Farewell to an Old Friend

Grace University has existed to develop servant leaders for the home, the church, and the world. The Apostle Paul’s words hoisted above Old Main years ago declared Grace’s higher purpose even more succinctly: “To the Praise of His Glory.”

Since its founding in 1960, Crosspoint Bible Church has embraced and befriended Grace. But Grace will close its doors in May of 2018 and we are poised to say farewell.

Processing: the mental activity required to think about, work through, and come to grips with significant issues, hard times, or discouraging circumstances.

I’m processing. I’m losing a friend I’ve known for over forty-seven of her seventy-five years.

I marched right out of high school into Grace at age 17, younger than I should have been, smarter than I was. I began this journey unaware of and unprepared for the strange new world of Christian higher education and leadership. But shaping my mind and molding my heart, godly mentors encouraged me to think critically and to develop a passion for things life-changing, sacred, eternal.

How often have I heard (and sometimes said), “Grace brought me to Omaha.” Not really. God, sovereign in all his ways, skillfully led me to Omaha. Grace was his tool. God also led my dear mentor, Harold Burkholder, to Omaha to pray and plan, along with other godly men, for a school like Grace, thereby effectively impacting thousands of lives.

Diploma in hand, mentored and schooled in God’s Word, I entered a harsh, unforgiving world. The value of higher Christian education lies not in rusty file cabinets stuffed with stale study notes but in tools designed to equip leaders to serve the church, to navigate culture and to impact our world. Now we, the church, must fully embrace the task of developing leaders for the church and the world.

My relationship with Grace morphed, in time, from student to Advisory Council member to adjunct professor. During those years, the complexities of life only served to deepen my appreciation for the shaping and sharpening which I received and which I have been privileged to pass on.

Grace is, of course, an institution, not a person. But people establish institutions and with those people and institutions, we develop relationships. Eventually the place, the principles, the purposes, and the people all mysteriously and profoundly merge into the institution.

Throughout those seventy-five years, Grace has directly touched nearly 10,000 students and, through them, literally hundreds of thousands more. That figure alone justifies the celebration which I will join, in time. But for now, I’m sad.

Like you, I’m filled with questions … What? Why? How? On the one hand, those questions matter. On the other hand, they do not. God is sovereign. In. All. Things. Always.

I remember going into the finance office to pay my school bill singing, “Oh to Grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be…” (Or did I just wish I had pulled that stunt?) Besides that dent in our wallets, Grace left an indelible imprint on our lives. The tools, the shaping process, the relationships. And the name: Grace! G-R-A-C-E! May we always both reflect and offer God’s grace. May our lives always give faithful witness to those words standing guard, for years, over Old Main, “To the Praise of His Glory!”

Pastor Don Pahl

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