Preface: Before reading this you may want to read my first blog post titled “me”. Because this, for lack of a better term, is the sequel.
This is perhaps one of the things I have wanted to write about most. It (like the other things I’ve written) will be lengthy. I hope you are given the time to check this out. I have a lot of things to talk about and a lot of people to talk about. This will be personal. I am telling this story to hopefully give light to anyone who is or has ever doubted that God is working in your life. This is the story of how I became the person that I am today.
So to start things off ….Today:
Today is Monday, April 4th, 2011. I just got back home from an event known as Young Life club. (For those unaware of what Young Life is: Young Life is a non-profit christian outreach ministry for High School Students. Young Life meets kids ‘where they are at”. Leaders go and walk through life with teenagers. Many of them broken and lost. There are many other branches of this program. Wyldlife is for Middle Schoolers. Young Lives is for teen moms. Capernaum is for kids with special needs.)
Young Life club is a hard thing to describe. When kid’s ask “Well what do you do at club?” we give the staple answer “You just gotta come and find out!”. We give this answer because it is nearly impossible to describe the craziness that is club. Tonight however, was no ordinary club. Tonight was “All Area Club”. This means that all four High Schools that we reach out to, including Capernaum and Young Lives, gathered as one. I think my number is about right when I say well over 200 teenagers showed up. This club was one of the craziest I’ve ever experienced. This club was amazing. This club told me something that I’ve been thinking about for some time now. This club inspired me to write this blog.
As my friend Jason gave a talk tonight to a mass of wild teenagers I sat looked around and thought, “This is beautiful.”. There are times when I can just see what God is doing around me and I can’t help but look at it and say….”wow”. Tonight was one of those nights. Jason talked to these kids in a way I more than wish I could. The room was silent. Every ear focused on what he had to say. I sat in the middle of some hundred high school students and thought “if this isn’t what I do for the rest of my life, I am not doing my life any good.”
Is THIS what I want to do for the rest of my life? It’s certainly something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I don’t just have a calling to minister, I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. Whether through young life or another ministry, I am supposed to serve. This is CRAZY TALK. The funny thing being less than two years ago I had no interest in ever being a young life leader.
This is where I will leave you for my telling of “Today”. This next part is the *INSERT STORY HERE* from my blog post “me.” This next part is my message to those who find themselves held down by the troubles of this world. This next part is how I became a Young Life leader.
This story is not one I have told a lot of people. The only public form being a talk I gave to middle schoolers at a Wyldlife club late last year.
This begins in 2005. My 8th grade year of middle school we had a school retreat to a camp called Camp Weed. (yep the name makes me giggle too.) Holy Comforter decided this would be a great thing to end the school year with. At this camp there was this new program that Tallahassee decided they would try out. Something some parents had been wanting to bring to Tallahassee for years. The program was called Young Life. This camp would be the first exposure Tallahassee would have to Young Life in decades. I was incredibly fortunate to be a guinea pig. The only actual memory of the camp that I have was playing a game involving the song “Roxanne” where every time they said “Roxanne” I had to give my buddy Coach Stuhmer a sip of Coke and every time they said “put on the red light” I had to feed him a marshmallow. This is Young Life.
That fall I was a freshman at Chiles High School. It was the first year for Young Life to officially be back in Tallahassee. Some of my friends parents were in charge of bringing it back so I knew it was going on but never went to club. All my good friends went. I never bothered. It happened on Wednesday nights and that’s when my T.V. shows were on. Smallville and LOST. That was my pathetic reason as to why I couldn’t go. My freshman year was all about establishing friendships. I knew everyone. My group of friends in a large way was the center group. Meaning every group at Chiles in some way twisted into ours. My freshman year our little circle of friends did nothing but grow. And I loved it.
One day on campus I noticed my friends talking to an older dude. My first thought being “who the heck is this guy and why is he talking to my friends”. I let curiosity take over and walked their way to see what was up. I didn’t have to do anything this guy came right to me stuck out his hand and said “What’s up man, I’m Trevor.” I introduced myself. He gave me some shpeel about “You should totally come to Young Life this Wednesday.” “Sorry man I can’t Smallville is on.” He gave me a smile and said “Dude I LOVE SMALLVILLE!” My very first thought was (Pardon my French) “Bullsh*t nobody likes Smallville”. He then started talking with me about the season. Suggested I record the episode. I was too devoted of a fan to take the suggestion. This was my first encounter with Trevor Muir. Little did I know that it would be one of of the single most important encounters of my entire life. That hand shake was the pivotal moment of my life. It just took time to set into place.
