Staff have returned.

This is it:

The beginning of the end.

This is our final week at Project, and in a few days it will be time to pack up and head on home.

It sort of feels like yesterday that the caravan of vehicles pulled into the Aquarius Motel.

It also feels like a year ago.

Either way, it’s going to be over in a couple of days.

The final time spent in South Carolina will be devoted to relaxing, cleaning, and return training. The last talks are given through the lens of transitioning from the “spiritual greenhouse” of Project back to our various homes and campuses.

God has been faithful to change lives this summer. Some students went through heart changes as drastic as becoming believers; others grew in their intimacy with Jesus; many caught a vision for making disciples and using their lives to spread the gospel as Jesus commands of us. Whatever the case, I don’t know a single student who is leaving this summer unchanged.

Every experience on Project is different. I talked to a few students to get their personal accounts about what God has done in their hearts this summer.

Julie, a senior at Bethel, has been a team leader for the Rickrollers.

“I feel like there are so many things the Lord has done in my heart this summer. One thing that was huge for me – and I think a lot of people at Project can relate – is the idea of, ‘He delights in me!’ I’ve had a growing awareness of how unfathomable God’s love for us – and for me – really is. He sent his son to be a sacrifice for us! I can’t wrap my mind around that kind of love.

Another big thing the Lord did in my heart was deepen my brokenness for unbelievers and sharing the gospel. There are lost people in the world and we should be making disciples because people are perishing! I’ve always known that and thought, ‘Yeah, that’s true, so I’ll get on this disciple-making bandwagon.’ But it was never a Holy Spirit conviction of, ‘WOAH! There really are souls perishing!!’ So I’m thankful the Lord has revealed that and I’m excited to bring that back to the campus. I’m excited to share Jesus with people; not because I feel burdened or pressured to, but because I have an overflow of Jesus’ love for me.”

Katie Beth, a junior at the U of M, has also grown in sweet ways over the past nine weeks.

“Perseverance has been a personal theme for me this summer. God has totally changed my heart toward Him. Coming into Project I was not at a place where I desired to pursue Him much, and I was feeling really inadequate in leading girls and pointing them towards Jesus.

Now He has given me such a strong desire to know Him more and to hunger and thirst after Him through reading the Bible more and just getting to know him and basking in his love.”

Greg, a recent graduate from Bethel, has spent this summer at a team leader for the servant team.

“One of the biggest things God has taught me over the summer is about my inability to control others’ growth. I may plant and I may water but it’s ultimately God who gives the growth. Seeing my efforts not always pay off this summer was humbling. Sometimes I put in a ton of effort planning for D Group and it just doesn’t go the way I want it to and that’s frustrating, and sometimes I’m not as prepared and it goes really well – I’ve just seen how God really is in control of all those things.

I’ve been learning to take contentment and joy from that. It’s all God’s work and only God can give the growth, yet he chooses to lovingly let us be a part of that and that’s been really sweet to learn and see. I’m learning that I’m not in control of the lives of people I’m trying to minister to and yet there is still a harvest and a fruit of our labor if we don’t give up (like we see in Galatians 6:9).”

Luke is a junior at the U of M, and he has been discipling other men as a room leader.

“One sweet thing about being a room leader this summer has been the opportunity to get a glimpse of what God is doing in the hearts of several different people as opposed to just me. Last summer, being down here as a disciple, the Lord did a lot in my own heart and life, but I wasn’t really conscious of the guys around me or what God was doing in their lives.

But this summer, as a room leader, it’s been really sweet just to see the ways God has been working in and using and growing the guys in my room and the other guys on Project that I’ve been able to get to know. It’s been sweet to get a bigger vision of God and a glimpse at all the things he’s doing, even just in one room. Seeing that has brought me so much more freedom in realizing that it’s not all about me, and I’ve had so much more joy in seeing the ways God is changing hearts and using people to mutually encourage one another.”

Emma, a sophomore at St. Thomas, is finishing up her first summer at Project.

“I feel more excited to share the gospel with people. Through being at Project I have experienced how sweet it is to live in the freedom that Christ has brought me. I’m totally accepted by God. I’m totally loved by God. There is nothing more I can add to that, and there is such joy in being free to fail and still be totally accepted by Christ. It’s also been so sweet to live with other believers who know that same freedom because we are free and able to love each other now.

On the flip side, I’ve also seen how broken lives can be without Christ. Through talking to people on the beach, through talking to my coworkers and hearing about their lives, through hearing about hell and God’s wrath, it has made me more and more sad for people who don’t have Christ. I think I’m now doubly motivated to share the gospel because I’ve seen how awful it can be to live without Christ and I’ve experienced how sweet it is to live with Christ. I want people to be freed from their brokenness and live in the freedom that I got to taste this summer.”

As these testimonies portray, the Lord has been at work this summer. These are merely a handful of examples, so please ask other students to share what they have learned and grown in the past two months.

Project is winding down, but this certainly isn’t the end, because the Summer Training Project is not an end – it’s a means. Project is a means to loving Jesus more. It’s a means to finding community. It’s a means to gaining a vision for ministry on the college campus. It’s a means for understanding discipleship. It’s a means for learning more about the God of this universe. It’s a means to loving and caring for the lost and broken world.

So you see, this isn’t the end.

It’s only the beginning.