Warning – massive amounts of reminiscing… plenty of rambling…
So last night as I was falling asleep, I started having these flashbacks to my early years of college. It was like one of those final episodes of a sitcom, where you see all these flashbacks & you see how the characters have changed. And I guess it makes sense, because in a way, my sitcom of college is ending.
So I’m thinking about my freshman year (1999-2000) and all the people that were important in my life that year. Jen Emerson, who got me involved with TCL (which was on Wednesday nights). Jami Burlingame, who got me involved in the Schurz LifeGroup, a branch of the Gillett/Hudson Cluster. Chris Beach, who became my best friend & first introduced me to John Drage. There was a historic midnight chat at the Columns in the snow that year. Chris went to Honduras for a Spring Break mission trip that year, and I went to New Orleans with the BSU. But his experience convinced me to go to Latin America the next year, and to take more Spanish classes. What a defining moment!
That summer I spent partially in St. Louis with my parents, but mostly on trips with my home church’s youth group. I went to youth camp, and heard Chris Tomlin sing the Happy Song. Chris Beach and I started dating. I went to Children’s camp. I went to Florida, my first mission trip with my brother, Andrew. I went to Wisconsin, my first mission trip with my parents, and Chris came along, having been sucked into puppets by my irrepressible passion.
And then my Sophomore year (2000-2001), when my LifeGroup really started participating in the Gillett/Hudson Cluster in the Black Culture Center. The Rock met for the first time at 11:04 on Sunday mornings in Memorial Union. I met Paula Leech and the two of us tutored a Mexican boy who was learning English. The Honduras trip got changed to El Salvador due to the earthquake, and I met a little girl named Katherine who rocked my world. I got an email from a missionary in Chile who asked me to be her summer intern. That year, I spent a lot of time in the woods with Chris. I remember those as moments of incredible joy, enjoying God’s creation with my favorite person in the world. My joy those days was childlike and bubbled out of me and overflowed on the people around me. Some of you may not be able to picture that, for I have not been able to recapture it since.
That summer was the most exciting, miserable, and challenging of my life. I got sick in Jamaica only a week before leaving for Chile. I was sick most of the time I was in Chile. But I was living on the mission field, speaking Spanish daily, helping establish Bible studies that would hopefully one day become churches. My teddy bear got lost and found that summer. And does he have a story to tell. Chris was in Myrtle Beach at LT, carrying ice and preaching in campgrounds. It was hard to be a hemisphere apart, but we were both excited to be living the missionary life and dedicating a summer to being on the front lines of God’s mission.
My Junior year (2001-2002), I moved to the apartment on Bass Avenue. That’s when I started hanging out with Sarah Harrison, who would later be my roommate. I also started to get to know Carrie Richardson, and we were in the off-campus LifeGroup together (the only year I haven’t been in a Gillett/Hudson group). That’s when people at the Rock first started calling me Stevi (due to Chris’s influence at LT). And the Rock by this time was on Saturday nights at 7:07, but still in Memorial Union for the most part. I adopted Toby that fall, and the Drages adopted Mackie. Chris and I taught Spanish to Josh & Jessie Drage that year. And I gave up on my dream of Vet School.
That summer, I stayed in Columbia for the first time. In LifeGroup, Breck Fleming had suggested trying to reproduce LT in Columbia for those who were staying. Most of my LifeGroup stayed, so we gave it a try. That was the year of the Julie McCarthy Memorial Run (as we sent her off to LA). Carrie Richardson and Carissa Hauck were in my Root Group, and my roommate was Meredith Atchley. At the beginning of the summer, I took a spiritual retreat and memorized James 1. It was to be an important verse for me that year.
That fall began what I call my “Job” year (2002-2003), in which I went through many trials and losses. But it was also the year that I met an incredible group of freshmen who were passionate and excited about God and the Rock. I changed my major, even though I was only two semesters from graduating with an Animal Science degree. I wanted to be able to pursue Spanish further, and take more Linguistics classes. That was also the fall of the notorious “painting party” at my Bass Ave apartment. It was also the year of the glorious MNM Cluster.
That winter I went to Ignite, which was amazing. Barb and I had become good friends by this point, and she was encouraging me to consider a ministry-oriented career. In January, I moved to Anthony Street to live with Blair Gamel above the Drages. I was able to go to Honduras for the first time that Spring Break. I was quite humbled during that trip, a process that was to continue through the spring & summer. I went to OneDay in May with Kelly, Aaron, Boyd, Ingrid, & Heidi. That was a monumental moment in my life. I’ve written a whole page about it on my website.
I spent the summer struggling with a lot of personal issues, not least of which was my failure to graduate on time. I adopted Mojo in June that year. I was also preparing to go on a mission trip with my parents’ church, and I was in charge of the children’s ministry program. Due to strange circumstances, my family was unable to go on the official trip, but we took our own mission trip to Mexico a week later to do follow-up from the trip. Then I moved out of the Anthony Street apartment and into the duplex on CarrieRidge.
That fall (2003), I started working at the day care. I knew I only needed nine credit hours to graduate, so I wanted to work for a while & save money so I could go back to school in summer ’04 to finish up. 2003-2004 was a challenging year, bringing a lot of change and a lot of ups and downs. But spiritually I was going deeper than I had done for a while. Though I still didn’t feel the closeness with Christ that I had experienced in earlier years, I felt like I was able to understand Him so much more. That was mostly through talks I got through Passion ministries (who put on OneDay). Speakers like Louie Giglio, John Piper, and Beth Moore have been very influential in my life. I also had collected a lot of talks from GCM pastors & Rock speakers. I listened to talks almost every day, and found myself longing to know more about this God that I had given my life to.
This summer, I took my last three classes. I also participated in the Rock Summer Rush, which has been awesome. I really feel more than ever that the Rock is MY church, and my family. I have also had several exciting opportunities come my way. My Venezuela trip is one. I’m excited to be part of a team that has been almost hand-picked from across the country. I know God has a specific reason for this trip, and I’m eager to see what will happen. I also found out about an opportunity to teach at the GCM English school in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Though I am unable to go this fall, I greatly desire to go next year. I have also heard that God is working in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, where my family went last summer, and my parents’ church took another mission trip this year. I hope to take a group of Rock people down next summer to assist First Baptist Ferguson in their massive outreach that they are planning.
As August begins, I realize that it will soon be five years since I arrived in Columbia as a freshman. I am amazed at what God has done in my life since then. I came to Mizzou because of the Vet School. I realize now that that was only God’s bait to get me here. He had much different plans. If there is any one thing that I have learned these last five years, it is that my plans are momentary; God’s plans can override them at any time. And the best thing to do when that happens, is to surrender and go along for the ride. What a wild ride it turns out to be! Had I tried to stick to my own plan, I think life would have been very boring. But I have been blessed to be part of the great adventure. And I know that my part if the story is only beginning. And that is an encouraging thought.
Thanks for your patience.
For His Name and Renown,
“You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do. Your part in this story will go on.” – Frodo, Return of the King