Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Lord is my Shelter

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is heart-breaking. Yet, look closely and see God's mercy coming through the heroic and unselfish service of His people.

Twelve years ago this weekend, I was part of a team assembled to provide a Tyler shelter for those evacuating from New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. The experience changed my life.

One vivid memory is the arrival of two busloads of evacuees. Someone on staff had made a handwritten poster and mounted it on a wall just behind the registration table. As they entered the shelter building, each saw the eternal promise on that simple poster board: "The Lord is My Shelter." Indeed He was their shelter that day and He continues to be shelter for all victims of Harvey.

Harvey has impacted LETU in several ways. Our Houston site is closed until further notice. While we have no water in Houston building site, the flooded areas surrounding the building make it difficult, if not impossible, to access. We've communicated with our Global faculty and our dual credit partners to provide necessary accommodations to students who are unable to meet their class assignments as planned. We are on standby to provide temporary shelter to patients from a network of skilled nursing facilities should their evacuation from the Houston metro become necessary.

We've designated these on-campus points of contact as the tragedy of Harvey continues to impact our students, faculty and staff.
  • COUNSELING: The LETU Counseling Center is ready to help (Contact Treva Barham, 903.233.3490) 
  • PRAYER: Our Missionary-in-Residence, Ed Rothfus, is organizing opportunities to gather prayer requests and pray together (Contact Ed Rothfus, 903.233.3118)
  • DONATIONS: Opportunities to donate from our abundance will be coordinated (Kaylee Salser, 903-233-3115) 
  • SERVICE: Opportunities to serve in relief and recovery efforts (Tracy Ketrow, 903.233.3160)
Let's keep praying for God's promises: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear... (Psalm 46:1-2 KJV)

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017 Poverty Conference

LeTourneau University was pleased to host the Junior League of Longview's 2017 Poverty Conference featuring Liz Murray, author of "Breaking Night," her story of going from homeless to Harvard. Poverty is a big problem in our area, with one in five families in Longview falling below the poverty line of $24,000 annual income for a family of four.  

Poverty is a thief. It uses different weapons (hunger, homelessness, mental illness, addiction) to steal hope. A young person loses hope that a college education is possible for her. An elderly family loses hope when they must choose between needed medicines and the monthly rent. And an entire community can lose hope when poverty goes unchecked.

I was honored to welcome the nearly 1,600 who attended the event, many of whom were teachers and administrators from five area school districts.  

Liz Murray's story was one we talked about the rest of the day. As a child of drug-addicted parents, she developed coping skills to deal with life. She shared about how her circumstances shaped her attitudes and behaviors, how it shaped her thinking. She told about living for the welfare check at the beginning of every month . . . about dealing with hunger from having no food in the house . . . about becoming homeless as a teenager and eventually dropping out of school. She told about feeling "less than" others.  

She also spoke about the day when her life turned around.  

She told of being accepted to attend a charter school that was run by an educator who helped her believe in herself and held her accountable for the things she said and did. She put it this way:  people will grow into the conversations they have around them. A teacher's power to bring hope is world-changing.

Tuesday's Poverty Conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring local educators and leaders of nonprofit agencies to discuss strategies for combating poverty locally. For Murray, education was a key to helping lift her out of poverty. Murray won a scholarship contest through The New York Times to study at Harvard University. I daresay that many of us can relate to the fact that education was the key to a better life.

Kudos to LETU's Parent and Student Relations Officer Lauren Land, who was the Poverty Conference chairwoman, and to LETU's Director of Student Support Services Carlton Mitchell, who moderated the panel discussion following Murray's remarks.

LeTourneau University is proud to be part of Longview and to share the community's burdens, including poverty. In our faith in Christ, we have an important testimony to the power of hope.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Welcome, New YellowJackets!

Welcoming new students and their parents this morning was truly a joy, despite the rain. I talked with some parents who were dropping off a child at college for the very first time. I remembered how that felt. For first-time parents, it can be an emotional and stressful day. For other parents I talked to, this was their third child they had sent off to college, so they were much more relaxed.

I talked to one mom who said her son had actually chosen another school as his "first pick," but while waiting for a response back from that school, he came to visit and tour LeTourneau and changed his mind and chose LETU. She said the day after he was accepted at LETU, the other school sent him an acceptance letter, but by then, he felt LETU was where he belonged. She said she felt God's hand was at work providing that time for him to visit LETU. 

I met two materials joining engineering majors, and both of them were excited about the prospects and demand for professionals in their field of study. Another student I met was from McKinney, Texas, coming to LeTourneau because he was introduced to LETU by our aviation program there. It was a joy to reassure these parents and encourage these students that they have made a great choice in selecting LETU. 

Every incoming class is unique. This year's incoming class of new freshman and transfer students represent 35 states and 12 countries. About 70% are coming from within the state of Texas, with 52 students coming from right here in Longview, Texas, the most common city represented. The second and third most common states, after Texas, are California and Colorado. 

Nearly 40% of the incoming students moving in today are female, which is a stark contrast to decades ago when there were ten male students to every female student on campus. One dad I met today was proud of the fact he and his wife met on the LETU campus back then. He told me, "The odds were 10 to one, and I got one!" I smiled and gave him a fist bump. They told me they have three sons, two of whom are now enrolled here. 

Days like today don't just happen. I am grateful for all who make LeTourneau University a place where God is at work.

Huge thanks today to LETU new student orientation volunteers, from left, Kai Kiefer, Benjamin Hoos and Sam Kriebel, for their enthusiastic welcome and assistance as new students came on campus today.