September 2020: Back to school as (un)usual

photo: Mitchell Henry

Mid-September saw Oregon dealing with multiple raging wildfires. Newberg was covered in a thick smoke caused by a wildfire just a few miles north of campus. Unusually strong winds blew the smoke over campus, and it sat there for 10 days, causing red skies and the air quality index to skyrocket to “Hazardous.” Not fun … more on this later.


Before all that smoke, though, campus was picturesque, as it always is in late summer and the fall. Students were out, minding COVID-19 precautions, and enjoying being back on campus.

Many classes were held outside and physically distanced, with masks of course. Some sessions simply could not be held outside, and most of our classrooms were too small to hold large numbers of students while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. So we got clever and turned four of our six basketball courts into eight classrooms. Many students have the option to learn remotely as well, so teachers have held class in person and on Zoom simultaneously.

Students throughout campus studying alone or properly distanced is the new normal now.

Signage reminds everyone how to remain safe and healthy. For the busy first few weeks of school the Bruin Store allowed only a few inside at a time, and if you were there to pick up an online order they brought it out to you. The Hadlock Student Center, the campus hub for all things recreational, has plenty of reminder signs posted but was open for business as (not exactly) usual.

The university has procured a few electrostatic atomizers to help disinfect high-use areas and in the event (knock on wood) that we have a positive case. The Hadlock Student Center uses one to clean equipment after use.

As I write this caption, these trees are turning color as we enter fall. This bridge is Crisman Crossing, built in 2015. It is the longest clear-span timber truss bridge in the contiguous United States and is named in honor of Leo (’45) and Abigail (Miller) Crisman (’43) for their longtime family legacy at George Fox. ⁠

We have to wear masks, so we might as well have fun with them, right?

Students need to distance in our dining hall as well. A little reminder signage on the floor is helpful. Tents have been set up in a couple locations on campus for studying and eating your meals. Once the smoke rolled in our mascot, Pennington Bear, handed out free N95 masks. Those N95 masks helped students breath a bit easier with all the smoke in the air also.

photo: Mitchell Henry

Oh yeah, the smoke. There were a lot of big fires burning in Oregon in early September, and some of them still are. That’s not too abnormal, but this year we had a very serious windstorm. Our campus (and a large portion of our region) is nestled down in a valley. The winds blew that smoke in, and it just sat here for days. For a few days the AQI was the worst in the world; you might have heard about it in the news. We couldn’t go outside, we needed the wind to blow it back out, we needed rain. Then one day, Sept. 18, we got it. A huge deluge. It was awesome and refreshing, and it cleared our skies and lifted our spirits.

And then, just like that, fall. Some trees were damaged in the windstorm and even needed to be removed. As you can see, trees are all over our campus, so to lose trees that have been with us for decades has been an adjustment for sure.

And I’ll leave you with this fall sunrise drone photo.

Chris Low is the photographer in the marketing and communications department for George Fox University.

Covid-19 at George Fox

The year 2020 will forever be remembered for the novel coronavirus that ravaged the world. The details are still a bit unknown, but it is believed that Washington state had the U.S.’s first case on Jan. 20. About five weeks later, Oregon reported its first case, and soon after Gov. Kate Brown announced that schools would close starting Monday, March 16. That was followed by a stay-at-home order on March 23. Students at George Fox went on spring break March 20-27 and were asked not to return to campus for the remainder of the semester.

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Being Known, Mathematics, and Faith

Pete Rusaw, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Being Known

It’s the hope each student brings to the college experience. To be known by name. To be understood, valued, encouraged and uplifted. At George Fox, to be known means that professors and staff connect with students in authentic ways – personally, academically, spiritually – recognizing that we all come to this place with different backgrounds, life experiences and dreams for the future. To be known means that students not only learn new ideas, they share their own. To be known means to be heard. When students feel what it’s like to be known in this way, they become inspired. And that’s when real change happens. Knowledge moves from the mind to the heart. Careers turn into callings. Faith turns into action. And that’s why we begin with a simple promise, that each student will be known.

Be Known. Two words that sum up the heart of God. God is love, which can only be defined in relationship, for if there is no object – no other – then love is absent. “All of the law and the prophets are summarized,” says Jesus, “when we love God and love others.” The love that he speaks of is not simply a feeling, but a commitment to, and an experience with, another. We only love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). As God condescends and gives of himself to us, not simply by his support, but also with his companionship, (Matthew 28:20) we begin to understand that love is a relationship and that relationships are all about knowing. Not simply knowing information (though that is a start) but also relating. Interacting at an honest, heart-level, where barriers are moved aside, people are vulnerable with one another and each is used by God in the other’s transformation toward Christ-likeness.

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Ramblings on Romans

Chris Sharp, Assistant Professor (Mechanical Engineering)

In times such as these, it is easy to drown in the seemingly endless swirl of negative, dismal and downright gloomy state of current events. However, when we consider our existence in light of tragedies throughout history, there must be a way to survive. Somehow society has persisted. But how? Right now we are all stuck, isolated from our communities, dependent on Zoom, and … wait … did I lose you?

