President Jon R. Wallace, DBA
October 19, 2012
Hippos, that city Jesus is pointing to in Matthew 5 when He says, “You are salt and light, as a matter of fact you are a city on the hill.” An amazing thing in the history of Hippos—it’s the city of the Decapolis, it has its own independence. I guess it made its own money during the Roman occupation, but then the Christian faith comes to that part of the world. And in the fourth century, Hippos actually becomes that place where the Bishop of the Christian church resides. From the fourth century through about 750, amazing things happen in that city. They are just now uncovering, through an archeological dig, up to eight Christian churches in this city on a hill.
Now, in 749, there’s a massive earthquake in that part of Israel, on the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, and many cities are destroyed. Hippos is one of them. As a matter of fact, if you were to go up there today, the columns that you would have seen shining in the afternoon light when the sun went down, and Jesus points and he says, “You see that city glowing?” and you could see those columns—they’re now laying on their side in a row. It was never rebuilt. It’s never been occupied again. The sophisticated water system that fed Hippos was destroyed. And because it sits on a barren hill, it’s unoccupiable.
Now, I don’t know what the future for APU is. I know what the past has been. 113 years. If we could look behind those lights, we could see our motto, God First—our motto for the last 113 years. I hope that we have that kind of a run ahead of us. But here is what we’re guaranteed: We’re guaranteed eternity, not tomorrow. And for 400 years, Hippos is that place that feeds the Christian church in that part of the world. They are world changers and difference makers. That’s what you heard about tonight. What I am going to suggest to you is that you’re a part of this Hippos, this part—Azusa Pacific. We want to be that place, that illuminated city where students and faculty and friends like you go out and change the world for Christ. Our motto is God First, and you may know that our Four Cornerstones are Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. When you walk across the plaza, you’ll see the bell tower, which represents the Four Cornerstones. There are four pillars to the Cornerstone Tower. And one is taller than the other—it’s a white pillar—is the Christ Cornerstone. But that Bell Tower represents Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service.
This last week I had a chance to be with a lot of seniors. I spoke at Senior Chapel on Monday night, then [Board Chair Peggy Campbell] and I get to teach a class on Tuesdays with graduating seniors. It’s a Business Ethics class. And we talked about those Four Cornerstones, this is what I said to them: I said, “Look, we expect you to leave this place because of this unique community we have.” When Coach [Victor Santa Cruz] says, “It’s just not like that out there.” What God has allowed to grow up here, what the dedicated faculty and staff, students and family have contributed to, is a pretty remarkable thing. So let me tick those four off for you. This is what I expect happens to our graduates when they’re out there as world changers and difference makers.
Community—you know we talk a lot about that word. As a matter of fact, it’s probably one of our favorite words. I think of [Don Rogers]. When he was a student here, Don lived in an apartment that had rich and robust Christ-centered community. The community that students experience here is the kind of community—well, you know when I say, “What is home like for you?” I talk to college students about that all the time. They say, we live in the Bay area, or we live in Denver, or we live in Portland, or we live here in Southern California. And they’ll talk about their bedroom, or they’ll talk about their family room. Or I’ll say, “What’s Christmas like at your house?” And they’ll say, “My mom makes this dish and when I walk into my house at Christmas it smells like nobody else’s because it’s that special”—home is that place.
The power of Christ-centered community, when you know how to do community, when you’ve lived in a residence hall, or been on Walkabout, or Bridges, or a summer missions trip—when you have given your very best for the cause of Christ-centered community, what grows up in you is home. Our alumni know how to do home where God places them. They do it all the time. You want them as neighbors. You want them on the PTA. You want them to serve on the elder and deacon board of your church. That Community Cornerstone, they leave here—wherever God takes them—and they can do community.
Service. There are two kinds of people in the world. I was talking to my daughter, Kate, on the phone the other night and we were reminiscing over some of the great learning. And we reminded each other—we have these little sayings—that there are two kinds of people in the world. There’s the kind of person who walks into a room and says, “Here I am!” Those people wear out their welcome pretty fast. And there’s the kind of person who walks into the room and says, “I see you. There you are.”
We have a campus in South Africa that is a pretty remarkable place. As part of the student journey in South Africa—11 weeks in Durbin and 4 weeks in Cape Town—they live in a township for one of those weeks with a South African family. The greeting in South Africa—I love this—when South Africans see each other, they say, “Sabona. Sabona.” You know what it means? “Sabona” means “I see you.” You know what we say here in the United States? “Hi, how are you!?” And the last thing we want them to say is how they are, by the way. Do you know what the greeting back in South Africa is in the Zulu nation when you say, “I see you”? Someone says “I see you,” and you say back to them, “Here I am.” Isn’t that great? You see, if you live in a community where you are called to give yourself away in the name of Jesus Christ, because that’s what the Service Cornerstone means, then when you leave this place, you are the kind of person who walks into a community, or a room, or a school, or a village, or a job place, and you say, “I see you.” And then you look for a way to meet the need because that’s what you learned at APU.
