I am looking forward to this weekend, as my buddy Todd is getting married, and everyone will be back in Huntington to help celebrate. As I prepare to go back to Huntington for the weekend, I can't help but think about how much I benefitted, and was blessed to be there.
First, a little rewind back to the summer of 2008. I had a bachelors degree from a Big Ten institution, all the aspirations in the world, great basketball contacts, and absolutely no leads or job offers. I was able to continue working at Macomb County in the summer (which was some of the best work experience I have ever had), and I was able to gain an interview with Grand Valley State University for their women's basketball graduate assistant coaching position. I think that I nailed the interview, and had a great connection with the coach. Well, it was taking longer than expected to hear back, and I was informed that there was a late entrant to application process. I was then told that I did not get the job, and that there was a former Bowling Green State University player that got the job. Crushed..... So, I got back to the e-mails, and sent another 100 or so to any Division-I school that I might want to end up at. I was so consumed with getting a chance to serve as a graduate assistant, with the hopes of earning a masters degree, and gaining a coaching position.
The Lord had other things in mind, and allowed a coach at Marshall University to read my interest letter. She passed it on to the head coach, and he called Suzy Merchant at Michigan State. I got a good referral from Coach Merchant, and a few days after sending the letter, I got offered a graduate assistant coaching position at Marshall University. I had never been there, knew no one there, and had no connection to the school. But, they were going to pay for my graduate degree, so I was game.
I was coaching at the University of Tennessee women's basketball camp that summer, and made a trip to Huntington to formally meet the coaching staff on my drive back to Michigan. I wept the first time I got into Huntington. I did NOT want to be there at all. The city was not glamorous. It seemed to be a shell of a once-thriving city, and Marshall was stuck in the middle of it. But, I knew that the Lord was calling me there, and that I would be getting a graduate degree.
Upon preparing to get to Huntington, I agreed to live in a house I had never seen, with two older Christian guys I had never met. Again, I wept as to where I was living (kind of a rough-around-the-edges neighborhood, with stray dogs and people that steal each other's cable and electricity). This was not meeting my expectations. There were days, up until November, that I wanted to just pack everything up, and leave.
However, things began to fall into place. I got involved with the FCA. Basketball started to pick up. I got wrapped up in the whole Marshall Football tradition and legacy. And I was able to find guys (and girls) who were solid Christians, and were passionate about their faith. What a relief. At that point, I knew things would be fine, and the Lord began to reveal to me why I was there.
I was always encouraged to grow my leadership skills, especially in ministry. Both for my personal relationship at the time, and for my own ability to serve. I took a larger role in FCA, and I found that I was able to bring leadership and ideas to our ministry. Todd, our buddy Luke, and I, all agreed that we should begin to disciple someone as well. We recognized that were going to have to start forming leadership opportunities and discipleship patterns for FCA for the future. It was a great time of growth for FCA at Marshall, and we wanted to help lay a foundation. I was able to disciple Tyler, the kicker for the football team at Marshall. It was a time of growth for him, as well me.
The year ended, and I was upset that I only had one more year there. My final year of graduate school was probably the best year of school that I ever had, thanks to my roommates, Todd, Luke, Daniel (until Christmas), and Ahmad (through the spring). The stories of Daniel and Ahmad are enough for a separate blog entry. The year included meeting Steve and Joey, serving the homeless, and developing relationships and seeking out the homeless. Never in my mind would I have thought I would be going to hang out with homeless guys in their “fort”, as they called it.
Leaving Marshall was tough. Like a tree being pulled out by its roots, it’s a tough circumstance. After being so emotionally invested there, I moved back to Michigan, again, without a job or any prospects. After spending some time in East Lansing for the summer, I moved back home again, and was then given an opportunity to interview for a position at the College of William and Mary. Again, not my choice of opportunities, but the Lord again broke me down, and stripped things away. I was the most physically uncomfortable I had ever been. There was a lack of athletic ministry, or campus ministry in total, and my job left much to be desired. My relationship with my girlfriend at the time came to an end, and basketball as a career was no longer a passion of mine. Talk about a great experience.
I was able to find a community of men, and had Bible study with them each week. What a great group of men. I was able to gain some interviews for positions in urban planning, and things were looking up. I was still battling my desire to be in a relationship, and one last interview in Minneapolis was the last string. I did not get the job, and things suddenly became clear. I was back to where I had been before going to Marshall. I was starting over.
But my experience at Marshall proved to me that the Lord has his hand over every aspect of my life. And that my expectations for particular worldly things will not be met by Him. When I was not comfortable, and felt that my personal situation was not favorable, the Lord provided me with other things. My faith grew. Things became clearer for my sanctification, and the sanctification of others. My desire for things had to be pushed aside, and I know that the Lord will provide me with everything I need, in the time that I need it.
So, as I am now in Harrisonburg, Virginia (NEVER in my mind…), I prepare to head back to Huntington. Visiting the place where my faith was put into action. Visiting a place that is so misunderstood, and misinterpreted by so many. The place that challenged me, and provided me with many of my best memories and friends. It will be great to see Todd and Erin getting married, and seeing them surrounded by all of their friends and family.
It’s come full circle, and I’ll be back in Huntington, re-living it all. At least for the weekend.