Todd and I in Lawndale

Sledgehammers? Let me explain.

This year, Greek IV students took a risk and wanted to shake things up with our annual fall retreat and make it a service event in order to reach out to some of the more socially minded fraternity and sorority students on campus.

We planned. We strategized.  We worked to invite.

But the calendars of students are often more full than we like to think. In the quarter system academic calendar, each weekend seems to become occupied with other activities, often necessary for their membership in their fraternity or sorority.

The reasons for low student attendance were valid – but it was obvious that my student leaders were disappointed.

So the faithful few (12) traveled to the west side of Chicago, to Lawndale Community Church, where I’ve taken students for many years.  If you know me, you know this place holds great significance for me as I’ve thought to help understand that the gospel is truly good news.  Serving the marginalized, this church embodies the gospel as well as any group I’ve ever encountered.

We learned about the neighborhood, and the pastor spoke about how challenging ministry is in the area.  Todd, one of my student leaders, looks at me and says, “It looks like it’s hard here, too.”

Todd, another student leader, and I were assigned with a high school boy from the neighborhood and another student leader. We were charged with demolishing a section of concrete floor so it could be removed.

Given only a sledgehammer, the four of us took turns slamming the sledgehammer into the concrete.  It was hard going – even for a man like me who enjoys splitting wood with his brothers back in Wisconsin.

So I took it as an opportune moment for my two student leaders, and the neighborhood boy, to teach on perseverance.

“You know, guys, breaking this concrete is a lot like ministry in fraternities and sororities.  It’s a lot like ministry in this neighborhood.  It feels like you are hitting up a against a brick wall.  But the key is to persevere.  Most of the ministry in this neighborhood is a function of faithfulness over time.  So with each time you whack this concrete block with a sledgehammer, I want you to pray for a breakthrough in a fraternity and sorority on campus, and for this neighborhood.   Pray that God breaks through, even when we want to give up.”

So we whacked that concrete, shouting out what many consider to be lost causes because we know God cares for them.  And we prayed for breakthroughs.

Todd particularly got into it, and took of a large chunk of concrete and smiled.  He said, “that’s for my roommate.”

In my eighth year at Northwestern, I keep praying for breakthroughs.  Would you join me?  It’s been a hard year thus far, but I pray for students and I to be found faithful to Jesus in the end.

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2 Responses to “Students. Service. And Sledgehammers.”


  1. 1 Joel McMillan December 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Andy,
    Great analogy! I’ve got another one for you – after the concrete is broken & the lives are being rebuilt – this will be a fragile time until a new wall is built. But as Nehemiah had to answer some tough questions (4:2) – so will you. Be strong, humble & consistent.

    May our Lord keep blessing & encouraging you!

    Enjoy Christmas & New Years.

    -Joel

  2. 2 Scott December 25, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’m praying for you guys – God is faithful, just keep holding on! Wish I could’ve been there!


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