Trevor pestered me week after week to come. I never did. My entire freshman year I never went to a single club.
2006 was the year I was angry at God. In the second half of my freshman year my parents gave me news that made me perhaps the most upset I’ve ever been. I can only think of one other moment that tops it. (Mentioned later). My parents told me we would be moving to Sarasota, Fl. I was livid. Every friendship I’d ever made I would be leaving. My freshman year. The year of making a bagillion friends suddenly had no meaning. Friendships are what I live for. They mean everything to me. I was so upset.
Trevor heard I was moving and gave me a suggestion. “Dude you should go to camp!” He told me anything and everything about it. I told him more than anything “I want to go.” All my close friends were going. This would be my last hoorah before I moved. My last real hangout before I left Tallahassee. Naturally, I guilted my parents so freaking hard they had to say yes. Trevor introduced me to a guy who at first glance you would say “They found the fourth Hanson brother!” or “What a hippie” or “HEY IT”S JESUS!”. This guy with lustrous long blonde hair fine crafted into a straight pony tail would make it his personal goal to get me to camp. He did everything in his power to make sure I got there. He came to my house, met with my parents and convinced them to let me go. This guy and Trevor didn’t care that I was moving and they wouldn’t be able to go through High School with me like the ministry is designed to. They just wanted me to experience camp. The guy’s name is not Hanson, nor Jesus. His name is Chad and he is the single most influential person I have ever met ever.
Because of Chad’s persistence with my parents, I was officially signed up for camp. I was excited for camp. But not for any spiritual reasons. I didn’t want or expect to gain anything from this trip except time to be with my friends before I moved.
I was angry at God. If God loved me, why was he making me leave everything I’ve ever loved. If I ever struggled with my faith it was then. Camp was promoted as “The best week of your entire life.” This is exactly what I needed.
Camp was to this day one of the greatest experiences of my life. I got to know my friends on a whole new level. I got to really know Trevor and Chad. The week consisted of many clubs, each followed by a talk. All focused on how God loves you so incredibly much.
This wouldn’t be happening if God loved me.
The night before the very last. This is all the speaker talked about “God loves you”. After this talk the camp lights were all shut off and they told everyone there that we were going to have a quiet time. A time to just sit and listen to God. I walked out and laid on the grass looking up at the stars. I prayed for god to show me his love. I needed him.
As I lay looking up at the stars I was overcome by a force that I can never truly explain. I was pinned to the ground. I felt like my entire body was empty. I felt peace. So. much. peace. It felt like a constant state of chills, but I had no chills. It felt like something, maybe my spirit, maybe another spirit, was moving inside me.
I love you.
A voice overcame me. It was a voice within and a voice that surrounded.
I love you.
I sat on this grass and began to shake. Tremble. I was terrified. There was so much power in these words. I cried.
I love you.
Three times it was said to me. My eyes were closed and tears were flowing through. I opened my blurred eyes and looked back at the heavens. Above me was a perfect constellation of a heart.
What more proof than that would I ever need? People ask me why I believe in God. I believe because I know he exists. To this day I cannot tell that story without shaking.
I moved to Sarasota to perhaps the darkest time of my life. I hated living there. I wanted to be back home. There was only one thing in Sarasota that I truly enjoyed. I rowed for a team called the Sarasota Scullers. The reason I started rowing was because my closest friends Richard and Steuart rowed for Leon High School and I knew that every now and again I would be able to see them. In the process of joining this team I made a ton of really awesome friends. Our team was more than good. We won many regattas and always left with neck fulls of medals. This was due to great coaching. Our head Coach Alex is and will be one of my most favorite people in the world. He was a strict man but he had a heart for us like no other. His son George coached my boat. He taught me how to row. He was the one who turned my boat into one of the fastest novice boats in the state. We perfected our starts and we always won the race by several boat lengths. Winning brought me great joy. It made all the hard work pay off. I loved rowing.
