Where Does World Change Begin?

I recently attended a fundraising breakfast sponsored by a fine organization in Seattle that is dedicated to bringing the best of medical technology to the health and wellness of poor children across the globe. The organization is called PATH, and as I filled out a pledge card, I thought, what a worthy place to give money — quite directly to children who are trapped in circumstances of disease and malnutrition, profoundly beyond their control. The results are immediate and they are good. PATH is changing the world.

At about the same time I sat at a wonderful commencement exercise at Seattle Pacific called Ivy Cutting, and I listened to one of our outstanding graduating seniors present the class gift for the year. She and her classmates decided to give the gift, not to the University, not to more benches on the campus, she said, but directly to the poor.

And so they picked out another fine organization in Seattle called Agros, founded by my dear friend and Seattle Pacific alum, Skip Li. Agros is focused on providing land for the poor in Central America and Mexico, the only way, Skip believes, for the poor to find their way toward independence and self-sufficiency. I was very proud of our students. They decided to work with Agros to change the world.

And in both cases, as I listened, I asked myself, so what about my university, this outstanding Christian university, this 118-year-old institution — how are we changing the world? And how do we compete for loyalty and for money with organizations that seem so direct and focused in their results? And I found myself worrying about great institutions like ours. In a day when our tastes are so tailored and our loyalties so fleeting and our demand for results so immediate –– great institutions can sometimes come out on the short end of things. And that’s a scary thing for the future of our world.

And actually I found myself worrying about those benches. Doesn’t an institution like ours need benches and classrooms and laboratories and gathering halls? Don’t we need highly trained faculty to pull off the great learning enterprise? Don’t we need all of this in order to flourish?

And suddenly it came to me, yes, indeed, world change begins somewhere. It begins in a place. That place is often the home of a great institution. And as I think about the work of my university, this Christian institution, I think, yes, indeed, this is the place where world change begins. Someone needs to provide these eager young people with a story of human flourishing that can guide and motivate their lives in worthy directions. Someone has to give them a story of what is true and good and beautiful. That’s the job of my institution. The work of places like PATH and Agros depend on this work.

Our goal at Seattle Pacific is to focus this great institution, with intensity and intentionality, on making the world a better place for all of God’s children. That’s our vision, our mission.

Yes, I thought, this is the place where world changes begins.