BY BRIAN JONES
Elevate 2014 | La Jolla, California
Resonate Church sent 73 students and staff from Washington State University and the University of Idaho to get jobs and live in a hotel together in La Jolla, California. Strategic? Of course. Crazy? Yes.
Brimming carloads of college students arrived only a few miles from the La Jolla Shores. Each student eagerly brought their unique hopes, dreams and individual stories, collectively merging together to fulfill the Greater Story. Many of these “Elevators” had been baptized only weeks before their arrival, and were at the peak of anxiousness and excitement, ready to begin the greatest adventure of their lives.
There are endless stories, moments, and days from this summer that have foundationally changed the lives of our college students. But to tell you the greater story, I must tell you Clyde’s story.
Loud music, volleyballs and Frisbees flying, burgers, ridiculous dance moves, shouts, and people everywhere. This was where you would have wanted to be on a Sunday evening in La Jolla—with us.
We called these really big BBQ’s our house parties, which gave our students an opportunity to invite their co-workers and California friends to party with the entire Elevate crew.
Marissa, just baptized at Resonate weeks before we left, invited Clyde to our first BBQ. Clyde was living on a military base, working Monday through Friday to exhaustion, and had no consistent friends. That Sunday evening, Clyde was asked more questions than he had ever been asked and made 70 new friends, connecting specifically with a couple of guys on our project. A little overwhelmed but excited to have met so many people, Clyde told us he would absolutely be back the next Sunday.
Soon enough, one Sunday visit turned into regular weeknights sharing buckets of ice cream. In two weeks’ time, everyone knew Clyde.
“You guys are just so different than any other friends I’ve ever had!” Clyde said.
Wanting to know more about who we are, he asked Cameron (one of the students in my room) if he could go to church with us the next Sunday morning.
This summer, we didn’t just attend church. We partnered with local church plants and showed up early each week to set up, engage, and invite families in the area to attend.
In no time, every Sunday morning, Clyde came early with us to serve at the break of dawn and hang out until our BBQs ended after sundown.
On Wednesday nights, the Elevate students and leaders gathered in our Villages to eat dinner together and talk about everything in life that we were learning, loving, and processing through. One particular night on the tail end of our summer, we were diving into the struggles and joys of biblical community.
Our Elevate Villages were typically exclusive to our students on project, but we thought it would be fitting to invite Clyde to our Village to hear about his perspective of community.
Our welcome shook the walls.
He showed up late to a room packed with smile-sore cheeks and achy stomachs, the result of 45 minutes of laughter and tears shed from stories about how each of us have been adopted by community and captivated by Jesus.
“Clyde, what is community to you?” we asked.
With a smile from ear to ear and watery eyes, he said: “Before this summer, I had never had friends or known people like you guys. I feel like for the first time in my life, I am experiencing joy and real friends that actually care about me…. This has been the most fun season of my life. I’ve never experienced community before, but I can’t imagine it being better than this.”
We smiled back and told him how thankful we were for his friendship. Then, our friend Damian, who just started following Jesus months before, explained why we are able to experience the joy that drives us to love one other.
“It’s all because a sinless Savior died the death that we deserved,” Damian explained.
With a room full of energy and excitement, we erupted, “LETS GO TO THE BEACH AND JUMP IN THE WATER!”
We busted out of the hotel and piled into cars, yelling and playing our favorite music. The sand and waves must have felt the shift of excitement as we sprinted into the water.
“I need to tell you guys something,” Clyde yelled. “This night has been the most exhilarating night I’ve ever had.”
As everyone was dancing out of the water, he pulled Cameron and me aside, looked us intently in the eyes, and told us:
“I think I need to be baptized.”
“That’s awesome, but this water is only symbolic. It’s an external expression pointing to something that has happened in a person’s heart when they have trusted in Jesus completely and given their life to Him,” we explained.
Waves crashing and knocking the three of us over, Clyde said with understanding eyes, “I think I’m ready to do that. How do I do that?”
Clyde pulled us close, explaining that he had never prayed out loud before. He uttered the most beautiful prayer, asking God to forgive him for his sin and telling Him that he wanted to give his whole life to Jesus.
We ran out of the water to celebrate with the rest of our Village.
What happened after is the story of Resonate Church.
That night, our friend Arsenia led her co-worker to Christ while everyone else was snapping photos of the sunset.
The next night, another co-worker showed up at our hotel flustered, wanting to talk to our friend Meryn about the story she heard on the beach the night before. She gave her life to Jesus, too.
When someone encounters Jesus, a movement happens. When people witness a person going from death to life, they must consider the power of Jesus Christ.
Clyde is now connected to the local church that we served, and is being discipled by the pastor there. Clyde told us right before he was baptized that he had the opportunity to lead his friend, Rex, to Christ just a few days earlier.
This is the story of Elevate, an infectious movement of students doing life together in a hotel during the summer of a lifetime.