We launched freshmen studies, invited students into our home and tried to learn how to be married and do ministry. The whole “be married and do ministry” thing was quite the experience. We’d never lived in the same town, we’d never worked together, played together, ate together, slept together, and by golly we’d sure never written a prayer letter together.
There was a steep sanctification and learning curve in those early years. Sanctification, in the form of tears and fingernails bitten. Like learning how NOT to lose your cool when you’re mid-face wash and the smell of strong foot odor comes from the wash cloth that you’re in the middle of using… or being the poor husband who had to quiet the tears of his newlywed wife. In the lobby of Shandon Baptist Church. For forgetting to make her an Easter basket. Eesh. God did a lot of refining and unifying and those early years were so crucial to a lifetime of attempting to follow Him and love them.
We had been challenged to come to USC and attempt the launch of a ministry in the most unreached segment of campus…the Greek community. But, seriously, how do you go about reaching a people group of 4,000 who seemingly have it all?
Well, for us, it started by with lots of prayer, butterflies and walking up to fraternity and sorority houses, knocking on doors and asking for the person in charge of freshmen… because, you remember. Reach the freshmen, reach the campus.
The first door Joel knocked on was answered by a guy named James. Joel asked him if he knew the pledge trainer, which ended up actually being him! The next week Joel spoke to the Sig Ep pledges–which he now says was his worst pledge talk on record because no one was listening, actives were making fun of the freshmen guys and him, etc.–but as God’s sovereignty would allow, it ends up the only person listening that night was James.
James began to thing about “getting right with God and going to church.” Joel and James slowly became friends and after a heart-break and having wrestled with the Gospel, James placed his faith in Christ. Only a few months later, James’ roommate Brandon,the president of the fraternity, (whom just a few weeks prior had told James to “stay away from those people (our ministry) because everyone who gets involved with them ends up doing a 180 change with their life”) also placed his faith in Jesus. The fraternity was abuzz about these two pillars having given their lives to the Lord. Wish I had all night to fill in the details of this story… It was so crazy good.
We shook the bushes hard those first 2 years, God allowed so much fruit to fall off the trees. The ministry grew from 6 to 15 to 40. There were so many spiritual babies that we knew some serious discipleship and church partnering needed to happen. We couldn’t just see things go wider without any depth.
And now it’s past my bedtime. Looking forward to Day 12 of Following Him & Loving Them!