Teaching the Gospel is an important part of Cross­Roads and program night. Courtesy | Carl Miller.

When Hillsdale res­ident Max Mason walked into Cross­Roads Farm as a 12-year-old, he said he was met with love and Christ for the first time. He remembers the moment vividly.

“I had on red skinny jeans, a green plaid shirt, a blue scarf with an orange cardigan,” Max Mason, now 21 years old, said with a small chuckle. “People would make fun of me at school a lot, but I walked into Cross­Roads and I was received with love for the first time and I had no idea why, so I kept coming back.”

Just 20 minutes from Hillsdale in Reading, Michigan lies Cross­Roads Farm, an orga­ni­zation that works with churches to bring the Gospel of Christ to middle school and high school kids from the sur­rounding counties. Hillsdale stu­dents can vol­unteer with Cross­Roads through Hillsdale’s GOAL program.

Their obser­va­tions of sub­stance abuse in rural America inspired Dawn Rout­ledge and her husband, Doug Rout­ledge, to found Cross­Roads Farm 20 years ago.

“I always wanted to be a trav­elling mis­sionary … What if God wanted to do some­thing new in rural America?” Dawn Rout­ledge said. “And so Cross­Roads Farm was born in 1999.”

Cross­Roads has a goal to provide middle school and high school stu­dents the oppor­tunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and respond to it. Through young adult vol­un­teers, Cross­Roads engages with teenagers weekly with dif­ferent out­reach oppor­tu­nities. Cross­Roads begins by engaging with a church, equipping them with vol­un­teers, bib­lical teaching, and training. They provide social, edu­ca­tional, spir­itual, and rela­tional support to those in these churches.

Max Mason is a res­ident of Hillsdale and has been a Cross­Roads student for nearly nine years. For Mason, Cross­Roads was an intro­duction to Christ and pro­vided a strong, loving envi­ronment.

“Kids first come to Cross­Roads because they hear it is some­thing to do. But they come back because people love them there,” Mason said. “It is the love of Christ. That is why kids come to Cross­Roads.”

Most teenagers who come to Cross­Roads come from a dif­ficult home life. One of the biggest ben­efits of Cross­Roads to the stu­dents is the sim­plest: food. The program pro­vides snacks and meals to stu­dents when they come to the barn, which, more often than not, is some­thing they cannot count on at home.

When junior Carl Miller, the Cross­Roads GOAL leader, arrived on campus, he said his faith was strong and he felt con­victed to serve. That’s when he found Cross­Roads.

“Because I have been saved, I am called to some­thing more than just sitting around waiting for my ticket to heaven,” Miller explained. “Because I have been saved by grace, I am called to serve God and to glorify Him.”

Through Cross­Roads, Miller leads a group of middle school boys, called a carousel, that meets every Sunday. As a carousel leader, Miller is very inten­tional about forming deep rela­tion­ships with his stu­dents, sharing the Gospel, and being an example of Christ.

Leading a carousel is just one way to serve at Cross­Roads. The program is in need of long-term mentors, young adults for admin­is­trative work, and hands to help clean up the farm.

Every Sunday at 6 p.m., Cross­Roads holds a program night where around 300 young adults and stu­dents gather to sing and play games. Trans­portation is pro­vided and all are welcome. Miller said he believes that once kids come to a program night, they will always come back.

Cross­Roads pro­vides a variety of oppor­tu­nities to serve the com­munity, which is helpful for stu­dents looking to gain service hours.

“You don’t have to be super tal­ented. You don’t have to have any sort of min­istry back­ground to come to Cross­Roads,” Miller said. “If you have never led a Bible study before, if you have never served in min­istry before, that is okay. As long as you meet two require­ments, Cross­Roads is for you. You have to love Jesus and you have to love kids. That’s it.”