[dropcap3]A[/dropcap3] little over a year ago I had the opportunity to attend a student leadership conference in Philadelphia. One of the final sessions was a roundtable discussion with other student leaders. As the group interacted, many of the students regaled us with stories of the wild parties typical of their school. When I spoke up the group was dumbfounded that their typical college lifestyle is prohibited at Cairn. Some asked me why I didn’t just transfer to a school that didn’t “tell me what to do.” After all, how could I, a college student, an adult for that matter, continue to let someone or something tell me what to do?
What the students at the conference could not understand was that I chose to become a part of something bigger than myself. They saw themselves as independent of the world around them, free to make the decisions they wanted to. Early in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, the main character, must climb the Hill of Difficulty. The Hill is steep and hard to climb, as its name might suggest. Yet Christian fights on, crawling up the steep hill. Many students my age get to the hill early in life and find it too difficult; they fall down and distract themselves with alcohol, sex, and rebellion. However, I would argue that the Cairn student pushes on, as difficult and trying as it may be, following the path marked before us. Throughout my four years here I have been very involved, beginning as a student in the Wisconsin Wilderness Program and now in student leadership, culminating this year as the Student Senate President. I have used the illustration multiple times, as a student leader, likening Cairn to a timeline. It is a line that extends in both directions: into the past and the future. The school enjoys a one-hundred-year heritage. Each year the heritage continues to grow, thus, Cairn is like a timeline extending back one hundred years yet simultaneously thrusting forward into the future. The timeline example is a perfect illustration of being a part of a community bigger than myself.
As Student Senate President I have the privilege of overseeing and organizing many opportunities for students on and off campus. There needs to be a healthy balance of fellowship among students and outreach into the community. Students always respond positively to the opportunities. Whether we are cleaning a strip of the road for Adopt-a-highway, donating life at a blood drive, offering a hand to the homeless and needy, promoting missions both here and oversees, tutoring and mentoring students in Philadelphia, or sharing the Gospel at other college campuses, Cairn students are constantly active in being a part of something greater than ourselves. Cairn University focuses on life in the context of God’s Word and Kingdom.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned at Cairn is understanding God’s Word in context. Introduction to the Bible with Mark Jalovick in Wisconsin revolutionized the way I view Scripture and how I understand myself in the context of God’s kingdom. I have a place in His kingdom, but it is His kingdom, not mine. The mission statement that hangs around campus serves as a sort of cairn reminding each of us that we are here because of God and His Word. While other schools market themselves as being all about the needs of the individual student, Cairn has and continues to contextualize the student in God’s calling.
Student Senate and the other organizations work to create new opportunities which not only live out the Cairn mission, but demonstrate to the world around us why we live set apart. One of Senate’s goals this year is to provide new opportunities for students to share the Gospel in even the smallest ways as they live their lives in the context of a fallen world. As our name implies, we are marking the way for others to follow, and by nature the Cairn community is active and engaging. As a student leader, I see a tremendous number of new and improved opportunities arising from the energy of the new name. You cannot judge a book by its cover, but a cover can set the tone for the book. The perspective of the new name does exactly that. I and my classmates see the future of Cairn as one grounded in the past. Our future is anchored and that propels us forward. The point of a cairn is to point the way forward, but someone had to walk the path before to be able to mark it. We are not climbing our Hill of Difficulty and moving on. We reach the top and yell back to those at the bottom to follow the cairns that were set before us, that there is somewhere better than quitting at the bottom.
As a student I realize that the future of Cairn is brighter than ever in an American culture that is perhaps darker than ever. The God-centered education we are receiving prepares us to set foot into the thickest parts of the world and point to something bigger than us, bigger than our Hills of Difficulty.
This winter will be the beginning of my experience of teaching in a social studies classroom. I have spent the past four years studying educational theories and methods, and now practicum begins the actual process of being a teacher. My goal for students is not that they memorize disjointed dates and names, or remember who flanked whom in a given battle. Rather I want them to place themselves into the context of history. If they understand life is about something greater than them and that no one exists in a vacuum, then the names, dates, and details of history will fall into place. Educators would recognize my goal as worldview integration or mastery teaching, but I know it simply as what I learned at Cairn. I can say truthfully that I am more excited about Cairn’s mission and future now, on my way out, than I was when I entered as a freshman optimistic and excited.
[framed_box] Greg Cawood is the Student Senate President at Cairn University. He is a senior, earning degrees in Secondary Social Studies Education and Bible. His family has a long history at Cairn; his grandfather John Cawood was a beloved Bible professor, and his father, Scott, is currently the Vice President of Enrollment and Student Life. Greg can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org