Last night I sat in Egtvedt watching a really remarkable event.
But first some background: Just a few months ago a group of about 20 new to WPC students walked into a room—mostly not by choice. A few knew each other but most did not; while they may not have been perfect strangers, they were mostly strangers. Some perhaps a little fearful; one or two a bit defiant; a few perhaps unhappy about the newness and strangeness and apparent arbitrariness of life. Two teachers were there who knew each other but had never taught together before. In many ways, typical of just about every new student’s situation in just about any college or university in the USA.
On top of this, they were part of an experiment—not always the best thing to be. They were members of something called a Freshman Year Learning Community (FYLC). Not only were they going to be in this experiment but they were also going to have to spend time with me in an English class—each week, they were going to be in a room together working on new stuff in new ways and, added to all of that, becoming a community, working on social justice in the classroom and in the neighborhood and with Portland City Council and in downtown Portland and in homeless shelters—whew! That’s a lot of stuff. But there’s more: Strength Finder and Enneagram and self-reflection and biblical justice studies and washing the feet of homeless men and women, cutting hair—well, the list could go on.
Well, amazingly, yep, it happened. Community happened. And last night we celebrated together. If you weren’t there—and most of you were not—you missed out on some good stuff: public, transparent self-reflection; original music; the visual history of the formation of our community, advocacy, life story, art, humor, thoughtful biblical reflection—in short, you missed out on witnessing community: shalom! Celebration!
You know what, these students met with Amanda Fritz and this professor, Stephanie Mathis, carried the petition they wrote with hundreds of WPC student and faculty and staff signatures to the hearing in which they called for the restoration of funds to aid the victims of what is perhaps Portland’s saddest story—human trafficking of boys and girls, men and women.
I sat back in my chair, eyeing the cookies and cake that I had to wait for, amazed by this remarkable group of first year WPC students. And I thought: Oh my! I hope I get to hang around long enough to see how these students change WPC and where the hopeful trajectory they started this semester carries them. Few things more powerful in the world than a community of committed change agents—watch out world, here they come.
The other thing I thought about last night: This is why I love Warner Pacific College: never afraid to walk down the road that connects learning, faith, and life in community to discover what we are called to become.
I am so grateful this morning for Stephanie, Maranda, Linnette, Trent, Tayler, Kiki, Bailey, Robert, Oksana, Riley, Trent, Jose, Skyler, Selena, Justyn, Shannon, Brenden, Ben, and Rochelle. Each of this has taught me this semester; each of them gives me hope for the future. Grateful to God that I get to do this!