It's hard to believe a year has passed since I took a step back from Cobblestone Project. The transition took place rather quietly and I assume there are still those who think I'm engaged or helping to coordinate. I don't think it was intentional but neither I nor the Cobblestone team made that transition very public. That probably explains why I still get a call about once a week from someone trying to connect.
Those closest to me knew (probably long before I did) that I was getting in the way of the organization from moving forward.
My schedule was crazy, travel to New York was increasing, and the demands of Cobblestone had exceed my time capacity long ago. So, after almost 4 years, Corrie and I made the decision that it was time to let the baton pass to another to execute the vision. It took a while to pry the pieces of my identity that had taken root within Cobblestone, but they eventually came loose.
This past year has been a bit of a blur, and I've been out of the loop about what's been happening within Cobblestone. I tend to be an all or nothing guy, and I knew that I couldn't be marginally involved. Had I stayed too close I'm sure I would have brought unnecessary difficulties into the decision-making processes, and that would not have been fair to anyone.
Looking back, Cobblestone started with a pretty narrow focus.
We wanted to find and tell the stories of where God's redeeming work was taking place in our community. That's it. Of course, anyone who has been involved in their local community knows that these stories are everywhere. Unfortunately, the stories…and subsequently the hope that they inspire…are often lost.
So, we grabbed a video camera and starting washing the clothes of those who were homeless. Homeless...not hopeless.
That simple action eventually shattered my world view of many people, the church, faith, hope, and basic human dignity. I'm thankful for the sage who help unwrap it all for me.
There were some incredible people who I met along the way. Everyday heroes in nonprofits, businesses, churches, and in those who just needed a helping hand along the way.
We shared a lot of stories back then (I miss that they are a little harder to hear about now), but I can truly say that some of the greatest stories were the ones we never told. We just count those as holy moments.
At the time I departed, I carried conflicting emotions of 1) we had accomplished a lot more than we had ever expected to, and 2) there were so many things that needed to be done and that meant I failed.
Today, I mainly hear about what's happening with Cobblestone through the blog or through the social streams. There are new people on the team that I've never met (but I hear amazing things about). I've even been told that they are really considerate of maintaining the core values that were set in the early days. I would have never expected that those values would serve us the way they did (truly thankful to Steve Graves for the challenge to put those together). And I'm glad that four of the original founders, Jacob & Emily, Todd, and my wife Corrie have remained involved . I know they carried a lot once I left, and I'm thankful for them all.
Now a year later…I'm a different person (aren't we all?). If I had to do it all over again, I would…just differently.
- I would have focused more on the people we were serving.
- I would have spent more time listening to the needs & challenges to better understand how to give more effective support.
- I would have focused more on creating and finding things that were intentionally designed to give dignity (regardless of cost).
- I would have spent less time trying to figure out how to grow and more time focusing on how to do things well.
- I would have served the volunteers better.
- I would have released more initiatives to those who knew how to do them best.
- I would be more intentional about raising money.
- I would have spent more time going back to David and Beverly at the CAC (where Cobblestone truly started).
- I would have set lower requirements for myself (& for others) to consider an initiative or event a success.
- and really the biggest thing...I would have spent more time at home with my family.
So, yes…I did a lot of things the wrong way, but I'll never forget some of the things that I think we did right. These are a few of my favorite memories that make me look back and smile…
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/6541958 w=500&h=281]
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/3755206 w=500&h=281]
First Green Room
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/3754980 w=500&h=281]
Good Neighbor Food Drive
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/3756196 w=500&h=281]
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/5763379 w=500&h=281]
3 Bags in 2 Days
Present in the City
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/12537301 w=500&h=281]
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/12534113 w=500&h=281]
Thanksgiving at World Garden
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/7853075 w=500&h=281]
First Harvest at The Farm
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/12532712 w=500&h=281]
Chris & Seth sharing at The Farm
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/20983719 w=500&h=281]
I'll always look back with great thanks for being able to take part in what God was doing to rescue & redeem His people.
Last month I received this note from a friend that I met along the way, and I'm grateful to be reminded of this one life that was impacted by a true, authentic relationship.
Mike: Some great news! A friend of mine Greg has instituted a non-profit organization Micah House (Ministry Initiative of Churches Against Homelessness). He and I participated in the Heart of the Ozarks Walk to Emmaus in April. I had a spiritual renaissance that Saturday night and prayed with Tony Holifield, the senior minister at Central Methodist of Fayetteville and announced in the closing ceremonies that I had recommitted my life to Christ and desired to help the homeless in any way possible. Greg told me I could work there and stay there if I desired. During our reunion Gathering Thursday night Greg was a late comer but he told me they had closed on a building that day. So pray for our success! Miss seeing you. I qualify for Social Security in October and will start receiving benefits then. I turn 62 on Aug. 15 but won't qualify for benefits until Oct. Something to look forward to. That's a long and winding road from when you and I first met at the Greek Theater! Henry has been an awesome friend. We find it hard to believe that was almost 4 years ago. Cobblestone just isn't the same without you. But I know you're doing the Lord's work in your current position. God Bless!!
This simple story of one man who is moving towards a brighter tomorrow is what Cobblestone Project will always symbolize to me.
And no...Cobblestone isn't the same without me.
My prayer is that it's better.
Cobblestone started with six people asking a simple question of "how do I live out my faith to serve others?" That same question is asked in millions of places around the world everyday.
I think the simple answer is this...
Allow yourself to be vulnerable to another & walk beside them through their pain.
You may find someday that you are the one who was changed through it.
Super huge thanks to the founding team of Jacob and Emily, Topher and Brittney, Corrie, Todd & Dianna, Al & Kristin, and Steve & Karen. Katelyn, Josh & Jennifer...you came alongside very early and truly made it all possible. Love and appreciate all. Maybe someday we can all serve together at Laundry Love Fayetteville. :-)