This past weekend was the epitome of the line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" for those living in Gainesville. The events of the weekend show the range of emotion one experiences from living in a college town and being involved in the lives of college students.
The best was obviously the success of Gator athletics over the weekend. The #5 ranked softball team traveled to Clearwater to open their season. They completely overpowered all their opponents en route to a 5-0 start outscoring their opponents 53-3. Florida ace Stephanie Brombacher tossed her second career perfect game against NC State and the new freshmen contributed both in the field and at the plate. The mens basketball team defeated Tennessee on a clutch layup by Ervin Walker and then a defensive stop as time expired in front of a great crowd in the O'Dome! The Mens golf team won their own tournament. The Womens tennis team defeated two top ten ranked teams on the road in NC and Duke. The Gator Gymnastics team crushes the Georgia team in Athens where the crowd in unusually rude and crude for the sport in front of a sold out crowd recording one of it's highest totals for the year. All around it was a great weekend to be a Gator sports fan.
The worst came with the news late on Saturday evening that two UF students had died in a caving accident in Georgia. Grant Louderbach and Michael Pirie were among a group of 10 Fellowship of Christian Athletes members who had traveled to the cave to explore for the weekend. Grant is the president of the UF chapter and Michael was a freshman member of the group. While the details are still coming to light, Grant went back to retrieve a bag and apparently fell down a waterfall becoming lodged somehow and then Michael went down the rope to help his friend. When they didn't hear anything from Michael the group went for help but by the time the cave rescue unit arrived an hour or so later, the two had died. Cause of death will be determined later but hypothermia is considered to be a factor.
The death of two members of the faith community at UF was marked last night by a memorial service attended by almost 400 students and friends of the two men. Grant was a member of the ROTC and Michael of the Florida Drum Line. Many members of both groups were present at the memorial service along with the members of the FCA group. I was there along with most of the members of the Evangelical Campus Minister's Association and several area pastors of churches attended by college students. The memorial was organized by students and many shared their memories of Grant and Michael. It was a sad time, but it was marked by the certain hope that Grant and Michael had finished their race and were at home with Jesus. There was a marked difference among the way the groups grieved. The Christian students prayed, hugged, cried, and even laughed together as they shared the memories and the hope they have of seeing their friends again. The friends that were a part of the ROTC or the FDL who didn't know Christ grieved as well only without that hope of eternal life. The gospel was shared in an appropriate way from those on the platform and from the prayers of those within the ROTC and the FDL who are Christians. Who knows what good God will bring about from the tragic loss of these two fine young Christian men, but at least the full impact of their lives on those in the two non-Christian groups cannot be denied after that service last night.
Michael and Grant were definitely ready to meet Jesus. Their friends offered positive testimony of their love for the Lord and their friends. There was no hoping that they were in heaven or that they were saved, there was certainty because they had left behind evidence in the way they treated others, the way they worshiped the Lord, and the way they shared their faith with their friends. Would the same be said of you and me if a memorial service was held for us tomorrow? Live your life for the Lord today so that your testimony will linger tomorrow! Be like Mike and Grant!