My College Christian Group Experience
by Josh Anderson
I’ve decided to write my story finally after having told it many times for various reasons. Most of all I hope by reading this you will be able to recognize patterns in your own experiences in these groups and hopefully sidestep some pitfalls.
Chapter One: A Little Background
Let me back up and give you a little history about where I’ve come from so you know how I came into all this. Let’s back up to my high school experience real quick. I was very shy early on and it took some coaxing from the other kids at Calvary Baptist Church in Craig, Colorado to get my brother and I to come to youth group. Once we did, however, we saw what we we’re missing. Having a time to study the word of God with people with our age and understanding was fun, helpful and now I know a necessity.
Some of those guys in that youth group became our best friends and the weekly and sometimes two or even three times a week bible studies and activities provided the perfect environment. A youth group from Kansas City came one summer to help us revitalize our group and set up fun events and youth rallies to reach the lost in Craig. That summer my relationship with God grew more than ever. From going to church and Sunday School with mom and dad to going to every event because I truly wanted to I was enjoying life as Christian. I started to sing on the youth ensamble, I was discovering Christian music and one summer we took a mission trip to Eagle Pass, Texas/ Piedres Negres, Mexico.
Then sometime in my Junior or Senior year I started to become burnt out. I had done it all and been involved in everything. At that time I began to realize I was in this Christian shell. I was in a sweet La La land where we spoke Christianese and we all loved Jesus no matter what, no question about it. This realization came upon me after seeing and hearing about the things some of my friends had done and were doing. My friend Amy ran away from home and hitchhiked all over the country with some trucker. Two of my close buddies lost their virginity. My best friend had an abortion and tried to commit suicide. My first girlfriend’s father committed suicide when she was 3 months old, her mother taught her how to smoke crack and she wasn’t a virgin. I began to see that I was very sheltered compared to all of my friends. The want to gain some “experience” and my parents never seeming to let me do anything planted a seed of rebellion that would bloom in college.
Chapter Two: The Search is On
So here I am in a bit of unique situation, I still haven’t lost my faith in God, but I have this seed that is growing in me and now I am in college- a hundred and fifty miles from the nearest parental unit and I know no one. Obviously one of the first people I got to know was Chris, my roommate in Tolman Hall. Chris may or may not have considered himself a Christian, but it was clear he was not brought up the way I was and this was an exciting “in” to the world I wanted to explore. It wasn’t long before I was drinking underage and hitting parties (something I never even did once in high school). A group of friends I had made in the TV lounge got me drunk for the first time and later that year Chris had introduced me to marijuana.
But all along something quite contridictory was happing. I was still listening to all my Christian music and I was searching for any sort of Christian group on campus I could get involved in.
The first group I tried out was called the “Y” which was a college version of Young Life (I had attended some of Young Life in high school). My friend from Craig, Troy DeRose invited me and that’s the first place I met Heather Hockett. I can’t remember how much I went, but I know it didn’t stick. I was becoming disillusioned with the whole Christian thing. It seemed everything Christian was cheesy and unrealistic.
Then I went to Christian Challenge which was the Baptist Student Union. I remember they played a piano and there were even some older people there, just like at a Baptist church. I didn’t connect with anyone and that was the end of that.
One group was handing out bags with CDs, bibles and Slinkys in the college center and was inviting people to play volleyball at Lincoln Park and have ice cream. This group was a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ called Master Plan Ministries. Once again I decided to test the waters. I remember a nice girl named Bonnie giving me a ride over there. I met the leader, a man named Kyle in his mid 30’s, and his wife Michelle that he called Mich. I met a guy named Carl Winterbower and his girlfriend Casey Miller. A guy named Eric and a popular red head named Josh McGeehan. I don’t remember much about that night but I liked the people I met and decided to try a few of the bible studies. Back then there were about 5 guys and as many girls who regularly attended. The guys met at Common Grounds coffee house.
I remember getting a flyer in my mailbox at the dorms one day, it was about a “Moonlight Cross Country Ski Trip”. By then I was getting tired of dorm friends, the drinking, chewing etc. and really wanted some Christian friends. The trip was set out to meet in the parking lot of the college center. I remember meeting a really nice girl named Meghan Kelly that didn’t know how to ski and wanted me to stick with her. She new Kyle and Mich really well. Her friend Shelly was there and Bonnie and some other girls and probably Josh McGeehan too. I had a lot of fun skiing and afterward we had hot chocolate at the Blehm’s house near the town of Mesa. There I met a guy in his late 20’s named JD Jacoby. Later that fall (1998) I went to a retreat at Cascade Lodge. I got to know Meghan, Josh, Bonnie and Shelly really well. I also got to experience how Kyle led things in regard to a trip (I noticed but didn’t think much of the fact that Kyle’s wife and kids came along)
Throughout the year I remember Kyle asking me if I wanted to “hang out” with him in the Bookcliff Cafe. I was under the impression that he was getting to know me and trying to help me feel comfortable at Campus Crusade. I told him I was trying to learn the guitar and he asked if I’d like to jam sometime (which we never did that year) I remember thinking that he was kind of a weird guy, but that was just because he was older. He told me about his house that he was renovated and said if I was ever bored I could come out and help him with the house. Once while talking with him in the cafe a girl came in and Kyle introduced her to me as Amber Richens. I could tell that she had known Kyle for a while.
