Sunday, January 23, 2005


The Three of Us

Baker Hall's south side is well named. Long summer days soak into the thick stone walls and only soaking my top bed sheet in water can I sleep in this little oven. I'd gotten a private dorm room for summer school, but after this I changed my application for fall semester lodging in the tall air-conditioned Williams Village. I'd put up with a roommate if I could just stay cool.

He could have been worse. Drunken much of the time, yes, but out of the room for most of it. Besides that I'd discovered long-distance bicycling and wasn't there all that much myself. Solace on two wheels amid the mountains that had always felt more like home than anywhere else.

One day he introduced me to a friend of his. I shook hands with Craig Rouch as I'd done with many others but this interaction was far from common. I didn't know it at the time, but the God of the Universe was pleased. He put a kink in my life, just as he'd done with human history 2000 years back.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10 NIV)

I'd been to church. I knew what God was all about. Some sort of spirit out there with a rule book, take him or leave him. He made some people, those too weak to think for themselves, happy.

Craig upset this idea. He didn't fit the framework. Here was someone who knew how to think, as demonstrated in many late-night conversations. He also knew how to be a human being instead of a one-man Christian army. I was already, at age eighteen, very sensitive to salesmen and snake-oil purveyors. I knew when people's only consideration was to notch up their self-esteem. Most amazing of all, Craig wasn't at all embarrassed to talk about God; he didn't push, but he also didn't try to hide.

Unlike the people I'd seen in various churches, Craig talked as if God knew him by name. Craig strongly attracted me. He was a good listener. He could play and he could be serious. He was willing to try things, experiment and learn. These characteristics were rare in the people I knew, who tended to try things once and quit if it didn't work. I wondered, silently where no one could notice, if Craig's character came from his relationship with Jesus.

Which is why I know God was pleased back then. Craig and his brother Mark were saved while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television. They were both young. They learned and then, when the time was right, God's nudges led Craig and me together. We stuck. As insular as I've always been, this was a miracle.

I got kicked out of school at the end of the spring semester. I've always been a bad student and my slapdash study habit just didn't work at a college pace. Craig changed course and went to a school in Greeley while I ended up working in Kansas. We kept the postman busy with letters and cassette-letters going back and forth.

I grew up in Salina, but it wasn't home any longer. No place, really, was home. My attachment to the job was loose, although it could have become a career. Craig's spoken messages to me became more impassioned, culminating in a plea to join him in God's life.

Could I do this? I, who was entirely intellectually governed? What had I to do with God? Yet, why was Craig the kind of person he was? Could it be his relationship with God? Craig certainly lived better than I did. But could I, fiercely determined to think things through for myself, with any honesty commit my life to Jesus? I had a four-law booklet and read through the principles. Being young and energetic I devoted much time and effort to figuring this out, concluding that I'd never know unless I tried. The only sure thing was that I didn't like the look of the years ahead. On October 18, 1971, I made the decision and gave my life to Jesus. Two weeks later I quit my job, packed what would fit into my Volkswagen and headed for

I could have stayed in Salina. The place has churches, and God is everywhere. But I just don't like Kansas. It's flat and the thick air a disappointment after the knife-sharp sunlight of Colorado. It was easy for me to believe God wanted me to join Craig in the church in Greeley.

I arrived in the strange town sometime after the early winter sunset. Eventually I found the college, and then Craig's dorm. He was on his way to talk with a friend, so we went over and that night Kathy gave her life to Jesus after asking a bunch of questions. It was somewhere around 0200. Early, anyway, in the cramped dorm room.

Every Sunday we'd meet for teaching and the Lord's Supper. Afterward we'd have a potluck meal and then a touch football game. Many of us in the church became friends. At the time it seemed easy, but that would change.

Craig stayed in Colorado, married and raised a family and now hosts students from overseas, through their church. Kathy moved back to Minnesota and raised her own family. I ended up in Los Angeles and in the fullness of time encountered God again after having drifted away. Some of us are more hard-headed than others, but God is patient.

A Billy Graham crusade. I wouldn't have watched.

Thank you, O God who made us, that you're such a good guide and bringer-together.

2005 January 21
Real World Evangel #4
rewritten January 23
edited January 25 (Blog only)

This is a beautiful, relational, amazing story.

Praise God for Billy G. and good friends!

Hey, I left a comment on your Jan. 12 (I think?) blog about grace. And thanks for the wonderful comments you shared with me today. Hope you are well!
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