Kicking Back with the Kooistras

This past weekend, I was reminded of a great Erskine quality that I so often overlook. On the day that I moved back into my dorm for J-term, I spent the evening with President Kooistra and his wife, sipping refreshingly delicious white tea and eating homemade apple pie. Together, we marveled at God’s mysterious work in our lives, confessed that our tendency to drive over the speed limit sometimes, and even bonded over our befuddlement with directions. In short, I had quite a delightful time with the Kooistras.

The thing that struck me the most about the evening is that Dr. Kooistra and his wife find joy in simply spending time with me. They could have preferred to have a solitary and relaxed final evening of Christmas break, but instead, they genuinely wanted to spend their evening with me. To the rest of the world, I am just an average sophomore Joe who is awkwardly figuring out life one day at a time. Yet, at Erskine, the president of the college sees me as someone worth investing his time and energy in, and this is additionally true for every student at Erskine. How absolutely, delightfully humbling and encouraging.

Obviously, I am not asserting that Erskine is the only college whose president opens his doors and welcomes students in. I am positive that many presidents are warm and inviting. I simply want to share another chapter from my story here at Erskine, because this school truly is a wonderful, blessed place.

The Misadventures of a Scatter-Brained Sophomore

This story is a shout out to all the students who feel like they’re scrambling to just survive the endless world of tests, papers, and studying. I’m right there with you. This is only one of many accounts that shows how untogether my life truly is. Hopefully you’ll find a degree of encouragement and humor somewhere in this event.

My story begins at a table in Snappers, Erskine’s greasy, delicious substitute to the cafeteria. After a long day of classes and labs, my friends and I treated ourselves to some much-needed comfort fries. That was the last time I remembered seeing my wallet.

Flash forward to my room after dinner. My roommate and I had some time and energy to burn, so naturally we had a Disney dance party, where we discovered our ability to perform ballroom dancing in tight quarters. I was so excited about dancing that I threw my backpack and jacket onto my bed and leapt into action. After the dance party, we settled down into our normal studying routine.

The next morning, while I was rifling through my backpack for my student ID, I realized that my wallet was missing. Normally I would pack everything into my backpack the night before class, but I had stayed up so late studying that I went straight to bed without bothering to pack up my things. Obviously losing one’s wallet and all of its contents is kind of a big deal, so I started searching around campus as soon as I could. I tried to recall the last place I remembered holding my wallet, but of course that memory was blocked. Go figure.

My wallet hadn’t been put in any of Erskine’s lost and found boxes, so by this point, I was pretty freaked out. As I ran (and I mean literally ran) around the Erskine campus, hoping the wallet was somewhere in the grass, a horrifying thought entered my mind. What if I accidentally threw my wallet in the trash at Snappers while I was throwing away everybody’s trash? I immediately returned to Snappers and asked if I could dig through the trash, despite still being dressed up from having lunch with a prospective student. However, Sue, my friend who works at Snappers, wasn’t about to let me root around in the trash, and she voluntarily dug through three bags of trash before reporting that there was no way my wallet could be there.

With steadily increasing anxiety, I walked across campus to my room (by this time, I was out of breath from running) and proceeded to tear apart every inch of the room in search of the wallet. I tore everything off of my bed, ripped out all of the clothes in my dresser and wardrobe, and threw everything out of my desk. The wallet was nowhere to be found. A ray of inspiration hit me as I sat on the floor in despair. I remembered helping Daria carry clothes up from her car last night. Did I take my wallet with me for some odd reason? A new wind hit me and I sprinted out the door and down the hill to her car, but the wallet wasn’t underneath, nearby, or inside her van. As I walked up to my dorm room, I felt more discouraged and stressed than I had felt in a while. Losing a wallet seems like a small problem now, but it did was a tremendous toll on my emotions at the time. It’s extremely frustrating to not be able to find something that is lost. Then, when I walked through the door to my room, I saw it. My wallet had been hanging on a thumbtack on my corkboard this entire time.

This is proof that putting things away in their proper place is dangerous and wrong. Just kidding.

