the major award

According to my dad, tonight I won a major award. Although I did not receive a leg lamp, which we all know is the true major award, tonight was still an honor I am trying to believe really happened.

I received the Servant Leadership Award along with two others tonight. As I sat there and listened to their acceptance speeches, I realized how blessed I am, to have had the opportunity to serve in the crazy ways I have. God is so good, and it’s simply an honor to live my life completely for him.

For those that are interested, the following was my acceptance speech…

*I have recently been thinking about who the real heroes are in a few of my favorite stories. The main characters are the ones who get all the publicity. But the background characters are often the ones that make the most difference. Like the Bishop in Les Miserables. Without the influence he had on Jean ValJean, there wouldn’t have been any sort of redemption story at all. Like Sam in the Lord of the Rings. Without Sam’s service and loyalty, Frodo would have never even made it out of the Shire, much less all the way to Mordor to destroy the ring. And like the faithful who traveled with the apostle Paul on his journeys, and who were often imprisoned with him as well.
I spent this past summer working for Experience Mission on the Navajo reservation in Arizona where my personal job responsibilities included cooking for the short-term teams that came in and bussing kids back and forth from Kids Club. I learned more about service there than I have in almost any other place. This was not a flashy job, but I did have experiences that were beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
Arizona taught me that a life of constant service is not easy, that the day in and day out things like washing dishes are not always fun, that people may criticize how you serve instead of always appreciating the fact that you’re serving. Perseverance is required. Remembering the God you serve over the imperfect people you serve is key. Although the days were long and hard, they were also incredibly rewarding. There is something wonderful in forgetting about ourselves to serve others. I find myself still thinking about Arizona and missing it more than I realized I would. Through serving, I left a part of my heart there. And as I’ve had time to look back and reflect, I see that I’m ready to go out again, to serve without having to think about myself, to watch others succeed.
One day as we hiked down into the canyon in Arizona, we all talked about which characters in Lord of the Rings we would choose to be if we got to pick. The boys all picked the warriors like Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, One of my fellow teammates wanted to hold a big stick and be Gandalf. And I told everyone that I would be Sam.
There’s a part of me that’s always known I would be the best friend in a story. I’m simply not the main character type. Please, stick me behind the scenes. I have found that I can still lead there. That is, in fact, where I thrive as a leader. Servant leaders aren’t always the ones out front. So I want to be the one in the back giving hope, the one picking my friends up when they fall down. The one pushing others out the door.
I have begun to see servant leaders in those people that are often overlooked. The ones who work behind the scenes, who do the little everyday things that really make a difference in people’s lives. God has continuously shown me over the past few years that it’s in the little things, in baking cookies for someone, in listening to friends when you don’t really have the time, in doing something out of your way to make someone feel special, that you truly begin to serve and also learn how to lead out of those acts of service.
I wish I could list and thank all the servant leaders in my life. The people that have stood behind me as I have faced different challenges. The people that have helped me step out of the Shire with the ring I have to carry. My parents top the list with their ultimate support for me, but there have also been professors and great friends who have pushed me beyond my limits to step out and learn and grow in who I am in Christ and as a servant leader.
So, thank you, mom and dad, for your never-ending support and encouragement and for allowing me to follow God wholeheartedly, even when He takes me to crazy places. Thank you to all my professors sitting in this room who have always asked me the hard questions and forced me to go deeper on every level. Thank you Dr. Millard for providing me with opportunities to work with Experience Mission and also to travel to Africa for three months this coming spring. Thank you to my friends who have seen every step of my journey and have picked me up when I’ve fallen down. Often they’re the ones that give me that final push into the unknown. All of you have modeled the kind of servant leader that I aspire to be. And it is because of you that I am standing here today. I especially want to thank James and Sarah Tunney and the entire Tate family of the New Testament Indian Gospel Church in Inscription House, Arizona, where my donation went from this award, for making life both difficult and wonderful at the same time this summer. I also want to thank all of them in Arizona for including me in yet another family, and showing me a way of living and loving that I won’t ever forget.
I know without a doubt that I could not have done anything without the strength of God in my life. He has led me through ups and downs and been there for every step, in ways that no human support could be. It is because of his grace that I can freely accept the gift you all are giving me tonight. Thank you.*

I really want to thank my parents for coming tonight, and for Sarah Black and Emma who were also there to support me.


the paradigm shift

I could have sworn life was going to be easy after Arizona. I kept telling people jokingly that my last semester of school and Zambia were going to feel like a piece of cake.

Ha. I was wrong. Again.

Simple fact: God changed me this summer. I’ve known this. I knew that I came to school this semester more confident, more sure of who I was and who God was shaping me to be. I can say that I know who I am. I know what I like and don’t like. I know my strengths. I know what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at.

What I didn’t know was that the American culture holds absolutely no appeal for me now.

God not only shaped me as a person for what He wants me to do. He changed my mind. He changed my worldview. He changed my thinking. He changed the way I look at learning, school, my friends and other people that I’ve never met.

This thinking fit the Navajo culture. It doesn’t quite fit the IWU one.

I have this strong urge to destroy the whole educational system and start over. That’s how frustrated I am. In some way, higher education teaches us to only be worried about ourselves. And that sucks. Life is so much better when we stop thinking about what we need to do for ourselves during the day and cook a meal for someone else or write a letter to our grandparents or have coffee and listen to other people’s experiences.

I’m NOT done learning. I never will be.

But I’m done with the classroom.

Hello, outside world. You hold more lessons for me than I could ever imagine.