To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3–5).
Partnerships change over time. Here at Heritage we’ve received and sent missionaries, and we’ve trained and launched pastors to lead churches. Over a stretch of forty years, it adds up. Sometimes, we get to receive a partner back for ministry right here.
We’re all pleased to welcome Dan Cruver back to Heritage as our Director of College Ministries, along with his wife, Melissa, and Hannah, Isaiah, and Noah.
To some, the Cruvers are seasoned friends, and to others new faces altogether.
To help all of us warmly welcome this family into our church family once again, here’s the first of a two-part interview with Dan. Enjoy!
First things first, tell us how Melissa and the kids are doing?
Melissa is entering her twelfth year of teaching in the education department at North Greenville University (and she loves it there). Hannah is a senior marketing major at NGU and is already thinking about what’s next after college. Isaiah is entering his junior year and Noah his freshman year at Travelers Rest High School.
Melissa and I were married at Heritage in 1992. Pastor Jim Conley did our pre-marital counseling and officiated our wedding. And Heritage was the first church that Hannah, Isaiah, and Noah were a part of. So, in a very real sense (especially for Melissa and me), coming back to Heritage feels like a return home. There will certainly be an adjustment period for our kids, but they’ve all been loved on by HBC already. We’re grateful to be back with the HBC family.
You and the family are new to Heritage, but not really new at all. What’s the backstory on your relationship to our church?
Melissa and I met at Heritage in June of 1991 through what was then called the College & Career Ministry. We began dating in July, got engaged in December, and were married in April. So, Heritage played a verysignificant role from the very first time I entered its doors. In the summer of 1992, just a couple months after our wedding, Melissa and I became youth sponsors under the ministry of Danny Brooks. We served as youth sponsors for the two years I was in graduate school.
After teaching high school Bible for seven years, the Lord led us back to Heritage to serve as Pastor of Youth and Families. I served in that capacity for three years, after which the Lord provided me with the opportunity to teach in the Bible department of Clarks Summit University. During all these years, Melissa’s parents, Joe and Marilyn Elmer, were (and continue to be) members of Heritage. So, in a sense, Heritage was always a part of us.
Let’s back up and learn about your conversion. How did God save you?
I really do not know when I first believed. God was very gracious to put me in a Christian home where the gospel was regularly presented to me from as early as I can remember. Although I do not know exactly when I was born again, I do remember a number of times when the light of the gospel shined into my heart in such a way that it “felt” like a conversion each time. What I do know is that by God’s grace alone my hope is in Jesus, whose vicarious life, death, and resurrection have secured my eternal salvation.
You were pastoring here but then not pastoring. What happened in the years since? Specifically, tell us about Together for Adoption.
For the last 11 years, I’ve led Together for Adoption, which is a non-profit that exists to provide theological resources for the evangelical orphan care, foster care, and adoption movement. The primary mechanism for providing those resources has been our annual Together for Adoption National Conference, which brings together speakers who have theological expertise and speakers with expertise in some aspect of orphan care, foster care, adoption, orphan prevention, and family reunification. In addition to the annual conference, we’ve held regional conferences in the U.S. as well as several international conferences (Australia, Haiti, South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, and Nicaragua). Together for Adoption’s conferences have served anywhere from 175 people to 1,000, depending on the year. (By the way, Heritage’s youth ministry volunteered at our first ever conference. Abe Stratton, who was the youth pastor back then, and everyone who volunteered were a huge help in getting our first conference off the ground.)
We also put together a print resource entitled, Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, which was published by Cruciform Press in 2011. The book has since been translated into Portuguese and Amharic (Ethiopia).
Tell us a bit about you and Melissa. How did you meet and how long have you been married? Then tell us about how you complement and strengthen one another.
Melissa and I first met at Larry Lemon’s home. It was a Sunday evening college and career gathering. She and I probably talked a good hour or so. I was immediately smitten. We’ve now been married for 26 years.
As far as how we complement and strengthen one another, I’m more introvert than extrovert, and Melissa’s more extrovert than introvert. So, I really benefit from Melissa’s strength in social settings, and she benefits from my strength of internal processing. Together, we draw each other into experiences to which as individuals we are not naturally inclined.
Melissa works over at North Greenville University. What is her job there?
