On the first day of orientation this fall I met John, a student who had just flown in from Massachusetts. His parents couldn’t make it for orientation, so he had to go through the orientation process alone. He was thousands of miles from home, in a different culture with new people. At the time, I didn’t really think a great deal about it.
After our orientation ended, my wife and I took our daughter away to college and found out how difficult the transition can be. As a result of my own experience, I returned to campus and had the admissions staff provide me a list of students who had come alone and were far from home. I wrote a note to each of them and invited them into a conversation. I was actually surprised when several of them took me up on the offer of coffee and a conversation.
I so much enjoyed sitting with John and hearing about his dreams, what he believed God was calling him to be, and what he believed he needed to do to achieve that dream. I learned about his family and his friends back home. I felt his homesickness and shared just a bit in his life story. I was glad God called him to be a part of our institution.
I relay this story because I feel most a part of the mission of George Fox University when I am engaged in relationships with students, faculty and donors. We use the phrase “be known” to describe our vision. God has given each person a unique story, and we want to know that story and empower that student or donor to fulfill God’s call. When I take the time to walk alongside those engaged at George Fox, as Eric Liddell once said, “I feel the pleasure of God.”
I describe my passion because the obstacles are many. The frustrations of students, faculty and staff “bubble up” to my office. Angry parents sometimes call. We never have enough money to do what we’d really like to do. Two employees are mad at each other and need a referee. Five people need an answer now. Some says we’re too conservative, others say we’re too liberal. There is little time to read, think and pray.
Things seem to conspire to consume my time, disrupting my day and my rhythm. I start to think, “Lord, why am I here?” Then, all of a sudden, a student drops by and pops her head in the door. “Prez B, you got a few minutes?” It’s then I remember: I am here for students. I’m here to help George Fox become a place where students are known for serving the world in the name of Jesus.