Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bart Campolo is Blogging

There are people in our lives who have a great impact on our journey. Bart Campolo is someone who had a tremendous impact on my life, and someone I respect and admire. He's blogging now, and his latest blog is a must read.

Many people know of Bart's dad, Tony. I had heard Tony speak a few times (and, of course, loved it) when I read that a 'Bart Campolo' would be speaking at chapel. (This was in late 1994 or early '95 at Gordon College.) "Hmm, maybe he's Tony's son. I'll have to make sure not to miss that one."

Around this time I had several conversations with my friend Jay from Newark. Jay grew up in Newark where his dad pastored a church. Jay is white and grew up in a poor, primarily black neighborhood. Jay told me a lot about life in that neighborhood and suggested I check out Boyz N the Hood, which, according to Jay, was a pretty accurate depiction of life in his city. When I watched the movie I remember praying, "I wish there was some way I could help." File that one in the "Be careful what you pray for department."

Fast forward a few weeks to chapel at Gordon College. Bart gives a brief advertisement for his ministry, Kigndomworks (now Mission Year.) In one of the few times I've been certain that God was speaking to me (not an audible voice, but a fairly audible voice in my head, and more than, "Hmm, I wonder if this is God or me?") God said, "There ya go." Naturally I responded, "Huh?"
"Well, you wanted to help in the city, there ya go."
"Wait a second, I meant like give some money or something. This, going and living, this is ridiculous. You really want me to go spend a summer in Philadelphia? No, this isn't for me. In fact, I don't think you're you, God. I think this is me trying to trick myself. So there! No, this thing is clearly not for me."

It was right about the time I finished that last sentence when Bart says, "We would especially love it if some of you guys would come. Every year we get plenty of women who want to come work with us, but we struggle like crazy for guys. And there's a lot boys in my neighborhoods that could use a good Christian guy to look up to."

God says, "See?"

I managed to keep my groaning silent. I was sunk and I knew it. Deep within me I knew there was no way around it. I was going to be in Philly that summer, and I was scared silly, to be honest. Bart goes on to give this great talk about Jonathan, Saul, ephods, pomegranate trees and Philistines (which was also a talk about fighting evil, especially in an inner-city neighborhood....hint, hint.) He invited anyone interested to grab an info sheet and write our info on a sign up sheet so he could send us more propaganda, I mean, information (his joke) so I did. In looking over the sheet, I found my out. "We don't accept halves of dating couples." "Hmm," I thought, "interesting rule. I can't get Katie to come with me since she's already signed up to go to Bolivia. I guess I was wrong, that wasn't God speaking to me. Woo-hoo!" Five days later I get an application in the mail with this little note: "Correction: We meant to say 'We don't accept both halves of dating couples.'" Doh!

So in the summer of 1995 I lived in a 3 room (4 if you count the enclosed back porch and 5 if you count the bathroom!) north central Philly row house with 7 other college aged folks. It was like The Real World but without the luxurious accommodations, cameras, and roommate selection designed to promote conflict. Together we ran a day camp at Church of the Advocate (Episcopal), taught Sunday school, and built relationships with our neighbors, focusing on the kids. The idea was to help the church so that when we left, the church could continue to carry on ministry that we started. I was blessed to be part of an awesome team that year.

That summer was the most important summer of my life. It was then that I knew that I wanted the direction of my life to be serving God, whatever that looked like. Prior to that there were competing visions, one with a tennis court in the back yard and a recording studio in the basement. Each week we would go downtown for chapel and Bart would preach. He came over for dinner a couple of times as well and we were a pretty dynamic paddle ball team during a weekend getaway to the Jersey shore. In our final meeting during Kingdomworks at our debriefing retreat, Bart asked me to describe my summer in one word. I said, "Significant." As for Bart, I really admired his passion and energy and love for Lord. I wanted to be like him really. Not be him, but be like him..passionate, inspiring, and helping young people follow Jesus. Over the years, we have kept in touch, mostly via email. We ran into each other at a Lost And Found concert several years ago in Long Island. As if Bart wasn't already cool enough, it turns out that Bart and I have a favorite band in common, and he is good friends with Michael and George. A couple of years ago, a student in my youth group, Brittany, did Mission Year. That was pretty cool.

Bart is blogging now and there have been some big changes in his life. You should add his blog to your list or regular reads. Oh and Bart, rock on, brother.


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