About 8 months ago my pastor, Michael Catlett of McLean Baptist Church, shared a story with me about a pastor he knew who took a week every year to visit the kids from his church that had gone off to college in their home state. This man simply grabbed his keys, gased up the car, and visited students taking them to lunch or dinner along the way. After hearing the story I exclaimed, “Brilliant!”
Today, I hit the road joining in this wonderful story. The plan is to eat up about 650 miles of Virginia roads with my friend, writer, and pastor, Joshua Hayden. The itinerary is intense to say the least.
We met up in Fredericksburg, VA on Wednesday, March 28, departing from Hyperion in old town and made our way to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
After dropping Josh with our mutual friend Seth Horrell in Newport News, I made the trek further south to ODU. As I pulled up to La Herradura Holly Jones walked around the corner and Guy Paddock arrived in his car. I immediately delivered the goods to Holly from her Mom that I was carrying (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – so good) so as not to forget or eat them all.
A single enchilada with rice and beans as well as some enjoyable conversation later Guy made the offer to give me a tour of campus. The three of us jumped in the car and headed out. What a great campus! I especially loved the park overlooking the water and threatened to reserve it year round. In addition to the conversation the highlight of the visit for me was our stop at the lion statue and fountain in the middle of campus.
Evidently this lion statue is essential to the survival of a number of ODU students. Guy and Holly shared that a student that steps on the school seal across the campus will never graduate. The only way to nullify the affects of this disastrous act is to ride the lion! Holly then informed us she rode her bike across the seal…we’ll see what happens in four years! Sorry Walter and Cheryl.
We closed our visit by embracing a bit of campus life. The Student Activity Board was hosting a caricature drawing contest near the lion. Needless to say the artist emphasized my chest hair and Guy now has big ears. Holly was the only one to come out unscathed.
From ODU I traveled north surviving the Hampton underwater tunnel to pick up Josh at Seth’s church. As we pulled up to our hotel I thought to myself, “We’re in for an adventure. One I’m not sure I want to take.”
A covered smoke smell permeated the lobby. Our first room was contaminated by over zealous air fresher trying to compensate for Fido and Garfield’s lovely B.O. The second room looked and smelled much nicer but as Josh sat on his bed speaking with his wife and I worked to recover this very blog post (you are reading the second version) a voice cried in the wilderness of the Quality Inn and Suites, “Tom, is this a bed bug?” Having encountered Pharaoh’s worst enemy 6 years ago I raced to the room and said, “Let’s get the bugger!” We grabbed our stuff, Beddy Bugg included, walked to the front desk, and asked for a refund. By 11:30 pm we were on the road to glorious Richmond!
Before the bulk of Adventure Hayden/Lynch at Quality Suites I enjoyed a couple great hours of conversation and laughs with Bobby Barry, Maddie Templeton, and Aly Massey at Nawab Indian Cuisine. What fun! For someone who thought he’d be eating college subs for three days I had hit pay dirt with Mexican and now Indian. MBC students have great taste!
10 minutes into conversation Bobby and Aly exposed Maddie’s not so subtle super power for cliff hanger stories, Bobby’s plans to take over the world as President (definitely my interpretation), and Aly’s “Godfatherness” at this particular Indian Restaurant revealed, they had me sharing some of my more embarrassing stories from college. I’m not sure they were as impressed by my ability to clear an entire dance floor of girls at a fraternity house at Michigan State as the brothers of that particular frat were but I think they were hoping I would reenact the soup dance for them.
After enjoying some really good Panak Paneer we headed outdoors and took some shadowy pictures by the light of my car’s headlamps. I filmed part two of my college interviews and we parted ways.
During the course of the day Josh and I discussed that this was one the most meaningful ministry “things” we’d ever done. I know for me it has already been significant. It was a day filled with table fellowship, making new friends, and continuing relationships begun less than a year ago. My hope is that the students know that their church loves each of them, that we think about them even though they’re not seen week to week, and that I’m interested in knowing them.
After a 6 hour night of sleep at a great Holiday Inn in Richmond we head into “Jeffersonland” to enjoy lunch with Wahoos. Val, Krista, Lauren, and I will spend a couple hours together around UVA then we’ll hit the road again, make a quick stop in Lynchburg, and grab a hotel in Blacksburg where Spenser Thompson decides my fate! Will it be a 9 pm dinner or a late breakfast. Stay tuned to find out how this gripping tale unfolds.