by Hallie Underwood ’20
Utmost tranquility falls over UA Graduate Will Sullivan as he looks over the grassy hill at Bald Eagle. As the sky projects a luminous watercolor painting for the Akita campers and staff, the banter of friends playing cards and throwing frisbees suddenly fade to quietness, allowing Sullivan a second to consider his epiphany. Through pitched tents under a starry night on the Mexico Mission trip, soap slides and tie dye tee shirts at Camp Akita, and conversations with middle schoolers at Crossroads, Sullivan had created strong friendships at First Community Church. As the colossal, wooden cross cast its shadow on the gentle hills, Sullivan could begin to fathom a larger picture than that of simply milkshakes and beloved Tiki Time songs at a campfire. The Akita Spirit had allowed Sullivan to present his true identity to the world outside FCC.
Q: What is your role in Crossroads? How did you get involved in Crossroads and other First Community activities like Akita?
A: I am currently the 6th grade Crossroads leader, which just means I spark conversation with my kids. These conversations can sometimes be fully about God, but most of the time I am just trying to make sure these 6th graders are evolving into productive and genuine kids. Middle school is a huge for development for the students, and I do the best I can to ensure their developing into accepting, loving, and curious kids. I also have been a counselor at Camp Akita the past two years and have absolutely loved it! Being able to impact children of all ages through showing my love for all and practicing vulnerability has been the greatest gift ever. My involvement in First Community Church started with my involvement in their Mexico Mission Trip!
Q: Describe a typical Crossroads gathering.
A: Usually at Crossroads, we all start off in a big room and play a game, socialize and sing some songs. After that we have a speaker of the week focusing on a different topic. Whether it is about the Bible or someone’s experience in the Peace Corps. Then we break into our class settings (so I gather all of my 6th graders) and we digest and focus on what the speaker talked about, but most importantly how they can incorporate the lessons learned into their everyday life. At the end, we all gather back into the big room and say announcements, a prayer led by some of the kids and then we head home!
Q: How do you feel letting middle and high schoolers explore their faith is important? How does Crossroads and Akita offer that to young adults?
A: I think it is incredibly important for young adults to explore their faith because in an essence they are exploring a part of who they are. I can’t sit here and pretend like I’m the most religious person. I have my doubts. I have my troubles. I have my questions. But that’s exactly what faith is. If I knew everything about my faith and my relationship with God, then it wouldn’t be faith! You have to dive deep into who you are and keep asking questions for you to grow in your faith. **What I love about FCC and Camp Akita is that instead of teaching kids how to be good Christians, we teach them how to be good people. People who love, accept, include, and value every individual.** My faith is derived from the people I have surrounded myself with in these settings. They have given me faith that I can live a life where I can truly be myself and have no doubts about it. That’s what I think separates us from other religious programs. We don’t focus on the hardcore Bible studies, or the events of Jesus, but we focus on how to grow in your own personal faith while learning to be an exceptional member of society.
Q: Describe what “Akita spirit” means to you. How does Crossroads bring the Akita spirit home to Columbus?
A: The Akita Spirit means everything to me. Camp Akita is a place that gives off this vibe and spirit like no other. All of my campers say that they don’t even feel like they are on the same planet when they are at Akita cause the community there is so so strong. The Akita Spirit is made of love, acceptance, vulnerability, and the fact knowing that it is one of the safest place to explore who you are. Honestly, I credit the Akita Spirit to my coming out. I came out last April knowing I would be in a place of love and acceptance in the summer. My whole life I have hidden who I truly was, but the moment I got involved in FCC and Camp Akita, I wanted the whole world to know who I really am! It was a really cool process.
Q: What have been some of your favorite memories and experiences with Crossroads, Akita and/or First Community Church?
A: My favorite memory has to be when I realized that I was going down the wrong path in college by studying business and pre-dentistry. I had this “coming to Jesus” (I guess you could call it) moment, when I realized that I want to have an impact and direct action over the molding of kids. This ultimately led me to changing my major to Integrated Language Arts so one day I will be a High School Literature/English teacher! I feel so happy that I have finally found what I’m meant to do and can’t wait to follow through with it. Exploring who you are, which includes your faith, is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. And doing that in a safe space like FCC, Crossroads or Akita is even better. I am truly so thankful for everything I have obtained from these incredible programs.