Where has the summer gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was facing a blank sheet of paper, divided into twelve boxes representing the weeks between graduation and the opening of school. I was matching the boxes to the various tasks I hoped to accomplish – and there seemed plenty of time for everything. It was a moment out of my idealist academic past when summer was a truly peaceful hiatus between the frantic pace of one school year and the next.
The summer of 2017 reminded me that in the real world there is no such hiatus. The threat of international conflict in Asia, natural disaster in Sierra Leone, and the ugly racial rioting in Charlottesville, Virginia kept me very much aware of the anxiety, fear, pain and suffering that dominates the lives of most people on our planet. Various organizational board meetings kept me thinking about the challenges of hunger, higher education, and public civility. Even here at Houghton, decisions about new programs, budget, building projects and a dozen other matters could not wait until the beginning of the fall semester.
Nevertheless, even in the midst of the very real world summer of 2017, I managed to gather a store of memorable moments to keep before me as I find myself on the brink of the 2017-2018 academic year:
- There was the stunning beauty of the Hopewell Cape Rocks, the towering natural monuments in eastern New Brunswick, Canada shaped by the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy over thousands of years. They will remind me that, in the real world, beauty is often forged from adversity.
- There was the sermon in the Beulah Camp tabernacle on the “giants in the land” that threatened to keep the children of Israel from venturing in to claim the land that God had prepared for them. It will challenge me not to let my own fears overwhelm my trust in God’s provisions.
- There was the visit to the Louisburg lighthouse on the far eastern shore of Nova Scotia. This second oldest lighthouse in North America will remind me of God’s daily providential guidance helping me to see – often just enough to keep moving.
- There was the conversation last week with the Houghton alumnus reporting on the impact of Houghton on her cohort of fellow alumni in every area of their lives during their first decade out of Houghton. This reassures me once again of the validity of the hopes that I will hold out next week for parents and incoming first year students about the lifelong transforming impact of a Houghton education.
- Finally, there was the loon that caught my attention for just a moment before it dove deep into the water, only to emerge several more times – each time only for a second and each time in an entirely different part of the water. I received this delightful and frustrating game of hide-and-seek as a promising omen of God’s presence that goes ahead of me and Houghton College as we enter this new year. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who is always there will surprise us with glimpses of his presence often when we least expect it—and always on his own terms.
I enter this new year hopefully and expectantly, eager to be part of the work that God has been doing here at Houghton College since 1883, and looking forward to all that He will accomplish in our midst in this 2017-18 school year.
Grace and Peace to you today.
Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976