Jumping right in to a new experience is not a foreign concept for Evan Travelstead. He admits that he often does things that some would term crazy, the most recent adventure being swimming with whale sharks off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. “I don’t know that I would necessarily say I was freaked out this particular time, more just awestruck and in this state of amazement,” he says. “I mean, what is there to say after you just swam alongside a 30-foot shark?”
Swimming with whale sharks isn’t the only new thing Evan has tried recently. A couple of months ago, he began a new adventure: volunteering with the 33rd Street campus team. Over the past year, he’d have a recurring thought every now and then to get involved with 33rd Street. He had been wanting a spiritual challenge when Campus Minister Bill Behr asked if he’d be interested in joining the team. His response was a simple: “Sure, I’ll give it a try. Count me in.”
“I think people often spend a lot of time internally debating whether a path for them is God’s will or if they should step forward or perhaps step back,” Evan says. “At least I do anyway. But I also think that if you have good intentions, or want to see God made much of, or people uplifted, then it’s usually best to just go for it and give it your best shot. This was just another one of those kinds of decisions for me.”
Evan’s initial decision to serve was easy, but he recalls some of the intimidation he experienced on his first day of serving: “I was setting up all our sound equipment, and the inmates were in their cells beating on the windows, and there was a lot of shouting between rooms. I was thinking, What have I gotten myself into? And once the doors slid open and the men came out to talk, I was pretty nervous about how to actually strike up conversation with them. I had this thought that because they were in jail, we wouldn’t have anything in common or anything to talk about. But I came to realize that most of these guys are actually very similar to me in many respects. And if I’m completely honest with myself, I’m really just one bad decision away from being in their position. Once I processed through that, it made things much easier.”
As a graphic designer, Evan is familiar with recognizing and creating things that are aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. It’s no wonder that he seeks to invest his time in work he finds similarly meaningful and life-giving. According to Evan, this is exactly what happens when he serves with 33rd Street. “It’s actually been a really refreshing experience for me,” he says. “It’s very apparent that the group of guys that attend really wants to be there. Amidst all the noise and distractions, they’re eager to learn. They’re eager to listen. They’re eager to make an effort to better understand and be understood. I guess it’s important to me to take time to take the focus off myself, and serve, and see if I can make someone else smile, or laugh, or feel valued, or feel important. Whether it’s greeting someone in the morning, or building a Lego tower with a 3-year-old in Base Camp, or praying with an inmate at 33rd, or even just sitting and enjoying a service with a friend sitting alone in service… It’s the little things that make a difference, and I think it’s worth making those kind of things a priority.”
For more information about serving with the 33rd Street campus team, visit our 33rd Street campus page.
If you’re interested in learning more about service opportunities at your campus, check out the Serve at Summit page.
Guest blogger Sarah Joseph is a contributor to the Summit blog, SUMMIT MAGAZINE, and our Sermon Study Guides.