The third cornerstone is Scholarship. See, we believe that all truths belong to God, but we believe that academic rigor is a really important part of that journey. And when students leave, we want them to be committed to being lifelong learners. But that commitment to scholarship is this: It is that commitment that wherever God plants me, scholarship has prepared me to make that contribution. That I am not going to walk. I’m not going to turn my back.
I was thinking about the students Dennis [Bachman], Peggy, and I get to teach. It’s a pretty remarkable thing to be the president of a university and every Tuesday get to sit with 24 graduating seniors. We open class and I often say, “Is there anything I need to know?” The first week—nothing. They were a little intimidated. I think they were afraid they would lose their scholarship if they said anything. And then, as an ethics class—and you can imagine in a capstone course around ethics the kinds of conversations [that take place]—pretty soon they open up and we get to talk about their life. But you see scholarship, where faith integration happens, the outcome is that Jesus Christ is reflected. The faith that I have in the salvation of Jesus Christ is reflected in what I do. That’s what great scholarship is. It recognizes that the Giver of all Truth empowers me as a student. I’m a lifelong learner. I am committed to that.
Community, Service, Scholarship, and that fourth cornerstone of Christ. That’s our call to be disciples. I love the [Cornerstone Tower] when I walk by. I have a faculty friend who is going through some challenges with his health right now. On occasion, he sends me a picture of the [Cornerstone Tower]. What he is really sending me is a picture of the top of the tower, with that Christ Cornerstone three feet higher than the others. And he’s saying, “Look, in my journey, this is my commitment. My commitment is to reflect a love of a different kind, because a disciple of Christ loves differently than a nondisciple.” And I think that’s one of the strengths of the journey at APU. We say to students, “If you’re going to advance God’s purposes in the world as a disciple, then you love the world differently than everybody else does. You have love of another kind.”
I think that you are here tonight because, like me, you believe that our students and alumni know how to create home. They say, “I see you.” They have a Christ-centered identity that is reflected in what they do because of what they’ve learned. And they love their neighbor with love of another kind.
When Jesus is giving His great high priestly prayer in John 17, I love the way He throws Himself at the feet of His Father and He is moving through what has happened in His ministry thus far. He’s preparing Himself for the great sacrifice, for the cross. And at the close of His high priestly prayer, He says, “Look, I’m asking this not for me. I’m asking this for them. I’m asking this for those who are in the world. I’m asking this for those who will remain; those who will remain now and those who will remain in the future.” He prays for us.
God is doing great things at APU. It’s a pretty remarkable place and you have met some pretty remarkable people tonight. I’m going to ask you to think about writing a check and making a financial commitment in the same way for those who remain. This year we graduated 2,500 students—2,500 students out of a student population of almost 11,000. One of those slides up there at the very end of Don Rogers’ video presentation said that we have 50,000 alumni—so we graduated five percent this year. The trajectory of growth and impact is never greater. Why did God place us in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world? Why did He do that? Why are the world populations moving back to the city and why are we equipping students as alum around community and service and scholarship and discipleship to make a difference? I believe because God has great things in store for these world changers and difference makers.
On your table is a card. Would you take it? Pick it up. Here is what I would like you to do. If you could fill out the top part of that with your name, how we can get a hold of you, and then how you like best to be in relation to the university … and, where you’re giving might be tonight as it relates specifically to scholarship. Now, all that we’re doing tonight is raising money for scholarships. There are some amazing things happening at Azusa Pacific that I’m out often asking people to give to. But tonight, this is for 5,500 undergraduate students and the scholarships that support them.
Last year at this event, we collectively gave just under a half a million dollars. Already this year, heading into tonight, faculty and staff have pledged about $130,000. Invited guests who couldn’t be with us have already sent in checks for $62,000. What’s really unique [this year] is several of the board members got together and combined their pledges. This small group of trustees have pledged $200,000 as a matching gift tonight. So, the first $200,000 we give, they match. We start, before we have asked for money, just under $400,000. The need for college affordability has never been greater. So thank you, by the way, for wherever you will give tonight and whatever amount. You are our best champions. You really are difference makers. I really need you, this university, to tell the Azusa Pacific story. You need to tell the story about the crying football coach—seriously, the 0 and 7 guy who believes his men will go change the world. I need you to tell the story, the remarkable story, about Don and Amy, and about the example they are to our students and our alum. I need you to tell the Azusa Pacific story, because in some ways we’re kind of sandwiched here between the Claremont Colleges and Cal Tech, and our academic reputation is growing because of the remarkable work here. But I need you to tell the story. I need you to be our ambassadors. I need you to commit to be a difference maker as you support us.
In a minute some students are going to circulate and pick up your pledge cards, and I want to thank you for that. But headed into that, let me invite God into this. Let me pray.
Father, for the community of Azusa—students, faculty, staff, the friends in this room, the people who believe in the Christ-centered mission—I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the community and the service, the scholarship and the discipleship that springs forth from this place. I want to thank you for this chance to brag on our family because we brag on Jesus and His kingdom. Please receive these, our gifts, and multiply and use them for your benefit in Jesus’ name. Amen.