Fifteen PCS students, mostly seniors, participated in the 2015 Re:Act Student Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia Nov. 22-24. They joined more than 300 other students from Christian schools in ACSI's Northeast and Southeast regions. The conference focuses a Biblical worldview on a particular theme. This year, the theme was poverty and persecution. The issues are always relevant, but this year, with everything happening around the world, it seemed particularly so.
The conference organizers do an excellent job of providing speakers who have expertise in the kind of ministry that is being addressed. And as is often the case, reality doesn't necessarily always line up with pre-conceived notions and ideas about issues. We are constantly bombarded with information, much of it now spread by social media which has few, if any controls on it regarding the accuracy of content. Students are affected by all kinds of information, most of it from a skewed perspective, or from a perception that has gained popular acceptance, but few actual facts. The speakers at this conference have expertise, they've not only been there, but in most cases, they are going back there, and they tell the truth about how things are, even if the truth doesn't square up with a popular version of "Christian worldview." And that happens a lot more frequently than you might think.
One of the most impressive, and inspirational speakers of the conference was a lovely lady named Bernadette Todd. Suffering from a severe form of muscular dystrophy, Bernadette faced many challenges, from the medical issues that accompany her disease, to cruelty of people who ridicule the handicapped. Bernadette had some dreams, though. She was a sharp student, graduated at the top of her class, and achieved a college degree. Though her body was deteriorating, and her disease would not only never be cured, but would cause her muscular strength to continuously deteriorate, she met the man of her dreams, and he married her. As a result of that meeting, Bernadette also came to know Christ as her Lord and Savior. Her initial prognosis was that she might not make it to eight years of age, but she is now in her late 40's. Her muscles have deteriorated to the point where she has very little freedom of movement now, but she has a tremendous smile, and she offers it as she speaks, along with a testimony of how God has used both she and her husband in ministry.
Bernadette spoke at the beginning of the conference, and set the tone. Each evening, as our students gathered together for reflection, there were more and more comments made about what they had learned, and how they were going to put it into action.
During our excursion to Washington, D.C., splitting into two groups to see different sites, both groups had an opportunity to put something they learned into practice. One of the speakers had made note of the fact that when Christians see people on the street, obviously homeless, sometimes begging, we have a tendency to look away, not necessarily deliberately, but because they make us uncomfortable, and we have a way of ignoring the problem. The speaker pointed out that such an action reduces the humanity of the person who is suffering from the problem. One group encountered a homeless man lying on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant where they were about to eat lunch, and determined not to ignore him. Acknowledging that we cannot do much is a simple fact. But we can resolve a simple and immediate problem. So, the man, and his friend who accompanied him, got a hot meal that day, which certainly did meet an immediate need. The other group had a similar experience. Hopefully, the experience will be a powerful enough reminder to permanently change the way we do things. The speaker connected the concept to the story of the Good Samaritan.
Life transformation is a core principle of Christian faith, and as such, it is also a core principle of Christian education. Our schools are integrating Biblical principles into the curriculum, but they are also emphasizing the need for our graduates to be the kind of people who make a difference in the world. And that's the value of a conference like this. It's just a couple of days, and after a while, much of what was said will fade from memory, but hopefully it made just enough of an impact to cause a life transformation, and send a student down the path of exploring God's plan for their life a little more closely, and with a few more specific details.