It's been four years.
1,462 days have passed since the last time I was there. In that time I've almost wrecked a marriage, fixed it, worked at three jobs, left a church, found a new church, gone back to college, and adopted two kids.
I've ended a ministry, and started a new one. The former, teenagers. The latter, senior adults.
The last time I was there, Flour on the Roof happened.
The last time I went, we left early on a Monday morning. This time, I'll be arriving on a Wednesday night. Last time, I was excited. This time...
The place I'm talking about is Falls Creek, Oklahoma.
In short, this place is amazing.
So why have I waited four years to go back?
Well, the answer to that is a bit complicated. The way I figured it, the Youth Minister that took my place at Okay was a nice enough guy to let me go back with them if I wanted to. Especially after I sorted my personal issues out. However, I couldn't justify in mind tagging along with him while he was trying to rebuild some of the trusts that I'd broken. To me, it is the equivalent of a pastor ceasing his ministry at a church, then continuing to go to church there. I just didn't think it was right, and so I didn't ask.
"Okay, but Travis, aren't you going back with that same church tonight?"
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the YM that took my place has left, and the family that replaced him I have known literally my entire life, and also, 99% of the kids that were there when I was there have passed through by now. So I'm taking our newly saved and baptized daughter down for some "precious memories," as my mother-in-law so contemptuously corrected me a few nights ago.
And when I took Akeeli up to the church the other night to get everything registered, one of the ladies doing the paperwork looked at me and said, "Did you have to do all of this when you were running things?" As she said it, she had a look in her eye that was something akin to a wildebeest cornered by several large and not-yet-vegan African lions.
I looked at her and smiled and said yes, fondly recalling how much I love it. All of the planning, the waiting until the last second on registrations, that one kid that would come running up on Monday morning ten minutes before we left and wanting to go. I. Loved. It.
So why am I nervous?
Falls Creek is almost like a living thing. It's an entity, it experiences growth and change almost exponentially. And so I'm half afraid that it's grown out of me. But another real reason is that I'm afraid I'll get down there and realize that I've grown out of it.
I would love to one day return to the Youth Ministry field. That's a long way away, but I know that if I return to it, I'll more than likely be taking kids to Falls Creek. I have a heart for teenagers, and I know that FC is the best place for them when it comes to high intensity spiritual conditioning.
But what if I'm over it? What if I get down there, look around, and say, "Wow. This is so different. I can't stand this."
It seems silly and trivial, I know. But it is a genuine concern of mine, and the main reason for my nervousness. I'm sure I'll get down there, take a deep breath, turn my phone off, and realize that FC is still the best place in Oklahoma. And I can't wait to see my daughter's face as she experiences the sounds, the sights, the smells, and...her very first icee date, which will be with me.
So I'll leave work tonight, pick up our daughter, go home and grab our bags, and head out to Falls Creek, where I'll make...
...The Return. Pray for me.