Life at Fairhaven Baptist College—Junior Year

By early August of 2007, Andrea was teaching in Mexico, and I knew perhaps the most difficult year in college was going to be my junior year.  A small part of me had a difficult time returning to college without Andrea there.  Our little relationship had grown in the few months we had been together.  We communicated a few times a week via a Vonage telephone line, and after her being in Mexico just a month, I felt like I had a little connection to that place because of her.

One of the important things to all returning dormitory students at Fairhaven is who your roommates are going to be for the year.  I mean, you are going to be living with that person for eight months or so!  I remember calling friends just before college to see who they were with, and then I remember hearing who mine were…

Count It All Joy

Dustin Speckhals, Julian Balatbat, and Nathan Rader—those were the names on the dorm assignment list for Room #2: Ed Weimer Men’s Dormitory.  Julian was someone on the basketball team with me who I knew at the time just a little, and Nate was a missionary kid from Vallegrande, Bolivia in South America who came to study for a year after finishing his church’s Bible Institute on the field.  What friends they turned out to be, and continue to be to this day!  I could not have had better friends and roommates.

Like always, the fall semester began with the Stewardship Banquet and Fall Push.  College orientation was in the brand new dining hall for the first time that year, but something was a bit unusual.  Mrs. Leslie, Andrea’s mother and the long time Dean of Women at Fairhaven, was feeling sick and was not able to attend the orientation.  From what I remember, she continued to not feel well for the next week, and went to the hospital on September 11 to find out what was wrong.  That night, Andrea called me with a saddened and heavy heart: her mom had cancer that tended to be terminal.  For the next year and a half, she battled that cancer.  I know that the Leslie family’s life was changed from then on; for the better and to the Glory of God.  For her battle with cancer, Mrs. Leslie gave numerous testimonies of how God had worked revival in her heart.  I also knew that Andrea was in Mexico, and would have a little harder time with it compared to the rest of her family.  God would certainly work in the coming months through answered prayer and biblical miracles.

I don’t remember too much else from that September, except for a smooth Zoo Day (which is always a blessing and a half!) and a severe drop in our bus’s attendance after the campaign.  God would change that, though.  By late October, it seemed as if our bus had hit the doldrums.   No new families were being contacted, and spirit of the kids was dropping at the same time.  It was about that time I remember hearing a sermon on simple faith that God can do anything.  We had hit the low point in early November when a family that helped on our bus was scheduled to bring jello cups for a treat.  They told us on Saturday that they had made 50 cups.  We laughed to ourselves and said, “We’ll never have that many…maybe 30 riders at the most!”  I believe God was building our trust in Him.  That Sunday, “out of no where” 53 came to church!  From then on, our bus never looked back, praise God!  People were being saved and baptized, as well as the blessing of good attendance.  I loved seeing God do that, and I truly enjoyed my Junior year in southwest Gary on Bus #101!

The Candy Sale at Fairhaven Baptist Academy is something to behold.  Twice a year, preschoolers all the way up to twelfth graders try to sell chocolate to win a few rewards here and there and help keep school tuition low (amongst the lowest in the nation in private Christian schools, I believe).  Those in college may help a family in the academy if they wish—hey, and you get a day off of school too!  I was able to help one staff member’s family all four years of college; so that would be eight times total, I think.  It is a joy to go out with a six or seven year old for a day and help them meet there goal.   This may sound crazy, but I even learned some things from it too!

In mid-November, we had a mission agency representative (that most of us knew) in to preach a couple of chapel services.  I have always loved his preaching, and I would say he is one of my favorite preachers also.  After one message, he asked for a couple of college men to accompany him to a church to help him present the work of his board.  It happened to be a free day for me, so I asked if I could go with him.  It also happened to be one of the most profitable times for me in college.  Ironically, the same mission agency that he was representing was also the one that hired Andrea to be the teacher for their language school in Mexico.  It was a four-hour one way trip to that church in northern Michigan; but the time flew by.  The representative, another college student, and I talked about missions basically the whole time.  We spoke of David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, and many others.  He inspired me to read more missionary biographies, one of which is a favorite of mine now: Daktar: Diplomat to Bangledesh. It all happened on my birthday too—what a gift!

