So several people have asked me… “so what’s up with the picture of Providence Rd?” Obviously the meaning of “providence” is a huge inspiration for what we are doing. Before I get in the story, let’s make sure we all understand the definition of the word:
1. (often initial capital letter) the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.
2. (initial capital letter) God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.
3. a manifestation of divine care or direction.
4. provident or prudent management of resources; prudence.
5. foresight; provident care.
The story starts some time in 2008. I believe it was spring or early summer. We were in Charlotte for the weekend visiting family. For some reason, I was in the car by myself running an errand. I had a couple of podcasts at the time that I had a weekly ritual of catching up on over the weekend while mowing the lawn or other spurts of time when I found myself alone. One of those podcasts were Dr. Joe Brown’s sermons from Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. I would attend HGBC while in college if there was a weekend I found myself not going home, etc. I never got involved with the church outside of that, but Dr. Brown’s sermons always seemed relevant to what was going on in my life and he had a way of constructing his sermons into a story that would always hold my attention. Thanks to technology and the adoption of podcasts, I was able to stay up to date with his weekly sermons.
Back to the story, so I can’t remember where I was headed, but remember traveling northeast on Rae Rd and turning left on to Providence Rd when I flipped on my iPod and turned on HGBC’s podcast. Dr. Brown literally starts off the sermon with talking about his first few years after moving to Charlotte that he remembered waking up early on Sunday mornings and “driving up Providence Rd and spending the time just talking to God.” Hmmm… I thought… OK God, you got my attention. I’m listening. Without going into a lot of detail, there were 2 main points of the sermon.
God is preparing me for something and all of the issues and experiences I was dealing with in my career, he would be using those one day for something he had planned.
The 2nd was to serve his children.
What happened next, I would not call a vision but I was reminded of a young freshman woman who moved into one of my off-campus properties the previous fall. She made a last minute decision to go to this particular university and although freshmen were required to live on campus, there were no beds available. The housing department referred her to us and we scrambled at the last minute to find something compatible. The only requirement she had was to be with all females. We had something available with 3 rising juniors. It wasn’t ideal but it was the only residential option they had vs waiting for room to come open on campus. I remember seeing the parents’ concerned faces when they entered the apartment and I introduced them to their daughter’s new roommates. It was clear there was a large amount of drinking that happened the night before with beer and liquor bottles scattered and a half dressed male still asleep on the couch. But she moved in and parents ended up leaving.
As the semester progressed I would see this freshman every couple of weeks going to and from class. I stopped seeing her normal smile after a couple of weeks so I stopped her one day to ask if all is well. She stated everything was fine but that she was having issues getting sleep because of her roommates’ routines, etc. A few more weeks went by and I could see she was starting to lose weight. The week of Thanksgiving her father made an appointment to see me. When I met him he stated he was pulling his daughter out of the apartment. I asked if a room opened up on Campus but he said no that he was actually withdrawing her from school. What he explained was quite the opposite. The father explained to me that her 3 roommates made bets on “who would be the first.” Who would be the first roommate that would get her to drink. Who would be the first roommate who would get her drunk. Who would be the first roommate to have her virginity taken. Who would be the first roommate to get her to smoke pot. The list went on. These are only the ones that I felt comfortable enough putting on to paper. In fact, there was an actual list that was found on the back of a roommate’s closet door. Actually, it was more of a scoreboard and there were eligible bonus points for each of the “tasks” if it was completed by the end of the fall semester and triple points if 2 or more of any of the 30+ tasks could be completed in the same day. The father told me that his daughter found the list posted to social media after one of the roommates achieved 3 of the tasks the night before (note, this was still in a time when if a person wanted to post a picture to Facebook you had to plug your camera or memory card into a computer and upload it… so there was plenty of intention that went into this post). Fortunately, his daughter knew that she could tell her father when she made a mistake and needed help. Many 18-year-old freshmen would feel isolated and embarrassed and she could have ended up as another co-ed suicide statistic.
Later that day after the father and his daughter moved out and withdrew her from classes for the semester, I recounted the story to one of my team members and I began crying uncontrollably. He asked why I was crying and I explained, because that could have been my daughter and I hope I don’t fail my daughter as a father, but I certainly feel that I failed that young lady as a student housing professional. I knew when she moved in that it was the only option we could provide, but I also knew it would not be a good environment for her. I felt like I should have told her parents they were better off in putting her in a hotel for a few weeks until something opened up on campus or I should have been responsive to the physical signs I began noticing and tried to get her help. I could have done something, but I did nothing.
And there I was on Providence Road in Charlotte, feeling God’s tug on my heart through Dr. Brown’s message telling me… he’s preparing me for something. And I began weeping uncontrollably just like I did that day in front of that co-worker. I immediately had this vision of a student housing community where students are provided a fertile soil to grow their faith and relationship with God and a community where upperclassmen encourage and mentor underclassmen to develop their identity. This community would also allow a collaborative atmosphere and opportunities to make a positive impact in the community at large and throughout the world. I did not know how this vision would be made a reality, but I knew that if I continued to seek God and live by his word that he would continue to put me in positions that would allow me to make this vision a reality. From that point on, God has blessed me with opportunity after opportunity to inspire student housing managers to educate and embed themselves into the universities they serve so they can be a resource to their student residents when they need help and direction.
And now, I believe God is providing me another opportunity to continue to inspire but to do even more. An opportunity to come even closer to fulfilling the vision God gave me. So this picture of Providence Rd taken on a rainy day in Charlotte is to honor the people and places that have been a part of my career and how the lessons, tears, and laughter I’ve shared with them were all put into place for a reason that God has purposed. It also represents the prudence that I’m committed to in bringing this vision to life and for those that will be served!