It’s getting hard to remember but I think the rest of that year my attendance was sparse at best, partly because of my job at Arby’s. Also because I was more into the parties and my faith took a massive hit because of biology 101. The evolutionary lies they forced on us every day were getting to me, they were making sense and shallow Christianity seemed easily explained away as a belief system the same as any other religion that Christians held onto because they were afraid to give it up. Don’t get me wrong, I never lost my faith, but I wrestled with the issues with an open mind. I became depressed, if Jesus wasn’t the way, then what is there to live for? Who cares about anything? I wrestled with God and church wasn’t helping. They were feeding me the same old answers, the same thing I had heard my whole life. No Christians I knew seemed to be looking at the issues with an open mind and answering all of the questions. It took months of talking to myself and God before God brought me around, assuring me of His reality. It was a struggled I had to go through, one which no person could help me through and in the end made me stronger and wiser in my faith.
Right after I moved out of the dorms in the spring of ’99 I got an apartment to share with my brother in the fall. I stayed in Grand Junction, working at Arby’s which was probably the loneliest summer of my life. Though I loved being on my own, I was really missing Wes by the end of summer ’99. Wes moved in with me in the fall and was eager to get to know the Campus and get into some Christian groups.
The first week of my sophomore year I saw Kyle sitting at a table in the Mesa State vending fair and because I knew him I sat down and chatted with him. I introduced him to Wes and watched while various students came by excited about getting involved. Wes’ and these people’s excitement got me excited about coming back for another year. That day while hanging out with Kyle I remember meeting Jared Johnson. Kyle asked him what he was into and Jared said “I play guitar and one day I want to be just like Steven Curtis Chapman”.
I revisited Christian Challenge with Wes and this time I along with my brother connected with the people there. Our friend from Craig, Kevin Young got involved there and also came to Campus Crusade with us. At Christian Challenge we met Twila Canaday, Cerena Turgen, Nick Malazzo, Shannon Hockett as well as the leader Darren Crow and his sister Becky Crow.
Wes and I attended both groups regularly but for some reason Campus Crusade was the more dominant, probably because we were closer to the people. Early that year we were having the weekly meetings in the Bacon and Boetcher rooms. I still remember the first meeting that year, I walked in almost late and saw the room full. I saw Josh Cunningham in there (my good friend from Craig, that I met in 7th grade) and Julie Weaver . It’s hard to remember now but in that first semester we met Luara Long, Jacob Rundell, Jesse Denison, and Shanda McKee. We met Kristi Showalter at Christian Challenge but she began to attend both groups also (Actually Bonnie introduced her to me a Maurice’s in the mall). I noticed that Casey Miller, Carl Winterbower, Meghan Kelly, Josh McGeehan, nor anyone else from my first year came back – with one exception, Amber Richens, her and I were the only two to return. I still remember Kyle telling that my freshman year was the worst for attendance ever and that that fall of ’99 was the best ever.
Kevin Young was learning how to play the guitar and played along with Kyle on his 12 string guitar on Tuesday nights during worship. Sometimes Wes brought his guitar too. I remember one night Julie approached Kyle and told him that she felt led to play keyboard for worship. Kyle and Mich had a large nice keyboard that they let her use. At one point Kyle asked Wes, Kevin and Julie if they wanted to have a jam night on Thursday nights out at his house. I was not invited because I was at work when they made plans. I was a little hurt because I knew Kyle and I had been meaning to “jam” together sometime. I talked to Wes and Kevin and asked if they would like instead to jam on Sunday nights. They agreed and so we started these “jam” sessions.
Once in while I would bring my electric guitar on Tuesday night (plugged into our Karaoke Machine) and play my low E string because I still was good enough to play along. On days when I decided not to play on Tuesday night, Kyle asked me why. It didn’t take long to realize our jam sessions were actually practices for Tuesday nights. So I was part of a worship team, cool. Jared Johnson started coming and was pretty good so he and Julie became the leaders. Shannon Hockett sang backup. So we began a weekly trip out to Kyle’s house in Clifton for worship team practice.
One day while coming to meet with Kyle he was still meeting with Jacob. He introduced us and later Kyle told me that Jacob wanted to play drums for the worship team.