Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overwhelming Underwhelmed


It has been two days since my trip to Graceville to visit the Baptist College of Florida and I have been able to finally sift through my thoughts and emotions in regards to the experience.  First let me say that I went up there based on the counsel of my friends and mentors. In honesty I was going there to eliminate Bible College as a possible direction in my life because I just didn’t necessarily feel like it was the direction I/We wanted to go.

I took the ride with my friend Zeb who is a graduate from BCF and is now a pastor. The long ride was made quite enjoyable as we talked a lot about ministry, sacrifice and reward.   Finally we arrived, and I will confess I was quite underwhelmed. Living close to Gainesville and near to colleges such as UF, Santa Fe, and Central Florida College had not realistically prepared my mind for what this school was going to be like.  First of all, the campus is quite small. Most of the school is visible from the parking spot in front of the administration building.  Aside from being small, most of the structures at the school look quite old. There are some very nice revisions to the interior of some of buildings but the campus as a whole looks fairly dated.  None the less, I was committed to having an open mind throughout the tour.

I checked in with administration and was shown around to the different buildings and classrooms and met and handful of staff and professors. All were extremely friendly and helpful.  I was able to meet with the Registrar and she quickly looked over my community college transcripts and promptly checked off several courses that would transfer should I decide to attend there. After seeing the campus, we strolled over to visit the Married Housing Complex to view a unit. On the way over, the admissions counselor giving the tour gave me the disclaimer that the units were quite small and old. SHE WAS RIGHT.  Not much I can say about those little cottages except that it is certainly different than what we are living in now.

After the tour was complete we were treated to a free lunch at the “Caf”. During lunch I was having thoughts about how pretty much nothing about the school appealed to me. I mean sure, the curriculum is solid and the staff is nice, but there are plenty of Bible Colleges all over with good curriculum and instructors…colleges in amazing locations with cutting edge technologies and activities. And that housing… no way is my wife going to go for that! If Bible College was going to be for us, I think we might choose another one and if God somehow did lead us to this one, we may decide on off-campus housing.

After lunch we were about to head out when one of Zeb’s friends called his cell phone. It was a guy named Tim who lives over in the Married Housing Complex with his family. Tim invited us to come by for a few minutes so we headed back over there for a visit.

After catching up with Zeb, Tim asked me about my thoughts in regards to the school and I shared with him all of the same thoughts I just shared with you.  It was at this point, that the Spirit started to move as Tim and his wife shared their story with me. The similarities between our family and Tim’s are astonishing. Tim is the same age as I am. They have kids around the same age as Tyler and Kaylee. They are from Lake City, Florida which is not far from here, and like us they lived in a 4-bedroom brick house that they gave up for this little old cottage in the Married Housing Complex at BCF in Graceville, Florida.

At first Tim and his wife shared the same thoughts and concerns about the school and the housing as did I. However, just as he was sharing his experiences with me, someone shared with him and they were moved to sacrifice and bring their family to BCF in order to experience a time of preparation and relationship building in order that they may go out and serve God in the most productive way possible.  It was here in Tim’s house that I started understanding that I was looking at this college in the wrong perspective. Were we considering going to Bible College for fancy living and wildly distractions or was the true purpose to have focus on the things of God and build strong, meaningful and lifelong relationships? In an instant I started seeing this school and its humble surroundings in a different light.

What a benefit to have to give up some luxuries to come and study and live here.  What a good trade to be a little cramped for a couple of years so that our children can run and play and build friendships all with kids who are pastor’s kids, missionary’s kids, etc. A neighborhood where the kids can run safely knowing that there are 50 other parents who love and care for your kids like their own.

In this brief 15 minute meeting not only did my perspective change, but the Spirit of God moved in a mighty way.  Tim reminded me that sometimes, as did he before answering the call to go to BCF, that we can be like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. The rich young ruler came to Jesus and says teacher what do I need to do in order to inherit eternal life. And Jesus replies, “keep the commandments”, to which the young man replies, “I have”. Jesus then says, go sell what you possess and come follow me. When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

I left the school that afternoon feeling quite different than when I had first arrived there. I’m not quite ready to say that I am 100% certain that we need to go, but I do feel good enough about it that after I shared my thoughts with the family, we all feel like we need to go up and take a second look together.

I know that there are some of you reading this that just do not understand the logic in this consideration. To uproot our family and subject ourselves to sacrifice. The only thing I can say is that if you believe in the same God as we do, you must realize that God’s blessings far out way anything we can create ourselves outside of His will. There are a good many people who by the world’s standards are “successful” in the things of life, yet they are miserable with their circumstance. 

We know that if we neglect God’s call on our life that we could not be peaceful or happy no matter how comfortable of a house we live in, how many things of comfort we collect, or how much we can be proud of keeping the same job regardless of whether or not it is an enjoyable endeavor for us.
Bottom line is that if we are seeking God with all of our hearts and minds, His blessing WILL be upon us. The Bible says, If God is for us, who can be against us?

In my opinion the only reason anyone would chose to go to BCF is out of a sincere desire to develop a closer relationship and become more prepared to serve God. It isn’t for the awesome sports teams, or for a great location on the beach or in the city, or the amazing housing units complete with all of the amenities and perks. 

We ask each of you to pray with and for us. That God will continue to show and guide our family.
This Saturday our family will be going back up to Graceville to meet see the campus and meet with Tim’s family and perhaps a couple others. We look forward to posting our results.

-The Harmons

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