The following speech was given during Homecoming Week at Unity Christian High School in Orange City, Iowa on January 19 of this year. It was given by my father, Marion Van Soelen, who served as Unity’s principal from 1970-1977 (and a servant in Christian education for 50 years). Clearly, I am pretty biased when it comes to the content, but thought it would be worthy of sharing with our CACE readers. Please sit back, picture an auditorium full of high school students, and a 77 year-old, 6’5” gentleman shuffling up to the podium with the help of a cane.
–Tim Van Soelen, Director
Please keep this Bible verse in your mind during this chapel: Psalm 36:9–“In your light we see light.”
Please pray with me-
Gracious Father in heaven, we thank you for this place called Unity Christian High School! Thank you that 50 years ago people wanted your light to give light to education in Orange City. Thank you that the talented teachers here help the students see your big creation in many different dimensions. Also help the students discover the gifts that you have given them. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
So what is special about Unity Christian and about Christian education? There are three things that I briefly want us to think about.
- The first is the Bible. The principles contained in the Bible, the word of God, guide all the curricular and co-curricular activities of Christian education. It is the fundamental basis for providing a correct world-view. Government schools cannot legally make this claim, but Martin Luther and John Calvin can:
- “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.” – Martin Luther
- “There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God.” — John Calvin
- “For with Scripture as our guide and teacher, not only does he make plain those things that would otherwise escape our notice, he virtually forces us to behold them, as if he had assisted our dull sight with eyeglasses. –John Calvin
- The Creation is the second thing to consider. Christian education recognizes that everything belongs to God and we are to learn and investigate this incredible world that God made. And all of us need help from people who have specialized in different areas of the Creation.
- The third thing for us to consider when we think about Unity and Christian education is that God made all of us with gifts that we must use. I will spend a little more time on this in just a minute.
So it is the Bible and our understanding of creation and your God-given gifts that make Unity and Christian education special.
And now I need to tell you a story or two about gifts.
One of the aspects of Homecoming is to bring former students (alumni) back and keep them connected to the school. This was their home, like it is your home, for many hours in the four years you are here. I have brought with me today an alumnus who graduated in 1968. She went to Ireton Christian School and then to Unity, where she was part of the second graduating class. I was not her principal, but I have met her several times at Justice for All in Rock Valley sorting clothes. Esther Postma Potter now lives in Rock Valley in a Hope Haven apartment. Several years ago she had a brain injury and has lived with a disability, but she is gifted and uses her gifts to sort clothing at Justice for All and also to assist at a kids’ after-school program in Rock Valley. I want you to meet this Unity graduate and thank her with your applause for using her God-given gifts. Esther, will you please stand and be recognized?
I am reading a book I received at Christmas from my family by John Maxwell called Intentional Living. Maxwell is America’s leading authority on leadership. Leadership has been one of my gifts, used as a school administrator, a church elder, and a non-profit board member. As I’ve aged, I use other gifts: I now do Hospice volunteering, correct prisoner’s Bible study lessons, and leads Bible studies with individuals who are mentally disabled.
For all of us, our gifts can be used for God’s glory or for our own. Maxwell was a successful preacher, and as his churches grew, he admits to becoming more self-centered and egotistic. Then he learned that God wants us to help others to be significant and successful, not just ourselves. Our calling in intentional living is to use our gifts to enable others to flourish and fully contribute their gifts to God’s plan for restoration and redemption of all things.
Let me illustrate that point by connecting to homecoming and the basketball games that bring many people into this building. In my basketball coaching days, I praised and put more value on the players who made the assists rather than the top scorers. Players know that you usually can’t score if others do not assist you with good passes. The assist players make others better, and they make the team better. We need them and the scorers and the defensive specialists to make a great team.
God gave us all gifts. Unity helps us see them and develop them. But the most important thing to do is to INTENTIONALLY use them to help others. And we have that desire because we know God and his creation.
May God bless every one of you as you use your significant gifts to increase the significance and value of others, for God’s glory! Have a wonderful fun and exciting Homecoming and as I said for many years when my kids and grandkids played here– Go Knights!