[Next Generation] One summer can change your life

young women

27,375 – What does that number represent? That number represents the average number of days a person lives if he/she reaches today’s average of 75 years of life.

Let’s look at another number – 1,460. That number represents the number of days a student is an undergraduate. Four years of undergraduate work means that 5% of the average life of a person is spent in college.

Now let’s look at one final number –  70. That is the length of the summer for most college students, 70 days or 10 weeks starting sometime in May or June and ending in August. That is less than 1% of your life. 0.00255708 to be precise. What if I told you that 70 days or one summer of your college years could change the rest of your life?

How do I know? Because it happened to me. 

As a freshman in college, I signed up to be on the summer staff of what used to be known as “Intracoastal Outreach” and is now  “Impact Ministries” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina under the leadership of Todd Woods and Peter Copeland.

It was there that a little phrase, “missions is more than a trip, it’s a lifestyle,” changed the rest of my life. It was there through ten weeks of hosting Vacation Bible Schools in apartment complexes, walking the beaches passing out water to lifeguards, doing dinners every Tuesday night with seasonal workers, face painting at the piers, doing pop-up carnival games, living in a house with six other guys, participating in Bible studies every morning, being blessed by local churches that provided lunch, hosting weeknight worship services, and working every day with students exactly like myself, that the trajectory of my life was set.

Actually, it is profound to me that as a nineteen-year-old this thought entered my mind and has guided my life ever since, “whatever it takes for my life to be like this is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

So what happened then that was meaningful and how would that apply to anyone else?

What I experienced that changed my life was a close Jesus-loving community focused around a goal of making Christ known in Myrtle Beach and working tirelessly to that end. That formula has also changed the lives of many others. 

All throughout the Bible community is mentioned. It’s not always meaningful when it is mentioned, but there are several times it is mentioned and it has a profound impact on people. One of those examples can be found in Acts 2:41-47.

41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Preceding this passage the disciples were charged with the spreading of the message of Christ after witnessing his life (they actually lived with him but it was more like they were homeless and walking around together), death (they were there when he was captured, taken away, beaten, and crucified on the cross), and resurrection (Jesus was chatting with them on roads and walking through walls and stuff). 

They started speaking about Christ and the things they witnessed about their time with him. Part of that was encouraging people to embrace a different way of life – not in a mystical or idealistic existential way. It was simply to be more like Christ and worship God. There is a lot that could be said on this topic and lots of books have been written on this passage and Jesus’ life.

In this passage, there are 3,000 people that embrace living more like Jesus and focusing their days on four disciplines: right teaching about Jesus, sharing meals, praying to God, and friendship with one another. It reiterates how powerful these four disciplines are by saying that they “had everything in common.” While that might not seem too crazy it is pretty weighty if you consider there were over three thousand people and their diversity, being from different regions in the middle east and Asia.

What I experienced as a freshman in college and what many others have felt in a summer experience is the reorienting back to these basic core disciplines in Acts chapter 2. 

What is the formula?  A close Jesus-loving community that is focused around a goal of making Christ known in (pick your place) and working tirelessly to that end.

How does this apply specifically to college students? I believe that a summer devoted to God can change the rest of your life. Using less than 1% of your life and less than 5% of your time in college can completely change you as a person. I am not a big investor or business person but that is an incredible return on investment.

How can you do it? Now is the peak time to engage in the conversation of summer service. Many camps and ministries actually need more staff this summer to safely pull off a summer schedule with COVID restrictions. Here are a few places that you might consider:

1. Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Incredible camp with an amazing staff that loves college students.

2. Nehemiah Teams. This one is a little more pricey because it is international but Nehemiah Teams are incredible. 

3. Little Rock Project. This isn’t flashy but still brings a pretty strong impact. Last summer some churches and the Metro Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Little Rock piloted a discipleship intensive program focused on helping college students that are in Little Rock become disciple-makers.

If you are a college student in Little Rock go to www.metrobcm.org and click “Little Rock Project.”

4. Impact Ministries. As mentioned above I am a fan of Todd and his staff. Especially Peter Copeland, who has been a big mentor in my life.

You should also check out the www.argo2.org website. There is a lot of summer opportunities there that would be amazing to connect with as well.

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