My third year of the Christmas Lights activity came in early December, like usual.  Five friends and I ventured to Gino’s East of Chicago for a ‘delicioso’ version of the famous Chicago deep dish pizza.  I had no idea that at that same corner of Gino’s East—18 months from then I would be making wonderful memories with my wife on our honeymoon taking pictures and eating (of course!). We had a great time together with just five guys.  We got to see some $800 dollar a night hotel rooms, drink a way-overpriced coffee at Starbucks, and watch the snow fly of course!  Some of the students that year were a bit disappointed, though, because the activity was cut short by an hour so we could have dessert and some entertainment back at school.  That was fun, but I think we all liked the time in Chicago better…so we switched back to normal the next year.

Christmas Break of my junior year was full of memories.  Andrea had four and a half weeks off from school, so she was able to fly back from Mexico and spend Christmas at home.  She came and spent a few days with my family also in Michigan, where we went sledding, ate at the world-famous Zendher’s of Frankenmuth, MI, and got to know each other a lot more.  On the day after Christmas, I went with Andrea’s family to take Mrs. Leslie to the hospital for her fourth chemotherapy treatment.  Before that, we spent time walking around downtown Chicago and enjoying the Christmas season.  What a wonderful time that was to spend with the family!

A Christmas Day surprise: the moment I walked in the door

The second semester began two weeks before Andrea was to fly back to Mexico…so for that time, I was not a ‘single’ college student!  During the rest of the semester, we were apart!  Andrea flew back in the middle of January, and I knew I would miss her even more than before (yes, I know, I tried not to be too ‘mushy’!).  However, I still had the two greatest roommates I could ask for.  We all got along GREAT.  I don’t remember a time we got into a real argument.  I was a room captain, but never had to use my room captain position over them.  They followed college guidelines, worked hard, had a great attitude, and were truly seeking after God.  We enjoyed going out places together too…whether it was George’s Gyro Spot, a Wal-Mart trip, a hike in the dunes, playing racquetball, or just hanging out in the room (which had to be stopped sometimes; we would get going and never get anything done!).  Then we had our “fourth roommate” that year—Tyler Brock from Rapid City, SD.  He didn’t sleep in our room, but was basically there during any other free time!

Now before you think we are weirdo's all wearing the same shirt, think again. This was a hilarious coincidence that happened: one Sunday evening after church, we all came back to the dorm to change and play basketball, I think. None of us knew that we had the same shirts, and none of us were in the room while the other was changing either. Eventually, Julian, Nate, Tyler, and I ended up talking in the room, when Tyler started laughing hysterically (the “Tyler Laugh” as we called it) and said we were all wearing the same shirt. We thought that was funny, so Tyler took this picture of my roommates and me.

Another goofy thing we did that year was celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  None of us are Mexicans, but we all had some connection to Mexico, we thought (Dustin’s girlfriend was in Mexico, Julian looks Mexican [he’s really Filipino], and Nate talks like he’s Mexican [he spoke Spanish fluently as a missionary in Bolivia]).  So we celebrated Cinco de Mayo by wearing the colors of the Mexican flag on our respective ties during classes that day: a red, a white, and a green one.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was able to be on Fairhaven’s intercollegiate basketball team all four years in college.  I definitely was not the best player on the team, or even close to it.  I guess my motto was “Leave it all on the court.”  Put your all into practice, put even more into the game, and work hard.  Our team was never “great,” and we knew we never would be overflowing with talent—we were preacher boys, not all-stars!  We always tried to put up a good fight on the court.  We never wanted to leave feeling we had not given our all.  Our coach often emphasized the idea of “riding the bubble,” which I learned is not just a basketball principle.  You need to make the opponent think you are crazy; by that he meant dive for every loose ball, be super-aggressive, and show strength—but never to the point where you lose your head, make stupid fouls, or get a technical foul.  Ride the bubble of “insanity” as much as you can, but never pop that bubble.  My junior year of playing was the most exciting.  We had a good number of close games, a good record, and the “Revenge of the Snowman” game (a story for yet another post!).  Sometimes I didn’t like how my coaches pushed me, but now I realize why.  I believe that their pushing me not only made me a better player, but a better person also.