Long story short, my life is definitely not all together. I’m clumsy, forgetful, easily stressed, and my short-term memory is completely worthless. So how do I make it through each day’s problems and mistakes with a smile and the energy to face another day? God opens my eyes to see and give thanks for the everyday blessings and joys that can shine through the blunders. Today, God answered my desperate, freaked out prayers to simply find my wallet. He provided support from amazing friends like Sue, who cheerfully picked through trash in order to help me. That kind of love still overwhelms me. It’s such a huge relief that my weaknesses can be blessings in disguise by causing the strengths and goodness of others to shine out.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

 

A New View of Orientation

This past weekend, I had the privilege of experiencing Erskine’s Orientation through the eyes of a group leader instead of as a freshman. I was chosen to be an Orientation leader in April, so I spent all summer imagining what my time as a leader would be like and what Orientation would be like as a whole. Needless to say, quite a few expectations accumulated in my mind by the end of the summer. But in order to share my expectations, I first need to tell you the reasons behind my desire to work on the Orientation staff. My reasons were threefold: to make Orientation fun for freshmen, to get a head start on making new friends, and to get more involved at Erskine, because I honestly just love my college. My motives behind Orientation became my expectations for Orientation. Thus, I envisioned a whole new group of friends, the feeling of satisfaction from executing a successful Orientation, and the gradual acclimation to a busy school year at Erskine.

I moved into Erskine a week before the freshmen moved in and immediately began training and preparing for the busiest week of the school year (in my opinion). Everyone on O Staff was exhausted by the Monday before Move In Day, but we pushed through our fatigue and mustered an amazing amount of energy to get everything squared away before Thursday, when the freshmen arrived. Our fearless leader, Kaley Lindquist, the most detail-oriented person that I have ever met, coordinated every part of the weekend. Orientation would not have been the success that it was if it had not been for her dedication and passion for her job.

Orientation staff and volunteers gathered around Erskine's flagpole on Move In Day morning to pray for Orientation.

Orientation staff and volunteers gathered around Erskine’s flagpole on Move In Day morning to pray for Orientation.

All of the freshmen were split into 12 different groups led by various upperclassmen. My friend Ashley and I were in charge of Group 9; and let me just say that our group was the coolest group ever. Our freshmen had such great attitudes about every activity that we did even though they were just as worn out as we were. For example, the groups competed against each other to get the most Spirit Points by the end of Orientation. Our group ran around the Erskine campus, performing different activities to get thousands of Spirit Points. We bought 40+ cokes for Kaley, gave more than 20 sets of flowers to the sweet lady who scans our cards in the cafeteria, and even chased around various staff members for selfies (I hadn’t ever posted so many pictures on Instagram in four days). Unfortunately, we did not win first place; but, we got second place, which was the closest to first place that a group can get! We did so many activities in the span of 4 days, including, but not limited to, sessions, skits, contests, games, community service, and soiree. I would like to share all of the memories that were created from Orientation, but you would have to read pages of content, which would likely become tedious after a while. Not to mention, Orientation flew by so quickly that it is a bit of a blurred memory now.

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Tug of War at Freshman Frenzy

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Dancing the night away at soiree

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I love All My Neighbors

But, all good things must come to an end, and so Orientation had to as well. As I reflect on the fruits that were produced from Orientation, I find myself pleasantly surprised. I was pushed to be more confident, more friendly, more sacrificing, more patient, more loving…the list can go on and on. I became friendlier as I got to know not only a whole bunch of really awesome freshmen, but also, as I grew closer to my Orientation coworkers. They were my family for a week. I changed from only being good friends with a handful of the upperclassmen to growing closer to each person in different ways. Despite being surrounded by strangers again and feeling exhausted from attending the various events, this year was still much more comfortable and fun! I definitely enjoyed Orientation better as a leader than as a freshman. This year’s Orientation did not just meet all of my expectations; it surpassed them. I would encourage anyone who is considering being a part of Orientation to go for it! Orientation gives students a chance to make an impact on people’s lives and to be impacted by others, which I consider to be a really cool life experience.

The O Staff Family

The O Staff family

Running the Race: the Barn-K for Joy

Some of the things that I appreciate most about Erskine are the ministry opportunities that occur throughout the year. During this past year, students, faculty, and non-Erskinites alike all played parts in benefiting the community, whether by raising money for the American Cancer Society through the Miss Erskine Pageant, by volunteering at an Eagle Scout’s project, or by participating in any other numerous ministry events. For me, the most memorable ministry opportunity of my freshman year will always be the RUF-hosted Barn-K For Joy. The Barn-K for Joy raises money to send a young man to Camp Joy, a camp that is specially designed for people with special needs, through a 3.6 mile race from the Due West sign in Erskine to the barn where RUF meets on Sundays. Paul Patrick, the campus minister at Erskine, finds sponsors who will donate a certain amount of money depending on the number of participants in the race. RUF has been able to send a special young man named Warren Sullivan to Camp Joy for many years, and I think that is one of the most special things about the ministry and about Erskine.

