It was about February or March of my senior year of high school that I even began thinking about where to go to college or what I wanted to do. At the time I was pretty obssesive about missions and thought a good option might be to forgo college altogether and die a martyr’s death on the mission field in some foreign land. That was about my thinking at the time. I recall during a time of prayer one night hearing God say, “Chris, I know you would die for me, but will you live for me?” Now I had to make some decisions about next steps. This Nicki Long girl from youth group seemed to have her act together and had some college visits set up, so we drove to Liberty Univ. in Virginia for a weekend and neither of us found that a fit. What was a fit was the drive home for 9 hours talking about our lives and our futures and finding that we shared all of the same thinking. A good friendship over the years was becoming immensely more than that, this Nicki Long girl was the ‘catch’ any guy (and several tried) wanted to marry. The sparks were a flying and I think it started on this drive home from Liberty.
It turned out she was also going to visity Trinity College in Chicago soon for another weekend so I made the calls and got myself a spot on that trip as well with the local recruiter. Nicki was dating some dude named ‘Charles’ who was a junior and also on the recruiting trip in the van. Poor, poor, Charles, he didn’t stand a chance. Nice guy, but Nicki and I had far too much in common and he would soon be past history. We listened to the education chair give a recruiting appeal and we weren’t impressed. Then we decided to go listen to some guy over the Youth Ministry dept. give his talk about what they had to offer. His name was Rick Dunn and he would soon become a mentor and a dear friend. He talked about personhood and not programs. He shared about spiritual formation of the leader and a vision to reach the broken teenagers of our culture. I’m not sure he was even done giving his talk that I was looking for the dotted line to sign on, Nicki and I both were in. We would both be going to north Chicago to attend Trinity College and at the time, we were just friends. Shortly that would change, senior prom would be our first date (sorry Charles, I beat you to the ask) and by the time we moved into Trinity our freshman year, we were a package deal.
I walked onto the baseball team and Nicki was on scholarship for volleyball. I played a couple years but found my passion in serving as a youth pastor in local churches throughout my college days. Our closest friends became our youth leaders in these places and we had a blast just doing what we could to care for teens who were hurting. My fondest memories were being the volleyball boyfriend driving all over the region to watch Nicki play. She was/is an awesome player, she achieved being a 2 time All American in her junior and senior years and though sports was a huge part of my life, I lived vicariously through her accomplishments. I kind of regret not playing baseball my junior and senior year of college, choosing rather to work in ministry. Perhaps I could have enjoyed the whole time a bit more and not taken myself so seriously, but se la vi.
The community around the youth ministry department was as well it’s own niche in a small college. Rick and Jana were incredibly intelligent and compassionate professors and we were honored to study under them. My roommates Jason and Shane were not altogether normal (like me) and we had some great times. Floor hockey in the dorm hallway, late night skiing in Wisconsin, Spring Break baseball trips to Florida, Chicago deep dish pizza, movies and other shenanigans. I fondly remember Shane buying a gas station booklet in the bathroom on our way to Florida for a baseball tournament on Spring Break of awkwardly named sexual positions and giving it to me as an engagement gift. We then worked in the awkward phrases into our infield chatter to get in the head of our own pitchers cracking them up. Sounded something like, “hey now, Edmunds, here we go now buddy, one more strike, one more strike, whatta ya say now, standing bliss??”
Ahh, the colllege life. We learned a lot, we grew up some more and we made choices that would effect our future. Thanks to Trinity College for some good days.