Wow, the ’07-’08 year was packed!  For Spring Break in 2008, I was able to go to Mexico and visit Andrea.  I loved the time I spent there, and appreciated everyone’s hospitality to me.  Everything was eye-opening and extremely interesting to me.  I loved learning about their culture and even the language some.  God used that trip in my life to give me more of burden for foreign missions also, on top of getting to see Andrea.


I returned in early April after eight days south of the border.  When I returned, I realized how fast the semester had gone.  We were already in the last several weeks of school, and the Preaching Conference was in just two weeks.  Hebrew History was probably the class with the most work.  We were required to outline over the course of two semesters the entire books of the Bible from Genesis to Esther.  For most of us, we had over 100 pages a piece, with some much more.  The Kings Project (I Samuel to II Chronicles) ended up being the most dreaded piece of the whole puzzle.  By the end of the year, however, we all gained a lot of knowledge from Hebrew History.

Overall, my grades were doing fine, but I know now that my spiritual life was lacking then.  Thank God, Preaching Conference came right when I needed it most.  God greatly worked on my heart for the few months following in areas mainly focusing around always putting Him first: in devotion, in service, and in prayer.  God worked through His Word and revived me during a critical time: I was beginning to realize how soon I would be done with school and how serious I had to be about serving Him after college.  It would never come “naturally” because of what I had learned so far in college.  It had to come by putting the Lord first in EVERYTHING.  During our end-of-the-year college activity at Turkey Run State Park, God also worked on my heart.  During a testimony time in the evening, and then the bus trip home talking with other students, I was convicted about just how serious I had to be in order to be effective for our Savior.  I was on a spiritual high coming out of college, and it was not about to stop either.

A few other male students and I were invited to go with an evangelist from Fairhaven to basically knock on doors for twelve days straight.  I was able to take the days off of work and head up to London, Ontario, Canada.  God put a serious burden in my heart during that time as well.  Half-way through our trip, I began to LOVE knocking on doors and witnessing to people with a new passion.  It was a true joy to see a few people saved during that church’s revival meetings, and know that God was all in it.  With all that, I stayed with a family that was about as hospitable as can be.  The whole church was a blessing to my heart during that short time.

God had prepared my heart and life during the last few months to fully surrender to His will.  I believe with all of my heart that I would not be where I am today if it was not for the revival God worked in my heart that spring and summer.  There I was, heading into my last year of college.  Some of the biggest decisions of my life were ahead of me in the coming year: marriage, a place to serve, and finishing strong.  It was to be a fruitful and exciting senior year to come.

Speckhals Wedding Video

Well, for those who were unable to attend our wedding…Here it is!  This is the video of the main part of the wedding.  Be sure to catch “The Kiss”!  I don’t think it has ever before happened in the history of Fairhaven, where Preacher almost forgot “The Kiss”!!! Just click the monogram to watch! **Some may not be able to watch this due to an internet filter issue**

En espanol:  Pues para todos mis amigos queridos que no pudieron asistir a nuestra boda,…Aqui esta!  Este es el video de la boda.  Fijense bien al ” Beso”!  No creo que haya pasado nunca en toda la historia de la Iglesia Bautista de Fairhaven, que nuestro Pastor haya olvidado “El Beso”! Haz click en las letras abajo!

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A note from Dustin:

We are very blessed to have a video of our wedding.  Dr. Roger Voegtlin officiated, while Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Mitchell sang the vocal duet.  The pianist and organist were Mrs. Sharon Voegtlin and Mrs. Jennifer Armacost respectively.  Mrs. Debbie Whitecar played the Trumpet Voluntary as the recessional.  A part that I removed from the beginning and end of this internet video (for time’s sake) included violin pieces from Elizabeth Gonzalez.  The wedding party included in order of procession:

  • Pastor Courtney Lewis: Best Man
  • Adam Murdock: Groomsman
  • Julian Balatbat: Groomsman
  • Nathan Spooner: Groomsman
  • April Newman: Bridesmaid
  • Lindsey Leslie: Bridesmaid
  • Sharon Leslie: Maid of Honor
  • Catie Murdock: Flower Girl

I can’t forget to mention the friend who captured the video either–Joe Bishop.  I asked him the day of the wedding if he could sit in the balcony and use a camcorder(last minute, I know!).  He did FAR better than I would have ever hoped for.

