I am being a bit facetious with my title, of course. I really love the Great Commission. It’s the aim of Campus Renewal Ministries to equip students to be missionaries in the marketplace, in the neighborhoods, and especially overseas among the truly unreached. I just hate the Great Commission when my very best friends obey it.
In January, Mark Proeger, my friend of 22 years moved to South Africa with All Nations to be part of their church planting school. This coming August, Doug Beck, my friend of 22 years will be moving his family to the Dominican Republic to work with a mission called Makarios.
These are my two best friends in the world. We’ve shared everything together since I was 18 years old. Soon they will both live thousands of miles away. For this, I rejoice. For this, I am sad.
Mark and I met while on a mission trip to East Asia the summer before our freshman year at the University of Texas. We instantly bonded that summer and were college roommates our sophomore through senior years. I don’t have enough words to describe how much his friendship has meant to me, but three things stand out.
- The seven years we spent in ministry together as college pastors at UT, helping make Campus Renewal Ministries what is is today. He set the example for other ministries and churches regarding to how and why to partner in prayer and mission.
- The way we had a deep, meaningful relationship despite slight differences in theology. I always enjoyed learning from Mark’s perspective. I am a much more humble person because of the years I’ve spent learning from Mark.
- I remember rooming with Mark at our church’s leadership retreat a year or so before Mark left for South Africa. We stayed up late laughing, reminiscing, confessing our sins, and praying. We talked about everything. I went to bed that night thinking, “Wow. I am so grateful to have a friend with whom I can share everything.” Mark is the most vulnerable, accepting, grace-filled person I know.
Doug and I met the same summer Mark and I met, the summer before my freshman year at UT. We were roommates my freshman year at UT. We were good friends throughout college, but became best of friends years later when we reconnected through the singles ministry of our church. Again, I don’t have enough words to describe how much his friendship has meant to me but three things stand out.
- The five years we spend playing and making music. We helped lead worship for our singles ministry during a season of tremendous life and growth for us personally and for our church. A few of us in the band began to write our own music and for about four years played originals and covers at many music venues in Austin.
- The Freeks and the Fungus, the names of our fantasy football league and our softball team, respectively. These two groups of friends have been my primary fellowship over the last fifteen years of my life. Softball every Friday night often followed by dinner and/or cards and fantasy football, our excuse to have two weekends a year with our closest college friends at Doug’s lake house. Truthfully, neither is going to feel the same without Doug there.
- I remember the height of my bout with depression. It was a single moment after one of our worship sets on Sunday when I just felt like I was going to lose control. I told Doug I needed him, and we got in his car and just drove around Austin for about an hour. Doug just listened. That’s the thing I love most about Doug. He is always present. He is just willing to be there. He is consistent, sensitive, and can be trusted with anything. He is faithful. He is there whenever I need him.
Giving Our Best
While I do hate the Great Commission sometimes, I know in my heart what is most important: Following Jesus wherever He leads. So I am really happy that Smith Leggett, one of our best student leaders, is going to the middle east this fall instead of staying at UT. I am happy to see Chrissie Harsh, a CRM staff worker, take a vision trip to Thailand this summer in preparation to leave CRM staff and move overseas.
I always want to see the best of the best go to the most unreached with the gospel, even if it hurts. With Doug and Mark and their wonderful families overseas, God has the best of the best for sure.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.