Here’s a little story from campus ministry days in the 60’s at the University of Idaho:
One early spring afternoon Roger found me having coffee at the Burning Stake, the popular coffee house of the Campus Christian Center. “Chad, I just don’t know what I’m going to do!”
“Yeah? Well, welcome to the sixties, Roger. What’s up?”
“You know I’m about to graduate in a couple of months, and I’ve no idea what to do next.”
“You mean about Vietnam?”
“Yeah, that mostly, I guess.”
So we talked about that, mostly. Turned out Roger wasn’t a conscientious objector. But he decidedly was wishing he could avoid a military career, or at least put it off for a while. More conversation. Roger was an English Lit major with some fuzzy career goals. He also was an idealist. He wanted to help people, not eliminate them.
A “light bulb!” Somewhere on my notoriously messy desk I’d seen some brochure or something about the new Peace Corps program. “What about that?” I asked. “It might mean a deferment, and a chance to do some reflection and maybe some good at the same time.”
Before we were done, he’d made the decision and even filled out the application and put it in the mail. Later, I heard that he had been accepted and was indeed going to be a Peace Corpsman. Then you start wondering.
Normally that would end the story. A frustrating thing about working with students is that you get to know them for a year or two or so, and then they’re gone. Feedback is a problem. Did your ministry have any effect for good, or did you blow it?
Years later. Ten to be exact. By then I’d hung up my Campus Ministry togs for a staff position at Ghost Ranch, the Presbyterian conference center in New Mexico. When who should stick his head in my office asking, “Remember me?” but old Roger himself!
Roger had done his Peace Corps service in Korea after having trained for the job at Ghost Ranch of all places. He was back with his friends for a ten year reunion. In the interim he’d gone back to school for his Ph.D . and was on the faculty of a prestigious university.
“But tell me,” I could hardly wait to ask, “How was the Peace Corps, really?”
“It was absolutely the worst two years of my life!”
But he was smiling. Turns out, despite the foul-ups and stresses, the experience was rewarding in the long run and a true turning point for his life. He was grateful. And squared away!
One for the good guys!
February 10, 1998
Chad Boliek served as Presbyterian Campus Minister in an ecumenical team ministry at the University of Idaho from 1960 to 1971. He then continued in ministry as the Business Manager of the Presbyterian Ghost Ranch Conference Center in New Mexico. He now lives in retirement near Las Vegas, New Mexico. He says of those exciting yet turbulent years of campus involvement during the 60’s: “They were times of extraordinary crisis for many students and faculty – and campus ministers, too. Good for the church that saw the need and provided a presence!” Mr. Boliek stays in FaceBook touch with a surprising number of students from those days who are still saying “no” to injustice and political idiocy, and “yes” to freedom, peace, and responsible action.