Story written by Mike Green, Executive Director
Lance had been a regular at Campus Life at his middle school for two years. Well, at least he had been in the room. Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, he showed up every week and would head straight to the corner of the gym and read while the rest of the students participated. Leaders attempted to engage with him but he would just glare back at them. Perhaps he came to the gym just to escape all the other students. It was obvious that Lance found it difficult to fit in. Fast forward to the end of that year and Lance began approaching our leaders and sometimes even answering their questions. On other days, he would simply stare back at them. And then, he would always go to his corner of the gym. But, nonetheless, he was there every week.
For the 2022-2023 school year, we moved to the choir room for our Campus Life club. Lance was always the first through the door. I envisioned him jumping off his bus and running to the Campus Life room. Upon arrival, leaders always attempted to engage him in conversation. Some days he responded. Other days he didn’t. Either way, he proceeded to briskly walk around the room and attempted to avoid eye contact with everyone. You have to look closely but Lance was slowly warming up. I offered a handshake or a fist bump to Lance on many occasions but he said “I don’t touch people.” But the conversations slowly grew longer. Little by little Lance was becoming more receptive to me and the other leaders.
During May of 2023, we held our last club of the year at Lance’s school. As usual, he was first in the room and could even be described as “chatty.” He seemed more interested to talk than any other week, which led to him sharing that he was moving to Birmingham over the summer. It seemed to dawn on both of us at the same moment that this might very likely be the last time we see each other. I gave him my business card and told him to let me know when he knows his new school in hopes that I can connect him to Campus Life or another ministry. He accepted my card with a smile and said “I have really enjoyed this.” Words of high praise coming from Lance. You could see on Lance’s face that he had more to say but just couldn’t find the words. I was about to hug him, but then I remembered his feelings about physical touch. So, I stuck out my fist like I had done on at least a dozen prior occasions. And today, finally, Lance gave me a fist bump. Of the hundreds, or probably thousands, of fist bumps I have received in my life, this was the most memorable. And with that, he headed off to class.
Of my thirty-five years, this past year been one of the most memorable and rewarding. Conversations with kids like Lance, Lou, Lukas, Kordell, Shayne, Elizabeth, Jackson, Collyn and Troy will stick with me. God will take our conversations, fist bumps, crazy games and imperfect words to draw kids into a relationship with His Son. We have seen it hundreds of times before. And there is much more to come.
There is much to celebrate.