Scholarships and the Grace of Giving

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This week we host our scholarship dinner, or so we call it. It really is our “thank you for the funds you give for scholarships so students can attend Fresno Pacific, graduate and become servant-leaders” dinner.

Students who receive scholarships given by our very generous supporters will enjoy a meal with those supporters, where they will get to know each other. The students will learn that behind the award letter is someone who cares about their success and giving others the opportunity to attend this university. The donors will learn about “their” student’s dreams, struggles and gratitude for the opportunity to study.

The dinner is primarily for undergraduates, but FPU graduate and seminary students also receive scholarships and experience that same sense of gratitude for the generosity of those who give so they can continue their studies. Those who donate scholarships tell us of the passion they have for students, whether those students go into ministry, or teaching, or business, or counseling, or the sciences, or the arts or athletics. They understand what students need (perhaps they were once students): time to study, learn, wonder, raise questions, explore, experience and research. Learning is difficult and time consuming. A student who has finished a baccalaureate degree has probably spent 17 or 18 years in school. The last four or five can be intense, when done well. Those who give understand that education may not “pay off” in the short term, but that the long-term benefits are great for everyone.

In years past our donors might have known the students who received the scholarships they fund. No donor can choose who gets a scholarship, but they might set up an award that supports students from a church, group of churches or a community that they are a part of.

Today our students come from many different churches, communities and ethnicities, and it is a tribute to donors that they give to students they do not know and may never have a chance to meet (except at a scholarship dinner). They give freely, knowing that “their” student will take the same education the donor had into another community, creating a larger, more diverse FPU community.

The early church learned this same pattern. Those not among the first Jewish Christians were welcomed into the church, became part of a new community, receiving the grace once reserved for others. When students are welcomed into this community—including those who might otherwise not be able to attend—from diverse Christian traditions, communities or ethnicities, those who have been a part of FPU pass on what has been done for them.

Some of our new donors are not part of our traditional support base, but have received scholarships themselves and are already giving back. Grace inspires gratitude. Gratitude inspires giving. Those who give help create the next generation of givers. I once received that welcome into educational communities that I had not been a part of, and was supported by people I did not know and who could not have known me. The experience changed the way I look at what I am called to do.

All of this is to say one very simple thing: Thank you on behalf of FPU scholarship recipients to those who give generously so many may attend the university. They may not know you; you may not know them. Nevertheless your generosity is not only allowing students to achieve, but also to experience first-hand what it is to receive and what it is to give.