Can you hear me? … How about now? 

Are you muted? … Don’t forget to turn your video on!

Oh, there you are again. I thought I’d lost you for a minute. Where was I? Right. How do we get through this? I was recently studying through Romans and came across a section of verses at the beginning of Chapter 5 that spoke to me in light of our Zoom-driven existence. Which, if you’re like me, can’t end soon enough. I wasn’t a huge fan of video communication before, and I haven’t been converted yet. Give me a cup of tea and a coffee shop – please! Anyhow …

In the first five verses of Romans 5 there are three “little” words spread throughout the passage: faith, hope and love. As the end of 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The emphasis on love in this verse makes sense given the chapter, but why these other two concepts? Specifically in light of our present, can we hear some more about this hope? 

Cue Romans 5:1-5! 

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A Setback for a Comeback

Mindy Mickelson, Office Manager / Compliance Officer | Bruin Athletics

Mindy Mickelson 4/23/20

Disturb us, O Lord …When we think we’ve reached out limits
When our days become routine and mundane
When we tire of the same old things
When our fears leave us stuck on the shore desperately wanting more
When the mountain top seems too far away
When we can see the finish line but choose to stay comfortably on the couch
Disturb us, O Lord …
Call us out onto the water
Spur us on to take that leap of faith
Push a little harder
Work a little more
To tap into Your strength in order to tap into the vast potential that You created within us
All for you, O Lord

Writing inspired by Sir Francis Drake poem 1577
Mindy Mickelson 1/2/17

Trials, hardships, struggles, loss, the storms of life. The thought of these words can summon memories we’d rather forget. They can even remind us of the present circumstances we are in. “Fun” isn’t the word that comes to mind when we’re living in circumstances that we didn’t choose and are out of our control.

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The Founder and Perfecter of our Faith

Hannah Butler, Event Operations Coordinator

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” 

– Hebrews 12:1-3

I want to take a few moments to unpack some of the language in these verses, and hopefully it will be an encouragement to you! 

God Will Not Abandon His People 

The author and the recipient of this letter are unknown, but what we gather from the letter is that the “Hebrews” are a group of Jewish Christians who are undergoing severe persecution and imprisonment because of their association with Jesus. This was causing some to walk away from Jesus and abandon their faith altogether. So the author writes this letter to tell them that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s love and mercy and that God will never abandon them. Good news, right? 

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The Shift

Mariah Fredericks, assistant women’s soccer coach

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” 

Ephesians 2:19-22

“Every 500 years, a shift happens in the church.”

These words were spoken to me in a college classroom, and they’ve stayed with me ever since. They were spoken by a beloved professor who I recognized walked closely with Jesus, continually saying yes to his leading in her teaching and in her life. 

With her words, a curiosity was birthed; the church must be on the brink of change once again. Curiosity became a call. Every 500 years something changes, and God, whatever you’re doing, I want in. 

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Romans 5 & 8

Andrew Fleming, Institutional Technology

For the past several months I have been growing in my understanding and trust in two really important areas: knowing God as Father and trusting in his goodness. The verses below from Romans 5 and 8 stood out to me.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:1-8). 

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Feeding on Faithfulness

Lizzy Riese, Program Coordinator, ELED

To be human is to experience pain. To be human is to be disappointed.

These two thoughts have been rolling around in my head the last few weeks, nagging at the back of my mind. Like most people, the last month or so of my life has not looked how I expected. Routines have been disrupted. “Normal” life has been displaced by words like “social distancing” and “quarantine.” FaceTime and phone calls have become much more common in the vacancy that spending less time with friends and family has created. I’ve spent less money on dining out and gas in the last month than perhaps any other season of my adult life.

In addition to the changes that are common for all of us in this season of coronavirus, I’ve had an additional life disruption personally: back surgery. After a year and nine months of struggling with chronic pain, I finally had a discectomy – a procedure during which a surgeon removed a portion of the L5-S1 disc in my spine, which had been pressing on my sciatic nerve, causing sharp, stabbing pain in my right buttock and leg. In some ways this procedure could not have been better timed. It happened just two days after Oregon’s governor announced that all elective medical procedures were to be canceled. The fact that I was still able to have the surgery is nothing short of a miracle in my mind. Had I been scheduled for a few days later, I’m pretty confident it would have been canceled. There is also really no better time to be stuck on a couch with limited mobility than when the rest of the world is also stuck at home in quarantine.

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Hidden Treasures

Lecia Retter, Enrollment Manager: Registrar’s Office, Prayer Network Coordinator: Ministry of Spiritual Life Office

What an amazing season we are living in! Never in my life did I think I would feel any sympathy for the Egyptians when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go and the Lord kept increasing the severity of the plagues. I imagine the progression from the water in the Nile turning to blood to the death of the firstborn felt a bit like reading the news in recent weeks.

Do you recall what the Lord had the Israelites ask the Egyptians right before the final plague? Exodus 11:2 says, “Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” Even in this horrible situation, God provided treasure for God’s people.

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