The Incredible Journey Part 1: The Context

At the end of this month will be my and Molly’s 13th anniversary. With that upcoming date looming, I’ve decided start an ambitious Twenty(ish?)-Part project telling the story of how Molly and I met, developed a friendship, and eventually ended up together on this crazy, incredible journey called Life. These posts will be shortish and topical to specific memories or moments that I consider critical to the two of us getting to know one other better. Or, maybe they are just funny anecdotes. I’m not really sure to be honest.

I imagine this will someday be of interest to some of my children or other interested parties. It would be curious to get her to write down her take to see what similarities our memories have … and where they might diverge! Anyway, sit back and enjoy part 1, which simply sets the stage for what is to come.

Part 1: The Context

On August 1, 2005, I loaded up my Mitsubishi Mighty Max pickup truck with all of my earthly belongings and began the 100-mile drive from my parent’s house in Bayou Black to my new dormitory in Lafayette. I had recently graduated from Nicholls State University the previous May with a degree in English. All that summer, I had been fundraising monthly support for a ten-month internship with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and had just quit my college job at the South Central Planning and Development Commission, where I had been for about 2 ½ years doing traffic counting, data entry, and other grunt work. I was 23 years old, and would be turning 24 in 18 days. After being involved with Chi Alpha at Nicholls State as a student for 5 years – the last 2 of which I spent as the president and interim director – I was excited for this new adventure.

I could speak at length about my time with Nicholls State Chi Alpha, and perhaps I will someday. However, it is not necessary for this story other than the starting point. After spending five years involved in this ministry, I “knew” I wanted to be a full-time Campus Missionary, working with college students to grow deeper in their faith and creating a community where people who maybe did not grow up in a Christian home could explore the faith. I made the decision to pursue this field early in my college career, and when the Campus Missionary who had been at Nicholls when I arrived as a freshman resigned his position and asked me to serve as the interim director, I felt all the more confirmation that this was God’s direction for my life.

As graduation came closer, I began to explore different options for an internship. This internship was a requirement to 1) get practical experience – which to be honest I felt I had at this point, 2) to have a time of being mentored by a veteran missionary in the field, and 3) to get some theological and ministry education by taking both a few correspondence and hands-on training classes taught by the ministry staff. I had many different options for this internship all over the country, but after looking at the various options it appeared to me that one of the best ones was here in the state, only a couple hours from home. That made the decision fairly easy and I don’t remember giving any other location any serious consideration.

Fifteen days before I was set to leave for Lafayette, however, my grandfather Max Manning passed away after being sick for several weeks. Peepaw, as we called him, and I were close. I was the oldest of his eight grandchildren, and he only live right up the road from me. Almost every weekend of my childhood was spent at his house. I even lived there one summer during college after my parents had renovated my bedroom into an office. And, again, while I could write pages on Peepaw, this part of the story is also included here for only for context so I will cut it short and get to the point. Instead of spending the final two weeks before my internship finishing up my fundraising, I instead spent it spending time with family and preparing for the funeral at which my family had requested that I speak and prepare a video/powerpoint. It wasn’t that I neglected my fundraising duties and other preparations, it’s just that I had other priorities at that point – a lot to do and very little time to do it all. I remember after the funeral and other family obligations were over returning home, sitting in my bedroom, and being physically sick for several days afterwards.

An old photograph of me and Peepaw, sometime in the mid-1990s

But that was all over now – August 1, 2005. My truck was loaded. The gas tank was full. My mind was focused. It was time to turn the page and start this next chapter.