samway31 cover

I met a lot of people once the semester started at Bryan College, from those I met during Freshman Orientation to those I would meet as the semester went on. But there is one person whom I specifically left out of “Making a Name”, because my journey getting to know him was quite different than that of anyone I met this year. His impact and role in my life were also quite different in a way which cannot be well explained in short, so I opted to tell you about him later on rather than writing about him in the subsequent “Angels Among Men”.

His name, interestingly enough, was Gabriel.

Bryan College’s Freshman Orientation was on August 21 and 22, 2023. The All College Kick-Off at 7 PM on Tuesday, the 22nd, was the last Orientation event. It was also the gathering at which every single student was to be on campus and in attendance—an exciting lead-up to classes and College Life which were to begin on the following morning.

After that assembly, which lasted around an hour, I decided to go to Sonic with Joseph, a friend I had met during the 2022 Summer Institute, and a few of his friends.

And that’s where it all began, at around 8:45 PM.

Gabriel hadn’t come to Sonic with us: he was a commuter and had stopped there to eat after the All College Kick-Off. But he was there at the same time I was, and as I started paying attention to a few of the things he was saying, and simultaneously lost interest in the things that my other friends were talking about amongst themselves, Gabriel and I ended up in a full-blown conversation.

I don’t know if it was Gabriel’s charismatic nature, my desire and openness to meet new people, or both, but for some reason, we stayed in loose contact after that night.

The greatest single point at which we grew closer as friends, however, was Friday, September 1st, a week and a half later. My bicycle, which I use constantly while on campus, needed a wheel replacement, and I needed to get the new wheel from my house. Gabriel said he could take me from Dayton to Chattanooga, where he also lived about ten minutes away from my home. We would stop at my house and then at his, because his family was traveling up toward Cookeville and could drop me off at Bryan on the way.

What made this night so important was the fact that amid his family’s preparations for their trip, we talked quite a bit. We talked some more at the hospital, where Gabriel and his family stopped to visit Gabriel’s grandfather. It was here that he told me about an overnight trip that a few Bryan students were going on to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama—a trip during which we would talk and get to know each other even more.

After that, we talked even more during the ride from South Chattanooga—where the hospital was—to Dayton. And then we talked even more when we arrived at Bryan, and his family decided to stop there and eat a few of the provisions they had packed as a roadside snack.

Everything grew quite naturally from this point. We talked more, interacted more, trusted each other more, and were there more for each other as the semester went on.

When my mental struggles reached a peak in late November, I first began to share them in more detail with Gabriel. I had not spoken much to him about these issues before, because even though he was a very kind and approachable person, I had gained the impression from his personality and approach to many different topics and situations that he would not take them very seriously or be a good person to have a more serious conversation with.

I will explain in more detail what changed here in a future issue, but Gabriel shone his true light through to me in a different way even then the Men of Woodlee, and I realized that somewhere within me, I was more desperate, in a way, to trust him and be open with him than I had realized, and it was quite a relief to be able to do so.

So as the end of the year approaches, and as Christmas Break separates the Bryan College community, I am faced with yet another challenge that drags my mind and heart through a painful abyss. And through this season, Gabriel has been by my side to let me cry, make me laugh, and remind me that there is light above the storm, and that God has a purpose for this trial.

Next semester, when we return to class, Gabriel will join me and the Men of Woodlee as an on-campus student. Our minds are both flooded with ideas of what things we can accomplish, what adventures we can embark upon, and what lives we can change in such little ways as we have changed one another’s lives.

It is Friday, December 22, 2023 at around 11 am. I am currently sitting beside Gabriel in a room in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, at the home of one of his family’s friends where we stayed the night. We came to Nashville yesterday to see a concert that we’ve been looking forward to since the beginning of November. for KING + COUNTRY, an Australian duo that actually happens to love here in Nashville, performed their Drummer Boy Christmas at the Grand Ole Opry.

As I stood in the balcony last night, listening to the story of how God sent down an angel to share the good news of Christ’s birth, I was struck with the sudden realization that this year, when I needed a little light of my own,

God sent me Gabriel, who will soon be another one of Woodlee’s Angels Among Men.

So you like SaMWay?

Sign up to receive each issue in your inbox.

1 Comment

Comments are closed.