Last week I had the incredible opportunity to speak at my alma mater, Liberty University. It was a surreal moment. Looking out on those 10,000 students quickly reminded me that I once sat right where they were sitting. And I realized how much those years and experiences had shaped my life. As I walked out onto that stage, I was overcome with emotion and, I admit, I held back a few tears.
Liberty has changed over the years … but some things have stayed the same. Students still come for so much more than earning a degree. They come with the hope of changing the world.
I challenged the students to “wake up to the world” and to let God use them to make a difference. I told them that God doesn’t want to change the world without them – and that they were part of his plan. When seeing the overwhelming needs of our world today, I asked them to be “outraged, loud and bold”, and to take action. And I encouraged them to go on one of the many mission trips offered by the school … trips that years before that literally changed and confirmed the direction of my life.
I still believe in the importance of mission trips. While the terminology has changed to “exposure trips” or “short-term missions experiences,” there is no substitute for seeing the needs of the world firsthand. And, while many today question the value of missions trips, you can’t argue the value it has in the life of the person that commits to go. I don’t think I have ever talked to someone who regretted going, or who came back unchanged. Their passion is contagious and they inspire others to get involved–a ripple effect of change that starts with one person saying “yes.”
Standing before those students last week, I saw a sea of young faces who still have their whole lives ahead of them. It seems like just yesterday I was in their shoes, but the truth is nearly 20 years have passed since I was a student. The important thing is what I did with those 20 years, and what they will do with their next 20 years.
I left them with this challenge: “I can’t think of a better way for you and I to respond to the needs of the world than to dedicate our lives to restoring hope . . . one day and one person at a time. I want to challenge you to live a life fully awake to the needs of the world. Let God break your heart…and then, when he does, let him use you to change the world.”