This past summer, I spoke at a weeklong family event at Camp Spofford in New Hampshire — a wonderful time of fellowship with Cairn alumni who attended or who work at Spofford, as well as many brothers and sisters in Christ whom I had never met before. My series, entitled “Standing Firm in Shaky Days,” reflected on the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6. It was not a fun-filled or lighthearted topic, to be sure, but I hoped to offer some perspective and encouragement at a time when I needed it badly and figured I was not alone.
I believe this topic of perseverance in uncertain times resonated with my listeners because, when we look at the state of the nation, the world, and at times even our own lives, many of us experience a sense of instability, uncertainty, and unease about our current circumstances. Life is full of these potentially unnerving challenges and situations, mixed with our daily joys, blessings, and moments of peace, gratification, and exhilaration.
The point of my series was that God provides all we need to stand firm; that in the midst of all of today’s complexities and paradoxes; we can joyfully live life in service to Christ; and that God expects us to live facing forward, no matter how shaky the days. The armor He provides serves no purpose when we turn our backs to the realities, battles, and trials of life. Each piece is useful when we engage with life, not when we retreat from it.
We take this message to our students at Cairn every day, and I am pleased to say they respond well. They know that the state of things is not perfect. They know life can be tough. However, they also know that the Christian walk has plenty of room for enjoying life to the fullest, savoring the moment, and having fun. Just as importantly, they know that the call to walk a different path means that we keep moving forward.
In this issue of the magazine, you will glimpse the manifestation of these realities. Today’s world has real problems to solve, challenges to face, personal suffering to endure, and hard work to do. However, our world today also includes progress and change, enthusiasm for new ventures and opportunities, hopes and dreams to realize, and life worth living and celebrating. You will read testimonies, personal and institutional news, updates, and prayer requests. It is all here. It is all part of the Cairn University community and experience. It all is part of life. As you read about what God is doing here, I trust that you will be as encouraged as our students and I are.
Recently, two opportunities greatly encouraged me regarding our students’ response to the idea of facing forward. The first opportunity was a series of events that I hold each semester, called Coffee with the President. The agenda of these information gatherings is determined by the students who show up, who ask whatever is on their minds. The topics of these questions range from University policy to theology and philosophy to my personal reading habits. Not surprisingly, this year, many have asked questions about culture and politics. But the underlying tone of these questions has been about how to make sense of what’s happening in today’s world, how to prepare for what’s ahead, how to make wise choices, and how to position oneself for a fruitful and God-honoring life in a challenging and complex world. I am so encouraged to hear our students discussing topics beyond themselves, thinking hard about issues beyond their own interests and experiences. They are not self-absorbed. They are not preoccupied with ease and comfort. They are not content with merely existing. The conversations underscore the importance of what we do here and reveal that we are tracking in the right direction. In the days to come, that direction will require a great deal of energy, as well as prayer support, financial support, and moral support.
I was also encouraged by our students’ response in chapel the Friday before Homecoming. Current and prospective students packed the chapel as I outlined the rationale and goals for Cairn’s new capital campaign. More than once, the students burst into spontaneous applause. After we showed the video overview of the campaign, I had to settle them down in order to finish my comments. I was caught off guard and overwhelmed. Here is why: Most of the impact of this campaign will not benefit current students. It will benefit those who will follow them. This selfless response demonstrates that our students are committed, mission-oriented, and facing forward. They showed more than just excitement for new initiatives. They showed enthusiasm for what God is doing new in and through this work which He has ordained and sustained for more than a century. Thanks be to God!
Dr. Todd J. Williams has been the president of Cairn University since January 2008. He served on the faculty and administration from 1996 to 2001, and then returned as provost in 2005. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.