Alabama. How can I possibly encapsulate my brief time here into a blog post?
After an 8 hour drive from South Carolina, I arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of University of Alabama and the man, the myth, the legend: Mike McEvoy. McEvoy and I first met in the fall of 2004 while on the Student Leadership team at the Inn, the college group at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. I was the worship leader, and he was the resident UW football playing man’s man. We hit it off from the beginning.
McEvoy is down here in his second year of starting a college ministry through Young Life. I was excited to know that I would get to hear him speak at Club – but then imagine my excitement when he asked if I would sing! This officially makes The Big Trip double as my nationwide tour.
As I listened to Mike give a talk on a portion of the Sermon on the Mount, I just felt so proud to be his friend. He is an engaging speaker with substantial things to share, and funny. He is working so hard with this new ministry, and putting so much time and effort into getting to know students. And he’s doing an awesome job. The students adore him and swarm around, longing for dating advice, and he has this gift of making every person feel welcome and valued. We had some awesomely hilarious conversations with kids after Club at Wendy’s over Frosties and fries.
As for Alabama, it proved itself to stay true to many of my preconceived stereotypes. For example, I heard Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” no less than THREE times in one afternoon. I don’t think I’d heard it even once in the last two years in Seattle – and thank God.
McEvoy took me to dinner at a shanty called Nick’s in the Sticks, which is basically a lean-to burger joint out in the middle of nowhere. I ordered a cheeseburger, and it came slathered with American cheese; come to find out, American cheese is the only kind of cheese Alabama knows. As we waited a long time for our food (remember, Mike reminded me, this is the South – no one is in a rush), I watched a team of miniature Budweiser Clydesdales pull a model wagon round-and-round on a Lazy Susan hung from the ceiling. And I learned the difference between the Atlanta Braves “A” and the University of Alabama “A.” Don’t mix them up.
At the Young Life gathering, one kid told me that I look like a backup singer from Steely Dan. Only in Alabama would an 18-year old kid know to liken me to someone from Steely Dan. Oh, and “not the young one,” he added. Awesome.
We also went off-roading in McEvoy’s 4-Runner. All over the CAMPUS LAWN. How much more redneck can you get? I felt so authentic.
I met a woman named Lurleen.
The Alabama flag was modeled after the Confederate flag. And I’ve seen many, many of both.
But I also witnessed a beautiful Southern sunset last night – yellow, peach, and slate washed across the vast sky. I was embraced by a group of students that I didn’t even know, who all want to be Facebook friends. I was given an air mattress and a pile of brand new washcloths to use. And I spent quality time with a dear friend.
Alabama, you have not seen the last of me.