trecc #2: a full dose of montana

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof…”

Montana is the 3rd state in a row that I hadn’t visited before this trip – Washington and Idaho were the others, and North Dakota will be a new state for me, too. Pretty exciting.

[In case you’re new, this is part of a week-long series as I drive from Portland to North Carolina, including a little more in-depth-than-normal look at my daily activities. You can find out more at the TRECC Itinerary.]

As for this Montana in which I (still) find myself, I guess the fact that I’m still here means it’s been less like speed-dating than like one of those weird day-long dates on “The Bachelor.” But as it turns out, I would give Montana a rose. It’s a pretty neat state; what it lacks in coolness, it makes up for in quirkiness, accents, and high speed limits.

I really did get a good taste of this state today, hitting 2 campuses I’d planned on seeing – UM in Missoula and MSU in Bozeman – and another in between that I just stumbled upon – Montana Tech in Butte. As far as just “enjoyable campuses” go, I think Montana Tech may have been my favorite. It was gorgeous, its little town was really cool, it had buildings dealing with petroleum and mining, and their mascot is the Oredigger.

But the others were cool, too. UM’s student center looks like a stinkin’ mall, with foliage and a glass elevator in the middle. Oh – and it was Pride week, celebrating Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered people. I’ve seen a lot of Pride Weeks – or ads for upcoming ones – all year long.

As I went through the day, I was a little groggy at times after sleeping in my car last night.

What I affectionately call the Pathfinder Motel has actually only been my home for 13 or 14 nights of this whole trip – which is far fewer than I had expected, actually.

My general rule is that when I have time to use a motel – if I’m staying multiple days in a location, for instance, or if I can check in early and enjoy the room for several hours before sleeping – then I’ll pay for a motel. But I really kinda gag at the thought of paying $50 for only a bed – that’s like $6/hr or more. For $6/hr, I can sleep in my car. Or at least that’s been my logic to this point. Usually. I’ll probably get a motel tomorrow night in the Fargo area.

After seeing the Montana State campus, I hung around Bozeman and actually had two cool explorations. First up was with Grace Bible Church’s College Life ministry; I connected with Associate Pastor Blake Shaw. I had emailed Blake earlier in the day (after running across the ministry on the MSU web page); he had a full schedule all day, but we were able to chat for about 20 minutes that night. Then I got to check out 20 minutes of their joint college-high school Bible study. They don’t always join together, but the church’s pastor has been doing a several week series for them.

One of the coolest things I found out? Pastor Shaw has been on staff about 17 years – pretty unusual longevity for a college guy at a church (though he does have other duties, as well). I’ve certainly seen on my trip that college ministry “lifers” are fairly rare, especially in the church-based branch.

Then I went down the street (the same, actual street) to Campus Crusade‘s “Cru” meeting, which meets at the E-Free Church. And they pack it out. As Blake and I had discussed earlier, I think it’s easy for us southerners to lump everything “north” together – and assume that you’ll never run across a 300-person college Bible study.

Cru was a 300-person college Bible study.

It was also definitely Campus Crusade, whose focus on “transferable principles” certainly make for ministries that look similar all across the country. But it’s done well – from songs to (fun) announcements to speaker to evangelistic focus.

I tracked down Bob, the director, afterwards. I always feel awkward intro’ing myself in person. When I email people first, they can get past their original assumptions by reading the blog, etc. In person, I feel like it’s like, “Hi, I’m a hobo for a year, but really – it’s okay. Hooray for college ministry!” Or something like that.

I found out tonight’s speaker at Cru (Brian Hopkins) is the Lead Pastor of a local church (Journey Church). That church has simply decided not to try to duplicate what others in town are already doing well, he said. So Cru is Journey’s college ministry; plenty of the students attend that church, as does Bob, and the church supports some of the staff, too. I expressed my appreciation at this, and I do appreciate it, because it shows that church was willing to look at their context and think about all the options. Every context is different, but partnership like this can be one option.

I headed out of Bozeman, hoping to drive a couple of hours. My semi-plan is to make it all the way to the Fargo, ND, area for (hopefully) some sort of ministry activity there tomorrow. So if you know anybody in the Fargo area (which includes far west Minnesota, too), let me know!

I’m stopping a little earlier than planned, however, ’cause the snow got really bad. That’s right – on April 9th, with big ol’ flakes. Since I was driving, the big flakes coming straight at me looked just like that “Flying through Space” screen saver. And it had this very weird effect of making me feel like I wasn’t moving at all – even though I was still going 60. Very disorienting, and the snow was sticking on the road, and I saw a deer who may very well have been planning to run out into the road any second.

NOT cool.

So I figured staying alive is important, at least ’til I get to North Carolina. I’ll sleep now and wake up, I’m sure, to a 75-degree sunny April day. I guess Montana is getting clingy, now that I’m headed toward North Dakota. May be time to give her the axe. It was fun while it lasted, babe.

To wrap up, today was actually one of the great days of this trip – just a good, solid, campus-filled, connection-blessed day. With a near-death experience toward the end.

Oh – and in case you’re wondering, I asked the girl at Wal-Mart if Hannah Montana is even MORE popular here because of the name-thing, and she didn’t think so.

TRECC stats

  • Today’s T-shirt: Texas A&M University (yesterday’s was Union University, in case you missed that addition to yesterday’s post)
  • Today’s states: 1 – Montana
  • Miles driven today: 290
  • Campuses visited today: 3
  • Total TRECC states: 4
  • Total Trip states: 33
  • Total TRECC miles: 841
  • Total Trip miles: 21107
  • Total TRECC campuses: 3
  • Total Trip campuses: 94
  • Time left until start of College Metro in Wake Forest, NC: 6 days, 6 hours at 1am Mountain Time

Written somewhere between Bozeman and Billings, MT

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