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"Wait on the Lord, be strong and of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart...wait on the Lord. Psalms 27:14

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kudos to The Lighthouse in Colorado

No, I have not abandoned the Prophecy series. Yes, I will return to it in a couple of days, however, this story really touched me. In college I was such a huge party girl and I could easily have ended up like the girl in this story. I drank like a fish and was extremely drunk almost every weekend. I was what you could call a really heavy social drinker. I drank more than most of the guys I knew. It was part of the Greek system at the University of Texas to drink, drink, drink and you weren't really accepted for not drinking if you were in the "popular" Greek houses or dated someone who was in them. Every party I went to there were drinks everywhere. In fact the fraternity of the guy I dated for a few months my sophomore year in college was closed down for BIG TIME breaking the alcohol rules for the chapter. They were busted a few times providing hard liquor to minors and finally, after one party, they were investigated and shut down.

This story is a great one about what happened to a former faternity house. I hope to see more of these cropping up in colleges and universities across the country! In college there is the lie that everything has to involve alcohol of some kind for just about every activity. It doesn't have to be that way. Bad decisions are made and sometimes even the ultimate penalty is paid in pursuit of the ultimate party experience - death.
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Ex-frat house seeks to become beacon against alcohol abuse
Where sophomore died in '04, pledge is now sobriety
By Jeff Kass, Globe Correspondent | November 25, 2005

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- A former fraternity house where a 19-year-old sophomore died of acute alcohol poisoning 14 months ago has become home to an unusual college ministry that works to prevent alcohol abuse.

The Lighthouse, which opened in August just off campus at Colorado State University in the former Sigma Pi fraternity, is sponsored by the nearby Assemblies of God Timberline Church and has already inspired a similar project at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

While college ministries might be expected to preach against alcohol, officials with local, state, and national church organizations representing a variety of denominations are unaware of any other college ministry with such an overriding focus on drinking.

And safety, not prohibition, is one of Lighthouse's main goals, said Reza Zadeh, Timberline's 28-year-old pastor who founded Lighthouse -- although the 21 students who live in the house sign a pledge that they will not drink any alcohol, anywhere, while living at Lighthouse.

To promote safety, the home provides a free pancake dinner Friday nights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. to ensure that students who stop by have food in their stomachs to absorb the alcohol they imbibe. Timberline also runs shuttles from the downtown Fort Collins bars back to campus or student homes to prevent drunken driving. There is no cost to students or other bar-hoppers who need a ride.

And the church passes out small water bottles around Fort Collins bars to promote hydration. One bottle has a quote from John, 4:13, saying "It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life."

Another bottle has a label with tips on how to recognize alcohol poisoning, and a picture of Samantha "Sam" Spady, the CSU sophomore whose death Sept. 5, 2004, inspired the Lighthouse.

The closest the Lighthouse comes to preaching prohibition is alcohol-free parties at the stately, red brick mansion with square, white pillars and windows framed by white shutters. The two parties this semester -- the most recent on Oct. 28 for Halloween -- were attended by several hundred students, Zadeh said.

"We're not trying to kill someone's college experience," Zadeh said. "We just don't want them to get killed while in college."

Spady, a former high school class president and homecoming queen, spent her last night drinking at a number of places, including her last stop at Sigma Pi. Early Sunday morning she was brought to a second-floor lounge to pass out.

But she died there of acute alcohol poisoning. Her blood alcohol level was 0.43. The coroner's office estimated she had consumed the equivalent of 30 to 40 beers or shots of liquor. Spady died alone, but the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that drinking by college students ages 18 to 24 contributes to 1,700 student deaths, nearly 600,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault each year.

Sigma Pi Fraternity International revoked the fraternity's local charter days later, and the brothers moved out. Zadeh said the vacant house became run down and a haven for the homeless.

Now, "It's kind of like my dream house, my MTV Cribs house," he says, referring to the MTV show featuring homes of the hip, rich, and famous.

Timberline, an Assemblies of God church that Zadeh says counts 2,500 members but holds weekend services for 6,500, pitched in $200,000 to renovate the house. In addition to the 21 students, four resident assistants and a house manager live in the three-story Lighthouse, with women on the top floor and men on the second. The main floor includes a dining room, computer room, and game room that once held a bar, Zadeh says.

The room where Spady died has been converted to a prayer room, with crosses hanging on the wall, paintings of lighthouses, and plump couches. Zadeh says each room in the house has an inscription on the floor, underneath the carpeting. The inscription in the prayer room is, "O death, where is thy sting?"

Zadeh used the name Lighthouse because he believes it provides a light and safe harbor.

Lighthouse resident and CSU sophomore Jared Petsche's pad looks like a typical, small college dorm room full of clothes and a skateboard. But a wall also holds a small whiteboard listing people the 19-year-old is to pray for.

The opportunity to live in a Christian community is why Petsche, a philosophy major from the Denver suburb of Arvada, transferred from nearby University of Northern Colorado to reside at Lighthouse.

"It's a very creative approach by a church," Philip Jenks, spokesman for the National Council of Churches U.S.A. that represents 35 denominations but not Assemblies of God, said of Lighthouse.

Jenks said programs such as the pancake dinners are "very realistic," common sense approaches. "Churches are usually very good at adopting message to marketplace," he added.

North Carolina State senior David Haydysch says he was listening to a Christian radio program this past spring when he heard a segment about Lighthouse.

"I had to pull off the side of the road," said the 28-year-old religious studies major. "It struck me that hard; 'This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.' "

Haydysch, who is also president of the Chi Alpha Omega Christian fraternity at North Carolina State, expects to begin Lighthouse activities such as the pancake dinner in the coming days. The work will be run out of the fraternity house, but Haydysch eventually hopes to find a separate home for the Lighthouse.

Haydysch says he can envision himself opening Lighthouses at campuses across the country someday.

At CSU, which has about 25,000 students, the Lighthouse has been accepted by many students and the university.

Pat Pollock is president of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity next to Lighthouse. He says he attended the '80's party, and members of his fraternity have partaken of the pancakes. "Lighthouse is openly trying to interact with the Greek system, rather than trying to look at us as outcasts," he said.

Spady's mother, Patty Spady, has approvingly followed the Fort Collins Lighthouse efforts, visited the home twice, and spoken at Timberline.

Zadeh says he is not trying to form Lighthouses across the country, but will help if asked.

Patty Spady and her husband, Rick, have also founded the Sam Spady Foundation to educate about the dangers of alcohol. Zadeh is on the board.

"The Lighthouse to me offered hope for the future," she said by phone from her home in Beatrice, Neb. "It is putting the kids on notice that not everything has to be surrounded by alcohol."

3 comments:

Erik Johnson said...

Please check out my blog www.animperfectstorm.blogspot.com

Thanks

Michael Manning said...

THE HAZING DEATHS ARE AWFUL AND I'M AFRAID THAT AS LONG AS IT HAPPENS TO "SOMEONE ELSE" IT DOESN'T HIT US.

Dave said...

Nicole,

This is Dave, founder of the Lighthouse @ Raleigh. I just wanted to say Thank you for your attention to this story. I myself knowing the party side of college share similar thoughts to yours. It could have been me. I believe that is partly why I am so passionate about this. I hope to see more of these across the country and I pray that lives are saved throguh this. Thanks again for drawing more attention to this worthy cause. Be blessed!