“I knew when I got laid off it was a crossroads. I could either continue on the same path I was on – always working for someone I didn’t like to work for, doing something I didn’t want to do. Or I could possibly lose everything and take this other path where one goal would turn into four and I’d end up with all these amazing degrees. And now I feel like I’m actually becoming the person I was always meant to be.”
Everyone’s story is important and here at Hill City we want to celebrate people, where they’ve come from and what they’ve been through. This is Michael. He’s been coming to Hill City for a little over a year and this is his story.
I grew up in church, you know, traditional church. It’s hard pews, it’s shirt and tie. We had choir practices, we went there for dinners on Wednesdays. It was a place we hung out. Our going was really based on our Grandad, he grew up going and was big into church. We went as a family, and there were a lot of us. About ten or twelve of us and everyone brought their kids too. It was a big deal, to do that as a family. Then Grandad got sick and things changed. My mom always had a big belief in God and continued to go. And when she’d find hardships, she’d rely on the church. As for me, I never had any personal relationship with God. Growing up, I got really close to the line a couple times. I wanted to explore, I’d ask questions. But when I’d get the answers they didn’t feel right. I didn’t know what I was missing, I didn’t really see it. And as I got older, I grew out of it.
The night before I came to Hill City for the first time I was actually going to meet a girl at a bar. On my way there, my friend Amy Dancy hit me up and asked what I was doing that Sunday. I said that I didn’t have anything going on and she said I should come to Hill City. So I did. That was July 19th of last year.
And it’s been pretty much everything since then.
My whole process was get in where you fit in. And you get what you put in, so I figured I’d go full force. Just being able to contribute here, is fun for me. I didn’t know what it was going to turn into a year ago. But one thing led to another, I made friends and started doing little things on the team. And eventually I was asked to do something specifically that I enjoy, something that I’m good at. Now I treat Sundays like a work day because I love what I do here. I get up earlier than any other day of the week. I feel like I’m needed and if I’m not here I feel like I’m letting people down. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s not easy for me to share my faith, I’m not going to be like hey let me talk to you about Jesus. But this video stuff – for me that’s serving in it’s own way. I mentioned “y’all” in regards to Hill City while speaking to Lacy and she corrected me, twice. She said, “You need to start saying ‘we.’ You’re a part of this now, you need to realize that.”
So I push hard. Because I’m here and I can serve in a way that’s easy to me, the technological part. But I’m also around people all the time I look up to, mentors and peers. These are not like rock stars, these are real people in the community that I can talk to and become friends with. There’s a lot to say about being around that. You put yourself where you want to be. If you want to be a better basketball player, you play with better basketball players. And I did that when I was younger. If you want to be smarter, you hang out with smarter people. So I figure if I come here and put myself in this situation, I’ll get there.
As far as where I’m at, I’m still on the same page of the Bible where they just ate the fruit in the Garden of Eden and now they’re ashamed. But God was like “I gotcha.” And I’ve been there for like 5 months. But at least I started. The Bible’s not gonna go anywhere. It’s gonna be there. I’m not worried about getting through the whole thing be next week. You know, if that takes ten years, it takes ten years. I’m not on the same level as many, but my personal relationship with God is mine and however it works, it works.
I’d been thinking about getting baptized for months and I wanted mom to be a part of it, but she got sick. That was back in December. But I also didn’t think that I was ready. Somewhere between February and April, one random Sunday, I knew it was the day to say to finally say yes. I checked the box on the card, I checked yes to Jesus. Then my mom died. The baptisms came soon after I knew it was time to do it. It finally felt comfortable to do it.
I had taken Starting Point, which is an 8 week class for anyone who is seeking to explore what it means to have a faith in Jesus. The class creates an environment where you can explore faith and ask questions. I became friends with Syndal Haun in the class and I knew that she was getting baptized too, so I thought ‘Well I can’t back out now.’ We had talked about it and she was excited, but still had questions. So I asked if she’d want to get coffee that morning before coming to Hill City to talk it through. It wasn’t my responsibility to, but helping her talk through it and get comfortable helped me get comfortable too. And neither one of us felt alone, coming into the building. It was cool to feel that follow through after the year and to get baptized alongside a friend.
I initially wanted to stick around at Hill City because I was personally shown that anyone could help. I was asked to help run the video live stream on Periscope and started having a regular role within the team. On a more personal level, Jana Hershberger gave me a side hug before going on stage one Sunday in January. I felt a part of everything, I figured I was doing well serving so why not keep pushing. Every once in awhile, I need reassurance that I’m on the right path and something will happen here that will remind me that yes, I’m on the right path. And I think back to a year ago when my mom encouraged me to keep coming, to keep doing this. She could see changes in me. I could see changes in me. I know now, looking back, that this was all orchestrated by something, a year ago, to put me in this position to be surrounded by people when I lost my mom. If I hadn’t had the church then, I’d be lost. Not totally off the rails, but people cope in different ways, ways that they think are right. It’s easy to fall back into that.
Interestingly my faith in the past year, this “Jesus” thing, was a welcomed by-product of the community I entered into. As I’ve been through this journey, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more comfortable sharing my faith with people – whether it’s friends, family or coworkers. For my job, I’m one of three people who represent the help desk for our company that has 80 locations & 1,000 employees nationwide. I’ve noticed that when I push myself past that barrier and share this part of my life with people, it evokes a real, raw response from them. I don’t have to be screaming in the street about it, I can just share my part, but when I do share my journey in faith, people perk up. In those times, I tend to toot Hill City’s horn because it’s home.”