Students are showing incredible resilience after the first day on the bus. Where anarchy could rule, followed by haunting memories of a chaperone falling from a seat while holding a conch shell, Hillcrest students are instituting a code to follow for survival.
The first rule is unspoken. General bus etiquette calls students to stay out of friends' food bags. However, the rule, like many developed, is being stretched by some. Students recognize that it is highly inappropriate to eat someone else's food. However, many consider food in the open air fair game. This is creating a touchy situation for tour sheriff, Todd Mathison. Some students have been seen sneaking by friends who have fallen asleep with a snickers bar in hand. A few unfortunate students fell asleep mid-bite, which begs the question if thieving and general chicanery can be prosecuted against benefitting students who sever the portion in-mouth from the portion they take for their own survival. A kangaroo is likely. This situation will receive more press as the tour continues.
A second code is cleanliness, which a handful of boys staying at the church upheld through sink showers this morning. Hillcrest's young men prove a unique aptitude for survival in their general tour bus decorum. In the bathroom of the church, shampoo bottles passed from hand to hand after alarms woke the young men for their primp time before others arrived. As some rolled sleeping bags in Sunday school rooms, others were tidying up the nursery where a well-oiled machine of team work displayed young men with important survival skills. When the church was cleaned, the boys stood at the door greeting their fellow band members. Combed hair and a general pleasant aroma greeted the Hillcrest band as the young men prepared for a day on the bus. It is survival skills like these that put most Hillcrest boys a step above courtship competition in later years of life.
The young men prepare for further competition through jousting on the bus. While some cross-country tours emphasize physical strength and encourage plyometrics, Hillcrest young men sharpen their minds. Books are used for general mind lifting. Playing cards forge street smarts and call out cunning wit. Rook is the game of choice for the first two days. Camaraderie enhances as students shuffle around the bus to play pairs seated in areas ranging from the back seats to the front windows.
As students near lunch time they are thinking towards the post-lunch devotional time that Todd Mathison introduced yesterday. Todd spoke to the tour theme this year, Testify to Love. The students read parts of 1 John. Todd's words that the tour could be called, "Testify to Light" echo in the ears of some who stare out the window as they think through 1 John in light of Todd's explanation.
Others think to the testimony time that follows devotions. Chris Tungseth shared yesterday. His testimony spoke to the Holy Spirit calling him to talk to a young boy in the Dominican Republic. Chris painted a picture of the two of them talking about baseball. The conversation shifted to Chris sharing about his family which led into the Gospel. Chris highlighted the conversation by telling the bus full of students that the entire conversation happened without an interpreter. Through Chris' minimal Spanish skills the conversation was carried by the Holy Spirit. Chris closed the bus testimony with him staring into the distance like he was looking at the back of the young boy in the Dominican Republic walking away. The boy held a Bible in his hand, given to him by Chris. The boy was called, "Mi Hermano" as the story closed, roughly translated as my brother.
The tour will stop at Niagara falls today, staying in a hotel near the landmark. Chaperons are looking forward to walking with students to see the national treasure before calling students to lights out. The group will visit Epiphany Lutheran Brethren Church in Manhattan tomorrow night. The church is the latest church plant by the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLBA). Students and chaperons are looking forward to seeing a place that many across the synod have prayed for specifically. They will walk the streets, praying for neighbors, shop owners, and Pastor Erick Sorenson, in a concerted act of cultivation for the ministry the Lord is calling the CLBA to in that region.