“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
Sometimes we get so busy we forget all the marvelous blessings we share from day to day. Complaints often consume our thoughts and drain our dreams, but hope for the future is sustained with intentional efforts that remind us of the blessings and gifts of serving in community. We nurture this community of hope when we ask ourselves: “What is God doing and what has been done?” This Connections reminds us of only a few of the blessings we have experienced this year.
As a community of learners, peacemakers and reconcilers, we have been caucusing over the past two weeks with the goal of mapping a course to expand the possibilities for students, faculty and staff. Simultaneously, members of this community meet in five committees to plan and prepare for the 75th Anniversary celebrations to be launched in the fall. During this time undergraduate and graduate students also displayed impressive work in research forums. Our music and drama performances over the semester proved to be exceptional, and our athletic teams ended the season with commendable success. In particular, our new women’s tennis team achieved a 13-2 record and represented FPU proudly at the NCAA II regional finals.
With all that is going on between faculty scholarship, nursing clinicals, teacher practicums, internships and student service, we still find time to pause and give thanks for new partnerships, new faculty and staff and hosting a record number of students across our five campuses. In May we graduate the largest class in history, with 705 students in graduate, seminary and undergraduate programs. Our graduation speaker, Johann Matthies, is a graduate of the university and seminary and currently serves as the European, West and Central Asia director of an inter-agency mission organization. We will also award our first honorary degree to Fitzalberg Marius, M.D., for long years of service as a heart surgeon and Christian leader.
We continue work with the arts faculty, an architect and engineer to re-design the Arts and Cultural Center to be sustainable, efficient and multi-purpose. This facility will allow FPU to expand the arts, engage the cultures and serve the broader Fresno community. Meetings continue with city and county officials who have been very supportive in these efforts. We have also re-structured our Advancement and Communications offices to better serve our constituents, expand our branding, increase enrollment and encourage greater financial investment in the futures of our students.
The university continues to strengthen partnerships across Central Valley with school districts, community colleges, the court system, churches, businesses and numerous nonprofit organizations. Our Center for Community Transformation is providing leadership for Fresno Mayor Brand’s faith-based taskforce, which addresses chronic issues throughout the city, while celebrating the launch of the 43rd social enterprise, where business practices are used to address unemployment. The Center for Peacemaking continues to provide restorative justice services in school districts, training for chaplains and mediation for court cases. The Center for Anabaptist Studies has provided a series of webinars for pastoral development throughout the semester. These examples are only snapshots of FPU’s active engagement in the community, including the main campus and convocations and service projects by cohorts on our four regional campuses. Inside and outside the classroom, students’ lives are transformed through the work of our faculty and staff who show that possible happens here. I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to work with these dedicated servant-leaders. They are intentional models of lives that coalesce wisdom with knowledge; faith with practice; and service with sacrifice. We are abundantly grateful for God’s grace on our work to “extend the influence of the kingdom of God through the lives of our students.” Yes, in all of these matters we give thanks.