Where Does World Change Begin?

I recently attended a fundraising breakfast sponsored by a fine organization in Seattle that is dedicated to bringing the best of medical technology to the health and wellness of poor children across the globe. The organization is called PATH, and as I filled out a pledge card, I thought, what a worthy place to give money — quite directly to children who are trapped in circumstances of disease and malnutrition, profoundly beyond their control. The results are immediate and they are good. PATH is changing the world.

At about the same time I sat at a wonderful commencement exercise at Seattle Pacific called Ivy Cutting, and I listened to one of our outstanding graduating seniors present the class gift for the year. She and her classmates decided to give the gift, not to the University, not to more benches on the campus, she said, but directly to the poor.

And so they picked out another fine organization in Seattle called Agros, founded by my dear friend and Seattle Pacific alum, Skip Li. Agros is focused on providing land for the poor in Central America and Mexico, the only way, Skip believes, for the poor to find their way toward independence and self-sufficiency. I was very proud of our students. They decided to work with Agros to change the world.

And in both cases, as I listened, I asked myself, so what about my university, this outstanding Christian university, this 118-year-old institution — how are we changing the world? And how do we compete for loyalty and for money with organizations that seem so direct and focused in their results? And I found myself worrying about great institutions like ours. In a day when our tastes are so tailored and our loyalties so fleeting and our demand for results so immediate –– great institutions can sometimes come out on the short end of things. And that’s a scary thing for the future of our world.

And actually I found myself worrying about those benches. Doesn’t an institution like ours need benches and classrooms and laboratories and gathering halls? Don’t we need highly trained faculty to pull off the great learning enterprise? Don’t we need all of this in order to flourish?

And suddenly it came to me, yes, indeed, world change begins somewhere. It begins in a place. That place is often the home of a great institution. And as I think about the work of my university, this Christian institution, I think, yes, indeed, this is the place where world change begins. Someone needs to provide these eager young people with a story of human flourishing that can guide and motivate their lives in worthy directions. Someone has to give them a story of what is true and good and beautiful. That’s the job of my institution. The work of places like PATH and Agros depend on this work.

Our goal at Seattle Pacific is to focus this great institution, with intensity and intentionality, on making the world a better place for all of God’s children. That’s our vision, our mission.

Yes, I thought, this is the place where world changes begins.

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Categories: Change, Education, Seattle Pacific University

5 replies

  1. Thanks for this Phil – we can’t help but be inspired by the example of the students we meet who have found “critical mass” in turning their compassion into action in Seattle. If anything, the breadth and depth of engagement by SPU students in this way is increasing at an exponential rate. The students I meet who have this shared interest span a huge spectrum of study – from science, government, mathematics, communications, nursing, music (composition and technology), business and theatre – to classics and art/visual communication – on and on. Students who come to SPU are becoming steeped in the broad skill sets required to lead in these areas. PATH is science and technology centered global health organization as we all know – but it is also a social venture operating in a vortex of government, business and non-profit management. Seattle is a community where students can come from all over the world to absorb the unique atmosphere of this new kind of engagement on global issues. The equipping of students to be leaders in this hybridized approach to global issues is something I am highly energized about at SPU. It is exciting to see others becoming aware of this and getting involved. And speaking of that, I just posted this blog on my Facebook and gave it a tweet as well! Thanks!

  2. Thank you for your comments, Phil. I agree with you that in this new era of direct access, it is important not to forget the places where we are first inspired to make a difference in the world. As a student at SPU, I not only grew in my awareness of the great need, but I was also encouraged by professors and staff members to use my God-given gifts to try and make a positive impact. I am thankful for this place and for the time I spent here being equipped to carry out God’s call for my life to love him with all that I am and to share his love with others.

  3. Thank you for these great thoughts. I agree wholeheartedly. My family and I are passionate about helping the less fortunate—and our vision for helping others came in large part because of the SPU education we received. SPU helped to shape me, my husband, and our community of friends—SPU is the place where we learned that the world is a big place, and that we must use our education and our gifts to give back to the world in as many ways as possible. Our family loves to give to organizations that are directly assisting the poor and underprivileged— but we also love to give SPU, because SPU is indeed the place that prepared us so well to live the full lives we are now living. I hope others will see that, yes, it’s good to feed the poor and hungry—but yes, it’s also good to provide money for Christian universities like SPU that are preparing the next generation of world leaders. Thanks for encouraging us to think on these important things.

  4. This is beautiful. As a teacher at a small Bible College, I completely agree!

  5. Thank you Philip for your support of PATH, both with your dollars and your voice. We are sharing your post with our supporters on Facebook and Twitter. You are an inspiration!

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