Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
Hey gang: I have begun to dig into the recesses of my brain and write the whys, the way’s and the wondrous miracles that my bride and I were blessed to see in the early development years of the Village. In my research for Chapter One, The Why and Very Early Years, I came across a picture of me and wondered why anyone would have invested millions of dollars to bring my dream into reality-ville. I was a totally unknown quantity- to even my Charter Board members!
There are times in our lives when we are truly blessed with an experience that can only be placed in the miracle-file and can literally change our life. I had one of those experiences early in the development of the Village. I thought I was a giving person, up to that point in my life, but a group of wonderfully dedicated young people mentored me into an entirely new level of sacrificial giving.
Project Survive is a seventeen-day, wilderness experience that changes the lives of young guys and gals; many of who had made very bad decisions in their young lives. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a unique battle ground when fighting for the very lives of trouble youngsters.
The new recruits had arrived on campus with their normal, salty attitudes and staff was equipping them for an experience they really did not want to experience. They were sorting gear when I received a tragic phone call from the State Police: one of the staff had been killed in a motorcycle accident in route to joining the Project Survive Team.
I drove up to the camp site, where each staff were dealing with a multitude of problems, and called the five men and two woman counselors aside from the kids and told them that Jim would not be making this trip - he had made another trip earlier in the day. I gave them the option, I would notify the agencies to come and get the kids and we would scrub this trip: but they would have no part of that!
I stood there watching as they completed the orientation and prepared and packed the bus in readiness to begin the all-day trip- ‘in an air condition-less bus’ to the Porcupine Mountains of the UP. There they would begin their seventeen-day reclamation process with a bunch of kids who did not want to be there and would do all in their power to send that message - as clearly possible.
When I run into kids and staff from that group of warriors, who endured that seventeen days of fighting everything from bears in camp to horrendous black flies, all are quick to tell me they would never do it again- but they would not trade the experience for anything.
We learned that when we are willing to lay down our lives and give sacrificially, God gives us His very special blessings. The lesson, there is no greater love than to deny self, take up your cross and give of yourself to God to be used as He sees fit. There is no question in my mind this was the toughest group of kids we sent into the UP that summer to fight the bears and black flies, but it was also the group that benefited the most. God is good, all the time!