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Being There

June 29, 2009

gregfrazee062609

I spent the past week as a chaperone with a group of youth from our church while they attended a CIY Conference in Tennessee. I haven’t worked with youth in a lot of years, and I was a little apprehensive of how the trip would go… mainly, I wasn’t sure how well I would relate to the teenagers I’d be chaperoning. I’m pretty insecure, and teenagers scare me a bit.  However, I couldn’t resist the chance to spend a week at my alma mater (Milligan College) where the conference was held. So I agreed to go.

I love Milligan. I spent four wonderful years there as a student, and I remain very connected to the place even now as I prepare for my twentieth reunion this fall. I never miss a homecoming. I try to stay in touch with my classmates, former professors, and other friends who live in the area. But spending a week down there with hundreds of teenagers, living in my old dormitory, eating in the cafeteria, and worshiping each night in Seeger Chapel? I’m not sure I have figured out just the right word to describe it yet…

Unique?   Definitely.

Nostalgic?   Deliciously.

Inspiring?   Surprisingly.

It all started on Monday. We arrived on campus to get checked in late in the afternoon. I walked in to the student union building and had the bizarre experience of being recognized by a complete stranger (Chad Brown, director of the conference) from a facebook photo. And then we got our dorm assignments. I’m sure the kids would have preferred air conditioned quarters, but I for one was delighted to find that we girls would be staying in Sutton Hall. I even had a room just a few doors down from the room where I lived my sophomore year. So far, so good.

One of the first orders of business after checking in was to eat some supper before the evening worship session began. So, just like old times, I walked down Sutton’s echo-y stairwell (people who have lived there know what I’m talking about) and got in line to eat. Only thing is, the cafeteria which I have written of so fondly in a previous blog post has been completely renovated. So, walking through those doors was a bit disconcerting. No more big open space with long white tables and molded plastic chairs. No more brown trays and yellow tumblers. It’s all muted greens and cafe-style tables and flat screen TVs showing the news. Very very nice, and very very wrong at the same time.

Note: I guess the school is all about being “green” these days, so no trays translates to less water and heat used to wash them. However, no trays also translates to more food on the floor when certain people who shall be nameless but who look an awful lot like me cannot juggle a drink, dinner plate and salad plate very well. Clean up on aisle 2! Is all I am saying.

Things really got interesting after supper when it was time for the first worship session to begin. We all walked down to Seeger Chapel and checked a big chart on the wall for our assigned seats. As we found our rows and sat down, I started having flashbacks to my student days… gathering before chapel or convo, chatting with my friends, figuring out where to put my books while I sat in one of those ridiculous seats. All around me were hundreds of high school students, and lots of CIY paraphrenalia on the stage… but in my mind, I could see all my old chums from the late 80s. Just like it was yesterday.

CIY09-7I have trouble describing just how special it is, as a Milligan alum, to sit in Seeger and see it packed to the gills with young people singing their hearts out in a worship service. I am pretty sure that the people who first envisioned and then built the chapel never could have imagined the kind of celebrations that take place in there nowadays. The loud music and the lights and the smoke and the hands raised and the jumping… oh, the jumping! I was quite certain a few times that we were suddenly going to find ourselves in the basement, the floor was shaking so much. To think that the hallowed halls where I sat for many a solemn assembly is host to nightly rock concerts during CIY week is mind boggling. But in a good way.

After worship, our group went out to meet together to discuss the day’s events. We headed down to the gazebo at the front of campus… another hot spot for nostalgia if you are an alum like me. So there we were, gathered by Buffalo Creek, chatting about our evening and the week to come. The girls squealed about spiders. The boys wanted to go down by the waterfall.

And I sat there feeling very much at home.

I spent the rest of the week hanging out with the kids, attending worship sessions, participating in small group discussions, and enjoying a lot of free time in the afternoons. One night in our group’s discussion time, our youth pastor asked everyone to share what their “God moment” had been that day. When it came my turn, I got a little choked up. My day and indeed my week had been full of “God moments,” but I wasn’t sure how to explain them to the kids. My “God moments” were born of the realization that it has been 20 years since I graduated from Milligan, and yet there I was, feeling like it could have been me attending that youth conference as a youth. Because once I set foot on campus, I was transported back to a time when I walked up and down those hills on the way to my next class, or to the cafeteria, or just on a stroll with a good friend to talk about important things… like what we wanted to be when we grew up.

It’s a great thing, to be able to feel that way. To remember so clearly what it was like to be young.

I am blessed.

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2 comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and I’m glad that you had a wonderful experience at MOVE this year. Although I didn’t graduate 20 years ago, when I visited my alma mater, Taylor University, last October, I too felt strange waves of nostalgia as if I too could easily grab my books and walk to class. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Hey,

    i’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while from the blog world. This is a great post. I’ve not been back to MC with a youth group — but every time I set foot back on campus, I have the same feeling.

    Great words, my friend.



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