Well, I think I went out with a bang. This was my last retreat as the director of the Salt Company, and it was up there with the best of them. Soli Deo Gloria.
Here's the highlight reel...
1. Matt the security guard experiences love, community, and in his words, "liberty" for the first time in his life.
Here's a picture of Matt. He was a new man. (From L to R: James Laugerman, Me, Nathan Kaloupek, Matt, Gabe Noll, Zach Gilbert)
There are no better college students on planet earth than in TSC. Our students loved every person in the hotel. Matt was a gruff security guard who worked the evening/graveyard shift. Our students engaged him in conversation, and he would frequent our meetings. The Spirit of God among us pulled him in. On Saturday night, I got a call from one of our students at 4:30 am, saying, "Mark, can you come to our room, we've got the security guard in our room." I'm thinking, "Great, just what I need at 4:30 am. What did you guys do now?" But then Zach (TSCer) says, "No, he wants us to pray with him, could you come help us out?"
Being the not so good shepherd I said, "Bro, you guys got it this far, what do you need me for?"
This was the scene I saw as I was leaving the hotel on Sunday morning...
I was so proud of the Anthem team. We went out on a limb and introduced a bunch of our new songs. By Saturday night and Sunday morning, God seemed to descend on our group during the worship.
It was a frenzy getting ready, as we often determined the worship order minutes before playing. We were also finalizing lyrics and music parts minutes before, since they were all new songs, even to us.
Jesse wrote a new song called "Glory and Honor" and it's got anointing all over it. It got me pumped for Anthem (Thursday, April 29)
3. Paul Sabino
He was like Josh Hamilton at the home run derby two years ago. Everything pitched to him ended up in the bleachers. Paul is one of the main reasons I hate to leave Cornerstone in Ames. What a great brother! Jeff Dodge calls him "Apollos." (Acts 18:24-ff). I have never wept so much during a sermon as I did on Sunday morning. Check it out on the TSC website: click here.
4. Two fraternities decided to have their formal at the Embassy Suites with us.
Not for us, but for them. It's hard to have fun getting wasted and being immoral when you've got 400 college students reading their Bibles, praying throughout the hotel, and filling the hotel with worship.
It was a study in
Ten feet and a thin wall separated passion filled worship from pagan revelry. (I'm not even sure what "pagan revelry" is, but I'm pretty sure that's what I was seeing Saturday night.) Illustrations of Romans 1:18-ff (passionate rebellion and suppression of truth) were in abundance. Multiple comments were heard, "You're judging us." In one case, a sorority girl gets on the elevator, wearing a bikini. She was basically naked. Here's the exchange:
Naked girl: "I'm not wearing any clothes, am I?"
Innocent male TSC student, holding his Bible, going up to his room: "Umm. No?"
Naked girl: "That's not a nice thing to say."
In her moment of shame, she turns the table to put the Christian in the place of the transgressor, so as to say, "You're not nice for judging me."
In another case, some Greek guys were mocking us with their snide comments and looks when I asked them what house they were in. "Sig Eps" they said. When I told them I was a Sig Ep, their tone changed. Ooops. That's a cardinal sin in the Greek world. Always show respect to brothers, especially older ones. I'm sad for those guys. I've seen their emptiness up close and personal.
5. My guys
Joey and Willie, two guys in one of my Bible studies shared their experiences from the weekend. Both of them were on the other side of the wall 6-8 months ago.
Joey (on left) said, "I was so close the partying this weekend (just on the other side of the wall), but I felt so far away. And I know if I ever tried to go back, I'd have 400 people pulling me back toward Christ."
Willie (on Rt) talked about how much God has changed his life this year, and how he experienced intimacy with Christ in worship like never before. At one point during "Glory and Honor", he said it was like God reached down to him and swept him up into His presence.
He also shared how their small group decided to do hotel evangelism on Saturday night instead of have their discussion. It was his first experience sharing the gospel like that. Two girls (also in bikinis) ran outside with their beers to avoid them. The doors locked behind them. Oops. But apparently being naked and freezing with a beer is better than hearing the gospel.
6. The talent show
What luck... JB and Linda's bus broke down on their way back to Branson. They shared their new CD called, "Back to the Biblical Basics of Marriage...Courtship Edition". We didn't get it recorded, but I can assure you we will have them do it at TSC before the year's over and we'll get a good recording. All the acts were amazing...the winner was Audrey and crew with their stadium cleanup spoof.
7. Hanging with my kids
This is the first retreat that I had a couple of my kids with me the whole time. Leatha planned to be there, but 2 of the little ones were sick. Life as a mom...
It's premature to get sentimental, but this was a retreat I'll never forget.