The following is the text of the 2018 Elim commencement speech, offered by John Daniel, father of graduate Anisa Daniel. His words were an encouragement to everyone present, and we hope they will encourage you!
Hello Elim graduates and families. It is a privilege to be here at this time. Thank you to Elim’s administration and staff in providing me this honor to speak to the parents and families, and the 2018 graduates. I am a parent of an Elim student graduating today. Because of this I share with you in the emotions of this time. Our daughter Anisa has been at Elim for 7 years. Some of our graduates have been here longer. It is the length of time and the collaboration we parents have had with the Elim staff that has made this school very dear to us.
Thank you to the amazing staff, teachers, administrators and support team here at Elim Christian. It is truly God’s work that you are doing here every day. Please join me in a round of applause showing our appreciation to our Elim staff.
Elim the name
Many of you may know the name “Elim” is a biblical name. It is the place where the Israelites rested during their difficult exodus from Egypt to the promised land. It is referred to in Exodus 15:27 and Numbers 33:9 as a place where “there were twelve wells of water and seventy date palms,” and that the Israelites “camped there near the waters.” How impossible was that mission for them, 40 years of wandering the wilderness? To stay in Egypt was to choose slavery, to leave was to choose freedom. They accepted their assignment from God not knowing how long it would take to get to the “Promised Land.” But it was their faith in God and the leadership of Moses that made this impossible mission, possible.
How appropriate that name Elim is for us parents. Our journey is uniquely ours, I know our experiences to this point have not been the same. My wife Usha and I have found Elim to live up to its name: a place for refuge and rest.
I remember the first time coming to Elim. We had been looking for a good fit for Anisa, one where we would feel God’s presence and know that Anisa would feel comfortable and loved. We immediately recognized that Elim was the right place. A magical place. A place where Anisa could be as individual and unique as she is and fit right in with everyone else. That was seven years ago. At that time it seemed like we had so much time to settle in to the comfort of Elim.
This year Elim turned 70 years old. It was founded on April 12, 1948 by Dr. William Masselink, pastor of the Second Christian Reform Church and his wife Mary, who were looking for a place for their child, Paul, to receive an education that was not available in the schools of that day. Paul’s unique needs were not being met and the Masselinks wanted a better educational approach that had Christian foundations. Today, 70 years later, Elim serves over 250-300 students and graduating 20 young adults. It was the Masselink’s “Mission Impossible” made possible by their strong faith in God.
I am sure each of us have had several missions and assignments that seemed so impossible. When we took them on we didn’t think we could get through it successfully.
I was born in Uganda, Africa and left when I was 8 years old. Growing up there I loved American TV shows especially Mission Impossible. That exciting music that started and ended the show, where the main character, Jim Phelps would get his assignment from a tape that would self destruct in 5 seconds. It was very exciting stuff. Usually the missions were to infiltrate some foreign government to effect some type of change in a person or group to save the world.
In my family’s case, we had to leave Uganda during the military dictatorship of Idi Amin, with no access to the money in our bank account. In order to leave we had to pass 4 military check points on our trip to the airport. And, then at the airport families were separated from each other and questioned individually to be processed through. Not all families got through intact during this last step. We knew of families that suffered in this way.
To get me prepared for the questions at the processing center my family would meet every night for the days leading to our departure. We would talk about questions that we could be asked and what our responses should be. I thought of it as our real life Mission Impossible. Having very little under their control my parents did what they could, they prayed. Our mission was possible because we knew our assignments and had faith in God.
As my faith and understanding of God’s word has developed, in my adulthood, I see that all of us are on a much bigger mission, we have a God-given mission and purpose.
Mathew 28: 19-20 is God’s great commission to his followers. In speaking to the disciples, Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
It is His mission assignment to we who believe. Our mission began when we were born. Once we recognize that we are on a mission, from God, it then becomes ours to accept it and be all in, or ours to ignore it and try to avoid the responsibility of that mission. It is an Impossible Mission without our willingness to accept our assignment. It is possible when we are equipped.
Mission – Assignment
Graduation speeches often encourage the graduates to – seek a higher power; develop a moral compass; seize the day…basically, find a mission. Our Elim graduates are already on a mission to do God’s work. For many of you graduates it started on the day you were born. God has created us all for a purpose, many spend their lives trying to find that purpose, many of the Elim graduates have been living that purpose. God doesn’t always call the equipped, but He always equips the called.
We Elim families have been given our assignments from God. We may choose to accept it and be all in in doing our jobs to the best of our talents and abilities. He has equipped us and will continue to do so when we answer the call.
People who are on a mission travel to where they are called to serve. While living in Uganda I had the opportunity to meet missionaries from the US and England. Missionaries don’t reach others by staying inside their homes, insulated from the world around them. They go out into the world, to the markets and communities. They engage with people. Often they stand out because of how they dress, or speak, or act. Similarly, Elim graduates: to perform your missions, you need to get out to the communities and marketplaces to help people understand how God is working in you and ultimately in them.
Usha and I have been surprised when we are out with Anisa in the community like – the mall, a restaurant, a store…and people come over to say hi because they know Anisa. She is equipped to impact the lives of people who are strangers to us. She is on a mission greater than what we can imagine. And our assignment is to encourage and support Anisa and our children here so they stay positive and equipped to make their impossible mission very possible.
We too can learn from our graduate missionaries. Each one of our graduates is uniquely gifted, so the opportunity to learn is different for us. In my case, as I observe and conform to social norms and blend into everyone else. Anisa lives by the quote, “Sing like no one is listening, dance like no one is watching and live like it’s heaven on earth.” Through her I know that God has a plan for each of us no matter what our abilities are. She acts locally, affecting change with the people she is interacting with. She is the person she is supposed to be and has helped me become the person I am supposed to be. She stays uniquely individual, and mission-focused.
I recently heard a song on K-Love by Josh Wilson called Dream Small. And I thought the lyrics captured what I believe God has been telling all of us here. I would like to read some of the lyrics here…it begins like this:
It’s a momma singing songs about the Lord
It’s a daddy spending family time That the world said he cannot afford
These simple moments change the world
It’s a pastor at a tiny little Church
Forty years of loving on the broken and the hurt
These simple moments change the world
Dream small Don’t buy the lie “you’ve gotta do it all”
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Live well Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways where only you can help
With His great love A tiny rock can make a giant fall Dream small
In conclusion, Elim graduates, as you leave Elim, continue the mission God has given you. Parents and families, accept the assignment God has given you and execute your mission as God has designed. Go out to the world and touch the hearts of those who need God’s grace.
Parents and families, support your graduate and their unique ability to teach each of us. Protect their hearts by showing the tenderness and love that God has shown all of us. Our assignment is to support our Elim graduate in accomplishing their God given assignments. As we leave Elim today let us remember the great work that was done here for you graduates. Let Jesus use you where you are. We have been recruited to this Impossible Mission. Our mission IS possible IF we believe it is Possible.
Congratulations to this year graduating class and families. Your POSSIBLE mission continues!