New Fresno Pacific University students have arrived from nations around the world and from communities across America and the Central Valley to start the 2015-2016 academic year. From Albania, Avenal, Atlanta, Arizona and Atwater; from Greece, India, Russia and Ripon; from Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Kingsburg; from Denmark, Lithuania, Colombia and Clovis—God is gathering the students he wants here.
Each year international students from 40 to 50 different nations bring their diverse cultures, languages, hopes and dreams. Some come to study in our Intensive English Language Program (IELP), and others come already fluent enough in English to enroll in undergraduate, graduate or seminary degree programs. Some come for sports or music or other special areas of performance or academic interest, and this year three new international students are President’s Scholars.
They all come to change. There is no reason to invest the time, energy and money to study at a university like Fresno Pacific if you want to stay the way you are.
They all come knowing that we are a Christian university, including, for example, our Muslim students, who come knowing they will be in a physically and morally safe environment where they will be respected as persons and where they can dress and pray and study in ways that fit them. They will participate in a campus culture where people with differing beliefs, values and customs can learn to know the God who loves the whole world. The God who calls everyone to keep learning, growing and changing.
When we are finally all together on campuses from Bakersfield to Merced and in various other locations via online programs, our diverse educational community will have the opportunity to learn together what we mean by gracious Christianity in a university that is founded and centered in Jesus, the personification of God’s love for all people. There will be about 3,500 students, with about 700 faculty and staff, and we will all be learners together, all seeking positive change in ourselves and in our world.
But while the students, faculty and staff were organizing themselves for the myriad tasks and challenges of the year ahead, the fires burning in the mountains suddenly changed our plans. Fire threats forced us to evacuate our Casa Pacifica facility near Shaver Lake, requiring relocation of retreats and work sessions to our Smith House facility in Fresno and various campus spaces. The orientation for new undergrad students had to be relocated with only one day’s notice from Hume Lake to Camp Oakhurst because of a fire-forced evacuation.
These enormous last-minute surprises required massive changes to protect hundreds of people who have come from far and near to learn and grow. Our faculty and staff gave these students perhaps their first lesson of the year, a lesson in flexibility, as they modeled change with joyful hearts as an example of the “gracious Christianity” that God calls us to exemplify at Fresno Pacific University as our part of his gracious kingdom.