#Connected: Thad Finds God and Community through Summer Connect

Antonio Castillo June 29, 2017

Coming into his freshman year at North Dakota State University, Thad hoped to finally find Christian friends. Instead he found the same old thing.

“While my dorm-mate plugged into Cru on campus, I felt lost in a weekly meeting group larger than the entire population of my hometown,” Thad says.

Growing up in Gackle, North Dakota, Thad struggled with loneliness. He was raised by two faithful Christian parents and his grandparents pastored a local church. Yet, Thad lacked a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I grew up around church, but I attended mainly because it was expected of me,” he says.

His childhood church was old and traditional, lacking younger guys for him to befriend. So instead, Thad played basketball and video games to fill the void. But in the locker room, his teammates idolized girls, drugs, and drinking. They teased Thad for being a “goody-two-shoes,” especially making fun of his refusal to curse or swear. In spite of the pressure, Thad never gave in, but the experiences left him exhausted and further isolated.

When he started college, Thad retreated from Cru and church events, overwhelmed and embarrassed to go by himself. Again, he turned to sports and video games in order to pass the time – feeling lonely.

Meanwhile, his roommate consistently invited him to Cru events and, eventually, Thad attended some weekly meetings toward the end of his freshman year. This pattern remained in place for the next two school years: attending weekly meeting, but avoiding anything deeper.

But God intervened the Spring of his junior year when a Cru intern suggested that he join Summer Connect and plugged him into the Hub in Fargo.

“Summer Connect brought community to me,” Thad says.

He relished the sermon livestreams and the discussions that challenged him to think deeply about the Bible, catalyzing his faith. His Hub leaders taught him how to read the Scriptures effectively and share his beliefs across cultural barriers. With those skills, Thad was able to step out into the world and share his faith with others.

Outside of the weekly Hub meetings, members organized hangouts, group dinners and bonfires where he was surrounded by Christians “on fire for God.” His prayer life became consistent, spurred by the knowledge that his Hub members prayed for him daily. Indeed, his Hub members walked alongside him as he tackled old struggles and new ones. 

“I began to understand the depths of what Jesus endured for me so that I could connect with God and others,” he says.

Back at school, he began walking by faith and trusting God with his life. He joined the planning, outreach, and prayer teams. After graduating, he found a job in his field, but soon, he felt God’s call to ministry and now nothing seems as fulfilling to him. He applied to intern with Cru and, to his surprise, they offered him a position to STINT in Asia. And so after praying for days to make sure this was God’s will, Thad decided to trust God and go abroad.

In all, Thad’s current life verse is Romans 10:14-15:

“And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

This verse reminds him of his Summer Connect experience, and inspires his future missionary endeavors.  

“My advice to current students  – get plugged in and be present,” he says. “Don’t just be a body.”

About the Author: Antonio Castillo is a Colorado Operations Summer Mission intern for 2017. He currently studies history at the University of California, Davis. He loves writing, indie music, and Wes Anderson movies.

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