As most of you know, I spent last week at a Youth Bible School in Loveland, Colorado. I heard about the school through Jonathan Marshall, who attended last year. It was hosted by River of Life Christian Fellowship, a small local church with a big heart for serving God.
I flew out of Fresno on Saturday the 29th. The flight was pretty empty, but sure enough there were two elderly ladies chatting away directly behind me. I learned you can't rent a car in Ireland if you're over 70. You never know what useful knowledge you'll pick up listening to airplane conversations.
I had brought along The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, mostly because it's a big thick paperback that makes me look intelligent. It's a fascinating work; Solzhenitsyn has a sharp mind and a deft pen. Surprisingly, the book is completely lacking any trace of bitterness: just calm, orderly narrative. His firsthand perspective is very vivid, one of the reasons I enjoy reading insider history like this.
Upon landing in Denver I retrieved my baggage and found some lunch. (I passed by the illustrious Auntie Anne's Pretzels; I just couldn't bring myself to spend four bucks on a pretzel, no matter how big it was. But I loved their slogan: Spoiling Dinner Since 1988.) After lunch I met up with the other guy who had flown in from California and together we headed to the curb to await our ride to Loveland.
I stayed at the home of nice young couple from the church, along with another Bible School student from Pennsylvania. We enjoyed several late-night conversations together, not to mention some good cooking. Colorado food was excellent, but could still use more fruits and veggies.
The school was relatively small: there were only 22 students attending. The small size was actually quite nice, as it allowed you to get to know just about everyone and made the group discussion times more lively and less intimidating.
The teaching schedule was rigorous. There were three sessions every day, each at least 90 minutes long. The speakers were Rick Grubbs (Redeeming the Time), Santosh Poonen (Living for God's Purpose), and Phil Luckett (Cat & Dog Theology). In the afternoon, when the teaching was over, we generally would have some time set aside for open discussion and prayer. We also had donuts, lunch, and dinner at the church every day.
Most evenings found us at the park playing volleyball. Wednesday and Thursday, we played flag football, which was a new experience for me. I was surprised to wind up sore from the tense positions and twisting action involved. Quite different from the all-out running and cutting in Ultimate.
Thursday night we all went over to the home of one of the church families for some snacks, games, and (ahem!) pranks. I wound up on the wrong end of a few jokes, but it was a fun and memorable evening.
We only had one session Friday morning, after which we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park to have lunch, do some hiking, and spend some time reviewing the week. Bighorn Sheep, flaming yellow Aspens, Elk, bottled water, fall mountain air. It was neat to see some new country.
Friday night, our last night together, we drove up to old town to do some witnessing. We went to a cobbled square surrounded by pubs and worse. Several of the guys wore signs, some passed out literature, and some, myself included, set off Bible in hand to find people to talk to. I had several interesting conversations: one with a punk, one with a satanist, and one with a pair of intellectual postmoderns. It was bracing to be out on the frontlines again, literally face to face with the lostness of humanity.
I flew home Saturday afternoon, dog-tired. My muscles were aching, my jeans were dirty, and my head was spinning from the prolonged intense spiritual stimulation. I needed time to process everything, I needed clean clothes, but mostly I needed sleep.
Although the sessions were good, they were not the predominant part of the week for me. Even more than the concentrated teaching, I appreciated the chance to interact with and encourage the other young people, and to see and hear about the work the Lord is doing in their lives.
All in all, it was a refreshing time. I felt like the Lord showed me a lot of pride still clouding up my life, and also helped me gain a fresh perspective on what He is doing in the church here in central California. Some of the thoughts shared by one of the local elders during the hike on Friday also spoke to me powerfully, and I'm hopeful they will bear fruit.
I'm grateful to those of you who were praying for my trip. God's not through with me yet.
"I cannot look you in the eye / so I check the knots on my disguise / 'cause I fell in love with fashion in the dark /
and now I want a broken heart" - dW