Personal Affirmation for Christian Higher Education

I had half of my day blocked out for the kind of assignment at HBU I would normally avoid. Our student life director wanted me to help interview candidates for Mr. and Ms. HBU. When I was an undergraduate, I avoided student life activities and spent most of my time with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship or friends from Landis Hall. This sort of competition was, in my mind, likely to be a contest of resume’ builders.

How wrong could I have been?

The students I met through the interview process stunned me with their poise, records of accomplishment, desire to experience community with their fellow students, and their spiritual insight.

One young man had overcome a stuttering problem to become the determined editor of the college newspaper. He has interviewed me before. The kid is tough. Despite the bad economy, he has a job lined up ready to go when he graduates.

Another one has studied to be a pastor. When we asked about his legacy at the institution, he wept as he recounted his experience of reaching out to others and finding them ready to reciprocate. His record at the university showed he had taken up almost every helpful task he could find.

One young woman talked about being a leader for other students. She explained that she understood the role of leader to be striving to follow Jesus so that when others follow her, they will be following him. When I asked her which outside speaker had made the biggest impact on her, she mentioned Archbishop Chaput of Denver. She was impressed by his “humble boldness.” As she was speaking, I was taking notes. Spiritual wisdom seemed to flow from her like water from a spring. I could imagine her as a great English professor with a big family of her own.

We interviewed a girl who trained at our school to be a nurse. She discussed her determination to learn the liberal arts in addition to nursing so that she would avoid a narrow, professionalized view of the world. With regard to her faith, she insisted on the need to embrace a “God-centered reality.”

Still another talked about her failures, but distinguished herself through an indefatigable commitment to maintaining a great attitude and working to succeed. I felt so proud listening to her. I can’t know the mind of God, but I can’t help feeling that he would observe her and smile.

I could go on. Each student did something that touched me personally. How long will it be before I forget the girl who went to Mission Waco to learn about being homeless and who gave up her senior cruise to witness to kids on the beach at spring break, instead? Interviewing the candidates for Mr. And Ms. HBU turned out to be the most encouraging thing I have seen in a long time. I only wish I could have had ten good donors to the university sitting there with me, taking it all in. They would have realized that their money has been well spent. I wish I could have had the people who have yet to donate.

I learned something else as I talked with these kids today. The entire group, ten kids or so, had something in common. Without exception they put themselves forward among their fellow students. They volunteered. They got involved. They reached out, risked rejection, weren’t afraid of looking like eager beavers. Many of their peers think that just being in school is enough. They go through the prescribed motions. They want grades to be given to them. They want someone to give them a job. They want to be given a really good salary. This group of students I met today could show their friends something about living.

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4 thoughts on “Personal Affirmation for Christian Higher Education

  1. I did an assignment once for a NT Theology course taught by Dr. Blair at HBU. Our assignment was to read a chapter of a book about why God allows suffering, and present on it to the class. My group took the assignment and ran with it, going a bit overboard. We interviewed students around campus using questions from the book and created a video montage of their answers.

    As we finished each interview, we closed with our own question, asking them to share a time when they experienced suffering and questioned God. The responses that we received from strangers on campus, and even from others within our group of 3, were absolutely overwhelming.

    We heard the story of one woman who, several years prior, had almost committed suicide taking her 3 small children with her, but when she called the suicide hotline, no one answered and she broke down to God that night. Another girl shared with us how her family had forced her to have an abortion when she was 15 in order to protect the family honor, and the emotional toll that had had on her. Someone else shared of a divorce they went through as a child, and another person of time they’d spent in jail. Every single person though ended their story, without prompting, with a phrase like, “But God showed me…” or “Out of that, God taught me….”

    It was by far the best experience I had as an undergrad. My group and I bonded through it and are still friends to this day.

    Every student has a story that they’re willing to share if we just ask them. Those stories are what fundamentally shape us as a community. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to hear the stories of these great students.

  2. Jason, I still remember that video.

    It was one of the most powerful student presentations I’ve ever seen.

    • Thank you Mark. It means a lot to know it touched those who saw it like it touched us making it.

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