Special Music: Harmonica Style

On to our most recent York County experience–a harmonica special during our Sunday evening service.  Now really, has anyone heard of that?  I remember hearing about it at Mt. Zion about a month ago, but forgot until last night.  We have a few dear, godly older couples in our church, and one of them is the Witham’s.  They are constantly asking if we need anything, and telling us that they are praying for specific things in our lives.  I believe that their interceding for us produced answered prayer in finding our beautiful home and other great provisions from God.  They even brought their car to help us move, and helped all the way.  We really love them.

Well, last night just before the offering, Mr. Witham walks up to the pulpit, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a small box.  He opens the box and pulls out a shiny harmonica.  After the prayer, he begins to play one of the neatest specials I have ever heard!  We could tell he had been doing this for a while–it was flawless in our eyes.  He played, What a Day That Will Be, with several different chords of harmony and melody.  The best part, however, was that we knew it was coming from his heart.  Before his special I had rated harmonica playing just one little notch above playing a kazoo.  Now, we are looking forward to hearing it again!

Life at Fairhaven Baptist College—Sophomore Year

The summer months of 2006 went extremely quick.  Except for being a junior camp counselor for a week, the rest of the time was spent saving up for the next year’s school bill.  I worked at Discount Tire Co. in Lansing, Michigan from my junior year of high school up into the summer before my senior year of college.  I appreciate all of the hours I put in there, and for the generous compensation I received which always provided for my needs.  Towards the end of the summer, I began to get very excited for the next school year.  Now looking back, I had no idea what all was going to happen in the ‘06/’07 school year.

I Shall Not Want

Like any new or returning student to Fairhaven, you enter into a whirlwind of activity—Stewardship Banquet, class registration, Fall Push, etc.  My activity seemed to be a little more than normal.  After a few relationship events in the first couple of days back, I found myself in one of those “down” times.  Now, those who know me never really see me with much emotion, but it was there a little.  I had never had a dating relationship of any kind up to that point, and I still had no clue what I was doing!  Instead of trusting God, I was relying on myself to provide.  I remember hearing for the first time an early American folk hymn called “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”—which is a paraphrase of Psalm 23.  Most think of that Psalm as only a comfort in a time of great heartache, but reading into it I found that it is for daily living.  God will always lead me in the right path if I simply follow His leading.  That was a life-changing moment in early September.  I had no idea of what infinitely better things God had in store for me if I just relied on Him.

That fall was my first year being a room captain.  I found that I would have a bit of a challenge on my hands.  I really enjoyed one of my roommates, and the other: well…  I learned a lot of good lessons that year in Room 22.  Arriving back, I had found that my freshman class had dwindled to about half of what it was; mostly as a result of weakening standards and rebellion.  The rest of us still in college bonded until our senior year.  We became good friends.  Now we were” big, bad sophomores”, and nothing was going to stop us (we thought)!  We now had other freshman to put through the same treatment as we got the previous year.  I found that the class below us was full of very good people.  I think the classes of ’09 and ’10 have bonded pretty well over the last few years.

Fall Push at Fairhaven is their Sunday School bus campaign x10!  It includes a ton of work, visiting hours, prayer, late Sunday afternoons, and a little “getting out of yourself.”  A couple of memorable things happened during that year.  First was the second Sunday of the Push:  Zoo Day for our bus.  To make a very long story short, we did not arrive back until 9:00pm due to a few bus malfunctions.  The following Sunday, on Skate Day, I was able to lead a boy from our bus to Christ.  He came faithfully for a few months, with good behavior, and a spirit that was willing to learn.  However, he and his brother suddenly stopped coming to church one week, and we were never able to get back in contact with them.  I would not find out exactly what happened until the very end of my senior year.

I knew as a freshman that my bus captain would eventually be leaving to plant a church from scratch in Chicago.  Just before Christmas break, our bus was combined with a few other routes, and he began deputation to raise support for that church.  I had learned a lot from him, and knew I would miss being on his bus.  When I returned back from Christmas break, I was put underneath another veteran captain in Gary.  God was good in putting me exactly where I would learn and be able to minister the most.  I absorbed even more in the rest of my time at Fairhaven under my second captain.