This was the one good thing I had going for me. On September 8th of 2007 I arrived to practice like any other day. I met up with my boat and prepared for another day of goofing off in the water. Alex and George were not at practice and this was odd. One of the coaches, Ted, asked all of us to come gather up.
“I don’t know how to tell you this…” He said.
George died in a car accident. Our whole world came crashing down.
The one good thing I had going. I had taken away from me. I didn’t care if God loved me. In this moment I had a hard time wanting anything to do with him.
I still stayed in close touch with my Tallahassee friends and with Young Life. That year there was a weekend camp for Young Life at a camp called Southwind. Tallahassee was going and Trevor with the help of Matt Wallace got me to go. My parents were going to drive me up there but Chad suggested that I hitch a ride with Port Charlotte who would be driving by Sarasota and would be attending camp as well. I’m telling this random story. Because this leads to the moment that defined my life. Everything I just wrote was set up for this. (Sorry if that bugs you.) This trip whether it took place before or after George’s accident doesn’t really matter and I don’t truly remember but it’s timing was perfect.
Chad arranged for me to be picked up by Trevor’s uncle Dallas who leads for Port Charlotte. They came to Sarasota and picked me up at the Mcdonalds up the street from me. The first kids I met were two girls. One named Darcy Shephard, the other Lauren Allen.The only two names I remember from the trip. We only talked a little. I had my headphones in for the majority of the drive. The End.
That’s the story. Yup. Not exciting huh. Wait? That led to the defining moment of your life? Cool dude. I just read 2400 words for THAT?
Fine. I’ll keep going.
Not too long after George’s accident my mother’s position at her job was removed. Her job ceased to exist. She was out. We had two options. Stay in Sarasota or move back into our house we had yet to sell in Tallahassee. OPTION 2! OPTION 2!
My mom told me we would be moving back. This news needed to come. I was praying for this. Don’t get me wrong I love the few friends I made in Sarasota two of them I still consider my best but Tallahassee is my home and where I belong. I left Sarasota thinking I would be better off had I never moved there. What good came out of it? I used to tell my mom, sometimes as an insult, nothing good came from us moving to Sarasota. And she would agree. “I know.” she would say.
Returning home was the greatest feeling ever. I dived right into Young Life. Resparked all my old friendships. I. LOVED. MY. LIFE. The timing of it was perfect. It was as if God was saying. “I see how much you are suffering here, It’s time to go back home.”
I became a poster child for Young Life. I went every week constantly hung out with Trevor or Matt Wallace. Constantly bugged a new leader named Megan Wickenden. (seriously, I stole her car like every week.) I was home.
My Senior year came and gave me one of the happiest years of my life. Young Life became a part of who I was. But so did other things. I wasn’t living a very Christian lifestyle at least not to a standard I knew I should. I was keeping my ground but headed towards the wrong path. I was lost. I graduated high school far from perfect.
College came which meant I could become a Young Life leader. I just simply put didn’t wanna do it. I was probably the furthest from God I’d ever been. I didn’t feel like I was a good image of Christ so I didn’t think I deserved to be a leader.
My friend Jordan and a few others made the decision to become leaders. They started going to the college form of Young Life that Tallahassee calls Explore. Explore trains you to become a leader. This would happen on FSU’s campus every Wednesday. I would show up at the very end of club to meet up with Jordan and hang out for a while. Usually do something stupid like play Tolf (it’s golf with a tennis ball.duh.). I came at the very end of the first three clubs. The fourth club was Pajama club. I walk in at the very end a girl gives me a hard time about “Why the heck aren’t you wearing pajamas!” eh hem BRITT! As I left I noticed something. There was this girl wearing orange Yoda pajamas. I looked at her with a strange familiarity. I walked up to her and said “Weren’t you on the van with me to Southwind a few years ago?” “OH YEAHHHHH!” she said. She re-introduced herself as Lauren.
There’s a girl cool enough to wear Star Wars pajamas in public? Hi, my names Devon and we should totally be best friends. The next week I came to Explore for the first time at the very beginning. Casey asked everyone that hadn’t signed up for a small group to do so. I very stealthily sign up for the same one as Star Wars pajamas.
