Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not One Man Scaling a Cliff

Since CJ left home on July 16, I’ve been putting some of his memories together. One of my projects was to transcribe his Graduation Speech from the video of his ceremony on June 8. As the audience was roughly half Chinese and half “foreign” friends in Tianjin, CJ switched back and forth during his speech between the two languages. I sent this to him at Notre Dame, where he just started classes, and he gave me permission to share the English version of his speech, with some pictures I added in...


Thinking about having my own graduation and designing my own graduation ceremony, it felt kind of weird if it was all about me. I didn’t think I had the right to ask you to spend an hour and a half of your time all about me. But then I realized that the whole point of my graduation is that it’s not all about me.

My graduation is not the accomplishment of an individual; it is not one man scaling a cliff, with years of preparation and a grand finale. Instead, my graduation is strong wave, a part of the ocean’s journey. With ups and downs in the past, and ups and downs in the future. Right now I’m at an up. And I’m here because the ocean around me is pushing me up. You guys are my surrounding ocean. You guys are my great cloud of witnesses.

Out of this great cloud of witnesses, the people I most want to honor and thank are my parents. To say I wouldn’t be here without them is a gross understatement. Recently I’ve been thinking, especially as I’ve filled out college applications, that a lot of the things that make my life story particularly interesting or special are because of great decisions that my parents made.

When I was four months old I didn’t say, “Hey, I want to move to China.” 

 Originally, I didn’t choose to go to Chinese public school.

And I didn’t choose to live in a remote village of Western China.

But I’m really thankful that my parents did. And I know that there’s no probably no greater blessing than to grow up in a family that loves God and really wrestles with what it means to follow Him.

I can attest to the truth of Jesus’ promise that whoever gives up family and houses for Him will gain much more. Growing up in China has entailed a certain sacrifice of not being close to my family and relatives in the States. And I’m very grateful that my Grandfather bridged that gap by traveling all the way here, which was a great surprise, and I’m really happy… 

But Jesus’ promise is true because when I look at you, you really are my family here in China. Those aren’t just empty words. When I call you my uncles and aunts I really mean it. And I think of my peers here as my brothers and sisters.

I especially want to thank all of the adults here who have taught me classes, whenever you ever taught me a class, and I’d like you to stand up so we can honor you.

I have been thinking of Moses’ life recently, and it’s so evident how from the beginning, the very beginning of his life, God was at work, orchestrating his life to serve His purposes. For Moses, to grow up in Pharaoh’s household gave him a position of influence and God used that. Similarly, I believe that God has placed me here for a purpose. And I want to use my upbringing here in China to serve His purposes.

As a good homeschooler, I obviously asked my parents to write this speech for me. Just kidding. I did ask for feedback and I got some mixed reviews on this part of the speech. My Grandpa said “You want to make sure you talk a little bit about your college. Because that’s what people really want to know about.” Jordan immediately said: “No, don’t talk any more about your college. I’m tired of hearing about college. It’s so boring”

I’ll still say a little. I am very excited to attend the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana this fall. Its two hours away from Chicago. So why did I choose Notre Dame? It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that I really do feel like God is calling me there. And I have a lot of peace about it. I am so thankful that since making the decision, He has given confirmation after confirmation.

One thing I’m especially excited about is to be a part of a leadership development program there, which provides a scholarship and summer activities in social justice, international travel, and internships. I’m also excited about studying Peace Studies there. It’s a major built on International Relations, with a specific focus on conflict resolution and cross-cultural understanding. I think it’s a great fit for my interests, so I’m excited about that.

As I look back over the past 18 years, I feel extremely blessed. And as I look ahead in faith I am very excited to see the things God has prepared for me in the midst of transitions. In Hebrews it says that He has prepared a better country, a heavenly one. As I remember the country I am leaving behind, I want to do it with thanksgiving and thankfulness. And as I look ahead, I want to do so in obedience to God’s calling, while claiming His promises.

Go, CJ!

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