Midwest Music Festival, Central Illinois
Kat Davies ducked into the billowing exhibition tent staked down in a large pasture in central Illinois like a grounded Goodyear blimp. She’d been at the Midwest Music Fest three days already—didn’t know it was a Christian festival until she got here—and needed a little respite from the music pulsing morning-till-night on the Jazz Stage, Gospel Stage, Alternative Stage, Rock Stage, Folk Stage, and a few more she’d forgotten.
Besides, she’d be heading back to Phoenix in two days, and sooner or later she needed to figure out how to tell her parents she’d “given her heart to Jesus” after the Resurrection Band concert last night. Maybe this tent had a quiet corner where she could think. Or pray. Not that she had a clue how to do that.
Kat had a good idea how they’d react. Her mother would f lutter and say something like, “Don’t take it too seriously, Kathryn dear. Getting religion is just something everyone does for a year or two.” And her father? If he didn’t blow his stack at what he’d call “another one of your little distractions,” he’d give her a lecture about keeping her priorities straight: Finish pre-med at the University of Arizona. Go to medical school. Do her internship at a prestigious hospital. Follow in the Davies’ tradition. Make her family tree of prominent physicians proud.
Except . . . she’d walked out of her biochemistry class at UA one day and realized she didn’t want to become a doctor. She’d tutored ESL kids the summer after high school and realized she liked working with kids. (“Well, you can be a pediatrician like your Uncle Bernard, darling,” her mother had said.) And the student action group on the UA campus sponsoring workshops on “Living Green” and “Sustainable Foods” had really gotten her blood pumping. (Another one of her “distractions,” accord- ing to her father.)
Was it too late to pursue something else? Her parents were already bragging to friends and co-workers that their Kathryn had received her letter of acceptance into medical school a few months ago. Feeling squeezed till she couldn’t breathe, she’d jumped at the chance to attend a music fest in Illinois with a carload of other students—friends of friends—just to get away from the pressure for a while.
What she hadn’t expected was to find so many teenagers and twenty-somethings excited about Jesus. Jesus! Not the go- to-church-at-Christmas-and-Easter Jesus, the only Jesus she’d known growing up the daughter of a wealthy Phoenix physician and socialite mother. That Jesus, frankly, had a hard time com- peting with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
But these people talked about a Jesus who cared about poor people. A Jesus who created the world and told humans to take care of it. A Jesus who might not be blond and blue-eyed after all. A Jesus who said, “Love your neighbor”—and that neighbor might be black or brown or speak Spanish or Chinese. A Jesus who said, “All have sinned” and “You must be born again.” The Son of God, who’d died to take away the sins of the world.
That’s the Jesus she’d asked to be Lord of her life, even though she wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. But she desper- ately longed for something—Someone—to help her figure out who she was and what she should do with her life. The guitar player in the band who’d challenged the arm-waving music fans last night to be Christ-followers had said, “Jesus came to give you life—life more abundantly! But first you must give your life to Him.”
That’s what she wanted. Abundant life! A life sold out to something she could believe in. To give herself to one hundred percent. So she’d prayed the sinner’s prayer with a woman in a denim skirt whose name she never learned, and a “peace like a river” f looded her spirit.
Last night, anyway.
But by the light of day, she was still heading in a direction—medical school—that she didn’t want to go.
Big fans circulated the air in the large tent, though mostly it just moved the stif ling July heat around. Thick, curly strands of her long, dark hair had slipped out of the clip on the back of her head and stuck in wet tendrils on her skin. Redoing the clip to get the damp hair off her neck and face, she wan- dered the aisles, idly picking up brochures about Compassion International, Habitat for Humanity, and YWAM. Huh. What if she just dropped out of pre-med and did something like this Youth With A Mission thing. Far from Phoenix and the Davies Family Tradition. Go to Haiti or India or—
“Nice boots,” giggled a female voice nearby.
Kat glanced up from the brochure. A cute brunette with a shaggy pixie cut grinned at her from behind a booth that said Find Your Calling at CCU! Kat self-consciously looked down at the Arizona-chic cowboy boots peeking out beneath her designer jeans and f lushed. Ever since she’d arrived at the fes- tival, she felt as if she’d walked into a time-warp—girls in tank tops, peasant skirts, and pierced nostrils, guys wearing pony- tails, tattoos, shredded jeans, and T-shirts proclaiming Jesus Freak. Kat had felt as conspicuous as a mink coat in a second- hand store.
“Thanks. I think.”
The young woman, dressed in khaki Capris and a feminine lemon-yellow tee, laughed. “This your first time to the Fest? Where’re you from?”
Kat felt strangely relieved to be talking to someone else who didn’t look like a throwback to the seventies. “Phoenix. First time.”
“Wow. You came a long way.”
“Detroit. But during the year I’m a student at CCU in Chicago. I get a huge discount off my festival fee if I sit at this booth a couple hours a day during the Fest.” The girl grinned again and extended her hand across the stacks of informational literature. “I’m Brygitta Walczak.”
Kat shook her hand. “Kathryn Davies. But my friends call me Kat. With a K.”
“Like ‘kitty kat’ ? That’s cute. And . . . blue eyes with all that dark, curly hair? Bet the guys love that.”
Ignoring the remark, Kat glanced up at the banner above the booth. “What does CCU stand for?”
“Chicago Crista University. Usually we just call it Crista U. Located on the west side of Chicago. I’ll be a senior next year. Christian ed major.”
“Christian ed? What’s that?”
“You’re kidding.” Brygitta eyed her curiously. “Mm. You’re not kidding. Uh, are you a Christian?”
Kat allowed a wry smile. “For about twelve hours.”
The pixie-haired girl’s mouth dropped open, and then her amber eyes lit up. “That is so cool! Hey . . . want a Coke or something? I’ve got a cooler back here with some soft drinks. Wanna sit? I’d love some company.”
Brygitta dragged a folding chair from an unmanned booth nearby, and Kat found herself swapping life stories with her new friend. Unlike Kat, who had no siblings, Brygitta came from a large Polish family, had been raised in the Catholic church, “went Protestant” at a Youth for Christ rally in high school, planned to get a master’s degree at Crista U, and wanted to be a missionary overseas or a director of Christian education somewhere.
“Sorry I’m late, Bree,” said a male voice. “Uh-oh. Two gor- geous females. You’ve cloned yourself. I’m really in trouble now.”
Kat looked up. A young man about their same age grinned at them across the booth. He was maybe six feet, with short, sandy-brown hair combed forward over a nicely tanned face, wire-rim sunglasses shading his eyes. No obvious tattoos or body piercings. Just cargo shorts and a T-shirt that said CCU Soccer.
Brygitta jumped up. “Oh, hi, Nick. This is Kat Davies. She’s from the University of Arizona, first time at the Fest. Nick Taylor is my relief. He’s a seminary student at Crista—well, headed that way, anyway.”
Nick slid off his shades and flashed a smile, hazel eyes teasing. “So, Miss Blue Eyes. Has Brygitta talked you into coming to CCU yet?”
Kat laughed and started to shake her head . . . and then stopped as her eyes caught the logo on the banner across the booth. Find Your Calling at CCU.
Transfer to Crista University? Why not?