Late this afternoon, I met some amazing people...
John and Debbie Phillips live in Middletown, Ohio, with their four children and an assortment of young adults in a big pink house. Next door is a gigantic stone church building in need of a facelift, sporting a new sign declaring it "Rachel's Place."
On April 20, 1999, John & Debbie's niece, Rachel Scott, was murdered at Columbine High School. This afternoon, over steaming mugs of coffee resting on the Phillips' dining room table, they told us of a young girl who loved poetry, drawing, drama and Jesus. It is in the spirit of this dynamic young girl that they dream about and work towards what Rachel's Place will be. The mission statement associated with Rachel's Place states that it will exist to train, mentor, and equip young men and women interested in becoming excellent in the arts, exellent as individuals, and relevant to their culture. Out of this old building they propose to serve the arts and feed the homeless. It will be part chapel, part sound stage, part coffee bar, part school, all love.
As they gather finances to go forward with the renovation of the building (it will take buckets), they travel the United States in two RV's with their team and children doing high school assemblies entitled "Life Choices". Everywhere they go young people are challenged to make their one chance in life count. We saw video of hundreds of them responding to the message. Debbie told us of one adult who (at first) questioned whether or not they were 'using' the tragedy of Rachel's death...and how, after that person saw their presentation, came to the realization that Rachel's death - and life - must be used for this very purpose.
I like John and Debbie. I like their vision, their fire, their unpretentous ways, and their affection for their children and their team. I have met with dozens of people - maybe even a hundred - with big dreams. Often times I smile and nod, only to walk away thinking "Good luck, folks." After two hours with the Phillips, I lean back in my chair and close my eyes and see Rachel's Place. My gut says Rachel can see it too.