I was the only guy leader in training for this small group. It was led by Jamie Dorety and Greg Rosenberg. It consisted of Lauren, Danielle, and Hanah. This was a cool bunch of people. I became very close friends with all of them. Every week we would just vent and study the scripture. In this process I was able to get to know Greg who was the team leader at Swift Creek. Greg might be the coolest person on the planet. You can’t not like him. Unless you’re name is Bryan. But he fakes it. Greg and Jamie walked us through a lot of issues we all were having. The discussions we had were always insightful.
In the length of this small group I really got to know Lauren. She turned into one of my closest friends. To elaborate: Lauren is the person you want to be around. It’s impossible not to smile in her presence because she finds humor in everything. I kid you not. If a leaf simply fell off a twig, She would find something to giggle about and keep the giggle going for twenty minutes. The only person on this planet who has the same twisted humor as I. We told each other all of our issues. We held each other accountable. She became my best friend.
We both graduated Explore and were both placed on Swift Creek Wyldlife. Greg and Chad ran the team. I was a leader. I became someone who would minister to middle school students.
After my first year as a Wyldlife leader Greg announced that he would move up with his eighth grade guys to Young Life. Chad came to me and asked if I would be willing to step up to the team leader role with Lauren. We would both run Swift Creek. Unfortunately every thing that rises. must fall. Lauren had to move back home at the end of the summer. Which meant I was now team leader for Swift Creek. Somehow, I the person who had no intention of becoming a leader became in charge of a team. Just like that. I thought to myself “How did this happen?” I really began to think how did I end up here? Seriously how did this happ…..
I used to joke with Lauren that our friendship was destined. It took me the longest time to realize that it wasn’t a joke at all. This friendship was destined. I finally saw the big picture. I saw God’s hand in creating a path for my life.
“Nothing good came from me moving to Sarasota.”
Had I not moved to Sarasota. I would have never met Lauren.
Had I not met Lauren I would have never started going to Explore. Had I never started going to explore I would have never joined a small group. Had I never joined a small group I would have never gotten to know Greg. Had I never gotten to know Greg I would have never been placed on his team. Had I never been placed on his team I would have never become the Team Leader. Had I never met Lauren, certain kids may have never heard about a loving God. Had I never moved to Sarasota I may have never found my calling.
I would not be the person I am today had I never met Lauren. I would not be a leader had I not randomly been in her van to that camp my sophomore year of High School. In the darkest time of my life. God was there setting me up. While I was headed down the wrong path. God was building the right one.
There is no such thing as chance. It was not by chance that I was able to get a ride from Port Charlotte. It was not by chance that Lauren was in that van. God used what seemed to be just a random moment, a nothing of a moment and turned it into something life changing. Had I not moved to Sarasota, who would I be?
Lauren has since moved back to Tallahassee. After months of wanting to tell her the impact meeting her had on my life I was finally able to. Perhaps one of the most emotionally draining days of my life. That’s a hard thing to tell somebody. “Hey ya know that guy who created the universe, well uh he used YOU to completely change my life.”
God has a plan for each and every single human being on this Earth. God set me up when I wanted nothing to do with him. When I thought everything going on in my life sucked. No matter where you are at God is with you. The ripple effects that I’ve talked about are happening in everyone’s life. It takes stopping and looking for God when you think he’s nowhere around. Maybe you won’t see it right away, Maybe it will take you over four years to realize it. He’s using you to change others’ lives.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
This is why I am a leader. That was the how. This is the why.
My Young Life leader Trevor has influenced my life more than anyone else. More than any pastor, more than even my parents. He got me into my favorite band for crying out loud. But most importantly, through him I was able to see that our God is love. Trevor has more to do with who I am today than anyone. And he probably doesn’t even know it.
At one of the Explore meetings I stood at a campfire and told everyone this story about my friendship with Trevor.
“I am the Christian that I am because some goofy tan skinny guy came up and talked to me about Smallville. Because he helped get me to camp where for the first time I found God. He was there for me. He invited me to his wedding for crying out loud. He talked to me about Smallville and now I’m a Young Life leader. I am a leader because I want to give back to the organization that gave me so much. I do this because what if one day, someone is standing here, some kid I haven’t even met yet, is saying the exact same things about me. That is my goal. That is my mission. If I can bring just one kid to Christ my life has meaning.”
The slogan for Young Life is “You were made for this.”
I look at everything I just wrote about and think. Yeah God, you’ve made that PRETTTYYY clear.