The Christmas Lights activity is something that every practically every college student looks forward to in the fall semester.  Some call it a “dating activity”, but I never had a date on the activity until my senior year—and it didn’t bother me either!  I loved just walking around the city, with snow flying through the air, eating at some of the best restaurants in the world, and being with friends.  My sophomore year I found myself with a few friends, which somehow grew into a group of 22 people.  Have you ever tried to get 22 people seated in a Chicago restaurant?  Don’t try!  It wasn’t all that fun with half the college (exaggeration) tagging along!  We did eat well…Portillo’s!  We were able to Ice skate some at Millennium Park, which was definitely the highlight of the night.

Also towards the end of the fall semester of ’07, I developed a little crush towards that girl named Andrea Leslie—the one “recommended” to me a year or so before by my bus captain.  Here I was, a little sophomore, liking a beautiful young lady that was taking graduate courses, grew up at Fairhaven, and was a daughter of long-time staff members.  “She probably doesn’t even know who I am,” I said to myself.  I thought there was no chance, but it was always on the back of my mind.  Little did I know that she not only noticed me, but she liked me even before it was mutual.  Things were developing there slowly but surely.

Volleyball Marathon is something that every Fairhaven Baptist College student has experience with.  Volleyball: 24 hours a day for almost five straight days.  All are required to either play or be in the gym for at least sixteen hours during the Marathon.  It is usually in February or March, and lasts for 96 hours straight.  Volleyball Marathon is a fundraising event that helps support the scholarship program of the college.  My sophomore year was particularly fun for me: late nights, early mornings, and crazy people everywhere that are out of their minds a bit!

Volleyball Marathon--3:27am

A prominent class that year was Intermediate Greek.  It ended up being a profitable but immense workload.  Twice a week, we had a vocabulary quiz over 40 or so words, as well as some grammar questions.  The biggest thing in the class was the second semester project.  We had to pick out a New Testament passage of 8-10 verses; then translate, parse and comment on them.  All of us in the class ended up with over 35 full pages of work and a numb brain.  I have to say, though, that the passage project was the hardest project I ever had in school, but the one I learned the most from—by far.  I chose Philippians 4:1-9; and to this day, reading over that passage triggers my memory of all the truths that that passage taught: stand fast, be of the same mind in the Lord, help each other, rejoice in the Lord, let your moderation be known, be careful for nothing, think on these things, and do those things.

By the end of March, through many circumstances (which can be told in some future post), Andrea and I began dating.  About a week after I had asked permission of her dad, Andrea was at a meeting for anyone interested in missions.  There she was introduced to the idea of teaching for a year or two at Aguascalientes, Mexico.  Things worked out that she would go, and I knew I would not see her for many months.  She was to leave for Mexico in mid-July, and not return until the following June, except for Christmas.  I thought, “If God wants us together, He will make it happen.”  Follow His lead, just as Psalm 23 says.

The annual Preaching Conference at Fairhaven came in late April, and like always, finals came and went quickly.  Our end of the year activity that year was a trip to the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.  Other than a few buses breaking down on the way back, we all had a blast.  Technically, I think that was mine and Andrea’s first date too.

Andrea and I on the "Top Thrill Dragster."  Nate Spooner is in the background there too.
Andrea and I on the "Top Thrill Dragster." Nate Spooner is in the background there too.

Soon, I found myself at home working for Discount Tire again for the summer.  Even more than the previous summer, I missed being at college.  The big event of that summer was taking a trip back east with my dad for a history/baseball vacation.  We went to an Indians game, a Pirates game, and a Nationals game; toured Gettysburg, Antietam, Bull Run, and Fredericksburg, spent a day in D.C.,  and took the world famous 100 mile Skyline Drive through Shenandoah  National Park.  I have to say that our vacation that summer was the best I can remember.  I also went down to Chesterton to see Andrea off to Mexico in July.  Looking back, it was a very good time with her, and Mr. and Mrs. Leslie.

I was already half way through college.  In just two years, I had very much adapted to and grown to love everything about Fairhaven.  The next year, my junior, was to be the most memorable and spiritually fulfilling for me.