Melissa has an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instructional Development and has taught in NGU’s College of Education for 11 years now. She’s a very gifted educator and well-loved by NGU students.
You have a beautiful family. Tell us a bit about each of your children.
Hannah is our oldest. She’s 21 and a senior marketing major at North Greenville University. In God’s kind providence, as an 8-year old, she got to know Sally Lloyd-Jones (author of The Jesus Storybook Bible) via email. Hannah would write really creative short stories, email them to Sally, and Sally would provide wonderful feedback. Sally quickly recognized Hannah’s creative writing ability and was very kind to help nurture and develop it. Hannah’s now taking that love of good storytelling to the world of marketing. We’re very eager to see how God uses her love of storytelling in the years to come.
Isaiah is a rising junior in high school. Unlike I was at his age, he’s both a good athlete and a good student. Like me, Isaiah is also a basketball junkie. We are both big fans of the Warriors’ Steph Curry and his shooting genius. Isaiah hopes to play basketball for the varsity team at Travelers Rest High School this year. Also, if you ever find yourself eating at Sidewall Pizza in Travelers Rest on a Saturday, make sure you say “hi” to him. Isaiah has been a faithful server there for a couple of years now.
Noah will be a freshman at Travelers Rest High this year. He’s played tenor saxophone for the past 3 years at Northwest Middle and plans on playing in TR’s band this year. Noah is also an excellent student and loves basketball. So, his goal this coming school year is to play both freshmen basketball and the saxophone in his first year of high school. And, if you ever have any questions about Marvel or DC Comics, make Noah your go-to guy. Noah has forgotten more about that area of knowledge than I have ever known.
You’ve called Travelers Rest home for a number of years, and I know you’re there intentionally. Tell us about that.
When we moved to Travelers Rest in 2007, our hope and goal, if the Lord allowed, was to live in the home we just purchased for the next 30-50 years. And from the start, we were committed to living our Christian faith “in the open” before our neighbors in how we conducted ourselves and interacted with them. We would look for gospel-conversations and enter into them if at all possible. But we also had (and have) a long-haul perspective. If we live in the same house across multiple decades and our neighbors see our lives lived Christianly before them, there will come a day when they face trial and heartache and, Lord willing, will ask us a reason for the hope that lies within us. That continues to be our mindset, even though Heritage is now our church family.
Also, in an effort to become more involved in the daily life of residents of Travelers Rest, I earned my certification as a personal trainer and began working part-time at the YMCA in TR two years ago.
I hear you have some history with a number of the College Ministry sponsors. Give us the bullet-point summary of those intersections.
- Greg and Cynthia Fox. We served with them as youth sponsors from 1992 to 1994. We’re all exactly the same now as we were then, except for the gray hair and aching joints.
- Lee and Annette Hendsbee. When I was Pastor of Youth and Families at Heritage in the early 2000s, the Hendsbees led Sigma. So, we had the privilege of serving HBC’s youth together with them. We loved the Hendsbees back then like everyone at Heritage does now.
- Lewis and Sarah Carl. I taught Sarah at Bob Jones Academy when she was a freshman and junior. Sarah’s most vivid memory of me is (supposedly) beating me at foosball on her senior trip at the WILDS. And Lewis was a college roommate with one of my all-time best friends.
- Caleb and Lynelle McQuaid. As with Greg and Cynthia Fox, we served with Caleb’s parents as youth sponsors from 1992 to 1994. And, as a result, were there to see Caleb take his first steps, literally.
- Carolyn Sandy. Carolyn was in the youth group when I served as Heritage’s youth pastor back in the “olden days.” Now that I’m Director of College Ministries, Carolyn has to put up with me again.
- Allen and Karen Vaillencourt. Allen and my youngest brother, Dave, were in each other’s weddings, and I officiated Dave’s. As a result, Allen may or may not have any embarrassing stories about something that happened to me as I officiated my brother’s wedding ceremony.
- Dave and Katie Gerdt. So, since we are just now intersecting with the Gerdts, they do not know what they are in for!
Okay, one last question: what excites you the most about ministry to college students?
They are in that season of life where they are making some of the biggest decisions they will ever make. It’s also a season in which they wrestle with some of life’s most important issues. So, I’m excited to walk alongside them and speak God’s Good News into those decisions and issues.