Good morning everyone...
It's Friday morning. In three weeks I will be in Lynchburg to participate in graduation. I try to spend a few minutes each morning thinking about that...dreaming of it...visualizing it. It keeps me going. I've written enough about the workload I'm bearing right now. You all know about how I was homeless, no need to revisit that.
This morning I wanted to especially tip my hat to the folks at my school, particularly the online department.
I'd be remiss if I didn't start off with some words about our Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr. and his brother Jonathan. Jerry is older than me by 2 years and I didn't know him when I was a resident student years ago. He had graduated the spring before my arrival and was in law school by then. The only thing I knew about him then had to do with how a live, and slightly perturbed chicken mysteriously showed up in the cafeteria during the busiest time of one particular weekday. About 500 students bore witness. The Ninja-clad perpetrators were rumored to include our Chancellor.
The other thing I know about him is that I wouldn't do his job very well at all. Running the largest and most recognized evangelical college in the world is no mean feat. Everyone seems to know better how to run it than he does and nobody is happy with every decision...or even most decisions. Yesterday it was announced that Mitt Romney is giving the commencement speech this year. The world is abuzz! How can we have a Mormon speak at a Christian college?? To me it's simple...he's not preaching in convocation, he's speaking to the graduates. That is always reserved for statesmen, captains of industry, world leaders, Presidents or potential future presidents. It doesn't imply Liberty is embracing Mormon teachings. It means that the Republican candidate for president...the best chance we apparently have to unseat the current monster, thinks L.U. is important enough to accept the invitation and speak to us.
I choose to view it that way.
One other note...Jerry Jr. gets beaten up sometimes, as the head of the school often does. He has a lot on his plate and is busy with things that will effect generations of kids coming to this school. But he has always had time to answer an email if I asked him a question. And when he found out my situation, he became personally involved. He encouraged me, he stayed in touch, and he even went so far as to try finding me a place to live right before I found the place I am in now. I'll never forget that.
Jonathan Falwell is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. That in itself is daunting. There has only ever been one other pastor of that church and that was Jonathan's dad. Taking over a pastorate from a legendary and beloved man is hard for anyone. Believe me I know a few friends who were saddled with that. When the legend was your own father and he started the church from nothing...good luck to you and let me know how that works out for you. Jonathan has done a masterful job. Masterful! I've visited TRBC twice in the years since Doc passed away. I watch online frequently. I think Jonathan has done something very special there. It is very hard to make your own way and carve your niche and leave your own God-given imprint on a place and still retain the things your dad...the original pastor you followed...stood for and believed and did. Jonathan has done so in a way that only someone who has heard God directing him can do.
Jonathan and I had a few classes together in 1984 / 85 when we were both freshmen. We became friendly. Not best-man-in-each-others-weddings-friendly, but we were friends and goofed off in a few boring freshman classes together. Jonathan also stepped in when I was out of money and not coming back for my second semester that year. I've recounted that story before on these pages and you can find it if you search. Basically he told his dad, and the next chapel (that's what we called it in 1984) service, Dr. Falwell preached an entire sermon about how "Nobody should ever leave Liberty because of money! If you have none, and the registrar tells you that you can't enroll...you come see me!" Jonathan found me after that service and reiterated what his dad had said and then said "So I'll see you next semester, right?" How could I let the guy down?
Jonathan has another of his dad's traits...he loves everybody. Everybody! Zig Ziglar would say he is a "Good-finder" in that he sees something good in everyone. Jesus was like that I think. Otherwise He wouldn't have endured those twelve disciples...or me. Jonathan cares deeply about everyone God brings within his eyesight, and then some. I'm honored and blessed to consider him a friend and I look to his example as to how a ministry operates. I view my graduation next month as me finally making good on the effort he took to go talk to his dad about my plight 28 years ago. Jonathan...I hung in there and finished this thing. I have never forgotten that day, or what you and your dad did for me and others like me. Thanks again.
Now...there is another group of people at Liberty that need mention and recognition. The staff of LUOnline. It needs to be reiterated that I completed 5 of the 6 semesters it took to graduate, while living in my car. Typically...that doesn't leave you in a good mood most of the time. I have called that office and spoken with online advisers on the phone and been extremely grouchy sometimes. I knew why I was crabby but they did not. I didn't tell anyone at LU about my homelessness until this semester, when it was over. So they doubtless thought I was just a 48 year old jerk with a bad attitude sometimes. Not every time...not even most of the time. But once in a while the weight of the life I was leading was too large for me and whoever was nearby caught it. Sometimes it was the LUO adviser unfortunate enough to take my call. I never once...not one time...got anything but a warm, caring response. I have received several phone calls just to check on me and see how things were going. Twice I have had advisers call me just to pray with me. They didn't know they were dealing with a homeless man when they talked to me. They didn't know that my classes were the only thing I had in my whole world that was going right at the time. They didn't know that I was studying in my car by flashlight. They just did their job and did it well. They never knew how much their job mattered. When I go to Lynchburg next month I'm stopping in to meet as many of them as I can. I feel like they walked this whole journey with me and I want to meet them and put a few names with faces. Mostly I want them to hear it from me directly, how what they do each day is far more important than they might ever realize.
It took a village to get me here...poised on the verge of completing a dream I have literally had since I was a high school junior. It took a family. I say that because the root word in "Alumni" means "foster son". That's perfect. Liberty feels like my home and the people feel like my family.
May 12 I'll feel like a real son...