Le Roy reflects on travels and faith to start second semester
In President Le Roy’s introduction to the second semester, Chaplain Mary Hulst interviewed him about global travel and Christian faith.
Studying abroad and Christian faith were primary topics of the conversation at the ReGathering service. Before the convocation began in the CFAC, a slideshow displayed pictures of Calvin students studying abroad in Jamaica, Kenya, the Galapagos Islands, the Netherlands, Vietnam, China, Ghana, Honduras, and elsewhere.
ReGathering began with the worship team singing the call to worship from Deuteronomy 6.
After worship, Pastor Mary read an email to the audience from someone who had encountered Calvin students studying abroad in Australia; the email praised the Calvin students for their courtesy and politeness.
“We go out, we are influenced, and we influence,” said Pastor Mary regarding Calvin students studying abroad.
She then interviewed President Le Roy about his experiences studying abroad and how those events shaped his faith.
Le Roy talked about his early experiences overseas in Sweden. Life in the country’s secular culture, and his relationships with the people who lived there, influenced his faith.
“It was fascinating to be a person of faith in a very secular culture,” said Le Roy.
Le Roy shared a story where he encountered a woman who was perplexed and asked him a nagging question she had about Americans.
“One woman asked, ‘Is it true that Americans will eat a meal in their car?’” said Le Roy, followed by laughter from the audience.
Sophomore student Colin Chesla enjoyed hearing about Le Roy’s leadership experiences and how his work and learning has related to his faith.
“My biggest takeaway was just seeing what a compassionate leader Le Roy is and how he integrates academia, faith and work,” said Chesla. “And he seems to be a great thinker. I’m really impressed with Le Roy as a leader and how his academic pursuits really feed off his compassion for people.”
Sophomore Christian Balcer is a Worship Apprentice who helped to lead and coordinate the worship music at the convocation.
“I thought President Le Roy was very insightful in the way he described his experiences,” said Balcer.
“He seemed to have learned a lot from his time abroad and it was very interesting to hear the ways in which his faith was challenged and shaped.
“Being a Worship Apprentice for this service meant I had a lot of responsibility. I’m very grateful that Paul Ryan (Associate Chaplain) trusts in me to be able to take on this responsibility. I spent many hours planning, preparing and then rehearsing. I was thrilled with the way it came together and believe it was a genuine time of worship for those who attended or watched online.”
Junior student Elena Buis thought that ReGathering was a great way to begin the semester, and she thinks that more students should go in the future.
“I think ReGathering is an experience that makes Calvin unique in academia,” said Buis. “After a month of exploring the creation in multiple ways, in Grand Rapids and around the world, having a celebratory service to remind us of the purpose of those courses (to glorify God in “every square inch”) is edifying and helps us keep our focus. I wish more students would attend ReGathering, because it is such an encouraging and energizing way to start second semester.”
Le Roy said he spent time with leaders of three Christian schools overseas, where he learned a lot about the cultural and religious influences of Islam.
“Service learning and international experience pushes us off center and causes us to think in different ways,” said Le Roy. “I spent time with leaders of three Christian schools…I learned so much about Islam, such as the cultural meaning ascribed to the label ‘Christian’…to them it’s a symbol of the Crusades and the Western tradition.”
Le Roy also talked about the distinction between being “Christian” or “follower of Christ” in predominantly Muslim countries.
“Saying ‘I’m a follower of Jesus,’ that meant you were not a secular person,” said Le Roy. “Christians were referred to as the ‘people who love’…it was powerful to be in a place where Christians are the minority.”
The predominantly Muslim countries’ openness to discuss spiritual matters was also great, Le Roy said.
“What was wonderful was that faith in God is part of the public conversation,” he said.
When asked by Pastor Mary about how we should engage our neighbors who are Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, and unbelievers, Le Roy said we should respond by being faithful witnesses rather than winning arguers.
“What Jesus calls us to do is ‘be My witnesses,’” said Le Roy. “I ask myself, ‘how can I listen respectfully and then point to what we believe in a generous, gentle way?’ [Sometimes] I have been more interested in being right than I am in being a witness.”
Senior student Laura de Jong was heartened by Le Roy’s call for students to be faithful and gentle witnesses of Christ.
“I thought President Le Roy’s testimony was encouraging,” said de Jong. “The idea that we’re called simply to be faithful, to be witnesses, but not to prove we’re right was a good reminder for me, and hopefully for everyone. I’ve had a number of those conversations in just the last month, and so I deeply appreciate Le Roy’s wisdom and matter-of-fact response — just be faithful.
“I also so appreciated how much Pastor Mary and President Le Roy showed their love for the students. These are leaders that love their job and love their people, and in a small way, it makes being a part of this community that much more special.”
Le Roy ended convocation with an invitation for students to listen to one another more often.
“Take a little extra time to listen to each other,” he said.