Executive Vice President
I zoomed in 400% on the above picture of Dedication Day so I could see who was in it. I never imagined doing so would make me cry, but it did.
The tears welled up because of the stories of the people in the picture. On the top rung, in the middle of our excited students, is a friend bearing two kinds of cancer. Not far from her is another friend who has lost two sons. No one should have one kind of cancer, let alone two. No one should lose one son, let alone two. But there they are, standing and smiling, making the party complete by being there, and it made me cry. One of the young men from the Friendship House is not far from them. And there’s a student from Taiwan, another from Canada, and still another from Honduras shoulder to shoulder with a couple of students from Grand Rapids. The beauty of that choked me up, too.
You can’t miss Academic Dean Alvin Padilla in the middle of the photo, along with several of our faculty. Not far from Alvin is Vern Sterk—WTS alum, missionary, professor—who lives now in a wheelchair after a bike accident. Across the way is Gordon Laman, another WTS alum and missionary, who lives with such quiet dignity despite profound challenges to his eyesight. What good and faithful men Vern and Gordon are. On the other side I see two women I adore, both of whom are widows, and more tears came as I thought about the deft grace of their lives. Towards the back is a former board member who came from New Jersey just for the dedication, and not far from him is an alum who has been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. And then there’s Mary DeWitt, whose dear husband Jack died before this project was completed.
“There are no ordinary people,” C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory. “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” I see holiness abounding in this picture. Our new space has been sanctified by the sacred stories of those who blessed us with their presence on December 6, 2018. The new learning center is wonderful, and students love it. But no matter how beautiful, it’s just steel and wood and glass until holy people inhabit it. Thank God for the great cloud of witnesses that surround our students every day in that space.