Fall 2006 State of the University Address
Transformed and Surrendered to Live a God First Life continued
What does it mean to be transformed? I love that. I have already received a number of emails from close faculty and staff friends who have challenged me with them, in partnership, to try to memorize as much of Romans 12 as we can, and maybe as a community we can do that. There are few things that benefit a Christ follower as much as deeply planting God’s Word in our hearts. It is a pretty amazing discipline, and I would encourage you to lean into that with me. What does it mean to be transformed? It does not say modify, make slightly different, or better or improved, but something completely different than it previously was. Scripture talks about this in a powerful language. Paul says all things become new in Jesus Christ. This is an important distinction, because the world we live in is in desperate need of men and women committed to live by our transformational motto, God First. You may have heard me tell this story before, but when we were building this event center, the original architect’s rendering had tubular steel instead of glass on the mezzanines, and the drawing made it clear that spectators wouldn’t be able to see the floor. Cliff Hamlow, a very frugal guy, said that if we didn’t switch to glass, we would complete this $15 million dollar building with an obstructed view. Just think about that glass for a minute. My understanding is that silica starts out as sand. Something that is absolutely opaque. You can’t see through it. Then, through high heat, it can actually be transformed into this glass; it has to be safety glass. It’s really durable, you can smack up against it (though I wouldn’t recommend it) and it can hold your weight. It’s is absolutely transparent; you can see through it. It started out as sand and ended up as clear glass. That’s what transformation is. Something that is completely different. It does not resemble what it used to be. It is now something through which you can see clearly.
I’d like to take a moment to think about some students stories that really capture this idea of transformation. Let me start with Katherine Harris. Some of you first met her when she was 15 as a freshman. She is now a 17-year-old junior. You may remember that she grew up in Russia, primarily Siberia. She studied for several years in St. Petersburg where she learned the piano with teachers from the Moscow Conservatory. Here’s the most important thing for you to know about Katherine: This summer, one of her most significant achievements occurred just weeks ago in Cincinnati, Ohio. She competed in the 2006 World Piano Competition in two divisions, the solo division and the concerto division. After three rounds of competition, Katherine won first prize in both categories in the young artists’ division. Her prize for winning that competition will be realized next month as she has been invited to perform in New York’s world-renowned Carnegie Hall on Saturday, September 30. This is the first time for an Azusa Pacific University student to perform in that world famous hall. Congratulations, Katherine.
Maribel Munoz went with Teen Thailand on a Focus International mission trip. This was a partnership with the new community Foursquare Church in Glendora, and Teen Thailand did some amazing things with the churches in Thailand. Maribel was a part of an ongoing blog that we got to read. As you may or may not know, Thailand is one of those places where the sex trade is absolutely at the core of their economy. Maribel and the team visited one of those cities where the sex trade, especially in children, is rampant. She was absolutely impacted by what God was doing in her heart, what she saw, how her heart was broken, and what it means for her future. This is an excerpt from her blog: “My brother tells me I can’t change the world. I know God is stirring my heart in a different direction. I feel led to do something. I asked God to break my heart before I left for Thailand. I knew it was a big thing to ask for, but He did. He helped me to see the world that is far beyond me. I have been dealing with my own selfishness and how I have been living my life. I have never felt the way I do. I would love to meet with you,” she writes this staff person, “and absorb wisdom from you. I know you have been through a lot and served in the Peace Corps as well. I want to make sure my career and grad school decision are guided and sealed by God’s approval. Can you pencil me into your hectic schedule?” Well, Chiraphone Khamphouvong, director in the Office of World Missions, not only penciled her in but she delivered this today. Maribel, thank you very much for following as God leads you to Thailand.
For 28 years I’ve been sleeping on the ground with students in the mountains during Walk About and listening to their stories, and Kenny has a great one to tell. Let me just touch the highlights. He was an RA two years ago, and really, through some actions that were not really his fault, we kicked him out of school on some academic issues. His parents and friends were a little distrustful maybe of the way he had been treated. He went away to a community college last year and got straight As. He came back a second-year RA, and I wish each of you could sit with this guy. He has a heart after God that is absolutely amazing. Here is what I really want to tell you. He went on a mission trip to India in summer 2005. This is how he told the story around the campfire. Kenny loves kids; in fact, he feels God has called him to work with children. So, he is at this mission site in India, and they’re in this old school building, and he’s sitting on the floor in a room with kids piled all over him. I really should not tell you this, but I’m a little stronger than Kenny. He looks big, but on some mornings he would be in his sleeping bag and I would jump on him and hit him with a rock. I am really a lot stronger than him when he doesn’t see me coming.
Anyway, he looks through this doorway into another room and everyone is gone, he thinks, except Carla. Carla is sitting there with kids piled all over her. He goes back and tells the guys he’s staying with that night, “I found the woman I’m going to marry.” And he did, and they will next summer. Then they want to go to Africa for two years and work with kids. Kenny, I love you. Thanks for doing this tonight.
The next student I want to tell you about is Kaleed. Picture a tall, good looking, Jordanian student. Kaleed is a graduate student in the nursing program. When he graduated from high school, he was in the top 10 students in the entire country of Jordan. When he got here, the nursing faculty recognized that they had a pretty remarkable student, and in his first year of graduate studies, they allowed him to take a doctoral class. Then they learned about his dreams to go back Jordan and begin a school of nursing, they thought, “Hey, maybe God is up to something here.” Marianne Hattar and others are now getting him ready to accomplish his goals with his master’s and doctoral degrees, and who knows what God will do through Kaleed and APU in Jordan? Please keep him in prayer.