Go West Old Men: A Travel Memoir. Part 3

In February of this year, this was the place of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that lasted for 16 days and drew more than 50,000 worshippers to the small city of Wilmore. The after effects are still being felt around the world.

Where it Started.

For Rick,
I would have loved to hike the Colorado Mountains with you one more time.

Asbury University was founded in 1890 by Methodist evangelist John Wesley Hughes and was named for Bishop Francis Asbury, the founder of American Methodism. The school became Asbury University in 2010. While Hughes was Methodist, Asbury is evangelical, but independent from any one denomination, following the teachers of John Wesley and the Christian Holiness movement.

Over the years there have been many revivals, or outpourings of the Spirit, on the Asbury Campus. In the winter of 2023, a chapel service continued as a time of worship, prayer, and repentance for some sixteen days, drawing over 50,000 people to the little community of Wilmore.

The Asbury stories could fill a book, or several. In fact many have been written over the years. That’s not my task here.

When I enrolled at Asbury, I entered the music education program. It seemed a logical choice at the time. At the same time, I also applied to Virginia Tech and was accepted as an art major, just in case. My penchant for being pulled in to many directions was evident even then.

The truth is, I got a little ahead of myself by thinking I could actually pull off a music major. Sure, I’d had a few years of piano, spent several years in the band, and was a bit of a star in the high school choir. My sophomore year presented me with the choice between band and the choir. I chose the choir and have always wished I’d kept up with the saxophone. I tried to pick it up again when I got to Asbury. It had been too long.

In reality, I didn’t have the necessary discipline to make it work, which is ultimately why I left the music department. By the fall of my sophomore year, I realized I was in way over my head, so I changed my major, and later changed it again.

That’s also not the story here. At least not yet. In Music Theory class freshman year, I met another one of my lifelong friends. Dan was an incredible musician and ended up later being the first to graduate with a degree in music composition.

Dan invited me to participate in a barbershop quartet, and later to be a part of a music ministry team called Future Hope. Initially there were eight of us, four women, four men. We sang around campus and occasionally did weekend travel to minister at churches.

The fall of our sophomore year, Scott joined the group, mainly as our sound tech, but also to play guitar and bass. At a class prayer meeting, Scott and I shared some prayer time together and soon we became the best of friends. That friendship grew over the course of that sophomore year.

As we moved into the winter quarter, Future Hope was presented an awesome opportunity. The College asked us to go out for the summer as an official witness team. We’d sing in churches, camp meetings, and youth camps. The spring found us meeting weekly to pray for the summer and to rehearse our music.

It was an intense summer and we learned many things. As one of the first student-directed ministry teams to go out for the summer, we had to learn a lot by trial and error. We didn’t always get it right, but we learned, and we grew.

We were a little more than halfway through our tour and serving at a church in Michigan. It was an emotional time because on the way home from our service Saturday evening, a family who had been with us were in a car crash. The parents of three were in the front and died at the scene. The children survived. The next morning we arrived at the church early and prayed individually for the family and over each of the pews in the sanctuary.

Tuesday morning, we were taking care of errands and preparing to move on to Pennsylvania when I received a phone call at the home of the Michigan family we were staying with. Scott and our friend Dan (the other one) were with me as I heard the news that my father had passed unexpectedly. I left the tour for a week and returned for our final three weeks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I don’t believe in coincidence so I believe that Scott and Dan were with me that morning because the Lord knew that I’d need their counsel and support. They went with me to the airport and picked me up a week later.

Back at school after the tour ended, I had an emotional fall quarter. I honestly believe my English novel professor understood that when she gave me an A for the class. I went home and just rested over Christmas break and came back in a much better frame of mind.

My senior year I was involved in many things, some of them academic as my final GPA showed. I wasn’t clear about the direction I would take after graduation. Like I mentioned, I was considering a graduate degree in speech therapy or returning to school to get a teaching certificate. Neither of those happened.

When it came time to look at summer ministries, I submitted my application for a summer term with World Gospel Mission. My roommate had grown up with WGM as the son of missionaries to Japan. There were other missions organization, I chose WGM. I applied to either go to Honduras or the American Indian Field. I was accepted to the latter.

Following graduation and a short week at home, I flew to Taylor University in Indiana for a weekend of orientation before we headed out to Arizona. There at the school in Phoenix, I did maintenance projects. Sanding drywall in 110 degree weather is not something I would recommend.

About a week into the program I learned that another volunteer and I would be going to Farmington, New Mexico, where we would spend two weeks teaching Vacation Bible School on the Navajo Reservation.

I fell in love, with the landscape, with the reservation, and with the people. Not only the Navajos to whom we ministered, but with Rick and Kathy, the permanently placed missionaries, and their three young children.

By that point, I’d already been talking to the leaders with World Gospel Mission (WGM), and later with Rick and Kathy, about returning to the field. Specifically to the Navajo Reservation. Conversations were had and we ended up staying one more week to do another round of VBS.

It was a grand three weeks. We would spend our mornings teaching Vacation Bible School. And Sundays and Wednesdays we would conduct church services for the adults. In the afternoons we would talk off to hike in the Colorado Mountains and, on one occasion, had some of the spiciest Mexican food I’ve ever had in Durango.

Rick and Kathy became good friends, and Rick became my mentor. I knew in my heart that I would be back. At that point the decision was whether I would come back immediately or I would go to seminary first and then return.

I visited Rick and Kathy in 1986 after I worked a convention in Denver. Over the years we lost touch with each other (this was pre-social media). They eventually left WGM and, although I tried, I couldn’t find them.

Last summer as we crossed over into New Mexico on our way to the Canyon, I tried one more time. I found the obituary for Rick’s father. In it, I read that Rick had passed away some time earlier. I still don’t know what happened. I regret that we lost touch.

After our three weeks on the reservation, we flew back to Phoenix for the final two weeks. We did more maintenance projects and one weekend the leaders of the school took us on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We toured along the rim seeing the sites and camped in woods nearby.

I bought the t-shirt that said “Go Hike the Canyon.” It was a favorite, and I meant it.

One day, I told myself, I would return and hike the canyon. At twenty-two, I had no qualms about my ability to hike rim to rim.

Leaving Phoenix was an emotional time. I was ready to go home to Virginia for a bit, but then I had plans to hit the road again. All plans that I knew would eventually bring me back to the Southwest.


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