Class of 1967
Upon arrival, I was assigned to the “Cardboard Castle.” I learned from word-of-mouth that it had begun as an old chicken house and had been transformed into temporary army barracks and then into a college dorm. The first few weeks were filled with meeting new people, the drudgery of lessons and, of course, party time. Trying to study was extremely difficult. Halfway through the quarter, I moved into the men’s dormitory.
As I progressed deeper into the school year, I realized there was another group on campus besides the wild bunch. It was a small, quiet group that pretty much kept to themselves. They were Christians—though not the nominal, average Christian student like myself. I had never seen or known people who lived what they professed. It was unnerving. They quietly practiced their piety. They prayed before meals, they carried their Bibles, they laughed and had a good time, but they never cursed. It was their different lifestyles, their genuineness that spoke so loudly!
The character and mood of many of the campus population was as chaotic and troubled as the nation itself, caught in the throes of the Vietnam War. Our country was at war, and our hearts, filled to the brim with sin and hostility and wickedness, were also caught up in a battle, one for the souls of students, and it was about to come to a dramatic climax.
About mid-January the school took a bus load of students to a nearby town for the showing of a film entitled The Restless Ones, starring a man named Billy Graham. That night, along with countless other students, I totally yielded my life without reservation to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. During the days that followed, new and different emotions were now escalating throughout the student body. The campus was still abuzz with the impact of what had happened. We were living out, on campus among our friends, the life transformation that began on that snowy night in January.
One day, sometime during those dark days of fall and early winter, a small cross mysteriously appeared on top of the hill beside the library. Many asked who put it there, but no one seemed to know. It was a simple cross, made of two small sticks from a broken tree limb tied together by kite string. It was not placed in a hole; instead a number of small rocks buttressed the bottom of the cross to hold it upright. It stood approximately 1½ - 2 feet high. No one knew the maker of the cross and rock altar, but many students frequently went up on the hill to kneel and intercede on behalf of their beloved student body, for a dark cloud hung over Truett-McConnell campus.
Little did anyone know that the showing of the Billy Graham film would start a shower of mercy drops that would become a downpour as God rent the heavens and in one divine moment flooded the lives of countless numbers of people. And people are still, to this day, being changed by the power of the cross. To some the cross seems like foolishness—but not so with God. A magnificent cross now stands atop the hill not 30 feet from where that first humble cross stood, the cross that caused such a stir.
One night I saw my friend Mitch Lanthier from Winder kneeling near the cross, face turned toward heaven and tears streaming down his face. “I’ve just got saved,” Mitch joyfully exclaimed. Another friend said, “And guess what! Mitch is the one who put the cross on the hill.” There was wonderful celebration that night.
I am grateful to have been a part of the moving of God that so shook the Truett campus even till the end of that year. That night and those months have been a high-water mark for me over these years—to realize that present within the heart of one unsaved student had been the desire to raise a cross over a campus filled with brokenness and sin.
Out of the unmet need in his own heart, Mitch Lanthier erected an altar and a simple cross that would one day emerge as the centerpiece overlooking the Truett-McConnell campus. I do not know how many crosses have been erected in the same spot over the years since that first simple cross, nor do I know all the details of the present one. This I do know: the cross still gives meaning and purpose to those who are violated by sin and crushed beneath its awful weight. It is still and always will be a beacon of hope that calls men and women to Christ.