Jane Hoadley - Commencement Speech to Rockbridge Christian Academy


Jane Hoadley - Grace Missionary To Rafaki Malawi

Commencement Speech to Rockbridge Christian Academy

June 3, 2017


Pastor Phillips, Mrs. Phillips, board of directors, teachers, parents, friends and relatives, and most importantly the class of 2017 of Rockbridge Christian Academy, good afternoon.

It is quite an honor as well as a humbling experience to be speaking to you today.  I am so blessed to have been a teacher at this school and your teacher as well.  I have great memories of you all, and great memories of all the projects circling my room—and all the learning that took place.  I learned so much and I hope the students did as well.

With that said, I think today I would like to share a few things that I hope you can take away.

You have been given a gift—an education with God at the center.  You have been outfitted with a wonderful pair of glasses with the lenses of scripture.  Your world view has been developed from a Christ centered perspective.  It is now time to really view the world through that lens.  It is now time, if it hasn’t happened already for that faith, that view, to really become yours—not the school’s world view, not your parent’s faith, but really yours.

So, based on this foundation, here are a few things that I have learned and would like to pass on to you.

1. No experience, good or bad is ever wasted.  You may have asked from time to time, especially when learning something that you have not been passionate about, or doing something that seems useless—what’s the point?  One experience builds on another and another, and five, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now you will be thankful for it.   Remember that I just remarked that no experience is ever wasted? This is a great opportunity to move on to my next point.

2.  My absolute favorite bumper sticker says: “ The truly educated never graduate.”  What a thing to say at a commencement ceremony!!!!  Your learning here at this school is only the beginning of a life time of learning.  Remember that I just remarked that no experience is ever wasted?  That goes hand in hand that a person should never stop learning or never want to stop learning.  A quest for knowledge, the love of learning, the open mind that comes with the territory is something, based on the assumption that God is at the center of everything, glorifies him.  A love of learning can help you navigate through the school of hard knocks, knowing that God is in control of everything.  Your education thus far is wonderful preparation for the learning to come, and did I remark that no experience, good or bad is ever wasted?

3.  Since God uses all of our experiences and that learning never ends, I want to encourage you to do the following:  make it an intentional habit to seek goodness, truth and beauty.  Goodness, truth, and beauty.  Based on the fact that the world view that has been taught in this school is that God is the center of all things, if you seek God, then you know that He is the source of all goodness, truth and beauty.  You may be thinking—I get it.  I have been taught this.  Seek goodness, truth and beauty.  But, hey, life gets in the way.  Yes, it does.  So, what can a life of seeking goodness, truth and beauty look like in this sometimes ugly world? 

To illustrate this point, let me share with you a few experiences from my time in Africa.  I ran a teacher training program on the campus of an orphanage that is raising one hundred children.  There is a school on the campus for these children as well as for 120 day students from the community.  The curriculum is based on just my points—the love of learning with God at the center and it encourages children from ages three and up to appreciate goodness truth and beauty.  This is in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world.  The students I trained did practice teaching in the school, and many of the concepts were very foreign to them.  I would say that almost all of the teaching that went on in the school was a new experience for my students.  We emphasized a good well- rounded education that included a lot of exposure to history, art and music.  When my young adult students come into the teacher training program, much of their education consisted of copying information into and exercise book and then memorizing information, in a country where a significant number of people never make it past elementary school.   The organization I worked for, Rafiki Foundation, thought it important to begin teacher training programs in the ten African countries where they serve.  Some of the courses that I administered included ancient history, reading classic literature, theology—plus art and music.  I taught art history and appreciation, plus basic drawing and water color technics  as well as music appreciation and basic piano.  You may be wondering—if these students live in the one of the poorest countries in the world and barely have enough food to eat, shouldn’t you be focusing on a trade so they can go out and make money?  In the same vein, the same question can be asked here in this country.  Why learn to draw when there is not enough money to buy paper and pencils and I spend all my free time working in the fields or hauling water or wood?  If God is the center of all things, then it is vital that we appreciate as much of his beauty as possible.  He gave it to us!!!  Once, when my students were outside taking a break, I was observing with delight some of the song birds.  One young woman says,  “Madam”, what are you looking at?  Oh, I remarked, I really enjoy these beautiful birds.”  She proceeds to pick up a rock, and says, “ Here, let me kill it for you.”  I was reminded then and there that even a basic approach to life there was survival.  Malawians liked to eat small birds.  In a situation like this, instead of being tempted to revert to the “practical aspect” it is even more important to point to the wonder of creation, thus the creator.  And finally, after many months of watching me observe birds, butterflies, moths and other creatures, they began doing the same.

Some time ago, the news show “60 Minutes” did a segment about a group of people in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country that has been immersed in civil war for a very long time who learned and performed Beethoven’s ninth symphony in a warehouse.  Many of the musicians had to walk long distances and lived in abject poverty.  In an interview one of them remarked that playing music helped them endure their challenging circumstances.  It enabled them to endure hardship by pursuing beauty.  If we learn to appreciate beauty in all of its forms, it helps us to focus on the sovereign God and not our circumstances. With this in mind, be  willing to dwell outside your comfort zone.  Remember, if God uses all experiences, that learning never ends, and that we should intentionally seek out goodness, truth and beauty, then we can safely assume that there will be times of stretching—and discomfort, coupled with adventure in all of its forms. 

4.  God uses our weaknesses as well as our strengths to accomplish his purposes.    That means that we can’t dwell on imperfections of others because takes our eyes off of who is in charge.  When I was in Malawi I was a part of a big endeavor -raising and educating orphans and community children a teacher training program in the poorest country in the world.  We were very busy doing our jobs under a lot of pressure, in a different culture, and a lot went right but also a lot went wrong, and when things did not go as planned which happened every single day, that is when our human imperfections shone very brightly, like a neon sign.  We had to make daily, hourly choices—look to the sovereign God or look and react to the faults of others and ourselves.   But instead of blaming ourselves or others, if God has called us to a certain task, and if we know that He is in control, then His purposes will be accomplished.  This outlook goes a long way to growing our faith, and dealing with the disappointments in life, large and small.

We walk by faith, not by sight.

So, with God at the center of our world, the belief that no experience is ever wasted, that learning never ends, so we should be grateful for the process of learning, and that we should intentionally seek goodness, truth and beauty to the point of dwelling outside of our comfort zone, and that God uses even our imperfections to accomplish his purposes, I challenge you, the 2017 graduating class of Rockbridge Christian academy to, in all things, through the working of the Holy Spirit to go out and change the world, one person at a time through enjoying God forever.