Of Work Crews and Farvest Hall

Summit Semester Benjamin JoyceAh, where to begin? My Summit experience all started this summer when my father introduced me to the two-week program held in California. At this time I was still an arguably “normal” kid, living at home with my family in Canada and studying architecture. Little did I know that this was all about to change. Without going into detail, Summit’s short two-week program hugely impacted my faith in Christianity and revolutionized my perspective on learning. When the program was finished, I was left with an overload of information, which I knew if further explored and applied properly had the potential to change my life. My primary concern was that an intense academic semester in my architectural studies the following fall wouldn’t allow this growth and maturation to occur. After much prayer, investigation, and late night phone calls with Dustin, the program director (minus the late night part), I decided that Summit Semester was just what I needed. Going into Semester I had high expectations for what I wanted to get out the program. Mostly, I was anticipating an atmosphere where I could grow closer to the Lord and work through how the big questions of my faith applied to my day-to-day life. Secondary, but not any less important, was my desire to learn church history and develop friendships with others my age who shared similar desires.

Instead of explaining, in elaborate detail, my twenty-seven hour road trip to get here or my first impressions made, I will focus in on a specific aspect of life here at the compound, which has made a great impression upon me. Although this may seem somewhat odd, work crews have been one of my favorite ongoing activities. Before you stop reading due to shear boredom, hear me out. There are four different work crews, the first of which is the Indoor Crew, which focuses on cleaning the buildings (including the toilets) as well as vehicle maintenance. The Outdoor Crew cleans up the grounds, sand lots of wood, and occasionally spill stain on the decks. The Kitchen Crew gets to bleach and clean everything in the kitchen (go figure) and usually get to make beautiful meals with the supervision of kitchen-master Steven Calabrese. The final crew, consisting of two lucky individuals, baby sits Dustin and Ruthann’s three children. I am starting to think the system is rigged because I have not gotten this privilege thus far. Nathan, the Property Manager, and Tony, his right hand man, open each work crew teaching us a Christian perspective on God’s intentions for work. Coming into the program my perspective on work was that it was a necessary evil, a sacrifice for the greater good, a means to an end. Although I would consider myself a hard worker, my motivation for doing good work and for diligence was focused on the money I would make and what that money would do for me. After sitting through a few informal sessions with Nathan and Tony, I came to realize the implications of true servant-hood and understand more fully how work has always been intended by God to be a worshipful act. We were created to work. Through work we have the unique privilege of reflecting different aspects of the character of our Creator. Not only this, but through our daily work we, as redeemed sons and daughters of Christ, can be a part of His restorative work in the world around us.

Just so that y’all don’t think it’s a big old commune here in Colorado, I’ll give you a sketch of one of the gnarliest days at Summit Semester, also known as Farvest Hall (apologies for the name…its origins trace back to a dyslexic American). Warning: if you are not emotionally stable you may find yourself experiencing extreme jealousy and could potentially lose your identity as an alternate world is presented to you in vivid color. The day is Monday October 27th 2014. I awake abruptly to the sound of a violin but automatically make negative thought associations with it. You may ask why. I did too. With the use of advanced reasoning, learned over the course of the past two months from Dr. Bauman, I believe I have come to a fair conclusion. The violin sound bursts ebulliently forth from a smart phone that is not mine. The owner of the phone that makes violin noises happens to be my roommate. The same cacophony has awoken me every morning since the beginning of September, proof that The Fall has the potential to ruin just about everything good in this world. Moving on. This was a morning like no other. My physical self drags itself out bed after the rude awakening and puts on a pair of running shorts and shoes, which are seldom used, as well as a red shirt. My arm pushes open the to the mountainous wilderness and I breathe in the crisp air of a cool but sunny October morning. With the energy afforded by an empty stomach, I jog down the winding gravel driveway to a plateau in the earth where the maintenance shed is located. This morning however, in the middle of the bending driveway there is a fire burning with feverous intensity. Thirty other students of similar disposition flood down the same path and congregate near the fire where a few staff members are standing with instructive and excited expressions plastered on their faces. The first event of the day is a five-kilometer thing. The intensity of this “thing” is not fully comprehended by my consciousness until “GO!” is screamed and thirty of us take off at a break neck pace towards the sand volleyball court. Once we reach the volleyball court, we are instructed by a sign to bear crawl across it, an exercise not beneficial to a wrist suffering from carpel tunnel. Fueled completely with adrenaline, I lunge from my bearlike position and continue to race my competitors on the outlined trail. Over the next five kilometers we engage in a mixture of uphill and downhill running, hurtling and weaseling our way through various obstacles. Some individuals however, who aren’t feeling athletically inclined, take a passive approach and decide that races are meant to be a time for dancing, walking and laughing. Nonetheless, after we all make it across the finish line, an outdoor breakfast is served, and I attempt to get a bit of nourishment to my body between wheezes and coughs.

After a much needed break I locate the five other students wearing red shirts and we gather together to receive instructions for the morning’s final event: a photo scavenger hunt. In short, much fun is had – although we did end up losing that competition. Now is when I get tired of writing in present tense. In the afternoon we shot skeet with shotguns, carved pumpkins, and had a bunch of other well thought out and creative team activities (shout out to all the fabulous staff that planned it all!). Break-time happened next. Dinner was elaborate and I’d go way over my word count if I listed everything we ate and drank, although butter-beer (non alcoholic) needs specific mention. In the evening, we got festive like you wouldn’t believe. We all wore costumes, took pictures, and enjoyed food over stimulating conversation. I dressed as an Amazon woman, but I have tried to forget that part of the night. Following dinner, we all went over to Echo Canyon lodge where we square danced our feet sore. To finish off the night, a few of us bundled up and went stargazing. This is usually a rich and contemplative activity but for some reason, I attribute it to exhaustion, we laughed and joked the entire time. The underlying message in this narrative is that we are learning lots, lifelong relationships are being formed and the staff are fantastic!

Benjamin Joyce traveled from Toronto, Canada to join this year’s Summit Semester class. Currently enrolled in Ryerson University, Benjamin is pursuing a degree in Architectural Sciences. He is looking forward to using these skills as another means of worshiping God. While at Summit Semester, Benjamin will be looking to work on his study habits, approach to studying the Bible, and communication skills. During his free time, Benjamin enjoys sports, reading, and playing the guitar.