Hanging with a Few Hundred of My Closest Friends

Robert Turner

As the time approached for our recent National Collegiate Summit in Nashville, I saw several posts on FB by campus ministers using the title phrase above to describe how they were approaching  the event. I must confess I was among that group. It’s a trite phrase, seriously overused, but it still points to an important truth: Our Baptist collegiate ministry network, especially for those of us who have invested a lifetime in this world, really operates as an extended family. We’re only several hundred strong, but because we share a common ministry focus, we understand one another. I’m pretty sure I knew, or was known by, more people at that event than probably any place on the planet, a statement many more could claim. So when we get together for national gatherings like the Summit, it literally is like a family reunion. These are my friends, my tribe, my people.

There is so much shared history among us. Summer weeks spent at Glorieta or Ridgecrest Collegiate Weeks with our families and watching each others’ kids become friends and grow up over the years. Mission and Vision trips together across the USA and to the far corners of the world. Untold work teams and committees where we tried to pray through and figure out the best ways forward. And at each of these, late nights spent in iron sharpening iron conversations, sharing our deepest thoughts and struggles and in the process becoming a Band of Brothers and Sisters across both time and distance.

I saw some I know really well. I spent time with my long-time friends Roger and Rose Bear, whom I first met before they were even married, back in Cincinnati in the 1970s when we all were taking our first steps as campus ministers in Ohio. They have invested decades in the work in Indiana and are fervently praying for whom God will call to follow them.

I got to hang with other long-time friends, such as Mel Cruikshank, Salt Jones, Greg Alexander, Ken Harmon, Jerome Stockert, Joe Todd, David Buschman, Mike McQuitty, and Sean Lathrop.

Some I didn’t know too well, but got to know a little better, like Joel Bratcher from Texas A&M. (Thanks, Joel, for the brief but good conversation walking back down Broadway following a meal.)

Then there were fellow state collegiate leaders, whom I will mercifully keep nameless, with whom I conversed about the angst of approaching retirement, what might happen after we’ve moved on, and most importantly, finishing well.

I got to see major influencers, such as Max Barnett, Carolyn Teague, Mike Lopez, Arliss Dickerson, Van Simmons, David James, and more recently, Mark Whitt and Brian Frye.

And lest this seem like a trip down memory lane, it is evident we are in good hands going forward. I’m thinking of the “new veterans, “ leaders like Chris James, Beth Masters, and Jonathan Yarboro. And of those who have more recently taken up the mantle of campus ministry leader, represented by the likes of Kevin Cox, Itamar Elizalde, Eric Reiber, Paul and David Worcester, Josh Edney, Arjay Gruspe, and so many more. Yes, we are in good hands.

And did you get the opportunity to meet one of our oldest newbies, George Loper, a 68 year-old retiree from the Philadelphia area who loves students so much that he spends whole afternoons on local college campuses telling students about Jesus? I hope you did. He was a last-minute addition who absolutely loved hanging with a few hundred new friends and learning how to be an even better campus evangelist.

Oh, and did I mention that a real conference took place while we hung out together, complete with great speakers, worship, breakouts, and affinity groups? Lots of opportunities to gain new insights and polish our skills for next chapters of ministry. Thanks to the BCNet Leadership Team for all their hard work to make the 2015 version of the Summit a success.

Yes, the conference part of the Summit was great, and I don’t want to minimize that. But if all the Summit was was a big room to hang together for three days, it would still be worth it. Because these are my friends, my tribe, my people. As I am sure they are yours.


Guest Blogger–Robert Turner, Emerging Regions National Consultant and State Collegiate Leader, Pennsylvania/South Jersey

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