1. an expression of gratitude, providing love or other emotional support; caring.
1. an expression of gratitude, providing love or other emotional support; caring.
What began as a planned trip to our annual National Youth Workers Conference in Columbus, Ohio, transmogrified to a board retreat, which became a tour to visit supporters from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ohio. Clearly, we could not visit all of the over four thousand households that have made Crossroads Farm a reality over the last twenty one years, for over nine thousand rural students in two Michigan counties. We selected people who have been with us from the beginning, many of whom we have never personally been able to sit down with and thank. The results of our search, became the itinerary for an eight State, nineteen stop visit, over fourteen days. We called it the Soil Health Tour and it was about checking the readiness for CRF to boldly push into the next steps of ministry developments. Some of you have followed our meandering path through the South.
We have eaten meals with friends who, have travelled the world, played in symphonies, ridden on Shamu, written a jingle for Coke, bought cars from Jay Leno, have a place in the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame, performed at Carnegie Hall (twice), were college athletes, run corporations, were among the first students and volunteers at CRF, tried out to play in the WNBA, serve on boards like the Air and Space Center and Chick Fil-A, are highly ranked military officials, former CRF board members and proudly, we call them all friends. They all are extraordinary trajectory changers in the lives of rural students.
Even now, as states are beginning again to tighten restrictions on meeting and celebrating, we have discovered, for the sake of relationships, people are willing to risk illness. This is because, people seem to understand that “face-to-face” matters. The spirit of God travels. It brings hope, strength and unbounded joy. We need to see each other and if there is a lesson to be learned from this challenge to body-life and congregation, it is this. The extraordinary rises from the normal. One of the greatest meaning of life comes from the most basic thing thing. You.
In fact, God placed such a premium on our personal interactions that He commanded for us to do it often. At Crossroads Farm we have been teaching through many of these commands. There are 59, “One another’s,” listed in the New Testament. Here is our short list of “One Anothers’” from the road.
In other words, we want to touch. Many of us use touch as a critical, if not primary demonstration of love. Those of us who do, have had our psyches dramatically and negatively altered. We would never “Inflict,” our love language on another, but it does make me wonder how we move forward after we have associated physical expressions of love with fear and potential death.
CRF began its formal ministry in 2001 after spending a year in prayer and training with its student leaders and volunteers. This happened exactly twenty years ago.
The first official event for Crossroads Farm was a murder mystery game, spread out over 105 acres. The night was ambitious from the start. With only three people working full-time at the Student Ministry Center, located in the ramshackle (and this would be the best possible description for the building) former Reading Baptist Church, the first outreach occasion would require more of a mindshare than what we felt we had.
On the afternoon of the event, while the local band, PFD (Pray Face Down) set the stage on a hay wagon that had been rolled into the north end of the old cow barn, Zac, one of our two employees was riding a mower through the shoulder-high grass, in order to complete the maze. A number of hours later, he would rush in to the CRF office in order to convert the hastily, and somewhat inaccurately sketched map into 50 charts.
Our other worker, Scott, was busy making sure that the clues were placed in envelopes, numbered 1-10. These were distributed across the 105, football-fields worth of corn, trees and grass ways. We had not calculated the nearly 4 miles of cross-country turf, necessary to travel in order to procure all 10 of the clues. At 5:30 p.m. our 25 student leaders and the few under-informed volunteers (some of whom never would actually discover their assigned clue site on the grounds) gathered to pray one last time.
I distinctly recall the words I spoke to the faithful few who had dared to trust God for something bigger than our collective imagination. These leaders had hoped, prayed and imagined for over a year. It was now our role to wait on God. I may have been less than inspiring.
“Hey!” I said, hedging my bet on God’s part of this deal. “I’m glad tonight has finally arrived. We have been praying that a lot of your friends will come tonight. Listen. Even if we are the only people here tonight, we are going to completely have a blast!”
My expectations had officially been couched in pessimism.
I went into the farmhouse to grab a few things before the night would begin. I exited the house at 6:05. There was nearly an hour before the start time posted for the event. In suburban America, we would have had an hour and fifteen minutes before kids would, mostly, be here. What I saw, defied my understanding of youth ministry.
Our lane into the farm had ten cars lined up to get in. To the east, there were another ten cars waiting to turn right into the lane. Waiting to turn left and onto the farm, were another ten cars. As these cars parked in the field beside the barn, two, three and four, laughing students spilled out of their seats.
I did some pretty quick math. I ran up to Zac, and handing him a credit card shouted, “Zac! We are going to need way more donuts! Go into every shop, convenience store, gas station and market and buy them out!”
He returned an hour later, having traversed twenty square miles for donuts. I contend that he also brought back, Hostess Donettes, a fair variety of Little Debbies, and perhaps, a few frosted bagels.
By the time students had filed into the barn, we had a grand total of 186 students in attendance. I realized that God had us in the place where he wanted us.
This last weekend we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the CRF Murder Mystery. Amid the Covid pandemic fears, political uncertainty, moving program and adjusting to governmental requirements/ best practices and the instability of high school and middle school schedules, CRF chose to hold an event which would be predominantly outside. We placed sanitizer at key locations, kept groups of students to under ten, created wider paths and bigger site areas in the maze and masked up in the hospitality tent. I have not lost sight of the first lesson I learned twenty distant murder mysteries ago. God shows up.
These numbers may scare you, but they do not frighten a God who holds our future and eternity in the palm of His hand. Between our three MM20 locations, we saw 543 students and 115 adult volunteers for the 2020 grand combined total of 658. That is over 650 people who heard the gospel shared. It also means that over 30 students responded to the message of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for them. 30 young lives were stretched into eternity, while our world panics about the months ahead. I am concerned that far too many of us have made the decision to spare our own lives at the expense of eternity for someone else. I understand the controversy of the statement for most believers. I want to assure you that we at CRF will continue to make wise, safe and informed decisions regarding student, staff and familial safety, but I understand that I really have very little say in who is affected by a virus.
I also want you to hear me say, that if God is to allow me to suffer with this terrible disease, my hope comes, not from the amount of days I have kept safely ensconced from it, but rather the 30 lives that will survive into forever with their God. I’ll make that trade every single time.
I walked to the house on Saturday night bone weary, but thankful beyond words for the lives he allows me to be a part of each week. By the way, if you take the annual average attendance over the last 20 years and add them together, that gives us the number of 9,000 students.
One thing I know. We are going to need more donuts.
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;