We had been planning and anticipating our first trip back to Allendale for weeks. We hadn’t been back since we moved to Greenville at the end of July. We had time for a 2-day, 1-night visit, and had it all planned out — who we would see, what we would do, and where we would eat.
And we almost didn’t go.
Last week, we watched the weekend weather report all week. We saw that storms were heading through the state. And on Thursday, I wondered if the expected Friday night thunderstorms would cause the football game to be cancelled (one of the big reasons we had for going back).
But Friday morning, we decided to chance it. And we are so glad we did. If we didn’t go, we would have missed out on these blessings:
- The comical carpooler. One of these shutdown corners whom I coached is a student at USC-Upstate. I asked if he wanted to go home for the game, and he was happy to do so. We were glad to pick him up and have him in our three-hour ride down to Allendale. He patiently engaged our son Sender. This teenager earned the high school senior superlatives of “Class Clown” and “Loudest Mouth” — which pretty much makes him Sender’s role model.
- College visits. Our kids got to see 3 college campuses that they had never seen before. First, it was USC-Upstate. Then, as we drove through Orangeburg, we made a quick phone call and visit to the other shutdown corner, who is studying Elementary Education at Claflin University. We wound up picking up some paperwork and delivering it to his mother in Allendale. When we left him, we drove through the campus of SC State University. Hey, our kids could go to any of those schools; they value diversity.
- Football memories. I hung out with the players and coaches before the game, even joining them in a pregame meal. And Coach Ford invited me to stay on the sideline. Joanna (from her seat in the stands) could easily tell how much I enjoyed being on the sideline, and how much I miss coaching. I miss being around all the guys — both the players and the coaches. I felt like I was back at home. And a 48-13 victory (over a school twice our size) made the evening all that much better. No doubt, coaching football in Allendale was The Best Two Years of My Life.
- Tacos and friends. While I was with the football team, Joanna and the kids went to get our favorite tacos, prepared by some Mexican friends in nearby Barnwell. I gave them instructions to bring me back a to-go plate, for a late-night snack.
- Surprise visit. During pregame warm-ups, I saw a couple of familiar faces in the crowd, but it took a while before it dawned on me who it was, probably because I didn’t at all expect them to be there. It was a couple who twice hosted Allendale football players staying in Greenville, including four guys this past May. They were driving to Charleston, and decided to stop in Allendale and watch the first half of the football game. Surprise! Joanna introduced them to some of the parents of the guys whom they hosted.
- Old friends. We were staying with a couple that we were neighbors with. We knew them from church, and the husband is the team doctor and recruited me for my first prison ministry event. And on the way to the game, Joanna picked up Hannah’s best friend (her younger brother), to go to the game with them. The girls were super excited to see each other.
- Making a statement of love. After the game, a dad we know came up to me, and asked what brought us to town. I said that we came for the game, and to see friends. He seemed shocked. “You mean you just came to visit?” Yep. I am glad that we could demonstrate our love for Allendale through our actions.
- Rest and breakfast. We loved staying with our friends, and slept so well! Not only that, we started our Saturday with a home-cooked breakfast. We found out later that it was their 45th wedding anniversary. It didn’t surprise me that this couple would spend their special day serving other people.
- More friends. Mid-morning, we went to visit some other friends. The mom is the one who helped lead Elevate Spring Break Camp this year, and our kids always enjoy playing together. The best part was that it was the most time I’ve ever spent with the husband/dad, who travels a lot with work. I enjoyed getting to know him, and since he comes to Greenville regularly, we are planning on grabbing lunch in the near future.
- More food, and more friends. We couldn’t come through town without visiting our Chinese friends who own a restaurant. Their sons have been a part of a lot of our camps and programs (soccer camp, robotics, chess, STEAM camp, etc). In turn, we always get a lovely discount on food, or a full dinner. I think the boys must have been thinking about each other, since they all wore shirts from soccer camps. Besides eating lunch, the kids played Uno and watched Julian Smith videos.
- One final visit. At lunch, I got a text from another football player, a current senior. He asked us to stopped by, which we were happy to do. We chatted for a few minutes, including talking about college plans, and he gave me some pictures from his prom last spring.
We are looking forward to planning another visit to Allendale, especially to see some friends we didn’t get to this time. (Did you notice that I mentioned “friends” at least a half-dozen times in this post?)
After 8 hours of driving, and visiting lots of friends, we came back both exhausted and rejuvenated.
- The Blessing of Such Sweet Sorrow
- Reason #30 Allendale Is Better Than Where You Live: Love and Acceptance
- A Summer of Relationships and Camps (2013)
- 7 Ways We Saw God’s Blessings Last Week (2012)
- Your Identity as a Missionary (2014)