One day we did a public transportation outreach. It was a novel idea becasue in San Diego, public transport gets used a lot. Cole, Eric, and I decided to take the 9 to Old Town and get on the Blue Line trolley for the San Ysidro/Tijuana border and see who we could talk to. So we got on the bus and we met Brian. Brian was from Ireland, probably the only authentic Irishman I have ever talked to and he was in America with many other Irish persons for the summer. Coincidently he had just gotten a job at SeaWorld and so we talked to him about that for awhile. Back home in Ireland, he said that he went to church and that his family was Catholic. But he also said, that church seemed more like something that you have to do and that most people didn’t really believe. I got the sense that he somewhat believed, but wasn’t quite sure. Cole invited him to our employer/co worker picnic we were having at Belmont park later that week, but I don’t think that he showed up. We parted ways at Old Town and then we hopped on the Blue Line trolley. It was pretty crowded because it was about 5:30/6:00. We sat down with a guy who happened to be wearing a SeaWorld polo shirt. His name was Abel and he was a merchandise vending lead. He had been working at SeaWorld for a year or two and was taking generals at a local tech school in San Diego. His intentions were to transfer to UC: Bakersfield this school year, entering as a junior. At first he seemed really quiet, almost annoyed by us, but he soon softened and cheered up a bit. He had grown up going to church with his grandma and it is something that he really enjoyed and in fact plays in the worship band at his church. It was really encouraging to hear about his faith, even through some tough family times. We got to talk to him for about 45 minutes before the trolley reached his stop. At that point it was getting late, so we got off and waited for the next train going back towards Old Town. I saw Abel a few weeks later at Shamu Stadium on one of my free days spent at SeaWorld. I was kind of far away from him and didn’t want to freak him out by being that creeper that he met on the train.
It was our last day at San Diego State and Brandy and I were sharing together for old time’s sake. We went up to Ricardo, who was eating his lunch. Ricardo was working in the bloodmobile that was on campus every single time that we were there. Ricardo told us his awesome story. It was long and complex, so I will do my best to get it right here.
Ricardo had grown up in the Catholic Church, however, like many Americans, he fell away from his faith in and after high school. He eventually got married and started a family. Yet, he began losing control of his life and dabbled extensively in drugs and alcohol. Eventually it began to tear his family apart and his wife threatened to divorce him if he didn’t shape up. As much as he loved her, he couldn’t resist the temptation of alcohol. A friend of his said that his church band was looking for a new member, a drum player I believe it was. Ricardo said that he would try out, even though church really wasn’t his thing. So he went to the Catholic Church with his friend, became a member of the band and started to grow. Jesus quickly captivated his heart and Ricardo left his sins behind, truly taking to heart Christ’s admonishment to “sin no more.” Christ saved Ricardo’s marriage and his family. More importantly Christ ransomed Ricardo’s lifeadn saved him from his sins.
Brandy and I were sharing at SDSU, it must have been only the first or second week on that campus. We had wandered over this pedestrian bridge that lead to all the residence halls on campus and we shared with quite a few people in that area, two of them being Heather and Raneesha. They were sitting on a bench eating some home lunches between classes. Brandy and I went through the Quest Survey with them, and when we got to the fourth question, which asks what they would tell their friend who was seeking out advice on becoming a Christian, they hit it on the head. They talked about truly believing in Christ and inviting him into their heart. We were pumped. They were believers and had been so for awhile. They hadn’t really thought about starting a movement or becoming involved in a movement at SDSU, but hopefully we planted that seed. I pray that they are still at SDSU and having an influence for Christ on their classmates.
I don’t know if I ever told this story, so I’ll tell it, just bear with me if you have heard it. One evening we were doing a beach outreach and I was sharing with Sarah Hupp. We decided, or more she decided that we would go up to these two guys sitting on the beach with their surf boards and that I would initiate a conversation. I will admit that I never became that comfortable this summer approaching surfers, especially when there were two of them together. Not sure exactly why, but that’s the way it was. But I approached and started a conversation. The guys were Brian and Steve and they were two marines who were stationed somewhere in San Diego. We got through the survey and then asked them about their faith backgrounds and they got really excited. They told us that when they went through boot camp it was really tough on them. They basically had their identities taken away from them. I think it was Steve who said that all he could do was cling to God and those were his own words. Cling. I loved it. I was so excited, as was Sarah. During boot camp, they grew so much closer to God and their faith in him was strengthened so much.
After that little discussion, we plainly laid out what we were doing in San Diego with Campus Crusade and all that jazz and they were really excited to meet “normal” people as they put it who shared their beliefs. We invited them to come to FNL that week and they said that they had the weekends off but they weren’t sure if they would be able to leave base in time to make it to the Santa Clara Rec Center. Sadly, they never were able to make it to FNL and we were both really bad at getting contact information from people this summer and so we were never really able to talk to them again and check in with them. But their stories were so encouraging. Just the fact that their tough time grew them closer to the Lord, rather than away from him was so inspiring. So often I let tough times separate me from God, especially last school year with all the stress I had.
So, Brian and Steve, a great story from this summer.
One week we were doing a cookie outreach down at Belmont Park along with sharing on the beach. It was the week after staff left, I think, and we didn’t go to campus that week. I remember that Todd and I were walking along the beach half talking to each other about our Cru movement at NDSU and half looking for people to talk to. We were getting a little frustrated both with the lack of interest in people wanting to talk to us and our own lack of enthusiasm for sharing. So I prayed something to this effect: “God, just show us who you want us to talk to, make it blantantly obvious God. Amen.” Within minutes, we soon realized that we had come to a part of the beach that was not nearly as packed and crowded as the part we had just come from. In fact there was absolutely nobody. That’s when I noticed him. He was sitting all alone on the beach, with nobody withing about 200 or 300 feet around him in any direction. I thought, “haha God, that is waaaay too obvious.” So Todd and I went up to him and we talked to him. His story was a fascinating one. He was 21 or 22 and was from Tennessee. He had seen the Atlantic Ocean many times, but never the Pacific and so he decided that he would come out San Diego so that he could watch the waves crash from West to East rather from the East to the West. I was dumbfounded. He had traveled thousands of miles to see the waves crash in the opposite direction?!?! Well we went through our Quest survey with him and discovered that he was actually broke (maybe its because he traveled so far for the waves) and that he was definitely missing something in his life. When we started talking about God, he was more than willing to talk about it. He said that he would believe in God, but that he needed God to reach out to him. I thought in my mind, “Look around you. There is no one anywhere near you, and the two of us come out of nowhere to tell you about God. Don’t you think that God could have orchestrated this?” but I didn’t say it. He said that he just needed to see God, that he needed God to show himself to him before he could believe. In a sense I was crushed. There was nothing I could do. I had shared the gospel and I could go on sharing all I knew about God with Brian, but it wouldn’t make a difference. He wanted to see God himself work in his life. At the same time that I was crushed, I was pretty excited, because if this kid was going to come to know Christ, he would do it because he truly and really beleived it because the Lord of the Universe really touched him and he knew it was him.
Every now and then I take out my notebook and go through the list of the people that I talked to this summer and I pray for them. I don’t know what is going in their lives right now. I hope that each of them is being called to God, that they are seeking him, that some if not all have come to know Christ. I pray for Brian today and I ask you to pray for him too. I don’t know if he made it out of San Diego, or if he is still there, with little money. But I know that his heart thirsts for God. Pray that God will move in a big way, that he will scoop this man up, clean him off, and send him on the biggest adventure of his life, much bigger than travelling thousands of miles to see the waves crash the opposite direction.