David Appelgate (Session 5)

Summit Student Conference David Appelgate 2015 Colorado Session 5I came to Summit with, unwittingly, the wrong attitude.

I didn’t quite take it as seriously as I should have and didn’t realize the sheer amount of meat that would be introduced in just 13 days. But not only did God show me through it, but He changed my life during an episode of near-panic I had just three days into the conference that nearly ruined my entire self-labeled “vacation.”

I’ve been a Christian since 2009 but I can’t to the best of my recollection, ever recall a time that God spoke to me directly or a time when a verse jumped out at me as if it had my name on it.

That changed. I expected it to happen during a Stonestreet lecture, but it actually happened during a Josh McDowell lecture… that I was actually sitting out. But first, a bit about me, to help this make sense.

I was born profoundly deaf in both of my ears thanks to Usher’s Syndrome but was blessed to have been identified as deaf before I was even a month old, which led to a cochlear implant by the age of 18 months. For years people have told me that my speech is unbelievably well-developed despite my hearing loss. Despite my successes, there has been one big challenge I’ve had to overcome.

Implants just don’t fix everything. They are, in my opinion, one of God’s greatest contributions to the medical world, but they are still limited. I can’t function in noisy environments or in any group where more than one or two people are talking, which had led to many situations where I try to participate, end up saying something a mile away from the actual topic or get put on the spot with no clue as to what was said or what I should say. Needless to say, my self image and confidence suffer greatly on a regular basis.

Right as the McDowell lecture began, the batteries for my implant died, leaving me completely deaf and just that morning I’d realized that I’d forgotten my replacements at home. I panicked. I could theoretically fix my problem temporarily with a run to the store later in the day (not permanently – I ended up having to ship parts from home to finally fix it after a week of issues), but more than anything, I was very upset at missing a Josh McDowell lecture for something as silly as a half-ounce piece of electronics I’d left a thousand miles away. McDowell was most of the reason I was even interested in Summit in the first place. Why would God allow this to happen to me in the biggest character-building week of my life?

I found out.

I decided, despite my anger, to do a Bible study – something I haven’t done in months. So naturally, I looked up the word “hear.” I didn’t expect anything more than the cursory “Hear, O Israel… Hear, O Israel… can you hear me now, O Israel?” and “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

I looked up only one verse, and it stopped me dead.

I couldn’t be angry anymore. 

It was Psalm 94:9, which reads “Does He who implanted the ear not hear?” Now, I’ve never once in my life, in my seven years of being a Christian, heard God speak to me directly or through a passage of Scripture, but that changed right then. I can’t even describe the feeling because it was the first time I’d ever experienced it.

The best part about it – only the NIV 1984 translation uses the word “implanted.”  No other translation I can find uses it, and not only is that the one Bible I own, but my Bible is the only one of that translation I’ve seen in years!  And it was written by the guy I was named after. Too good not to be God.

I bring up this story because it was exactly then that I realized I’d come all the way from Oregon with the wrong expectations about Summit. It wasn’t just another school camp, just from a Christian worldview. This was a place to listen to God and His wisdom through the great speakers who have all been through far more than I could imagine by holding to the faith.

The next nine days were drastically different from the first three for me. I am in no shape whatsoever, and yet I managed to complete the Pikes Peak hike, easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had quite the mountaintop experience at the top of Pikes. (Sorry, I had to say it.)  Friendships began blossoming in sudden and strange ways, for someone from the standoffish big city of Portland. I found some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had in my small, five-person small group with people from Texas, Virginia, California and Missouri. Conversations I’d never have dreamed I could talk about with my best friend of six years at home, I had with people I’d known for six days. I could discuss the principles of sex and marriage with the girl next to me without either of us breaking our straight faces. No question was off the table for anybody – speaker, staffer, small group, student!

Despite lots of great advice and thought-provoking lectures during the camp itself, I was amazed to find that the greatest way God spoke to me was when I was actually sitting out one of the lectures entirely. I would actually miss five lectures across three days due to cochlear implant trouble (I didn’t fix the problem for good until the end of the first week), but the hours I spent in silence on the front porch in the Manitou Springs air with Him was the greatest spiritual experience that I’d never before felt.

I leave Summit now thankful for all the deep friendships I didn’t think would be there after just 13 days, as well as for my longtime favorite Christian author Josh McDowell (who autographed my copy of New Evidence, thanks Josh!), for John Stonestreet and Jeff Myers, who led me to ask some of the hardest questions I’ve had to deal with, and for all the other speakers who helped me begin to see through my cloudy future.

It’s my hope and prayer to return next summer as a staffer and share and act on the joy I found these last two weeks and hopefully help change someone else’s life the way that this group changed mine.