Now, not all people are created equally in the aspect of physical fitness. Take me, for example. I enjoy going on “runs” (much walking occurs), but I am definitely not a “runner.” After I passed the first mile marker on the road, a part of my heart sank because I was so tired and still had more tan two miles left. Other [crazy] people are super fit and love to run, so they leave people (like me) in the dust. Some people hate running with a passion and enjoy a leisurely stroll instead. No matter what category a person falls into, he/she is guaranteed to really enjoy the Barn-K because it’s designed to accommodate to all types of people. Plus, everyone gets rewarded at the end of the race with a buffet of water, fruit, pizza, and snow cones, a super cool t shirt, and an amazing lesson by Paul Patrick!

After telling you about my wimpiness and how tired I was from the race, I would like to say that passing the finish line was the best feeling that I felt that day, but despite a grand feeling of relief and accomplishment, I experienced an even better feeling later on. Warren Sullivan got to come to RUF with some of his friends and caretakers on the day of the race. Warren’s uncontainable excitement was almost tangible as it filled the entire barn. I remember sitting on the hay bale and feeling more joy and thankfulness than I had felt in a long time. This time, my joy did not come from the blessings that God had given me, but from the blessing that God gave to Warren, through us. I was completely overwhelmed because I could almost see Christ lovingly watching Warren, his blessed and beautiful child. The Barn-K for Joy was so aptly named, not just for the camp, but because everyone experienced inexplicable joy as we watched Warren’s reactions to Christ in his life.

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Love Never Fails

Humans are endowed with an innate desire to have all the right answers. This desire can be seen in the first sin, when Eve ate from the tree of good and evil because she desired to be like God, knowing good and evil. However, I think that knowledge is dangerous and hurtful when it is used solely by itself. I, like many other Christians, have often crossed the line between standing up for what we believe and judgmentally pushing what we believe down other people’s throats. Although my intentions are to be God’s minister, I end up being His scourge. I lose sight of Jesus’s fundamental commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

It is easy to look past our own sins and to judge the sins of others. It is easy to get angry with those who don’t agree with our opinions. It is easy to lash out at people who seem to be shoving their opinions down our throats. It is easy to forget that our beliefs are tainted with the sin of our human nature and are thus imperfect.

God does not call His children to win arguments with their neighbors in the name of Jesus. He calls us to love our neighbors, whether they are friends, enemies, or anything in between. Paul reminds us in 1st Corinthians that if we “can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge” or “have a faith that can move mountains,” but lack love, then we have nothing. That statement is pretty humbling for me because I easily forget to be patient and kind. I tend to envy other people’s talents while still boasting in my own. I put others down in order to build myself up. I refuse to forgive and forget. I give in to the temporary satisfaction of evil, and I cover up the truth. I fail at loving God and loving others on an every day basis. I can see the significance of love from the effects of my imperfect love and the effects of God’s unconditional love. That’s what makes me so thankful for and dependent on God’s love.

Love is super hard, but God promises that it never fails. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. I strongly believe that if we humble ourselves and love others, despite their different beliefs, opinions, and preferences, then we will flourish. I am proud to be an Erskine student. I am thankful that I attend a Christian school that holds to Christian standards while desiring to “show hospitality and respect to all members of its community,” and to “treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion in the Spirit of Christ.”

What I Expect From Erskine

Well, I am now in my second semester at Erskine so I must have a pretty good grip on college life, right? I make decent grades. I know how, when, and where to study. I have that stable friend group. I can handle anything that Erskine throws at me. HA. That’s laughable. In the past seven months that I’ve been at Erskine, I may have learned how to thoroughly analyze Brownings’ “My Last Duchess,” participate in a handbell choir, and even carry a decent conversation in Spanish, but I still don’t know squat. Honestly, the more I learn about something, the more I realize how little I actually know. The only reasons that my ignorance doesn’t totally frustrate me are the reality that I don’t need to know everything and the faith that I have in Erskine’s ability to prepare me for entering “the real world” by the time I graduate.

After I graduate, I want to head off to graduate school and pursue an M.S. in genetic counseling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, genetic counseling is the practice of giving advice to families who are worried about the nature, risks, consequences, or treatment of a genetic disorder. My passion for genetic counseling was sparked when I visited a genetic center in Greenwood. During that visit, I toured through various labs and talked to several employees, but was uninterested in any subjects until I talked to the genetic counselor.

