Splash! In one continuous upward motion, we saw what every disciple of Jesus longs to see: the body of a repentant soul crossing over from darkness to light! And thus on August 12, 2018 the baptism of Austin Harglerode, a college student at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC was complete. But, this story has a beginning that is far more interesting. Austin was met much in the same manner as most college students are, by another disciple while on that campus. It was a simple invitation to a campus Bible talk that led to an individual study. He studied in the way that the typical man does, with two or more disciples going through a series of studies which not only helps to provide a Biblical foundation for the student, but also a transformation of their life as they shift their focus from worldliness to Godliness. So what is it about this particular conversion that represents a watershed moment for a burgeoning Orangeburg ministry? Alas, we’ve not yet arrived at the beginning. Our beginning starts back in 2016. I say our beginning, because there have been college disciples at the South Carolina State campus before, and many are still faithful disciples today. Many of them have already seen the Facebook pictures that I have posted that briefly chronicle the baptism I just described, and they are very happy at this new beginning. For it was in 2016 that God had put on the hearts of Jermaine and Ebony Jones, a couple that had recently just moved to Columbia from Charlotte, to then return to Orangeburg to help reach out to their family. We had volunteered to have the Jones’ in our large family group, and while concerned about their move some 40-50 miles from Columbia, I could sense a Spirit-fueled passion at work in them as they spoke. In August of that year, the move became a reality, and as 2017 began, the Lord had put on the hearts of my wife and I to start a Bible talk in Orangeburg, initially meeting once per quarter. Unknown to me, the Lord had much larger plans! In April of that year, the staff in the Columbia church of Christ along with the Charleston church of Christ was planning a massive outreach in Orangeburg and on the campuses there. This outreach was to take place on Saturday, followed by a service on Sunday. And so it happened on Sunday, April 23, 2017 we had a service in Orangeburg attended by 140 people! Of that number we estimated 50 friends had visited church that day, and the Orangeburg Mission was born and our quest to make disciples had begun. At that time, we decided to have one Sunday service per month and Wednesday midweek, in addition to a few other typical family group activities. Exactly three months later we would have our first baptism of our new effort followed by a second baptism in the Fall of 2017. God was moving! Among the more unique features of the Orangeburg Mission are its leadership and composition. Typically, a new International Church of Christ (ICOC) congregation would exist after it was planted by a larger congregation, and in that larger church there would be a few disciples that would get together and conceive the idea of planting a church in the new city. This would be followed by selling homes, uprooting families, and finding new jobs in an unfamiliar city across the region — all done through faith. However, for the Orangeburg Mission, our faith is demonstrated through the sacrifice of time and persistent effort. My wife, Lorria and I are not paid ministry staff, and we do not live in Orangeburg, but rather near Columbia. In order to help move the ministry in Orangeburg, we commute many times per month, which is an hour in each direction. We encourage the handful of disciples living there to continually reach out, and we organize the involvement of several disciples from Columbia who have dedicated themselves to helping with services and events. Amid busy 40-hour weekly work schedules, as well as considering the schedule of our teen son Joseph, this can be very challenging! In 2018, we have tried a whole host of ideas to reach various parts of our city, with varying degrees of success. We also renewed our efforts on the campuses, but specifically at South Carolina State University as we had weekly Bible talks in the library there. As the university’s academic year drew to a close in May 2018, for our midweek service that I led off by reading the following Scripture: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. After reading John 4:34-35 in addition to other scriptures, I explained that this group was going to be fruitful this summer with campus not in session. We then split the group into prayer and fasting partners and established a rotating schedule for the month of June for each pair. We knew our efforts depended on God alone, so why not appeal to him by humbling ourselves? The disciples were excited about the plan, and we all waited in eager expectation for the Lord to move in Orangeburg. Meanwhile, we continued searching, sharing and studying with many men and women. Which brings us back to Austin. College students typically leave Orangeburg for the summer, and I had started formulating a plan to travel to his hometown to continue to reach out to him. But there was no need: the Lord already had his own plan! One day I got a text from Austin stating that he was staying in Orangeburg for the summer to participate in a work-study program on campus! As we continued to meet with him, we knew that the Lord had truly changed his heart when, after one study at the local Chick-Fil-A he stated he wanted to have a Bible talk at his house, and that he was going to ask all of his fellow students at work-study to attend (it was successful!) Though we would finish the studies quickly after that, we saw that the seeds of Lordship and discipleship had certainly taken root in his heart. This is why we live for days like August 12, 2018! As we have stayed faithful, we are starting to see the result of our prayer, fasting and persistent hard work. Though we are far from perfect and are not without our own challenges, we trust that God will continue to bless our efforts in spreading the message of salvation throughout Orangeburg. Please pray for us as we have a goal of baptizing four more college students and one married couple before the end of 2018! Already, God has shown us that it doesn’t take much for him to be able to use us to do amazing things. God has used our little bit of faith, a handful of willing hearts, and spirit of perseverance to start a great work this city. He has blessed us tremendously and we are excited to see God continue to work to make new disciples of Christ!