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.”