Genetic counseling may sound like the most boring job on earth to you, but several aspects of the job appeal to me. As a Christian, I love the counseling part of the job. God has endowed me with a desire to get to know people and to bring out the best in them that I can. I love listening to people’s stories and learning their interests, fears, and opinions. I have always wanted a job that centers itself on helping others. A part of me loves working with people because I want to fix them, which is a desire that can be taken too far if God is shoved out of the picture.  While I know that I cannot cure people’s hearts, minds, or bodies, I am secure in the knowledge that God will use me to serve Him in amazing ways. As a science-lover, I really enjoy learning about genetics and how someone became the person that they currently are. I am a short, squinty, asthmatic Asian and that’s all due to genes (thanks, Mom and Dad..).

I am the kind of person who needs to have a plan if I want to be able to move forward. Becoming a genetic counselor may not be in God’s plan for me and I am open to change, but right now in my life, I have a goal to work towards. Part of the reason that I came to Erskine is because I expect to graduate from Erskine feeling ready to take on whatever challenges come before me. I fully believe that Erskine will supply me with the knowledge that I will need to succeed in graduate school, the faith that I will need endure trials in the world, and other important life skills.

What do you expect from a college?

The Presidential Scholarship: It’s Not Just About Winning

It was a bleak, grey morning. Rain splashed on the windows and flooded the pavement. Everyone was packed into one small building, nervously sipping coffee and quietly talking. Nobody knew what to expect, where to go, or who to talk to. 

If you were a part of the semi-final round of the Presidential Scholarship last year, you can relate to this scene. When I pulled up to Watkins with my friend, Katherine, I was overwhelmed with how impressively mature my competitors looked, but how gravely solemn they were too. During the opening ceremony at the Bowie Chapel, there was a tornado warning so everybody had to head to the basement in the building. When we were finally released to go to our various interview rooms, the Mall at Erskine looked like the Wood Between the Worlds, flood-style.

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I met my interviewers, looking and feeling like a drowned puppy. However, they were so kind and understanding that I quickly lost most of my discomfort.

The group of students that I was a part of was definitely an experience in itself.  Now, I want to clarify that I did not get called back to the final round of the Presidential Scholarship, probably because I gave terrible answers and did not present myself as confidently as a Presidential Scholarship winner should. When asked my favorite person in history, I said Jackie Robinson. Why him? Because I really don’t care about things in history, let alone have a favorite person. Shoot me. That being said, I was amused while listening to the other people in my group. It seemed like they tried to answer each question with one of their accomplishments. I can’t remember any particular quotes, but I do remember listening to this one guy who listed off all of these things that he was captain, leader, and president of such-and-such. I feel bad now, but I kept thinking, “Wow, he’s totally making up some of this.” That was my first experience of any sort of interview and I walked away feeling completely underwhelming.

So do I have any advice for future participants of the Presidential Scholarship? Well, you definitely don’t want me to coach you on how to win over your interviewers. I would just be clichéd and tell you to be yourself and be honest, blah blah blah. Ask your parents. I’m sure they have a lot of good counsel. However, the competition isn’t just about winning the Presidential or the Solomon scholarship.

So here are some things that you should keep in mind when you’re competing at Erskine:

1. Get to know people. One of my biggest regrets about competing for the scholarship is that I didn’t talk to many students while I was there. Once I got to Erskine, I found out that I had missed out on meeting my roommate, my best friend, and lots of other good friends. You’ll be thankful for having familiar faces greet you when you roll up to Erskine in August.

2. Get to know Erskine. Erskine really is a great place. The school is beautiful on the outside, but there is so much more beauty to be found in Erskine through the students, random events, and other opportunities. I’m still finding out things about Erskine that are pretty sweet. I mean, did you know that there’s a prayer room in the upper level of Watkins for students to use for group prayers? I think that’s pretty special. Also, we just had a Jackson Pollock day where students got to throw paint at shirts and sheets for funsies. That’s pretty special too.

3. Get to know ME. Not to be biased or anything, but I’m a pretty cool person, if you’re into reading, running, cooking, singing, playing piano, basketball, pandas, colors, laughter, pool, or sticky notes. Also, the other student ambassadors are also pretty great. Granted, they may not be as great as me, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t talk to them. 😉

Hopefully this gets you a little excited about the Presidential Scholarship. I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go to Erskine until I stayed overnight in the dorms with a friend. That one night changed my mind, which changed my future four years. If nothing else, the Presidential Scholarship is a great step to experiencing Erskine.