College student Evan Holsonback does not like fake stories, and none of his friends seem to, either. So to honor them, I’m going to tell you a real story: theirs.
Going into the interview for this story, I only knew a few facts:
1) I would be interviewing some “very cool” college students.
2) These college students had been noticed by leadership at Summit for their service in various children’s ministries.
3) These same college students also once complimented Herndon Campus Pastor Zach Van Dyke’s shoes and now—according to several sources—he “won’t stop talking about it.”
After a couple of emails back and forth between Evan and me, we arranged to meet for an interview. I’d be bringing along my computer and a notepad (so that I looked like a real journalist). He’d be bringing along his posse (Bianca Pizarro, Edson Vargas, Craig Carrier, Libby Rymer, and Yasmine Plantilla).
In writing this story, I have already caught myself referring to this group of college students as “kids,” several times. It’s part of the paradoxical nature of college students: from the outside, college seems like a kind of “in-between” stage of life, a stepping stone to adulthood. And while we expect someone at this stage to make adult decisions (including, but not limited to: What they’re going to do with their entire lives, etc.), we also sell them short in a lot of really big and really important ways. Culturally, we’ve come to view college as a time of irresponsibility and selfishness. I felt it when I was a college student—this idea that only upon graduation will I, a “kid,” become an adult; only then will I have entered the “real world.”
Well, my new friends Evan, Bianca, Edson, Craig, Libby, and Yasmine are not kids. But they do spend a lot of their time with them. On any given Sunday at Summit, you can find each of these not-kids either cradling babies, reading the Bible with second graders, or emotionally preparing fifth graders for the flaming trash can that we lovingly refer to as “middle school.”
…But why? Why is a group of six (truly very cool) college students spending so much of their time within the walls of Summit? If college is a time of selfishness for so many, why are they instead deciding to spend a great deal of their time so selflessly?
Bianca’s decision to serve at Summit was influenced largely by her own past. Growing up in Puerto Rico as a child of a single mother, college students at the local church that she attended were critical to her development—not just as a young Christian but as a human. Knowing how she had been so positively affected by the college students who had poured into her at a young age, Bianca felt like she couldn’t keep that to herself. So now she finds herself in a role reversal of sorts—now she is the college student investing in younger children. “As the church pours into you,” she says, “you then pour into the church.”
Edson has never had an emotional moment in which the clouds parted and a voice from the sky told him where he fits. He says he’s always relied much more on logic than emotion, anyway—it’s always seemed clear to him when reading the Bible that we are called to do things. The hazier part has been figuring out what, exactly, his things are. In regard to his service at Summit, he recalls a critical moment in which Evan asked him, “Don’t you think you should serve at the church you go to?” At that moment, it all seemed pretty obvious to him, and that night he found himself drafting an email to the Base Camp team at Summit. But even after diving into serving, it took him a while to feel like he was doing it for the “right reasons.”
Yasmine has had a similar experience. After serving at Summit a while back, she took a break to reevaluate when she found herself feeling under-appreciated and isolated. In her time away from serving, she began to question herself. Why did she need so much affirmation in what was supposed to be purely a gift to the Lord, to the church, to the parents and children she was serving? And if it felt like a chore, should she even be doing it at all?
After Yasmine voices these feelings, they are echoed in some way by every member of the group. It appears that each of them, at some point, has been plagued by similar questions.
We could go around in circles discussing altruism and whether it does or doesn’t exist (and I feel like this is a group of people who I could totally have that conversation with), but that doesn’t really seem like the real question here.
So what if the only reason you’re serving is because you don’t want to be alone? Or because it makes sense on a logical level? Or because you know you’re supposed to? Are any of these motives “pure”? And… does it matter? Is God not greater than even our most impure intentions?
Evan, Edson, and Craig serve in Stepping Stones with the youngest of Summit’s youth. Prior to this, each of them had very limited contact with members of the haven’t-learned-to-walk-yet crowd. They wanted to kind of jump into that world in case, you know, there are more babies in their future. “I had never even held a baby before,” Evan says. They each agree that spending so much time with these little ones is almost like being part of a science experiment where they get to be observers of human nature in its purest—and sometimes most nonsensical—form.
“The kids will keep licking something that is not food,” Craig says. “After a couple of licks, they have to know it’s plastic. It is obviously not ice cream, but they still keep licking it.”
I think a lot of people can serve without ever questioning their motives or wondering why they really are doing what they are doing. But this group strikes me as the types of people who don’t want to spend 30 minutes licking an ice cream cone only to eventually discover that it is plastic. They are seekers of information, but they don’t stop there. They want to understand. And their understanding informs their service. It gives them an authenticity that is rare not just in college students but in humans in general.
The important thing to notice is that, even after questioning their motives (and even after not being able to find true clarity about them), this group is still serving. They’re still doing.
In true obedience, we do not get the glory. All glory goes to him. Obedience does not have to look like a completely pure heart—something that we can only hope to see glimpses of on this side of heaven—but instead, it looks like doing something, even when there is reason to question your motives, and then leaving room for God to be God.
“What I receive is so much greater than what I give,” Evan says. “God rewards our actions when we serve, and that is something that I didn’t expect when I decided to devote time to Summit.”
Libby can attest to this fact. She attended Summit for years without considering herself “rooted” in the church—slipping in and out of service every Sunday without fully diving in. After making the leap to serve in Base Camp, she got connected to a Summit Connect group…and now leads one. Looking back now, she sees that one single step has led to a fuller life in every sense. Her takeaway? “God honors our little steps.”
Evan, Bianca, Edson, Craig, Libby, and Yasmine are living in community in the way that it was intended—leaning on each other for accountability and encouragement. They’re reading their Bibles and seeing a call and, in obedience, taking it to heart. They’re doing something and then being willing to be surprised by what God does with their actions. Are they perfect? No. But they’re trying. And they have a lot more to offer than just really great taste in shoes.
We are in need of new Base Camp volunteers across Summit campuses who are willing to create a fun, safe environment for children to dance, laugh, and learn about Jesus. Join the team!
Lexi is a partner here at Summit. She has been attending Summit for almost three years, is a volunteer writer and artist on our magazine team, and volunteers in Base Camp as a Large Group Storyteller and in BCL. Lexi is a Grants Manager for a nonprofit called Education Foundation and she loves doodling, laughing, napping, and telling anyone who will listen about how much she loves Matt Damon.