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Hope in uncertain times

An early morning walk on the Davis & Elkins College campus was met with an eerie silence and sense of loneliness. In the distance I could see a member of the faculty headed to her office, and a car passed by and the occupant waved.

Unlike a “normal” morning, I did not encounter a single student. I did not have an opportunity to stop and chat to discover how the semester is going, or if rehearsals for the upcoming play are progressing well, or if the team is celebrating that recent victory. The vast majority of our students have returned to their homes until the national COVID-19 crisis passes. Already, they are missed on the hallowed grounds of the campus.

For the college community, like our nation and world, these are not normal times. Our lives have been upended and our definition of normal is changing, with greater change to come, at least for a while. Like colleges and universities far and wide, our instruction is going online for our students. Our faculty is working mightily to be prepared for Monday morning when we begin classes again, though now in a virtual format. All is new, and all is unsettling, but we know we will get past this crisis.

Sunday evening, I attended our campus chapel service. Rev. Laura Brekke Wagoner, our Benfield-Vick Chaplain, shared words of comfort and hope with our students. She reminded them of the words of Psalm 46 which begins “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” For our students, and for their president, these were words we need to hear and take to heart. For the seniors it is a particularly difficult time. Their years of hard work and sacrifice are nearing the point of culmination when they are supposed to walk across a stage and receive a diploma in a well-deserved milestone moment in their lives. Yet, the seniors in that worship setting knew that their commencement in May is in jeopardy, and they wondered if they were saying goodbye temporarily or permanently to their friends and faculty mentors as they left the campus.

My morning walk reminded me of two important things that I hope the college community will not overlook. First, as I passed historical building and markers, our history reminds us that this existential crisis will pass, the mission of this College will continue, and lives will be transformed for this generation of students and many generations to come.

Secondly, as I walked past a monument erected in 1946 near the Madden Student Center, I read with fresh eyes the message engraved. Simply, yet profoundly, in the words of the King James translation, it reads, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” As I re-read those words, I remembered a paraphrased version of that Psalm that says, “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven and earth, and mountains.”

How blessed we are in these uncertain times, to hear that still small voice, even on a morning walk.

The journey continues…

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