Written by Mara Williams

An emotional low point, a phone text, and a giant roadside cross, led Maxx Woodring back to the Bible, to a bonfire and Graceway.

Maxx, now 22 and living in Lee’s Summit, was raised a Lutheran. It’s where his parents attended church dragging him along with them every Sunday morning, building for him, a foundation rooted in faith.

But by high school, Maxx began to drift. Getting him up on Sunday mornings became harder and harder the further Maxx got into high school.

Maxx is an only child. Eventually, he said, “my parents eased up on me going to church. And eventually, I just completely fell out of attending church. It was apathy. I really didn’t care.”

And, he said, “I kind of thought I could do everything on my own.”

It wasn’t that Maxx was into really bad stuff. In fact, he was making good grades in school and hanging out with “a bunch of normal dudes.” That’s how he described his high school friends. Only, for the most part, those dudes didn’t have a belief in God. And at the time, that was just fine with Maxx.

He found it easy to ignore the still small voice that nagged at him from time to time, telling him he wasn’t going in the right direction. He concentrated on his school books and told himself, “This is my life and I’m going to take control. I wanted to have the steering wheel in my hands.”

One summer break from the University of Central Missouri, where Maxx was majoring in history, he went to work as a camp counselor in Rolla, Mo. Maxx met a girl.

“I fell into a super unhealthy relationship. I put all my emotional stability into her,” he recalled. And on top of that, when the summer ended, the relationship was a long distance one. And as they often do, it fell apart.

So did Maxx. “That failure, that false happiness led me to my lowest point. I realized I had been going astray the entire time. And I just broke down mentally. I wouldn’t call it depression, but I was really sad.”

Maxx said he really didn’t know where to turn. But he recalled a young man he’d known in high school who had recently been saved. “I reached out to him. I saw him as the right path.”

Broke, sad and on his way back to college, Maxx was traveling on 50 Highway when he received a text message from his high school friend sending him a list of Bible verses.

Maxx’s phone buzzed. Bible verses filled the screen. At that moment he looked up and through the car windshield he was staring at a large white cross standing off the highway.

“I had driven that way a hundred times and never noticed that cross,” Maxx said.

The minute he got home Maxx went straight to his bedroom and opened his Bible.

“I hadn’t looked in a Bible in years,” he said. “And now I was reading it with different eyes.”

Tears streaming down his cheeks. He spent that evening reading. “And I’m sure I prayed for the first time in five years.”

Maxx kept reading and began attending a Baptist church in Kansas City with that high school buddy.

Several months later, Maxx was invited to a bonfire by friends he’d met at church. And that’s where he met Emily Marriott who plays drums at Graceway.

Before long the two were dating. Maxx has been attending Graceway now for a year, spent a summer as a counselor at a Christian camp, has helped with the church soccer league, and every Sunday during second service he’s working with SkyKids.

A smile spreads across his face. Maxx feels secure, grounded in the Christian roots planted in his youth.

In December Maxx was baptized.

“I think that it is awesome that my friends and family got to see that,” Maxx said. “They got to see that this isn’t a phase it’s a lot more important. It’s who I am.”