As “back-to-school” time rolls around again, I think that I have a little paradox in my mind: this will be the first time in the last sixteen years I will not be going “back-to-school!” I for sure will not miss some of the work involved in getting a good education, but part of me will miss it a little bit—especially college. All four years of college, at least for me, were some of the prime maturing times in my life. So many of my friends are getting back into classes, college activities, athletics, and ministries very soon back in Chesterton. For the next few posts I am going to try to reflect back on my four years at Fairhaven.
Walking By Faith
During my freshman year, I was amazed by everything that I was experiencing. The first lesson I learned is a well known phrase found in 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Did I know which friends to be around? Did I know to what extent I was to be involved in ministry verses studies? Did I know who I was to marry? I sure did not know the answer to those things, but thankfully, someone preached a Sunday evening message that changed my outlook on finding the answers to those questions. I slowly learned (and am still learning!) to rely on God, and His Word.
Praise God, He directed me to some great friends, who still continue to be my friends today. Now, a lot of other students thought my room captain that year was a little annoying, stuck-up, quirky, etc.; but I am thankful that he was my roommate during my first year of college. He helped “show me the ropes” at Fairhaven. Put your heart into the ministry: whether it was a bus game, Saturday visitation, or setting up and serving in banquets. I also learned a lot of good study habits that year from him. Most importantly, I believe, he never had a critical spirit against the administration and college. I cannot remember one negative thing that he said about the staff. That alone made a HUGE impact on me.
No doubt, the other big influence on my life then, and up to today, was my bus captain whom I served under. I walked into the ministry director’s office my first day on campus, and was assigned to a bus route in the northwest part of Gary, Indiana. That one decision changed my whole outlook on ministry, and gave me a mentor to learn the bus ministry from. I remember the first day going bus visiting in Gary: we drove off of the highway and onto Broadway Street, and there at the first stoplight a homeless lady sat with a 5 gallon water jug that said “Hurrycane Katrina Releaf Fund”—with that spelling! My bus captain said, “Welcome to Gary.” Honestly, after hearing about the crime in that city, I was a little nervous going to our first house. That changed over the next couple of months. During my year and a half on that bus, I learned so much of what I know now about soulwinning, doing things right, and loving people. I could just go on and on…
Fairhaven Baptist Church’s 35th anniversary happened to fall on my freshman year too. Anniversary Sunday was such a blessing to me! The great old evangelist, Dr. Phil Schuler preached, and I can clearly remember that many were saved that day. I can also remember the evening service: the choir sang Great is Thy Faithfulness, and the line that really stuck out to me was, “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” God truly was and still is faithful to Fairhaven Baptist Church.
Another freshman experience is arriving into the busiest time of year at Fairhaven Baptist Church. First off, most get to be a part of the Stewardship Banquet. 2005 was the last year that the banquet was in the “old gym.” All I had heard was “get involved,” so I signed up to serve the meal. What a blast! Yes, it was hot and stuffy in the old gym, but it was a fun way to throw myself in. I am not a naturally outgoing person—I almost have to force myself to meet new people. Doing things like banquet setup and serving forced me to be more outgoing, and I am thankful to whoever it was that told me to get involved. I basically had one person I knew well going into college, and that was a friend I had grown up with back in Michigan. Over time, I eventually got to know more people, and really enjoyed most of the other college students.
My first semester, like most Fairhaven freshmen, consisted of English Grammar, American History, Old Testament Survey, and a few other classes. I had a couple of rude awakenings with study habits, but through a lot of prayer and work, I got the hang of it in a few weeks. I especially loved Christian Education class with Dr. Voegtlin teaching on practical ministry. The notes I have from eight semesters of that class are invaluable. Even after only being out of college for a few months, I have already pulled them out to look at them.
I can also say as a graduate, as the old saying goes: the more you learn, the more you learn that you don’t know. I really thought I was learning a lot, but the more I got into the Word of God, the more I realize that the truths of the Bible are infinite. I believe it would be impossible for me to effectively minister today without the challenging academics of Fairhaven Baptist College.
My relationship with God became a matter of fact after coming to college. I saw excellent examples all around me, and wanted to follow suite. However, I realized that it was not the person that I was to mold my life after, but the Word of God. God was central in their life, so if I wanted to do something for Him, I had to make God the center of my own life. Having a daily time with just me and God was the only way that could truly come. Along with that, being personally challenged from chapel and church services had to be frequent.
I sure had down times during college too. There were times that I was discouraged or weary, but learned that, “The Lord knows I can’t live on the mountain, so he picked out a valley for me”, as the song goes. I was encouraged by my dorm supervisor during devotions, calls from home, and preaching. Probably the most discouraging times were when peers fell into sin, and either left college or influenced others. Granted, those were definitely overshadowed by all of the good things, but they still had their effect. I saw those who were critically influencing others; and their lives were and are still miserable.
During my freshman year, I was introduced to some GREAT food too! Some may complain about college food, but there was very little that I did not like. My favorite was whenever they had French fries, especially with Italian beef—mmm… I’m hungry now! I ate out a few times too. Anybody from Fairhaven will eventually mention the “world-famous” George’s Gyro Spot in Chesterton. I have never had a gyro, but they are THE place to find classic Chicago street food in Northwest Indiana: Chicago hot dogs (Vienna Beef hotdog, mustard, a little sweet relish, sport peppers, onions, two slivers of tomato, a dill pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt), their double bacon burgers, Italian beef, and of course their fries—and all at a reasonable price! CiCi’s Pizza was a college place to go maybe once a year for all-you-can-eat pizza. Then you can never forget Wrestle-a-Rama: the biggest excuse to over-eat at Fairhaven. Believe it or not, I don’t think I gained any weight at college either!
Something that might have kept my weight down was being on the intercollegiate college basketball team: the Fairhaven Fighting Fundamentalists! We ended up being the first team to play in the new gym too. We won our first two games there, then got slaughtered (probably because of our attitudes!) and had a killer practice the next day. I learned a lot from my coach and being on the team. I will go into that a little more in the next few posts.
Fast forward to the college graduation of 2006; I had learned so much in just eight months, and was so joyful that I was in God’s will. I was living my dream. That year, my room captain and good friend graduated, as well as the woman who would eventually become my wife. No, I did not have a clue that I would be married to her. I had my sights set on others. I knew that Andrea was an excellent young lady, but never really considered her. The only inkling I had to “liking” her was my bus captain saying I should be interested in her. I didn’t really think twice about it at the time. I for sure did not realize what would be coming in the next few years.
I went into the summer of ’06 with a lot of tools to humbly use back home, but at the same time was eager to get back to Fairhaven—to my bus route, my friends, and classes. I enjoyed and was refreshed being with my family, as well as working a lot of hours for the next year’s school bill. God used a number of things to begin to mold me my freshman year, and little did I know how much more I would learn in the coming year. Year one was just an introduction…