McDONOUGH – At Confluence 2018, “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” the name given to the grand rivalry between Georgia and Georgia Tech on the football field, produced some outstanding love for those in need. During the annual convention for Baptist Collegiate Ministries from across the state of Georgia, the rival schools donated more than 600 backpacks through Christmas Backpacks.
Like any great rivalry, that feeling of mutual disdain stretches far beyond the Hedges of Sanford Stadium or the Flats of Bobby Dodd. For many alumni and fans of both institutions, it’s a yearlong celebration of how much the other guy stinks.
And if you happen to be the most recent victor, as the Bulldogs currently are after last November’s 38-7 drubbing of the Yellow Jackets, then that is a pretty sweet year when you get to rub it in. However, all that was put aside for the gospel.
Spiritual and tangible needs met
“To impact kids all across the nation for the gospel of Christ, what an awesome opportunity for us to do that,” Kenneth Brock, a fourth-year business management major at the University of Georgia and the president of the BCM at UGA, said.
Overall, BCM campuses from Georgia gave 1,013 backpacks to this ongoing program. The bulk of those came from the internal competition between Georgia and Tech.
“Not only are they getting physical needs and tangible things, they’re also getting a Bible and the Christmas story laid out,” Powell Fennell, the BCM president at Tech who also happens to be a fourth-year business major, stated. “A lot of what we do is to impact Georgia Tech, but getting to share the gospel with kids we’ll never meet is so, so cool.”
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board and its cooperating churches have been coordinating the Christmas Backpacks since 2012 and have seen more than a quarter million backpacks given to children in need.
Children who receive a backpack from the GBMB are going to get small toys, hygienic supplies, clothes, and something far greater: their own Bible.
“We are here to equip students to reduce brokenness and lostness in our world,” Brock explained, citing the official mission statement for his BCM. “Taking that definition and applying it to these backpacks, we are equipping students, giving them a very tangible way, saying, “Hey, get these items and fill it in a backpack.’”
Brock also emphasized that these backpacks serve to reduce brokenness and lostness by making sure that every child has that copy of the gospel and the Christmas story in front of them.
“When you look at the Scripture, you often see Jesus meeting spiritual needs by first meeting physical needs. It’s an easy access point,” Brock noted.
Giving spurred by rivalry
For the student presidents at both of these schools, getting to show children the love of Christ is far greater than any rivalry.
Even one with its own name.
“Two or three years ago was the first time we said, ‘Let’s try to make these backpacks part of the rivalry.’ Some videos were exchanged…because competition is a great motivator, but there’s a mountain of backpacks on both sides,” Fennell pointed out. “Yes, it’s a competition and a rivalry, but at the end of the day, getting to stand beside each other, all of this is so, so good.”
The backpacks also go towards the overall standings in the Confluence Cup, a trophy awarded to one school at the end of Confluence after compiling points for athletic competitions, spirit competitions, and charitable events.
“I remember two years when Tech beat us in back packs but we beat them by just one second in the Mega Relay,” Brock reminisced. “So there was a little trash talk, obviously, but it was a lot of fun. We realize everything we do here is for the glory of God.
“You have to think that, at some points, the disciples had competition, as well,” Brock joked.
Tech had won the Confluence Cup for the last three years, but Brock and the rest of the Bulldogs from UGA wrested it out of their hands and brought Confluence Cup honors back to Athens with them.
Doing ministry together
Both Fennell and Brock were excited about this renewed instance of the rivalry for several reasons. While collecting backpacks was a phenomenal opportunity to minister to people in need, it also served as an excellent chance for the students at each campus to do ministry together in a way that builds fellowship on-campus.
“To see the whole BCM come together and to make trips to Wal-Mart, that’s where the memories were made doing this,” Brock elaborated.
“It was really cool to see everyone come together. Each community group was trying to bring in the most…and seeing community groups who don’t even know each other well build community,” Fennell said. “Seeing the camaraderie and the community, that was really energizing.”
That spirit of cooperation and community is exactly what Confluence is supposed to be about, and getting to spend time with students at UGA and Emory and Georgia State and several other campuses is exactly what Fennell loves about the weekend away.
“The mission of Confluence, or at least how I see it…is being able to come here each year and see that we’re not in this alone. There are believers at other campuses going through the same challenges we are,” Fennell explained.
“Okay, so Tech and UGA may be rivals, but at the end of the day, I know that anyone at UGA’s BCM would be there wholeheartedly for anyone at Tech, and vice versa,” Fennell added. “Confluence is where that starts.”
The students at Georgia made it their goal to provide 111 backpacks this year in honor of their theme for the year, which is based in Colossians 1:11.
“To be able to meet that goal and to pass it, that was awesome for us,” Brock noted.
UGA provided 199 backpacks while Tech surpassed their own goal with 403.
Standing in awe
“I just stood in awe at everything that was going on,” Fennell beamed, talking about the massive number of backpacks each campus unloaded.
While the students at Georgia Tech brought in twice as many backpacks as the delegation from UGA, Brock chose to focus on the incredible amount of good that was done by both campuses.
“Man. Congratulations to Tech, but I’m very proud of my students at UGA. We surpassed our goal by almost double,” Brock noted.
Brock, Fennell and the students at their respective campuses may never have their names uttered alongside legendary athletes in this series, names like Theron Sapp or Harrison Butker, but they know that they all contributed something pretty amazing to one of the more unique and certainly least spiteful instances of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
“To stand out here to see 600 backpacks between both campuses, that’s a lot of time and effort by these students,” Brock proudly acknowledged. “I’m proud of both these students at UGA and at Tech.”