A little more than a year and a half ago 13 men and women moved to Clemson, South Carolina, sent out and supported financially by the Athens Church of Christ, the Columbia Church of Christ and the Charleston Church (we had also received some financial support from the Savannah Church of Christ) to start a new church and a new campus ministry. What an adventure it has been!
I have been a disciple now for almost 17 years. I was converted at the University of Georgia and remember my time there as a campus student as some of the best years of my life. I started as a campus intern in June of 1996 and then went full time in the ministry with my wife, Stacey, in January of 1997 and served as campus minister for UGA, GA. State, GA Tech, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Savannah State and Armstrong University...We have helped start ministries in Chattanooga & Savannah and have even led the Arts & Entertainment ministry in Atlanta. Just before moving back to Athens to Train and build our Mission Team to Clemson I led the Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Stacey and I know how to arrange furniture and decorate a house in just under 17 minutes and 38 seconds, something you learn to do when you have lived in 13 different homes/apartments in 14 years of Marriage. Ha! I feel very honored to have been able to serve in each and every ministry that I have mentioned...each ministry has provided something different for me and Stacey...memories, lessons, growth, encouragement, disappointments...we have come across some of the most amazing men and women and have had the privilege of building friendships with brothers and sisters we would not have otherwise been connected with.
I received a friend request yesterday from a brother, Tony Dupree, who I studied the bible with and baptized over 10 years ago...my heart leaped when I saw that he was still faithful after all these years. There were photos of him in a singles ministry where they were celebrating his 10th spiritual birthday and other photos of his recent wedding to a beautiful young sister. How could that not bring joy and gratitude to anyone's heart?
I know I'm writing this because I'm emotional right now...but that's ok...these emotions are very real and very warranted! I see God. I see Him and have seen him working in miraculous ways for almost 17 years...sometimes I think to myself, "Are you kidding me?", because I just can't believe what He has been doing. I know that each brother and each sisters experience is very different...I know that we have our Peaks and Valleys, but I'm sitting here writing this in a state of Awe. My wife. My Children. My Family. My Friendships. My Job. My Purpose. I'm in Awe because it's really surreal to me.
Reading old journals has probably triggered some of this...cleaning out our garage the other day I came across a box...a very BIG box of my old quiet time journals and prayer journals. I neglected my duty to organize my garage for a bit because how can you find your old journals and not read through some of them...just for a minute? Talk about taking a trip down memory lane...If you're not a journal-er, you might think about becoming one...what a Biography of your life. Reading through them will provoke some thoughts and emotions in some pretty interesting ways. (I actually started a journal 6 months before I was invited out to church...talk about getting a glimpse into your life before Jesus...Wow!) Reading through them reminded me of the amazing journey that I'm on...a journey that I sometimes forget about and don't think much of because I'm so busy. A Journey that God has allowed me to be on. Most of this journey has been awesome...some of it has been extremely difficult, but I wouldn't change any of it! This journey has taken me and my family to Clemson...of all places...Clemson, South Carolina...Really? Clemson? Clemson's not high profile. It's certainly not a metropolis in any way, shape or form. Clemson has a population of 38,000 +/- from August to May and when all the students go home for the Summer...about 18,000 +/-. No joke.
It does have a Starbucks though. Whew!
I have got to say, that although I am honored and grateful to have been able to serve in the places and ministries that I have been able to serve in, right now, I could not be more honored and grateful to be right here in Clemson, serving with the men and women I am serving beside. It's still a bit unclear to me what we're doing...I have days where I am so confident in what is going on here in Clemson and there are other days where I am like, "God, what on EARTH am I doing? I don't know how to do this!" And then I'm reminded of 1 Corinthians 3:7 that says, "So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." Oh, good. I feel better.
The truth is, none of us know, entirely, what we're doing...but I'm not sure we're really supposed to. This morning at 2am we Stirred the Waters in Lake Hartwell yet again. (What is it with these College Students? don't they know I'm 38 and need my beauty sleep?) Jordan Hall moved here from the Teen Ministry in Charlotte, NC. God paired him with a young man from just outside Columbia, SC to be his roommate at the Clemson House dorm. This young man, Patrick Anderson, came to Clemson to study Philosophy with the dream and vision of going into the Full Time Ministry one day. In their first phone conversation over the summer when they found out they would be roommates, Patrick told Jordan, "I just want you to know up front, I Love God and want to serve Him." This is without knowing what Jordan was all about. A little alarmed because Patrick was religious, Jordan was unsure of the dynamic of this pairing...however, from day one, Jordan prayed for Patrick and that Patrick would be open to the Word.
Guess what? Patrick was VERY open. As we began to study with Patrick, he devoured it like I've seen my daughters devour a hot fudge sunday from the DQ...it's a truly amazing thing to see I assure you. We have studied regularly each week and Patrick made a commitment to come to every meeting of the body...with just a couple of bible studies left to do, this past Tuesday we did the 'make or break' Light and Dark study with Patrick. BAPTISM. I felt like Aquila, sitting there with Apollos...I guess Jordan would be Priscilla, but that would be weird...He clearly saw it but had to wrestle with it. Last night, Patrick attended an FCA Service...that's right, FCA...we don't govern what these kids attend and don't attend...they need to build these convictions on their own...in this case, however, Patrick attending this Thursday night FCA worship meeting catapulted him into the light. At the end of the service they were singing a song about "Thanking God for Saving Me" and what Patrick explained to us is that he couldn't sing along...He couldn't sing what he believed wasn't true.
This alarmed him and so, at 11:43 pm I get a phone call from Patrick saying, "I want to get Baptized tonight!" So, at 12am, I walk into the dorms...sit down with Patrick, along with Jordan Hall, Kyle Fridley, David Boerma (baptized last February) and David's Roommate Victor, who is also studying the Bible and we counted the cost of becoming disciple with Patrick. At 1am we sent out a mass text. at 1:15am we met at the Dike on a small parcel of beach...we shared, we sang, we prayed and at 2am Jordan Baptized his roommate and best friend! Oh, also, I wanted to mention that while Patrick was sharing, he expressed to Jordan how excited he was that the two of them would be partners is spreading the Gospel to the men and women in their dorm and especially the guys on their Hall...and currently we are also studying with Andrew, their next door neighbor who Patrick brought to church 3 weeks ago.
And real quick...we have a small children's ministry of 9 kiddos ranging from 6 months to 11 years...What they are witnessing by being apart of this will transform their lives forever! Ok, enough on that...emotional overload...
So, you see, I'm grateful. I'm overwhelmed by what God has been doing not only in my life these past 17 years but what he has been doing here in Clemson and in the lives of so many others. That little 13 member band of brothers and sisters who sat in my living room back in January of 2009 has faithfully served God and this community and it's so exciting to see that we are now a congregation of 41 brothers and sisters and a campus ministry of 27. We plant and water, God makes it grow.
Thank you Athens, Columbia, Charleston and everyone else who has supported this ministry and who has prayed for the work here. You are all apart of those who have contributed to the planting and watering of the Clemson Foothills Church...We would not be seeing what we're seeing without you. We love you so much!
Stayed tuned...you might be hearing more about Andrew and Victor real soon. Keep praying for these men!
Thanks for taking the time to sit through this very long email of thoughts and good news.
Much love and appreciation,