a path that may not be as easy as I’d like. Or pure laziness and procrastination leads me to fearing that if I were to work hard towards something, it may actually happen. Slowly, but surely I am gaining more confidence in God and myself and trusting more of my life to him.
I greatly look forward to June 9th when I hop on a flight and make my way to California for 9 weeks. A main reason for making this blog is not to rant thoughts as I walk to class or things that have bugged me lately (although maybe just a few) but with this, I hope to update anyone who reads this (and for myself to remember things) as to what I am doing over the summer and as I experience this great thing called Summer Project. And I hope that through this, perhaps someone can decide to set aside their fears and doubts as to what God can do in their life and apply for a Summer Project, or a Vision Trip. If it doesn’t do that, well I hear it looks good on a résumé. Now check out the gorgeous picture below of Lake Tahoe.
Psalm 56:11: “in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”