Where Our Roots Run Deep
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, president
August 29, 2002
This year was the 28th consecutive year of the student leadership program, “Walkabout.” I was privileged to go on my 25th Walkabout, and as with past forays into the wilderness with students, I found my time deeply satisfying. One of the most significant parts of our 10-day journey together is the act of telling our story around the campfire and the gentle prodding that comes from insightful questions. This year a young woman named Emily Reed gained the reputation in our group as someone who asked focused and perceptive questions during these campfire interviews.
One of the questions she asked that became a favorite and then was asked of each of us was, “If you could be present at any point in history, when would it be?” I think the number one answer given was the Resurrection. But others included Creation, the parting of the Red Sea, a day with the Apostle Paul, and any one of the many times Jesus healed. Later in our discussion, we added a second historical moment within the last 200-300 years. Many of these responses included events during the founding of our country, and historical moments of decision in the 1940s during the Second World War.
Think about that question for a minute: If you could choose to be present for a historical moment from biblical times and one within the last 300 years, what two moments would you choose? What two events would allow you to capture insight, discernment, vision, or faith that you could pull forward into the present? And if you could — if you really could — be present at the tomb on Easter morning, or walk across the Red Sea; if you could stand beside the father of the possessed child and see Christ deliver him from his unbelief; if you could sit at the signing of the Declaration of Independence or across the table from Eisenhower when the decision to launch D-Day was made, or even as one of our group members requested, be present when your mother and father were courting, what moment would you choose?
For me, it would certainly be Easter morning. I can think of no other event more defining in human history than that moment when Christ defeats the last great curse — death. And I am pretty clear on the second moment as well. I would like to be a fly on the wall in Philena Hadley’s living room when she and Mary Hill and several others first envisioned the Training School for Christian Workers. You see, all of us tonight and the nearly 7,000 enrolled students of this God First university, are directly tied to that historical moment. I wonder if they had any inkling what God was beginning through them? I wonder if they could have envisioned the number of us present tonight preparing for our 103rd year. With that moment from 1899 in mind, let me talk a little bit about events and issues that I believe form the context of this historical moment.
Last week I had a conversation with David Weeks, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, about the historical circumstance in which we live today. After asking him those same two questions that were asked in my Walkabout group, I queried him a bit to bring definition to the era that our university, our nation, and our world is currently experiencing. The descriptive word he landed on was “transition.” From his perspective, there is uncertainty about the next great historical marker. Will it be the rise of China, given its size and influence? Or perhaps we will be defined if the next great world conflict is geo-religious instead of geo-political. Will the next historical marker be environmental? Is there an irreparable manmade tear in the delicate balance of Creation? Whatever is on the horizon, within our sights or just beyond, the fact is that our current historical reality as a community of disciples and scholars continues to be impacted by the historic and unprecedented speed with which change is occurring, and the nearly unprecedented scope and size of this change.