We pull onto campus and I’m struck by the urge to take off my shoes. Is this holy ground? It’s my fourth time back at Sunshine Bible Academy since my 1977 graduation, the most recent visit twelve years ago. Much has changed and much has stayed the same. We enter the dining hall and are immediately embraced by former classmates and teachers. It feels like home.
At the football game, we sing along to the school song while some of the alumni join the band. The words come back like it was yesterday. On Crusaders, on Crusaders… Merriam-Webster’s definition of a modern-day Crusader is “a person who makes an impassioned and sustained effort to bring about social or political change.” Thus, the song is rich with double meaning. This is our war cry!
Throughout the remainder of the weekend, I find myself embracing Christian warriors and feeling enormously proud of every one of them. People like Rod, Coretta, Ron, Kelly, Ray, Jim, Kevin, Roger, and Charlie…farmers and ranchers who are feeding the nation and the world. I see pastors Phil and Vicki, who need to leave the festivities early to return home and feed their flock on Sunday morning. I see teachers like Nancy and Bryan, building into the lives of the next generation…and the next one after that! I experience the musical expertise of Tom as he directs the alumni choir and will later lead us in a wonderful time of worship.
Keep the good old name before you, never let it die!
I see nurses like Peggy and counselors like Pearl, facilitating healing for bodies and hearts. I hug my friend Lorie, recently retired from more than three decades of lovingly caring for precious premature babies. Her brother Larry, running for Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota. I hear my dear friend Kristen’s story—leading mission teams to India and opening her home to young people every Sunday night. I see alumni like Benita, Jamie, Cheryl, and Greg who have returned to Sunshine to build into the current Crusaders…who will in turn go on to be the warriors of tomorrow. And perhaps most influential of all, my friend Kim, who has sacrificed her own agenda to serve as nanny to her grandchildren. Could any role be more significant?
Fight on for your King!
We’ve learned that life is, among other things, a fight. We’ve had to fight for our marriages, our children, our faith. Not one of us has escaped heartache, loss, failure, grief, disappointment, or deteriorating bodies. We share our stories. We laugh until our jaws ache, remembering the crazy shenanigans of a bunch of 1970’s teenagers who can finally appreciate how well-loved we were. We eat amazing food. We tour the campus, recalling how things were and marveling over how they are. (Was my dorm room really that small or has it shrunk from a dozen coats of paint?) We are awestruck by God’s provision for a beautiful new event center, new dorms, and more. Touched by the faithfulness of those who have continued to give, to build, to believe in the future of SBA. Not so that we can have an impressive facility in the middle of the wind-swept prairie, but so that there will be a place to equip today’s youth to be Crusaders in the kingdom of God. Perhaps most compelling is hearing from former Dean of Students Harley Minnich, who after forty-plus years, still weeps as he shares the heart-wrenching story of having to put a boy on the bus to send him home.
This game of life is not an easy battle to fight. But we know the ultimate war has already been won by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And so we meet in the old chapel on Sunday morning to praise and worship Him. We give thanks. We thank Him for former staff members like the Minnichs, Letelliers, Eggebraatens, Pedersons, Myerses, DeVrieses, and others who sacrificed so much to provide a firm foundation from which to launch us. We share about His faithfulness. We hear from Janice, who lost her beloved husband yet can still say “blessed be the name of the Lord.” We celebrate with Connie, to whom God has given a new partner to share life with. “He gives and takes away…my heart will choose to say…” We don’t have all the answers to life’s riddles, but we know Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He can be trusted.
So we rattle the rafters with our praises. The pauses between songs, scriptures, and stories are filled with sniffling and nose-blowing—and we know that these sounds too, are precious to the ears of God. Years ago, we memorized Psalm 56 which tells us He is gathering our tears in a bottle, and we appreciate that truth now more than ever. We sing It is well with my soul, knowing it has never felt more appropriate than it does in this moment. We give of our resources, out of hearts filled with gratitude for the gift we were given and for the bond our enemy can never break. We experience family in a way many of us have not felt for a long time. Lastly, we form a circle around the room. We hold hands and with full hearts, we sing Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow…
Not some, but ALL. Blessings.
And we say “See you soon” because we’ve discovered how swiftly life speeds along. We know that when we are finally reunited forever, it will not be to watch each other grow old, but to see one another the way our Creator intended us from the beginning—flawless and whole.
Until then, we each have our work…our callings…our battles…our crusade. So fight, fellows.
Fight. Fight. Fight!
And win this game.
|All the 1970s and 80 alumni who attended|