Many of us here in the Northwest have been saddened by the recent news about Cascade College's decision to close its doors after the Sprinig 2009 semester. Lori and I thought a lot about the many people that would be hurt through this decision. Agape has anywhere from 15 to 20 students from Cascade with us. This is about 15% of our church. The staff and faculty at Cascade also are affected. The many friends we have who will no longer be serving here in Portland will lose much and our hearts ache for them. The memories of teaching at the school will, for me, now be only memories. The closing of this school will affect many of us personally as well as our churches. The students, faculty, staff, and alumni lose deep friendships as well as a sense of history.
We also thought about one of our friends on the Oklahoma Board of Directors. This had to be a painful decision for them as well and we know that many of them felt this may have been one of the worst days of their lives. The college has gone above and beyond for years helping the school and now offers faculty and many students the opportunity to stay in education. Already a school has emailed faculty and offered positions of employment. I am surprised at how this closing has sent waves of empathy and sympathy throughout the country.
In the crisis there is community comfort and healing.
The churches of Christ in Portland now have another opportunity. In the past we have neglected to focus on campus ministry and outreach to the many college students in this city. In some ways we watched Cascade students struggle spiritually and waited for them to come to us. Few churches aggressively pursued the kids. I guess we figured that they were safe in our school, therefore they were expected to come to us.
A new time has come for us. We have the opportunity to revive our calling. We cannot wait for them to come to us--they will be gone. We have to go and bring the news of Jesus to the campuses. Portland State is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) universities in Oregon and we do not have a presence. The International Churches of Christ stormed this campus and have numerous baptisms and small groups there. We watched.
I visited some of the PSU students today who come to Agape. We have 6 now who come. They are bright, they are intelligent, they will be movers and shakers in our society. They bring friends to church. They are eager. They are not afraid. They want to learn. They will start a home community with each other and will provide a place of support for other students. They challenge me to think. I mean--they really challenge me to rethink things.
Mark and Elissa Andreson flew in from Japan yesterday. They were products of Wilson and Kristin Parish's campus ministry at OSU (Wilson and Kristin are planting a church in Sherwood). They spent two years in Japan talking about Jesus and teaching English on college campuses. They thrive in that environment. They have had a heart for PSU for years.
They received a scholarship to come to Agape, intern with us, go to school, and through prayer--do campus ministry. God has tremendous insight. God is in control. God has been preparing us to go where we haven't gone before. A home community will be meeting soon and a couple will come to work with them on a campus we have neglected, forgotten, and failed to reach. They will work with young people who are searching, seeking, intelligent, and eager.
I came home excited, like I always do after visiting the kids at PSU. I am sad but optomistic.
With crisis comes opportunity. A chance to be different, to evolve, to do again what we neglected, and to see new life continue to thrive.
We will miss Cascade, the students, and administration.
However, we will go on and know that God will be with us all.