By Ben Speegle
Office of Service, Justice, and Missions
What is the most important investment you can make during your time in college? Some will speak in hushed, revered tones of a quesadilla maker that not only properly cooks a quesadilla for you on both the top and the bottom simultaneously, but at the very same time also slices the grilled masterpiece, saving your hands from certain peril. Others will insist your best investment during college is a subscription to Netflix or Hulu Plus, or a similar platform for viewing television shows and movies, as this almost certainly gives you an excuse to not study.
However, I would like to propose the most important investment you can make during your time as a student of higher learning is an investment in experience. Pacific Union College is one of the highest rated colleges in its class; it has been described as the most beautiful college campus in the United States; its students report a substantial ROI. I find that PUC’s true beauty, though, lies in the opportunities it offers to its students. Among the legion of opportunities available, the opportunity to experience life and to experience God through service of others may be the most valuable.
Without a question, the best experience I had during my college years was the time I spent in Thailand teaching English as a student missionary. PUC was able to organize a ten-month trip to Bangkok, where I taught at the Seventh-day Adventist Language School. I had the opportunity to become fully immersed in a culture, to teach English, and to serve. During my stay, I learned the value of being able to accept that by myself, I am unable to do many things; however, the God I serve is able to do all things and is faithful to use me to the benefit of others.
From tutoring adults and teaching kindergarten classes to doing dental work at a prison and providing aid to refugee camps, I saw God working in incredible ways, despite my own shortcomings. All that was required of me was to embrace God’s leading and to echo Isaiah’s response of, “Here am I. Send me.”
Since returning from my mission trip, I graduated from PUC on a hot summer morning in June and was hired to work full-time in the Office of Service, Justice, and Missions with some of the most inspiring individuals with whom I have ever crossed paths. My mission trip had a profound effect on my character as well as my career path. Now my job is to invite other students to make the easiest decision of their college careers.
When you get to PUC, you have an incredible opportunity to become part of the changing culture developing here; a culture of service, where people see that the solution to problems isn’t complaining or sitting idly by, but rather taking an active stand. As such, I want to invite each of you to really make a difference, on three levels, while attending Pacific Union College.
1. Make a difference in the local community. Join us on Saturdays as we go to Clearlake and Berkeley or Calistoga to work in homeless and low-income communities near our campus. Are you wondering why I didn’t include a specific date you should join us? That’s because we go to these communities every Saturday. During Christmas time? Yes. Over spring break? Of course. During the summer? You betcha! Literally every weekend of the year, you have an opportunity to make an actual difference in the lives of those who desperately need to feel loved.
2. Make a difference through a short-term mission trip. Every school year, we send groups to different parts of the world, including a Navajo reservation in Arizona, the Amazon River in Brazil, a clinic in Nicaragua, and a school in Fiji. These trips usually last 10 days and are an incredible place to find the love of service that is naturally in every person.
3. Make a difference through a long-term mission trip. Fully Experience a new culture while serving internationally or become a task force worker within the United States. Round out your education with the real-life experience of being a blessing in a community and improving the quality of life in a location God has called you to serve.
That is my challenge to all PUC students, new and returning. You have opportunities here that may never come your way again. On graduation day, when you look back at your time at PUC, I hope you can say you received the fullest experience possible from our college on the hill, and you received far more than simply an education during your time in Angwin.
(Editor’s Note: PUC students are going on two short-term mission trips this summer! You can follow the students on their journey on the PUC Missions Facebook page.)